cypherca: (Lorne Chair)
[personal profile] cypherca
Title: Consequences
Author: Cypher
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Main Character(s): Lorne, Jack O'Neill, Cadman, Zelenka, Ford, Mer'deth, John Sheppard
Warnings: Swearing, mild violence,
Rating: R
Word Count: 7500
Summary: Sheppard and Mer’deth’s escape became a stain on SG-17’s record. But his life—all their lives—start to be rebuilt. It was all going smoothly, until Jackson got himself sent to another galaxy with an alien woman keen on treasure and invited the Ori to come play.
Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1 don't belong to me. Major Lorne, despite many wishes upon falling stars, also does not belong to me. This is merely a creative exercise for the enjoyment of myself and other fans of the show.
Author's Notes: The final part of my trilogy in [livejournal.com profile] lavvyan's Lord of the Sea verse. Taking place after Team Loyalty, this follows Stargate SG-1 up through Season 10, though sadly, Daniel hasn't found Atlantis in this universe. This was a lot harder to write for some reason, but I think it's a fitting end to this verse. Of course, major thanks to [livejournal.com profile] lavvyan for letting me play in her totally awesome and amazing sandbox.

Series Progression:
Lord of the Sea
Found & Lost
Captured
Team Loyalty


Consequences

Sheppard and Mer’deth’s escape became a stain on SG-17’s record. Lorne didn’t know if Ford reported the kiss, but there was an investigation, and his team was on stand-down for nearly two months. Mer’deth was clever in exiting Lorne, and Lam attributed the damage to severe acid reflux damage. Given how his stomach had been feeling for the past few years, Lorne was quick to admit he’d been hiding that medical issue.

Zelenka proved just how invaluable he was. No evidence of what had transpired in the holding cell ever surfaced during the investigation. Cadman didn’t break under interrogation, even when the NID threatened to bring her to Area 51 for a more thorough questioning. And Ford offered an awkward admission that everything was cool between him and the team, though he still refused to look Lorne in the eye.

It all ended when O’Neill arrived at his house in civilian clothes, grabbed a beer from the fridge, and claimed the recliner as if he owned it. Lorne fought the urge to stand at attention or object to his behavior. General Landry may have been placed in charge of the SGC, but everyone knew it was really O’Neill who made the final decisions.

One word from him, and Lorne would be in a dark, small hole at Gitmo, or banished to the most boring off-world outpost imaginable. Somehow, the fate of his career, of his life, came down to this one meeting. The worst thing, though, was the fact that all his mind could focus on was the fact that he’d failed to put on clean boxers today.

Mental note, get therapy. “Comfortable, sir?”

O’Neill shrugged as he leaned back so he was at an angle, ankles crossed on the footrest. “Not bad, not bad. Don’t suppose you got some chips? The ruffled kind?”

“No, sir. I’m more a fan of Doritos.” He kept himself at the at-ease position as he answered, digging deep into his reserves to not breakdown at the absurdity of how that must sound.

The general gave him a slow blink. “Right.” He took a drink from his beer, paused, then squinted at the label. “Is this in Russian?”

“Czech, sir. Zelenka recommended it.” Lorne couldn’t understand what O’Neill muttered in response. “Can I get you something else, sir?”

O’Neill rolled his eyes and set the chair upright again. “Major, get a clue.” He looked pointedly at the couch as he spoke. Lorne got the message and sat down, his back ramrod straight. “I’m in civvies, I’ve got a beer, and there’s a…are you watching Martha Stewart?”

Lorne fought back a flush. “Her crafts are a big hit on some of the less technologically advanced worlds, sir.”

“Great. Interplanetary commercialization. Daniel’s gonna freak.” He sighed, then grabbed the remote and switched the television off. “The point, Lorne, is that this isn’t official. It’s just two guys chatting.”

“With all due respect, sir, it’s never ‘just a chat’ with any of SG-1.”

O’Neill snorted, but didn’t deny it. Instead he said, “I wanted to let you know you’re scheduled to return to duty next week. There’s an issue with one of the mines on P3X-403, and they’re familiar with your work.”

Lorne let some of the tension ebb away from his stance. “I see. Were any of the Unas hurt?”

“No. But they want to make sure it’s still structurally sound. And friendly people that they are,” he said with a grimace, “it was…recommended that we send a familiar face.”

Lorne nodded. It would be good to get back to his scholarly roots. It’d been too long since he’d exercised his engineering skills. It’d also give him some time to mentally distance himself from his last off-world actions.

O’Neill continued, taking another sip from the bottle. “We decided not to send the rest of your team.” Lorne felt himself tense up, but the General waved his hand dismissively. “It has nothing to do with your past performance. This is more a mission for a team of geeks than for an explosive expert who was banished for almost destroying a sacred tunnel.”

“Ah, right,” Lorne responded, relaxing again. That had been a near disaster. The one time Cadman had actually been contrite by her off-world conduct. He hesitated a moment. “Will I be getting my team back after, sir?”

Some of O’Neill’s joviality faded away. “Eventually.” He looked Lorne straight in the eye. “General Landry and the Tok’ra were very…disappointed in what transpired with Sheppard.” Lorne really wanted to look away, or spout an excuse, but the solid stare of the General held him still and quiet. O’Neill waited a beat. “I may be understating things a bit.”

He leaned forward, all sense of informality gone. “Let’s not downplay the issue. You compromised yourself, your team, set some allies in a dangerous position, and lost two very valuable assets. And you did it on purpose.” He sliced his hand through the air. “The investigation results be damned. I know you deliberately allowed Sheppard to escape.”

Lorne felt his throat start to close up and his stomach begin to cramp in a way that meant projectile vomiting was in his near future. He held his breath, not wanting to let anything out; be it a cry, a shout, or a confession.

“And if I thought for one moment,” he held up a finger, “that you were a serious threat, or that this was going to happen again, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be in a cell at the Alpha Site, and I’d let the Tok’ra use their mind machine to drag out your memories and find out just how much of a danger you are.” He pointed at Lorne’s heart. “And then, I’d have you shot.”

