Summary: This is for Carleton97 who requested Lorne/Parrish for her secret slasher story. What I intended was a slow moving exploration of a developing relationship; what I made was somehow both episodic and heavy on the exposition. But at least this brings the total number of Parrish/Lorne stories to about four:-) I hope you enjoy your Christmas fic.
Word Count: 3,237
Date: Begun 13 November 2005, Complete 17 December 2005
Thanks: To Fern for betaing.
The Secret Garden
Day 1 (Lorne)
Exploring Atlantis wasn't entirely safe but it was the closest thing to it in the Pegasus galaxy. Lorne found himself humming contentedly as he turned into a new corner. He paused for a moment to let Parrish inspect the remains of an Atlantan pot plant.
'Magnificent', Parrish muttered, measuring the height and breadth of the spindly branches. 'Let me make some notes.'
'I don't know if I'd call it magnificent. It's more a bundle of sticks,' he replied quietly. He knew Parrish wasn't really listening to him. The man was obsessive about his specialty, a quirk which all geeks shared to some extent in Lorne's experience. There was a limit, however, to how long even a biologist could spend admiring the 10,000 year old remains of a plant and, after carefully taking and labeling a sample, Parrish was eventually ready to move on.
'I'm fairly sure this was a different species of the Luttonii genera. We've called it the Luttonii but of course it's a provisional-'
Lorne interrupted him as he reached for the manual entry crystals on the nearest door. 'Uh uh, Doc. You stay behind me when we enter, remember?'
Lorne lifted his gun and moved forward with caution. As he entered the lights flickered on sluggishly and behind him he could hear Parrish scuffling as he walked into something.
When the room was finally lit he saw the rear wall was lined with cabinets, fitted with rows of tiny drawers. He pulled one out at random but there was nothing in the matchbox-sized cavity other than a few shriveled black specks.
'C'mon, Doc. Look's like this room's a bust.' He broke off when he saw the look on Parrish's face. His blue eyes were lit up and he had clasped his expressive hands together in joy. Lorne was reminded of the way his niece had looked when she came downstairs to find that Santa Claus had visited.
'It's - It's - Do you know what this is? A specimen box. My God! It's a collection of Ancient biological samples.'
Lorne looked again at the black specks. 'So there might be useful plants in here?'
Parrish stepped forward and pulled open several drawers at random. 'Some could be useful, yes,' he said absently, 'The Atlantan equivalent of quinine or white willow might be in here.'
Lorne raised an eyebrow and he continued without further need for prompting. 'Aspirin was derived by studying the molecular composition of white willow which was traditionally used for pain relief.' In some ways Parrish was just a regular guy; he didn't show off his knowledge or use it to belittle as some of the scientists did. Lorne had got a superior grade of geek.
Parrish peered into an open drawer and reluctantly shut it. His long hands were almost caressing the cabinet.
'Big stuff then?' It was good to see someone so happy.
'My God, ground breaking! This could literally be the Rosetta Stone of the biological world. Perhaps this will allow us to understand what remains of the biological database.'
'So you want to come back tomorrow?'
'Yes, yes, we should certainly return tomorrow.'
Parrish had missed Lorne's attempt to skip the detailed investigation of the lab. He knew his role would be fetching things that Parrish had forgotten from the main botany labs. But he couldn't find the heart to puncture his enthusiasm by suggesting that examining a room full of minute boxes of seeds wasn't the best thing ever. He smiled at Parrish's gleeful expression.
Day 2 (Parrish)
Parrish got up with the first ring of his alarm. He had not slept well; thoughts of the specimen collection had streamed through his mind. He had received permission to explore in more detail, though he didn't believe that McKay had fully grasped the potential of the discovery. He tended to dismiss the value of the soft sciences.
Parrish had thought reluctantly about sharing the discovery. He had eventually offered it to Katie, whose background in angiosperm evolution could be invaluable. He was relieved when she turned him down, citing her commitment to getting the hydroponics bays running. It wasn't that he minded sharing with Katie; it was just that it felt somehow like he was taking something away from the major.
He felt less cheerfully inclined towards Lorne when he realised he was not in the first shift for breakfast. He had nearly finished his hash browns and not-eggs when Lorne staggered in. He slumped at the table next to him and almost inhaled his coffee.
'Good morning,' Parrish said loudly.
'All ready for work?' he continued pointedly. He relented slightly. 'I'll get you another cup of coffee before we go.' The noise from Lorne might have been a thank you.
He gave him time for the caffeine to work, filling it with a description of their job.
'It sounds like inventory,' Lorne commented.
'In a way. We need to know exactly what we've got and what order it is arranged in. Then I can cross-reference it to the existing Ancient database.'
