cypherca: (Lorne Chair)
[personal profile] cypherca
Title: Team Loyalty
Author: Cypher
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Main Character(s): Lorne, Mer'deth, John Sheppard, Cadman, Zelenka, Ford.
Warnings: Swearing, mild violence
Rating: R
Word Count: 4000
Summary: Sometimes, Lorne really loved his team. When he didn't hate them, the universe, and his mother for always being right.
Author's Notes: The next installment of my trilogy in [ profile] lavvyan's Lord of the Sea verse. This was actually the original plot bunny that spawned the prequel Found & Lost. This part picks up after the Captured! comment ficlets by [ profile] taste_is_sweet. Once again, major thanks to [ profile] lavvyan for allowing me to play in her sandbox! Enjoy! PS: Briefly beta'd, so all remaining mistakes are my own.

Team Loyalty

Life went on, and Lorne continued to lead the team. They gained a young marine named Aiden Ford, who shared the same love of blowing things up as Cadman, so he made sure they were never, ever paired up off-world. Unless they wanted to do a lot of property damage. Or to escape capture from a goa’uld. Zelenka managed to teach all of them a whole new set of Czech swear words each mission, much to Cadman and Ford’s amusement and Lorne’s consternation.

He sometimes wondered if he was babysitting a dysfunctional family of teenagers. He once muttered this around General O’Neill, who just laughed.

They were joking about it the day they came back from P4X-888, a little dusty from the mines, but in good spirits. Ford was hung-over, Cadman had somehow lost her bra, and Zelenka kept sighing over not being chosen to research the chair in Antarctica. It was business as usual, until he got to the bottom of the ramp and he saw Colonel Mitchell there with his head bandaged and an uncomfortable look on his face.

“Major, SG-17.” Lorne immediately tensed up. This could be a trap, the mountain taken over by aliens again. Or another mutating virus could be spreading through the mountain. Or maybe it was something really terrible, like an audit from the NID. “We’ve found Colonel Sheppard. Alive.”

Lorne was pretty sure his heart stopped for two seconds. Fortunately, Zelenka throwing up all over Mitchell’s boots distracted anyone from noticing.


No one could visit Sheppard on account of him being in isolation. Apparently, he was the one that’d attacked Mitchell. On the one hand, it certainly supported Lorne’s ‘the snake fucked with his head’ theory. On the other hand, he’d seen what Sheppard could do when he was protecting those he cared about; in which case, Mitchell got off lucky.

Lorne snuck past the guards after midnight, just to look through the observation window. The man was strapped down, with at least three IV’s in his wrists. He was drugged, but Lorne could see him fighting it, tensing his muscles under the straps, trying to find wiggle room. It wouldn’t matter. The burly marine at the door had a zat and Lorne had a feeling he wasn’t afraid to use it.

“You shouldn’t be here, sir,” he heard and fought not to jump. A glance at the door revealed Lieutenant Ford. “The Colonel-“

“You’d risk it to visit me. Or Cadman.” Ford didn’t dignify that with a response, just stepped up next to him to glance into the room.

“But not Zelenka,” he finally said, obviously trying to lighten the heavy mood.

“You have to admit in retrospect the bedpan incident was funny.” Lorne couldn’t even muster an iota of amusement for his tone.

“Only to the rest of you, sir.” They stood there silently for a few moments. “He looks normal enough, like he was just injured or something.”

“He was,” Lorne said, but not nearly as venomously as he’d have liked. Sheppard had seemed so sure of himself in the tavern. Could it all have been a trick? Or the goa’uld all along? Except the goa’uld was gone, and even Doc Jackson hadn’t needed this much sedation to fight off sarcophagus withdrawal.

“You think he’ll be good enough to rejoin the team?”

Lorne doubted it. Mitchell had confided in him that there was talk of sending Sheppard to a secure facility where he could get the mental treatment he needed. Once you went there, you never went off-world again. Unless you were Jackson, naturally.

But that wasn’t what Ford needed to hear. “Sure he will.” He turned and nodded towards the door. “Come on. As you said, I shouldn’t be here.”

Ford immediately turned away and hopped down the steps. Lorne risked one last glance through the observation port. Sheppard was looking up at him through half-lidded eyes. Even with the drug haze, he could see betrayal, and anger, and fear. The kind of look he used to get when Zelenka or Cadman got captured.