He held the position for a few moments, then lowered his hand. “I trust I’ve made my point.”

Lorne’s mind veered between pure, blank terror, praises to every deity he could think of, and fear for his team and what could’ve happened to them. Finally, somehow, Lorne found it in himself to nod once.

And just like that, the casual facade returned as O’Neill leaned back in the recliner again. “Fortunately, I’ve been where you have, been out there, been part of an off-world team. You’re not the only one who’s had…unbecoming feelings towards a teammate.” Lorne tried not to read too much into that unspoken accusation. “So I get what could have led to the…events that happened with Sheppard.” He shrugged. “Hell, there’s been a time or two I wish I could’ve let someone have their revenge on a snake.”

He picked up the bottle again and tilted it towards Lorne. “So I simply explained that shit happens, and I’m positive it won’t happen again. And they agreed that you were too valuable a resource to simply waste.” A quick, sharp look. “For now.”

Lorne swallowed. “Thank you, sir. I’ll make sure to live up to your expectations.”

“Good to hear, good to hear.” He took a swig this time, then shook his head. “Nope, not really my thing.” He set the bottle down, stood up, and nodded. “You’ll be getting your team back, if they want to still be part of it, after you return.”

Lorne quickly stood up, let out a large sigh, and said, “Thank you, sir. I won’t disappoint you—anyone, again.”

O’Neill slapped Lorne’s shoulder. “Good man, Major. Now if you’ll excuse me, Carter’s having a barbeque and I want to get there before she tries to cook. There’s enough damage to the ozone as it is.”

Lorne tried to smile, he really did. “Good luck, sir.”

O’Neill was slipping on his jacket when he turned around. “Oh, and Major? When you find Sheppard, tell him he’s welcome home anytime.”

Lorne hesitated a moment, long enough for the General to open the door, before he said, “I think, sir, he’s already there.”

O’Neill paused, one foot already outside, before he grimaced. “Don’t let that get around. He’s got enough enemies as he is.”

Apparently, O’Neill was as awesome as his own team. “I won’t, sir. Enjoy your barbeque.” He stood in the middle of his living room until he heard the General’s car start up and drive off. Then, he slowly sat back down on the couch and stared at the half-empty beer bottle.

He still had a career. He still had a team. He was probably on a half-dozen shit lists, but he also had one of the greatest men of the Stargate program on his side. He could’ve ended up in an off-world prison or Area 51 or chained to a desk or killed. But that wasn’t going to happen. He still had a fucking future.

He looked at his shaking hands, and found himself leaning forward until he was using them to cover his eyes and cradle his face. He was taking deep, heavy breaths, sucking in air because his lungs felt too heavy, too deprived. His whole body felt drained, and he might have even been crying.

His mind was shooting a million thoughts to nowhere, and he just let himself sit like that for hours until finally, finally, it all went away. No more masks, no more secrets, no more stress. Just one thought, over and over in his mind. One thought that he had known up front, but been unsure of since that fateful day.

It was worth the risk.

~*()*~

His life—all their lives—started to be rebuilt. The issue with the mines took over a month, but the Unas were grateful, and even gave him one of their bone necklaces. He made sure it was displayed on his desk proudly in SG-17’s office. Cadman, Zelenka, and even Ford signed back on for his team. There was some retraining to make sure they were still qualified, but Zelenka must’ve been keeping up the practice because he scored a 95% approval, his highest yet.

Landry started sending them out after that. They were mostly small missions that involved surveying dead worlds, or escort duty, or treaty obligations. It was punishment detail, a silent penance for their failure. O’Neill may have gone to bat for them, but they were now the bottom of the SGC totem pole. A team barely above the fresh faces recruited from the academies.

Lorne wouldn’t have traded it for the world. From the smiles on their faces, he was pretty sure the rest of his team felt the same way.

A year went by, then a second. They started to get first contact missions again, and mining surveys, and scavenger hunts for alien technology. They encountered their first real problem on P9B. The pollen from the local flora acted like truth serum on steroids. It wasn’t until Cadman blurted out a closet encounter she and Ford had a year ago that they knew something was wrong.

Lorne tried, the all did, but Zelenka made a passing comment, and it cascaded, until Ford knew it all. Lorne and Sheppard in the bar, the secret meeting without him, the plan, Lorne as a temporary host, and even O’Neill’s visit gushed out uncontrollably.

The natives had a rule about leaving after nightfall, so they were forced to make camp with an awkward silence and ashamed glances at each other.

Around one in the morning, Lorne heard someone clear their throat in his tent and he bolted upright, zat in hand. Ford quickly held up his arms. “I meant to wake you,” he said, grimaced, then, “That came out harsher than I thought. I’m usually more polite, though I really don’t think you deserve it.”

Lorne just added that to the list of things he’d forget to bring up in team therapy once the mission was over. “I was having a terrible dream involving flowers with teeth and my mother admitting she was the tooth fairy.” He sighed. “I’m not glad you woke me, so tell me what the hell you want.”

Ford shifted his weight, careful not to topple over from his crouched position as he did so. “I’ve been thinking about it and I wanted you to know, I get it. Why you did it.” He waggled his hand back and forth. “The whole Sheppard thing. I wouldn’t have before. I was too new, and Landry did mostly put me on the team to watch you.” He seemed to fight with himself, then, “I get it, now. Because I’d do it now, too. For you. And Zelenka, maybe. And Cadman, but mainly because I’d get to kiss her again.”

Lorne blinked once, twice, then tried to organize his thoughts. He spoke slowly, not wanting to pollute the meaning of his words. “I know you would. I’ve been watching you, and I’m very proud of how you’ve matured over the years as part of my team. I know I don’t tell you how much of a good job you do.”