Lorne sighed and Parrish ignored him.
Day 3 (Lorne)
Parrish had rescheduled their time in the lab for a much more reasonable hour. When Lorne met him there he had moved a desk in so his laptop could rest securely. A number of pot plants sat along the window sill. Lorne could not tell if they represented an experiment or decoration.
He took a final mouthful of coffee and smiled at Parrish. 'Nice morning for desk work.'
He kicked his chair over so he could sit beside him in the sun. They were nearly finished collating the specimen collection, and he found that he would miss hanging out in the lab with Parrish when they finished the work. It was a really peaceful place, far from the noisy heart of the Atlantis control room.
Day 15 (Parrish)
He was puttering with the database, trying to compare his catalogue of the specimen cabinet with the incomplete notes in the Ancients' system, when Lorne arrived. He dragged a pallet on which he had arranged a desk, a chair, a lap top and, perched precariously on top, two cups of coffee.
'Is one of those for me?' He snagged one before he could reply. 'Or is this your just-waking-up supply?'
'I brought you a coffee.' Lorne made big eyes to show his sincerity and then laughed. 'I've already had two.'
He took a mouthful of coffee and began to push the desk into a corner. 'I decided I can't concentrate in my office. People keep interrupting me.'
'This can be your office away from your office. So to speak.'
He couldn't help but watch as Lorne maneuvered the desk into the light of the window. He had the solidly muscled body of an athlete. He blinked.
'Exactly.' Lorne leant over the top of the desk to connect the laptop cord. Parrish forced himself to look away. It was OK to admire the major on a purely aesthetic level. He was, after all, practically a poster boy for all-American good looks. But it would be... awkward for his thoughts to stray into less permissible areas.
He picked up a potted geranium and a potato analogue from PJY-363. 'Here,' he said, 'You need something to make your desk look lived in.'
Day 20 (Parrish)
'So now you've finished inventory, when are you going to start planting?'
Parrish looked across in surprise. 'I - You must understand that they are senescent. I had thought of the next step as gene sequencing. But - why not?'
Lorne frowned. 'You mean they won't grow? Then what's the point in studying them?'
Parrish forgot sometimes that Lorne had no science background. He had spent years on the Stargate program which valued scientific exploration more than most military programs, but he sometimes revealed his fundamentally different assumptions about the value of pure research.
'We can learn a lot by comparing the notes in the Ancient database and my own observations. Also, gene sequencing can be an extremely profitable approach.... But, after all, they got some bulbs from Chinese burials to flower and they were over 2,000 years old. It's not entirely impossible that....'
Lorne made a winding gesture with his hand. He tried to summarise. 'Even if they are senescent - as they most likely are - they still contain a lot of information. But you are right. We should at least try to germinate some. I think... the illiums to start with.'
'You want me to get some stuff from the labs? Dirt or... um, pots?'
Parrish restrained himself from describing the complexity of the process. 'I'll read over it again and prepare this afternoon. Perhaps you could bring another hanging rack before you go to the gym?'
Lorne waved and headed out. Parrish pulled out the drawer with the illium bulbs and stroked one thoughtfully. 'I wonder...'
Day 27 (Lorne)
Lorne had hoped Parrish had recovered from the fucked up mission on PX-072 but when he dropped by the garden mid-morning he could tell that the other man was still shaken. His breathing was doing the hitching, not-quite-asthma thing it did when he was stressed.
Parrish span around when he entered. He had been fiddling with the rows of plants by the window, Ancient and earth botany promiscuously intertwined.
'I've been thinking. I need more training. In shooting and things.'
'Because I don't want to let you down - let the team down.'
'So I'd like a refresher course and - It's OK?'
'It's fine.' Lorne paused. 'Actually, it's good. It's my job to protect you but the galaxy is a dangerous place. I know how often you need to defend yourself.'
'Huh,' Parrish paused. 'So I won't need to bribe you with coffee?'
Lorne's eyes widened. 'There's coffee?' He stepped closer to Parrish, enjoying the clean, familiar smell. 'I spoke too soon. You may need to convince me it's a good idea.'
Parrish lent towards him, dropping his mouth down to whisper in his ear. 'If you teach me hand to hand, there's caffeine in it for you.'
A shiver ran through him and he named it as anticipation. 'Come on, then. Down to the gym and then the mess.' Reluctantly he stepped away. 'Or maybe the mess and then the gym?'
Day 40 (Parrish)
Lorne stopped spooning his oats into his mouth, as Parrish slipped into the seat opposite him. He swallowed and waved his spoon. 'Morning,' Parrish said, not expecting a response from Lorne until he had had jolted his system into waking fully.