And this time, it was directed at him.


He finally settled on telling his team—his core team—the truth. Ford wouldn’t understand, but Cadman and Zelenka, they deserved to know, now that it could come out. He sent them a text message, using the old code phrases Sheppard used to. He knew he could count on them to get the significance.

He hadn’t counted on their not-so-subtle reaction, which was why he had Tuesday’s steak dinner over his right eye and an ice pack over his groin. “Fuck,”

“Well you deserved it,” Cadman spit out as she rubbed the knuckles of her hand. At least he hadn’t lost any teeth from her second jab.

“Fine, but Radek-“

“Who taught me to fight? You. So I’ll hear no complaints,” He wasn’t even checking his foot, the bastard. While Lorne had been curled up on the floor whimpering, Radek had gladly informed Cadman that he’d been captain of his foot-ball team for a reason. God damned punting skill.

“Fine,” Lorne said again, “but I told you because we have a problem.”

“Sheppard won’t rat on you,” Cadman finally leaned back on the couch.

“No, but I don’t think he’s happy, either.” He winced as he pulled the steak away. From Cadman’s proud look, he knew it’d be a hell of a shiner. “Have you ever known a host to not be thrilled after being freed?”

“Hm. Confused, scarred, crying, yes. But usually happy.” Radek wasn’t much of a pacer. He tended to shuffle a few inches each way when he was thinking. He was doing that now. “The idiot Major makes a good point,” he finally admitted.

Lorne figured he’d have to suffer through the insults a while before he was forgiven. “The base thinks the snake messed with his head.”

“And you don’t?”

“Of course I do! But I also know Sheppard. If he wanted to be free, he’d have fought tooth and nail-“

“And then made terrible jokes about the experience. Yes.” Radek finally sat down, taking off his glasses to look at them. “Yes, this is a problem.”

Cadman actually looked a little green. “You think he wants the snake back in him?”

“Yeah,” he said as he rubbed his face wearily, “it’s something I’m trying not to think about too hard.”

“But is it the wise action to take,” Zelenka asked. Lorne couldn’t give him an answer, and Cadman obviously didn’t want to. “You called us to decide, because we’re a team, despite your selective stupidity, yes?”

He let out a huff of air. “Yes, and for god’s sake, I’m sorry.”

“And one day I’ll believe you. Until then, we have a team member captured.” He put his glasses back on, and he gave Lorne a smile. The one that meant he had an ingenious, devious, insane plan. “It is our job to rescue him. He would for us.”

“He would,” Cadman muttered, then she shifted forward so she was on the edge of the couch. “He would,” she reiterated. “I’m in.”

Sometimes, he really loved his team.


The first part of the plan was deviously simple. The Tok’ra, for all their faults, had been freeing hosts from their symbiotes for years. Surely they had a way of treating the traumatized humans afterwards. Colonel Carter looked doubtful, but O’Neill and Mitchell were on his side, even if Landry was looking sour at giving up the captured goa’uld as the price for their help.

“We don’t leave anyone behind, Hank,” O’Neill said. “The Major has a point. And I’ve been around long enough to know it’s best for a snake to be dead or far away from this world.”

Lorne never thought he’d be mentally thanking the NID for anything. The irony wasn’t lost on him.

The second part of the plan wasn’t as simple, and took some finagling, but eventually Landry agreed to allow SG-17 to escort Sheppard and the prisoner off-world. Lorne would like to think it was his promises to keep Sheppard calm and the Tok’ra happy, but it probably had more to do with Ford promising to shoot first if anything went FUBAR with the snake or Sheppard.

Now Lorne was going to have to make sure the Lieutenant didn’t accidentally sit on some C4. Cadman and Zelenka could be dangerous when they teamed up.

The third part of the plan, while simple on paper, was not so simple to execute, or to stomach. They had to get Mer’deth safely back to Sheppard. And they had to do it without arousing any suspicion from the Tok’ra or anyone in the mountain. And even as he’d proposed it, Zelenka had been nervous, unsure. Cadman had even volunteered to do it, despite the dangers.

But this was something he had to do, because it was his team, and he wasn’t going to make them do anything he wouldn’t do himself. And how he hated Sheppard for instilling that value into him at this very moment.