He let Ford take that in. The pollen wasn’t all terrible. He’d never actually admitted those thoughts to the Lieutenant before, and he deserved to know. “However, what I did was wrong. I,” he paused, collecting his thoughts again, “I would probably do it again, because Sheppard was…he was different than other CO’s. And I would want to do it for any of you. But it would be…I was terrified at the time. It was stupid for me to take the risk. For us,” he nodded towards the flap and the tents around the camp, “to take that risk.”

“You really were.” Ford rested his hands on his knees. “And I’ll probably resent you for your actions back then, but I don’t want to report this. So I’ll be extra careful when we get back.” He headed towards the exit. Just as he stepped out, he said, “You did a good thing, sir. I’m not sure I could’ve done the same in your position.”

“Thank you.” Lorne said, then kept his mouth shut because what he really wanted to confess was that he hadn’t wanted to do it. Ford was a good kid, and he had a great team, but he missed Sheppard, and they weren’t half as good without him.

Ford didn’t deserve that on his conscience. None of them did. So Lorne was very careful with his thoughts and words for the rest of the mission and through their time in quarantine.

~*()*~

After five years, the SGC was finally quiet. The war with the goa’uld was winding down, the utterly terrifying—but brief—war with the Replicators ended in their favor, and Anubis was finally sent off to some eternal battle among the Ancients. It was all going smoothly, until Jackson got himself sent to another galaxy with an alien woman keen on treasure. Now they had the Ori, and Priors, and the word of Origin invading the galaxy.

Lorne’s team was at the Alpha Site reviewing mining proposals when word of the Supergate opening reached them, followed swiftly by images of the massacre. SG-1 survived, somehow, along with almost two hundred people, transported at the last second by a retreating Asgard cruiser.

It was a sobering sight, having their most powerful ally run from a fight. Lorne could see the instant the hope faded from Ford’s eyes. Later, he ignored the desperate sounds coming from their shared quarters. It was easy to put on his ipod and pretend Ford and Cadman weren’t reacting to the shock. Zelenka just stared hard at his computer tablet, refusing to look up from the sole video file they’d managed to recover of the fight.

He knew Radek figured it out. With ships like that now invading, it was only a matter of time before they came to Earth. The planet barely survived the viral epidemic sent by a Prior. They had the Antarctic outpost, but still no clue as to the whereabouts of Atlantis, and now only two ships for planetary defense. If the Asgard were running, who else could help them?

The thought haunts him, even as he’s reassigned to the Alpha Site permanently. His team was a little dumbfounded, but Lorne could read between the lines. He’s made inroads with a dozen mining worlds diplomatically. Zelenka’s one of the brightest engineers at the SGC, and Cadmen and Ford are both young. He saw it in four of the other teams reassigned. Specialists known to be assets on other worlds, or experts in their fields, or simply able-bodied and strong.

They were the first line of rebuilding, should anything happen to Earth. He’d bet dollars to naquadah that the other sites were getting an influx of new personnel as well. The Beta Site was more set-up to deal with civilians. The Delta and Gamma Sites held experiments and boot camps. It was too bad the Tok’ra were in an even worse position now than previously. While most of the goa’uld were gone, they’d taken quite a few Tok’ra strongholds with them. And they could really use those secret underground tunnel crystals about now.

It only took three more months before they heard of an attack plan. It was SG-8 that sent word through the wormhole, barely, before the event horizon cut out. Lorne knew Colonel Mel. He had a wife and three children who knew nothing of aliens or Origin, but were going to find out first-hand when a fleet of twenty Ori warships showed up.

“At least we’ll give them hell on the ground,” Ford said over dinner. They were having MRE’s in their shared quarters. Space was currently at a premium, as Earth was shipping out groups of people. The Stargate activated every three hours with a new batch. They were going to have to erect temporary facilities soon.

“What makes you think we will get the chance? No,” Zelenka rebutted, spitting out some lukewarm corn. “No, they will attack from orbit. Invade after the infrastructure is gone. Why risk losing loyal worshippers? Three billion is not six billion, but still a good number of converts.”

Ford wrinkled his nose, but Cadman was nodding. “Hate to say it, but the Doc’s right. It’s what I’d do.” She tossed back half of her water bottle. “We’re their biggest obstacle. Even the goa’uld are going underground, rather than fighting back.”

Ford cleared his throat, “Well, not all of them.” Lorne tried not to laugh as Ford almost wilted under the sudden attention. “I mean, I assume-“

“You are not a good liar. It comes from having an honest American family.” Radek wasn’t grinning, but Cadman was.

“Spill, Aiden. You just don’t have the eyes to get away with it like Doc, here.”

Ford glanced at his two teammates, but finally met Lorne’s eyes. “I didn’t intend to overhear the report from General Landry.” He cleared his throat again and shrunk a little in his seat. “Intel has it that one goa’uld is fighting back. Took over Yu’s territories, kept Ba’al and Anubis at bay for a while.”

“You’re talking about Sheppard’s snake,” Cadman interrupted.

Ford’s shoulders dropped. “I wasn’t sure what to do with the information. I know what he means to you.”

Lorne set his meal down and folded his hands together. He focused on the more important detail. “You’re saying Shep hasn’t gone underground? He’s fighting back?”

Ford nodded. “Fighting, or holding them off.” He poked his spork through his food. “At least, two months ago. Intel’s been…spotty since.”

Cadman sighed. “Not surprising. We’re more focused on the Ori’s plans for us. We could give a shit about the goa’uld territories.”

“It is good to hear, though. Sheppard giving the Ori trouble.” Zelenka nodded. “He always had a knack for upsetting enemies.”

“Hah, yeah. I hear Ba’al’s still after his scalp. Man, that was a hot mission.”

Ford shifted a little closer to Cadman. “When did you guys face Ba’al?”

“Oh, this was a while back. Like in our first year…”

Lorne let their discussion fall into background noise. Sheppard and Mer’deth had been resisting the Ori incursion. They’d always ignored Earth and SG teams, always been good at hiding. Maybe the SGC had it wrong. Maybe they should’ve been paying more attention to the goa’uld. Maybe, there was an avenue of assistance that hadn’t been considered yet.

He was totally insane. Not to mention O’Neill would have his hide, and maybe his spleen.

Then again, he thought, it’s not like we aren’t all going to hell anyways.

~*()*~

It was two days before Lorne was able to get sent off-world with his team. It wasn’t hard to convince Colonel Mack they needed to check on their mining investments. He was a little worried the SGC would suspect something, but Landry approved the request without a blink. Now all he had to do was convince his team. As soon as the wormhole collapsed, he turned around and looked them each in the eye.

Radek, bless his cunning nature, read his mind. “I have the coordinates for Yu’s home world. If we are not shot, I believe it is our best bet.”

“Best bet for what?” Ford looked between them, before finally settling on Cadman. “What’re they talking about?”

Cadman caught on quickly. “We’re going to see Sheppard. Though I’m not sure why we didn’t tell anyone.”

“Just because they’re desperate doesn’t mean they’d approve it,” Lorne responded. “You in, Ford?”

Ford hefted his P90 and nodded. “Yes, sir. Always ready to follow the team on suicidal missions, sir.”

“Not suicidal,” Cadman said, throwing her arm around his shoulders, “just insane.”

“Always insane. I have asked for transfers but each time I am denied. I blame you, Major.” Zelenka began dialing the Stargate.

Lorne snorted. “Please. You only email those to me on days you miss out on the sex rituals.”

“That is a vicious lie. There are never any sex rituals.”

“How do you explain Ford and Cadman?” The outraged cries were drowned out by the wormhole opening. “Lock and load, kids. No one shoots unless shot at.” He waited until he heard agreement from his team before jogging towards the Stargate.

He jogged through the wormhole and straight into a Chinese temple with paper walls, a brilliant midday sun, and six Jaffa. All of them were pointing staff weapons and zats straight at his chest and head, and then at the heads of his team. “We surrender!” He shouted. “We’re here to see Mer’deth! I’m Major Evan Lorne of SG-“

“Kree!”

Lorne shut up, but he realized a second later that the order wasn’t for him. The other Jaffa deactivated their staff weapons and held them at rest, though he noticed none of the zats waivered. He shot a glance to Cadman, then slowly lowered his hands. “Thank you?”

“What do you seek with Lord Mer’deth,” the lead Jaffa asked. Lorne could tell he was the leader by his tattoo. The others still had Yu’s mark. This one had the thick ribbon of infinity.

“We seek an audience. I am Major Evan Lorne. A…friend.”

“Lord Mer’deth has no friends among the Tau’ri.”

Lorne would believe him, except he’s worked with Teal’c. He knew when a Jaffa was being shifty-eyed. He was willing to play along, though. “Then someone who means no harm.” He unclipped his P90 and let it fall to the ground, fighting the urge to flinch as all the zats came to bear on him. He made sure to be slow as he extracted his beretta and two knives as well. “Just a brief meeting, I promise.”

The Jaffa eyed him and the weapons lying on the floor. “Kree,” he muttered again, then turned and started walking. After a minute, he glanced back. “Kree,” he said, looking directly at Lorne.

He got that message. “Doc, you make sure Ford and Cadman behave. I’ll be back.”

“Sir,” Ford and Cadman yelled.

Not to be outdone, Radek added, “Major-“

“That’s an order,” he said, following the Jaffa. “I’ll be back,” he added as he stood next to the larger man. “If not, follow the mission. We still need those allies.” Hopefully, that was just vague enough that it wouldn’t pique any of the Jaffa’s interest in their activities. “I’ll be back soon.”

He decided to ignore the snort from the Jaffa beside him as the rings descended and transported them away.

~*()*~

He was expecting a gaudy throne room with gold and hieroglyphs and maybe satin hanging from the walls. Instead, the Jaffa leads him to a room that’s more like his brother-in-law’s garage. Granted, there’s a giant window into space and a large control panel with crystals and gems, but the workbenches and half-finished projects evoked a level of humanity Lorne didn’t normally associated with goa’uld.

“What now,” came a disgruntled, echoed voice. He spotted the back of Sheppard a minute later, his arms lifted as he struggled with something he’s holding.

“This Tau’ri has requested an audience, my lord.” The Jaffa sounded as respectful as most Jaffa do, but his posture was more relaxed. Obviously, Mer’deth didn’t care about ceremony. “Shall I have him and his team executed?”

“What? No! Just send them-“ Mer’deth’s voice halted as the body turned around and he took in Lorne standing at attention next to the alien. “Uh, go. Just go away. I’ll talk to this one.”

“As you wish.” The Jaffa inclined its head, then walked out. Obviously, it wasn’t worried that Lorne would hurt his master. Or didn’t care.

“They’re still watching,” Sheppard said in his own voice, “through the sensors. And it’s not like Mer’deth and I aren’t protected.” He approached slowly, raising his right arm to show, on top of a leather wristband, a goa’uld hand device.

“Of course, sir.” Lorne hesitated, then, “Are we alone?”

“Don’t be stupid,” Sheppard said sharply, then took a breath, closed his eyes, and his entire body shifted. It was a subtle shift, but one Lorne had seen before. Way back, when Sheppard was facing off against Ba’al, or General Hammond. “Sorry about that. Mer’deth isn’t used to visitors.” He smiled, the slow, lazy smile he had when he’s actually glad about something. He waved to the right, where there was a stool. “What’s up?”

Lorne carefully sat down, and waited until Sheppard pulled his own stool out. “Mer’deth doesn’t mind if we…”

“He’ll stay out of it.” He squinted for a minute. “He doesn’t like it, but he’ll let me take over. For now.”

Lorne eyed him over. “And you’re…really okay with that.”