Ford was with Sheppard, making sure he was adequately restrained for the trip. From the acid looks, even drugged out Sheppard would be making them all pay, just to get at the goa’uld. Hopefully, he wouldn’t do anything stupid, like try and escape. Actually, it was Sheppard, so…

“Cadman, you better be ready to help Ford.”

“Once this is under control, yes sir.” She had her zat out and subtly pointed at him. “Ready?”

“Nope.” He let himself have a moment to hate all of them, including the world and his mother, who was right again, as usual. Then he squared his shoulders and held up the transport container for the camera to see. “Ready, Zelenka?”

“Almost,” his voice was tense, and if he hadn’t used up his sweat allotment years ago, Lorne would bet dollars to naquadah the man would be drenched by now.

Lorne looked into the translucent tank, and the stretched creature floating in the center. The electrical current held it paralyzed, and the solution held a tranquilizer that unfortunately wore off very quickly. He’d seen the things jump from the tank to the floor seconds after the current was disconnected, so they didn’t have much time once Zelenka was ready.

“Yes, okay.” Zelenka looked up. “We’re ready. Are you?”

He was never going to be. “Yup,” he forced out. “Do it.”

There was a keystroke, then, “The cameras are sending a false image. You have two minutes, maybe.” Zelenka stepped away from him. “Good luck?”

“I’m not sure either, Doc,” Lorne said as he shut off the current and used the mechanical tongs to lift the serpent out. It was limp for a second, then two, and then one of its claw-like fins twitched. “You’ll have to go through the arm. I can’t have any scars showing,” he said, hoping it understood.

It’s eyes-—a deep blue, very unusual for the species—-focused on him, and then, instead of leaping at him like other goa’uld, it slid forward and waited for Lorne to roll up his sleeve. Lorne took one deep breath, praying Cadman would be able to do what had to be done if they were wrong, wrong, oh so wrong, and then there was a slicing just beneath his elbow and the sensation of wriggling and pain and—



“You lived on a farm,” was the first thing Lorne heard. He turned around in the black to find himself on the commune he called home. The air was fresh and the apples a delicious red and there he was, doing a landscape in watercolor when he was ten. It was terribly amateurish, but not horrible enough to warrant the dismissive look the broad-shouldered guy was giving the younger him.

Actually, he didn’t remember a man like that on the commune. He’d certainly would have remembered the eyes, blue and expressive that reflected both a deep knowledge and an arrogance that-

“Fuck. You’re the snake,” he said, taking a step forward, then one back, because he didn’t know if he should protect his younger-self or himself now.

The man—Mer’deth—sniffed and turned away. Now it was night, and Lorne could hear a party in the distance. It was Halloween, from the sound of the music. “I have to say, I wasn’t expecting…this.”

Neither was Lorne. Instead of the gaudy robes of gold and tasteless jewelry, the snake-personified was wearing jeans and a faded green shirt. He was pretty sure he caught a bad math joke on it, something Sheppard would’ve liked. Maybe that was the point. He blinked and they were at his college, his memory-self lying beneath a tree, high as a kite and admiring the stars with the Mikzi twins.

He was about to protest that his x-rated memories were personal when Mer’deth turned around to face him and they were in the darkness once more. “As nice as this offer is, I’m not really looking for a new…companion.” He shifted his shoulders uncomfortably. “John already thinks I cheat on him with that scientist Yu gave me.” The snort is dismissive. “As if I’d ever when I have the hottest-“

“Okay, whoa!” Lorne waved his arms in front of him. “That’s enough sharing time for today! And I’m not offering anything. I…Sheppard is…” There was no easy way to put it. How to explain he was doing this just to give up the best commander he’d ever had. Again.

Mer’deth crossed his arms, but appeared almost self-conscious. “Is he okay?”

“Who, Sheppard? Yeah. Went nuts when he woke up without you. They’re keeping him heavily sedated. And restrained.”

“That doesn’t surprise me.” The arrogance returned. “You’re a small-minded race. Primitive, really. If Ra had listened to me, we would have stuck with one that showed more promise. But no, he wanted someone pretty. I would’ve been happy with the enhanced cerebral functions of the Asgard, but in his infinite wisdom-“

“God, do you ever shut up?” That seemed to do it. Lorne crossed his own arms and let out a sigh. “Christ, how does Sheppard keep from shooting himself in the head?”