Sheppard looked down, then shook his head. “Lorne, you can’t get… It’s not a give or take.” He looked back up. “We’re equals. We work together. He just…isn’t so good with people. And it’s hard for him to...” He shook his head again, then waved around the room. “This is his domain. He isn’t used to me having full control in here. But it’s fine. Really.” He leaned forward, hands on his knees. “Why’re you here, Lorne?”

Lorne decided to let that go for the moment, and bite the bullet. “I assume you’ve heard of the Ori, and that they now have a fleet in the galaxy?” Sheppard nodded slowly. Lorne took a deep breath. “We just got word that the fleet is headed to Earth.”

Sheppard continued to watch him. Lorne struggled not to squirm. The man wasn’t O’Neill, but he was his commanding officer for years. “If I knew of some other way, I wouldn’t be here, but… The word is, you’ve kept them out.”

At that, Sheppard pulled back, and the body language he gave off seems contradictory. Lorne figured Mer’deth and Sheppard were struggling internally, before Sheppard cleared his throat. “Mer’deth has some cool toys. Things developed from Ancient bases, and his own creativity.”

Lorne looked out the space port, and saw the small fleet of ships moving around. Some weren’t even pyramidal in shape. One or two were almost Asgard in appearance. And in the distance, now that he was looking, he could see the wreckage of an Ori battleship. Before he knew it he had moved across the room and was pressed against the window, focused on the site of the broken white oval.

He felt Sheppard come up behind him. “That happened about a month ago. We’ve been studying it ever since.” The voice didn’t belong to Sheppard, but Lorne couldn’t bring himself to flinch. He could just make out smaller moving objects, pulling pieces of the wreck apart. “John thinks we can isolate the method by which the Ori are feeding off people. I’m focusing more on killing the Ori directly.”

“You can stop them,” was all Lorne said, slightly reverently.

Another hesitation, then, “Yes.” A pause. “You’re here to ask John—to ask us to protect your world.”

Lorne turned away, finding his nose only inches from Sheppard’s. “You can’t tell me he doesn’t feel an obligation.” They stared at each other, and for the first time Lorne can remember, Sheppard turned away first, backing up a couple steps. “Shep, they’ll bombard the planet. We won’t stand a chance.”

“I know,” came out, softly. “Lorne, that’s not my home.”

“But they’re your people.” He stood up straighter, putting as much command in his voice as he could. “And you don’t leave your people behind. Or has the snake compromised that part of your morals?”

The eyes flashed, but the flint anger coming from them wasn’t from the goa’uld. That was Sheppard, through and through. Good. He struck a nerve. If stabbing him emotionally was the only way…

“It’s not that easy-“

“Bullshit.” Lorne took a deliberate glance over Sheppard’s attire. At the tok’ra-like leather trousers and the deep purple tunic tucked into its waistband. He ended his gaze on the gold device wrapped around Sheppard’s hand.

Sheppard pulled it away, as if burned by the accusation in Lorne’s eyes. “You’re asking us to save a planet that wants to kill us,” Sheppard spit out.

“You’re a goa’uld. Millions of people want to kill you.”

“Not Mer’deth,” and this time, Sheppard’s anger leaked out. “He doesn’t break entire systems. He saved Yu’s empire from Ba’al. Ba’al, Lorne. You know what he’d do to these planets.”

“So you care more about alien worlds than the one that gave birth to you.”

“You’re pushing it, Major...”

“I’ve got nothing left to lose, sir. Unless you help us, Earth is doomed. If Earth is doomed, you might as well have that Jaffa bastard come back and shoot me.” That made Sheppard wince. “You know what’ll happen. They’ll enslave Earth, and then, they’ll send out their Priors to hunt out every pocket of Earth resistance. They won’t stop until we either die from their ships or their soldiers or their diseases. Hell, the Argosians are suffering from starvation. Maybe the Ori will be just as generous to us.”

“That’s enough!” Sheppard lashed out and grabbed Lorne by the front of his uniform.

Lorne just barely hid his surprise as he felt his feet leave the floor. He didn’t struggle, no matter how much he wanted to. He was pretty desperate. “So much for team loyalty, huh, sir.”

Sheppard’s eyes flashed gold, and stood lit for a good second longer than normal, and then, carefully, the man set him down and backed away. Lorne let out a long breath and leaned against the wall. He wasn’t sure what to do next, but a glance at his ex-CO told him he wasn’t dealing with Sheppard any more.

“Surprised I’m the reasonable one in this situation, Major?” Mer’deth said, just a touch of echo in his voice. “He’s still here, I just…set him aside to cool off.” He ran his hands down his clothes, straightening them, and was very carefully not looking directly at Lorne.

Lorne didn’t want to, but he couldn’t go against how he was raised. Begrudgingly, he let out a, “Thanks.” From the stunned look, Mer’deth obviously wasn’t expecting that, either.

“Yes, well, you did save me. It’s only reasonable that I… Yes, well.” He cleared his throat and walked over to the viewport, standing a few feet away from Lorne as he looked out at the ships. “You hurt him. I’ve pissed him off, but you…you’ve pushed buttons even I didn’t know he had.”

“We were a team. Pissing off your CO is part of the territory.”

Mer’deth stood quietly for a moment. “Do your superiors know you’re here?”

Lorne glanced at him from the corner of his eye. “No.”

Mer’deth nodded again, as if he expected that answer. “Risky move. The intel could have been old. Or I might not have been willing to listen. I could still execute you.”

“Shep won’t allow that.”

“John doesn’t always get a say in what I do.” He tried to sound firm, but Lorne could hear the lie behind the words.

“He’d never forgive you.”

“No, he wouldn’t.” Mer’deth let out a sigh. “And he’d never forgive himself if he didn’t try to save your backwards little world.” The man turned, eyeing Lorne carefully.

Lorne shifted uncomfortably, but put up with the scrutiny. He was willing to put up with anything if it meant he could save the day.

“I have a few things that could help. Defensive satellites, system shield generators, even old ships we no longer use.”

It was still Mer’deth’s voice, not Sheppard’s. “You’re going to ask for something.”

“I have to. If I went around saving every world that petitioned for my assistance, I’d be spread thin. Too thin. Not to mention, while my Jaffa are…different, they are still Jaffa.”

Lorne felt his gut start to gnaw. “They won’t follow an order without a reason.” He hesitated. “There is the nation of Free Jaffa-“

“That are on the run from the Ori. And, in case you didn’t notice, I don’t exactly have an iron fist on them here. They choose to stay.” There was a hint of pride in his tone. “I give them more autonomy than any other goa’uld would.” He let out a breath. “But that doesn’t mean they don’t have the same dreams as others of their kind. They still expect certain things from me. Fighting for the Tau’ri without a reason would be…well…you can see my dilemma.”

And just like that, Lorne got where this was going, and he felt his stomach cramp up and acid climb up his chest. He reached out to hold onto the anything as the feeling of falling out the window into space, terrified and choking to breathe, overtook him.

He couldn’t…he couldn’t save Earth, not at that cost. Never at that cost.

A hand landed on his back, softly, another on his shoulder. He found himself turned away from the view port and pushed back against the wall, staring into Sheppard’s eyes. He was still having his panic attack, but he could just make out the shift, from Mer’deth to Shep, and all he saw was remorse and a forlorn sympathy in that face.

He slid down the wall even as he tried to shove the man away. Sheppard wouldn’t have it, just grabbed his arms and guided him down, helped him to put his head between his knees and just…just kneel there, with him. Like he did as his commanding officer years ago after Ba’al tortured him. Making sure he felt safe, protected.

It was almost a violation, and he hated himself for drawing strength from it. He felt himself shake, trying not to throw up or cry or scream or…or anything. He tried to pull himself together, but he couldn’t. He can’t. The very idea…he’d been fighting for Earth for over a decade. He couldn’t accept this. He wouldn’t accept this.

He was almost ready to say, ‘Thank you, but we’ll figure it out on our own,’ when he flashed on his home in San Francisco, and his sister in Berkeley, and his two nephews, so thrilled to see their Uncle every time. He thought of Cadman and Ford, who might actually make a good couple some day; and Zelenka and his caustic relationship with Elizabeth Weir and the terrible, terrible crush they had on each other.

He thought of them, and he could see them looking up one day, seeing a bright yellow light, and then nothing at all. Their remains ignored and trampled as Ori soldiers marched across the Earth and enslaved any survivors. He couldn’t allow that to happen. He wouldn’t.

He finally shrugged Sheppard’s hand off his hunched form. “The lesser of two evils,” he spit out shakily. He could feel the tension in the air as the words hit home, and he saw Sheppard’s boots step back, out of his sight.

“You’re career will be over, Evan,” was what finally came from the man.

As if Lorne had a career future. Due to the Mer’deth incident, Landry made sure he never received that promotion from Major. He didn’t care about that. All he’d cared about was continuing to go through the Stargate, to still be a part of his team.

Sheppard continued. “You’ll never be welcome on the planet again. They’ll label you a traitor and order your execution.”

That hit a little more close to home. Nonetheless, he said, “At least my family will be safe. And the billions of innocent people living in ignorance.” He slowly uncurled himself and leaned back, stretching his legs as he looked up at Sheppard and let his arms fall beside him. “They’re coming, Shep. They’re coming, and General Landry is shitting bricks. General O’Neill is locked away in Antarctica. They’re shipping out people left and right. And in the end, Earth will surrender. Because that’s the only chance it has to survive.”

Sheppard’s voice deepened again. “And if I show up, even to save them, they’ll fight me. I’ll have to order my men to attack, to prevent my own losses.”

“Will you enslave the planet?”

Mer’deth shook his head. “Which means I’ll need another reason for the Jaffa to buy this attack.”

Lorne tried to figure out what would work. He looked around the lab, and it hit him. It hit him like a two-by-four, and he hesitated. It was the ultimate betrayal, even above what he was doing now, but it was the only ace he had. “The location of Atlantis is somewhere on Earth.” He could see Mer’deth’s interest peaked. “The city of the Gatebuilders. That knowledge, that would be worth the expenditure, wouldn’t it?”

“They’d never let us have it,” Sheppard said. He tilted his head. “But it’s a reason.”

“A good enough reason,” Mer’deth added. “We just need one thing.” Now he looked shifty, and Lorne braced his hands on the floor. So close, he was so close to getting help, so he bit back his ire. “We need a First Prime.”

Lorne stared at him, then glanced to the window. “But-“

“We lost him in the battle. Just because we won doesn’t mean we didn’t take loses.” Mer’deth looked smug. “Of course, now I know how to defend ourselves, and the weak point in their shields.”

“But you can’t launch an assault without a commander,” Lorne finished. He thought twice, then once more. Shep was right. He would never be welcome on Earth again. “I’ll do it.”

“Evan-“

He pushed himself to his feet and started pulling off his shirt. “Just do it, Shep. You need a First Prime.” He looked Sheppard in the eye. “Can you think of anyone else who’d do everything to protect… Mer’deths’ new planet?”

Sheppard met his gaze, and after a couple minutes, nodded. He fiddled with something on the hand device, then walked forward as Lorne dropped his shirt to the floor. “You don’t have to,” Mer’deth said quietly. “We can find someone else.”

Lorne ignored him. Instead, he said, “Send my team back home. At least they can keep their futures.”

Mer’deth looked at him, hesitated, then placed his palm against Lorne’s stomach. There was a warmth that spread up his spine, and then pain, then searing pain, and Lorne let out a silent scream as the whole world turned white.

~*()*~

Using some of Mer’deth’s more Asgard-looking ships, Lorne was able to set up planetary shields around the Alpha and other sites. They were subtle, only giving off energy when in use. From the reports intercepted, the Earth teams believed the satellites were a gift from the Asgard.