If Lorne hadn’t known any better, he would’ve sworn the man before him looked hurt, even terrified by what Lorne had said. But goa’uld didn’t think like that. They subjugated their hosts, pushed them aside and destroyed their psyches with their healing devices.

“I’d never do that,” Mer’deth said vehemently. “And yes, I can read your thoughts. We’re joining, remember? Only I’m trying not to, except I’m tired and…really, if you could just bring me to John-“

“We’re working on it.” Lorne paused for a moment, then, “You really care, don’t you.”

“Of course I care! If I didn’t, don’t you think I’d have taken your Lieutenant’s weapon and shot her myself by now?” He paused. “Actually, I probably wouldn’t, since I’m not a violent man, but the point is, I haven’t even tried to wrest control one your body from you. Because I don’t want it.” Another pause. “Not that you aren’t unattractive yourself, and maybe in another hundred years, or if John wanted his own body, though he has this thing about us separating, which normally it’s the other way around for my kind, and—“ He took a deep breath. “Yeah. Um. So…thanks?”

This was either the best act Lorne had ever seen, or the snake really did care for Sheppard. Well, he’d gone this far. He might as well finish what he started. “Thank me when you’re not in my head. It freaks me out.”

“I guess I shouldn’t tell you I tend to ramble when I’m nervous.”

“I hate my life.” Lorne felt a brief shifting sensation, like his spirit was being sent somewhere, and then he opened his eyes and found himself looking down the barrel of a zat. “Cadman.”


“It’s me.” He knew Zelenka had some reverse-engineered lie detector from the Tollan to verify his statements. “He seems legit enough. But the sooner he’s gone the better.”

There was a small noise behind him, and then, “He appears truthful.”

Cadman held the weapon on him another moment, then lowered it. “Alright, sir. But if you do something fishy-“

“I know.” Lorne closed the travel container that was supposed to be holding the snake. “Let’s do this.”


Getting out of the mountain was far too easy, and if he wasn’t exploiting the weaknesses himself, Lorne would run to the General to make a report. People gave them a wide berth. No one liked to be around a hostless goa’uld, trapped or otherwise. The block of C4 Cadman slapped on the container probably didn’t help things. She still made him carry it.

Sheppard was in his standard off-world uniform, marred only by the silver bracelets around his wrists and ankles connected by chain. His eyes were glassy, and from how on-edge Ford looked, Lorne could guess one escape attempt had been made already. The soldiers in the hall didn’t bat an eye at them, and the discomfort of Teal’c and Carter was immediately blamed on the container he was holding, if the direction of the glare was any indication.

As they waited for Walter to dial out, he saw Sheppard glance possessively at the box. A surge of emotion flowed through him, and he had an urge to reach out and stroke John’s neck with the back of his hand, to feel the ridiculous hair-

His fingers clenched around the hexagonal edges. “HEY! Stop! That’s my CO!”

“He actually cares that I’m not in there! And he’s hot! And I don’t get to see him from this angle very much. I just…it’s nice to have someone who cares about my well-being without wanting something from me.” It was almost touching, and Lorne found himself sympathizing until, “Huh. Why didn’t anyone tell me I had an ass that can’t wear pants? Also, I never knew peeking boxers was a—what do you humans call them?—a fetish. But-“

He was going to take a million showers and he still wouldn’t be able to sleep for a month. Fortunately, the wormhole flashing took his attention away from the new inner monologue, and he nodded sharply to Landry before going up the ramp. The usual disorientation was heightened, almost as if Mer’deth’s senses were increasing his sensory input, but then he stepped through to the other side.

There was no one on the desert surface to meet them, but that wasn’t surprising. The Tok’ra were tricky that way. They’d wait until they were sure it was safe, and then they’d come out of their hiding hole. He ignored the derisive snort in his head and waited for the rest of his team to come through.

On cue, Sheppard evaluated the area, their surroundings, and potential threats. Lorne hated being part of that final category. “Lieutenant!”

“Sir!” Ford barked, right into Sheppard’s ear. The Colonel winced and gave the kid a dirty look.

He shoved the container holding the snake into his hands. “Hold onto this. I need to talk with the Colonel.”