It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

Earth was another story, but unlike the Ori cruisers, Mer’deth apparently developed a pseudo-intergalactic drive that made them three times as fast as their opposition. Lorne made it a two-tiered assault. One wave seeded the asteroid belt, so that they could get their solar system shield up and running. He made sure those ships are cloaked. The shield won’t be up until after the attack, and it gave him the perfect second wave to hit the Ori bastards with.

He went with the main fleet to appear in orbit around Antarctica. The shutdown command code he sent to the Antarctic outpost seemed to function, as the Odyssey and Daedalus approached, their weapons hot. When he was sure there wouldn’t be any drone weapons flying up, he opened a communication channel with the ships and the SGC.

O’Neill was there, and Lorne could feel his fury even in orbit. “Thought we had a talk about this, Major,” was what he bit out.

The infinity symbol, melted gold directly into his forehead, was still fresh. He knew it had healed, but now it burned under the accusing gazes of the SGC. “We did, sir. But we don’t really have a choice. The Ori are due in less than three hours.”

“And I suppose Sheppard is helping us out of the goodness of his heart,” said Landry, his fists clenched.

“This was his birthplace, sir.” He saw that surprise Landry, but not O’Neill, who was still glaring at him. “However, he did request certain…services.”

“You tell that traitorous-“

“Hank,” O’Neill’s voice was sharp, but quieted the other man. “You know what this means, right Major?”

He swallowed. “Just take care of my team.” He looked O’Neill in the eye for this, “And my sister’s family.”

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, and then O’Neill looked away and made a motion at someone. A second later, Lorne saw the two Earth ships breaking off attack vectors and move into standard orbit. “So First Prime Lorne, what exactly are Lord Mer’deth’s demands?”

Lorne steeled himself. “Mer’deth will seize the Outpost in order to determine the location of Atlantis.” There was outrage in the background, but O’Neill didn’t look surprised. “In exchange, he will bring Earth under his territorial domain.” He could see the General get it.

“You’ve really stepped in it, Lorne.” He motioned to the side again. “I’m guessing that if we don’t surrender, you’ll take the planet by force.”

“We do have a fleet here, sir.”

“Yes, yes you do.” O’Neill grabbed a cell phone painted bright red. “You sure you want to do this?”

It was a little late to ask that, but he’d watched the recordings. He knew Mer’deth’s shields would hold, and that the weapons at his command would rival any Asgard’s. “It’s time Earth was brought back under goa’uld command, General. Sheppard and I both feel the planet would benefit under Mer’deth’s custody.”

O’Neill nodded. “Let me talk to President Hayes and the IOA. I’ll call you back within the hour?”

He could see that O’Neill was reading between the lines, understood what this was really about. Lorne nodded. “We’ll be waiting.”

It didn’t even take twenty minutes. Though there was small request he had to adhere to…

~*()*~

“You’re a son of a bitch, sir.”

Lorne sighed. “Good to see you too, Cadman.” He shut down the ring system and opened the door to the hallway.

“I agree. You are an idiot,” Radek added. “However, you have a fleet. So you are an idiot savant.”

“Kids,” O’Neill said, “I didn’t ask you as an escort to gossip.”

“You did not ask. We insisted. You relented. It’s good. Ford had C4 ready for your boat.”

Ford laughed nervously. “He’s joking sir. I’d never, um…hey, no guards. Cool, huh?”

Lorne tried to smile, but he could feel it wasn’t even close to real. “If you came to kill me, I wanted to make sure-“

“Cut the dramatics, Major.” O’Neill looked around, then nodded to the door. “So, you and Sheppard came to save the day, huh?”

“Mer’deth too.” He started walking and made sure to stay slightly behind the General, even though he was leading the way. “Without his technology, we’d still be up shit creek.”

“I have to hand it to you. It took balls to ask a snake for help.”

Lorne swallowed. “I couldn’t let Earth fall.”

“Which just makes me feel guilty for filing the treason charge.”

Lorne stopped them outside the main lab. “I deserve it, sir.”

O’Neill looked him in the eye. “You deserve a lot of things. And if you pull this off, you may even get some of them.”

Lorne wasn’t sure if that meant he would get to go home or if they would simply shoot him between the eyes. “Thank you, sir.” He input the code. “Sheppard’s inside, ready to show you how to beat the Ori.”

O’Neill slapped him on the shoulder and entered the lab. Cadman and Ford followed, ever the trusty soldiers. Radek stopped in front of him, and put his hands on his arms. “You are a fool.”

“Radek-“

“You will be silent.” Lorne shut his mouth. “You are a brave fool. You did not have to do this.”

“Yes, I did.”

Radek searched his face. “Perhaps. But you did not have to do this alone. We are here, even when you make stupid mistakes.”

He squirmed a little, but felt something inside him loosen up at Zelenka’s acceptance. “I’m sorry.”

“I accept the apology. Now, we will talk with Sheppard, and after the Ori are gone, you will show me this shield system, yes? We cannot trust a goa’uld alone. And Laura insists you show her the weapons. And Ford wants to fly one of the new attack vessels.” He nodded. “Yes, I think we will stay a while, so you can show to us all the gifts of this Lord Mer’deth. It is a team thing, after all.” He patted Lorne on the arm, then walked into the lab.

And Lorne, a real smile finally crawling across his face, followed behind him saying, “Whatever you say, Doc. Whatever you say.”

Punch the air happy!

Date: 2011-01-31 05:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] needfire.livejournal.com
I loved this so much!and I do not have words for how much I am looking forward to the interaction between Mer/John and O'Neill. I am already settling to re-read this fantastic fic and am chortling at imagining the amount of chocolate and coffee this system lord will be requesting for his tribute.
Thank you so much.
Gratefully.B.

Re: Punch the air happy!

Date: 2011-02-06 05:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
You're welcome! Glad you enjoyed it!

Date: 2011-01-31 05:22 am (UTC)
amalthia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amalthia
I just about jumped up and down in squee when I saw you had posted a new part! :) Sadly the last part. I loved where you took the story and I just wish it was longer and there were more. But um I'm sometimes greedy like that when it comes to awesome concept mixed with wonderful character voices and storytelling.

Date: 2011-02-06 05:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
I wish I could go further too, but sometimes, the story must end. Thank you for reading!

Date: 2011-02-06 06:02 am (UTC)
amalthia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amalthia
Many stories have been ruined when author's didn't know when to quit! Still sad the story has ended but I'd rather it leave off on a high note. :) Waves and again thanks for the stories. :)

Date: 2011-01-31 07:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teenygozer.livejournal.com
WOW, intense! So sad it's the last part, it's such a wonderful universe, with such great characters, I want it to go on forever!

Date: 2011-02-06 05:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it so much!

Date: 2011-01-31 08:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eliyes.livejournal.com
PERFECTION! Oh, this makes me happy. ♥

Date: 2011-02-06 05:41 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-01-31 12:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kensieg.livejournal.com
Absolutely Fabulous! Like others have said I wish it could go on longer. Will you write any more stories in this universe? I'd read them all!

Date: 2011-02-06 05:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
I don't know if I'll dip into this universe again. Though Lorne as Jaffa is a fun concept (would be an awesome picture, too, heh). Thank you for reading!

Date: 2011-01-31 10:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] panisdead.livejournal.com
Very cool!

Date: 2011-02-06 05:42 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-01-31 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] schneefink.livejournal.com
Awesome ending! Oh Lorne. Great series :D

Date: 2011-02-06 05:42 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-01-31 10:53 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'd forgotten how much I adored this AU! This is a great conclusion with a very different result from events - I really appreciated the changes. Lorne's choice and the high price he pays is exactly the sort of story I crave finding in original fic as well as fan fic. I think this works better because it's fan fic and has the complexity of all that canon to paint the tragedy in richer, deeper colors.

Thank you for writing and sharing.

Date: 2011-02-01 01:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] melagan.livejournal.com
Fascinating. The whole thing and I loved it!

Date: 2011-02-06 05:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
Glad you enjoyed it!

Date: 2011-02-01 07:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sulien77.livejournal.com
"It must often be so, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them." JRR Tolkien


Okay, so Lorne didn't go through what Frodo went through, but his sacrifice was every bit as great. Unless, of course, Jack has his way, and I sincerely hope he does!

Thank you so much for sharing this, it was marvelous! I loved the way you had Jack understand what was going on from the get go when Lorne let Sheppard and Mer'deth escape and that he immediately understood what Lorne was doing in leading Mer'deth's forces in taking Earth. I especially loved the teamy goodness, even though the team wasn't all together at times.

I know this is supposed to be complete, but if you decide to write a few vignettes or a continuation or two, I would be very grateful (as would everyone else, I'm sure)! And thank you again.

Date: 2011-02-06 05:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
You're welcome! Lorne is an awesome guy, and he totally would take the bullet (or, in this case, snake) to save the world. Don't know if I'll be visiting this world again, but you'll be sure to see it if I do. Glad you enjoyed it!

Date: 2011-02-01 07:26 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-02-06 05:44 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-02-05 09:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] michelel72.livejournal.com
This is an excellent continuation of the series. I love the hard choices everyone makes.

Date: 2011-02-06 05:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
Thank you! Glad you liked it!

Date: 2011-02-06 01:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lavvyan.livejournal.com
Oh, so much love for the way you brought it full circle in the end, with Lorne being John's second again, in a way, and his team there with him. I also love Mer'deth's slight lingering antagonism, and the way you used Jack O'Neill here, and Mer'deth taking over Earth, and, and, and! *flails, just a bit*

Such a treat. Thank you. ♥

Date: 2011-02-07 12:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
You're more than welcome! Without your sandbox, I never would've played around with this world. Thank you so much for sharing. Glad you enjoyed it!

Date: 2011-02-07 12:57 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-02-06 11:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tonicollins.livejournal.com
*dolphin noises - really excited and happy dolphin noises*

Date: 2011-02-07 12:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
Heh, glad you liked it!

Date: 2011-02-07 01:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raiining.livejournal.com
Oh this was AWESOME!!! A great, great ending! Perfect to focus on thsi wonderful team. thank you!

Date: 2011-03-03 01:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the feedback!

Date: 2011-02-08 02:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] e313.livejournal.com
silly Lorne! of course your team will come with u!
i loved the way this story evolved u know! thank u so much for writing more of it. :D

Date: 2011-03-03 01:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
I really like how it evolved too. Glad you enjoyed it. Thank you!

Date: 2011-02-15 02:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] signs-in-sand.livejournal.com
Great! This was always such a good idea and I really liked the conclusion you brought it to. Plus: Lorne! That's already a good reason to read it anyway.

Date: 2011-02-18 07:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] allaire.livejournal.com
I think this story (as well as the entire 'verse) is just awesome.

I'm afraid, though, that the scene with O'Neill showing up at Lorne's house early on is a tad too subtle for me - what does the SGC believe happened in "Team Loyalty"? Have they pieced together that Lorne volunteered as a temporary host to Mer'deth and engineered both the Goa'uld and Sheppard's escape? Or do they believe Sheppard seized the opportunity when desperately-in-love-with-him!Lorne kissed him to overpower him and snatched Mer'deth in order to take his revenge on 'the snake that mind-raped him'? Do they know Mer'deth was in Lorne?

I'm confused. Sorry. And intrigued, obviously. *g*

Date: 2011-03-02 03:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lrndng.livejournal.com
Hi I really am enjoying this verse!

I also had a question? Did you ever write any sequels to your Big Bang Return to Normalcy? (which led me to your mer'deth verse ^_^)

Date: 2011-03-03 01:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seikaitsukimizu.livejournal.com
Glad you enjoyed this trilogy! I did write a few snippets. You can find all of my Atlantis fiction in my SGA Fiction (http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memories.bml?user=seikaitsukimizu&keyword=Stargate%20Atlantis&filter=all) bookmarks. Enjoy!
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