Conflict flashed across the man’s face. “Sir, I was instructed-“

“I can take care of myself. And Colonel Sheppard is a friend.” Sheppard deliberately looked away at that, Lorne could tell. “I just want to remind him of that. If you don’t think you can handle a pacified snake-“

“Sir, no, sir. But General Landry-“

“Was never on a Gate team. He doesn’t get what we are. He can’t.” He took hold of Sheppard’s arm. “If you’re not comfortable holding it, give it to Cadman. I’ll be just over the dune.”

Ford looked like he wanted to protest, but Lorne used his sternest, meanest ‘I’m a Major’ look, and military instinct won out. He nodded, then stood at attention, holding the container as if it was the most important duty in his life.

“He has no idea, does he,” Mer’deth said. “I’m…actually, I’m impressed. That’s almost worthy of a goa’uld. Well, a smart one. Not one as brilliant as me-“

“Just shut up and get ready.” Lorne practically dragged Sheppard away, and brought them behind a small sand dune. He made sure his back was to the Gate, so Sheppard had a clear view over his shoulder. “Colonel.”

“Major,” Sheppard said laconically. “I didn’t know you cared that much.”

“Don’t be an idiot, sir. If I didn’t, you never would’ve left that bar on 3XT.”

“He what?! He never said-“

Sheppard at least looked a little contrite by that statement. “You still brought me here-“

Lorne made a frustrated grunt. “Look, I just…is it worth it?”


“Do you really want to go back to a life with it? I mean, you were his prisoner.”

“I was his,” Sheppard said, almost hissed. “And I wasn’t his prisoner. We were…equals. Of sorts. I took care of him. He took care of me. It was very convenient and then SG-1-“

“Spoiled it. Yes, I read the report.”

Sheppard jerked the chains connecting his wrists together. “I got to fly space ships, Lorne. I’ve seen things the geeks at the SGC would kill for. I’ve learned more about the Stargates from my time with him than the SGC will learn in fifty years! And I’m…I was happy.” He said the last bit in a miserable, accusing tone.

Lorne heard some rings activate in the distance. They didn’t have much time. “You’re sure he wasn’t-“

“No, he wasn’t fucking with my head. Shit, Lorne. He played chess with me. Like in that stupid Pixar film.” He tried to put his hands on his hips and failed. He settled for letting them hang in front of him. “If he didn’t care, why would he do that? If I didn’t care, why would I want to escape? Neither of us cares about Earth. It was never his home.” He looked away. “It was never mine, either.”

Which was true. Sheppard had never seemed comfortable on Earth. More like he was coasting his way through, a place to hang between traveling to planets. “Then,” Lorne said as he stepped forward and brought his arms up, “I’m sorry.”

Sheppard took a step back. “Major, what’re you-“

“Doing something stupid, sir.” He knew Ford had a clear view, but Zelenka and Cadman agreed, it was the only way. He grabbed Sheppard’s collar and pulled him forward, crushing their lips together. Sheppard struggled, but was unable to resist thanks to his restraints.

“Thank you.” It was the only warning before he felt his throat burn and something warm with scales slide its way into his mouth. Sheppard’s choked surprise was drowned out just as quickly as Mer’deth slid in through the back of the Colonel’s throat.

When the last of it was out, Lorne quickly ducked behind the dune and coughed, letting the blood splatter in the dust. His throat would be hoarse for days, and the scarring would be obvious.

Sheppard staggering a bit, obviously in shock, but then he knelt beside Lorne and his eyes glowed gold. “I exited in a lower area in your throat. It should be hidden from cursory exams.”

“Thoughtful of you,” he choked out. There was a clink and then the manacles were on the ground, broken from Mer’deth’s strength. “Zat’s in my-“

“I figured it out, Major,” Sheppard said, this time in his normal voice. His throat was probably all healed thanks to the snake. The bastard. “Thanks.”

“Just don’t get caught again. I’m not,” he coughed, still holding his throat.

Sheppard patted his arm just as he heard Ford start to run over. “I get it.” He activated the zat. “See you around, Lorne.” He hesitated. “And thanks. I owe you.”

He squeezed the trigger, and Lorne was back in the darkness. This time, by himself.
As he faded out, he heard the high whine of the alien weapon, and he hoped that Sheppard was more careful in the future.

He doubted any of them would get a second chance again.

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