'I was thinking about the PS-704 everlastings,' he said, pushing his mug of steaming coffee closer to him. 'Can we go back? I want to check their hydration system. The tests show they are even more water efficient than I'd first thought.'
Lorne nodded and dragged his coffee closer.
'I'll take care of the application process for going off world then.' He smiled at him.
Day 55 (Lorne)
One of the seeds had sprouted. Small, quite pale points poked through the soil into a new world.
Lorne touched it gently with one finger. He couldn't find the words to express how cool it was that this seed still contained life, that it had been waiting 10,000 years to be brought into the light, that Parrish had managed to let it live.
Lorne drew his gaze away from the plant. Parrish's eyes were misted up. He blushed delicately and the tip of his long nose went pink.
Parrish intercepted his glance and coughed. 'Can you not... spread it around that I - um...'
'Are you embarrassed?' he said incredulously.
'It's just - it's not - not very manly.'
Lorne raised an eyebrow and Parrish went on with a rush. 'Biology is a soft science. That's such a value laden term. And you know most of the other biologists are women. It's the only science where that's the case. I just don't need another... girly thing.'
Lorne laughed. 'I don't think of you as... girly. Trust me, no one could confuse you with a woman. I mean, I mean-,' he paused. 'Just look at the damn plant.'
Parrish blushed again but the look of discomfort cleared from his face. He brushed his hand briefly against Lorne's, his fingers calloused and warm.
He cleared his throat. 'I - Thank you. Though the plant is really half yours. And it's still definitely possible that some of the others may germinate.'
Lorne appreciated the change of subject and he allowed Parrish to steer the conversation back to less personal topics. He did not understand why Parrish stirred such intensity in him but he found more and more that being with someone so emotionally open was affecting him. He felt that he was changing though, like the plant before them, he was not sure how or why.
Day 59 (Lorne)
While he was on the Athosian mainland, Lorne saw that the meadows around the village were filled with curling purple flowers. After he greeted Halling and admired the progress of the village pigs, he quietly left the pens and found a clump of the flowers. He used his Kbar to cut three or four of the flowers, and he circled around the village to leave them in the jumper. The juice was sticky on his hands and the scent was dizzying.
It wasn't that he was ashamed of bringing Parrish flowers. It wasn't like he was... bringing him flowers with intent. It was just that the tall purple blossoms looked like the kind of thing that Parrish would appreciate.
Stackhouse and Johnson looked at the flowers on the back seat but did not mention them.
Day 65 (Parrish)
Parrish sought out the garden as soon as he got through the debriefing. He couldn't be around his team members when they seemed so calm and he felt so frantic.
He couldn't settle at the computer or by the plants. He kept replaying the shocking suddenness with which the mission had gone wrong, the whistle of bullets through the air, his own lack of comprehension. He picked up the secateurs and trimmed a few browning leaves.
There was a knock behind him and he span around, his body still futilely producing adrenaline much too late. Lorne moved into the room.
'Sorry,' Parrish said. He realised he was still holding the secateurs and dropped them. The sound of metal hitting the bench rang across the room. 'You startled me.'
Lorne moved closer to him, forcing him to look down into his intense brown eyes. He felt his breathing begin to slow. 'You ran off kind of fast after debriefing. I wanted to talk to you.'
Parrish wanted to drop his eyes but Lorne stood too close to allow that. 'Was it because I didn't duck until the second round? It was - I had never heard real gunfire before and I didn't recognise it. I dropped as soon as I heard you tell me to.'
Lorne's mouth was grim. 'You did good, Parrish. Don't think differently. You took cover and you followed orders when things went south.' He touched his hand gently. 'I just wanted to check you are OK'.
He turned Parrish's hand over and clasped his palm in his. No other part of their bodies touched but Parrish felt an all-encompassing somatic awareness of Lorne's solid form.
'I'm - thank you,' he said. He didn't have the words for the feelings welling within him.
'You did OK,' Lorne said, squeezing his hand and slowly releasing it. 'We both did good.'
Day 78 (Lorne)
Lorne paused by the door. The shelves of the specimen boxes were no longer the most striking feature in the room. While he had been away Parrish's plants had grown considerably or he had added more. The window side of the open room was now a wall of greenery.
He threw his duffle down and perched on the edge of his desk. 'Miss me?'
Parrish smiled at him.
Day 103 (Parrish)
Parrish had not stopped trembling since their return to Atlantis. He wanted to get out of the debriefing room, to go to the Ancient garden, to drag Lorne with him and make sure he was all right.
Weir's eyes crinkled with concern. 'So the Laconii attacked Dr Parrish first?'
'Yes, ma'am. They were under the misapprehension that he was a Genii spy.' Lorne's mouth tightened.
'They took my gun away, after they hit me. And then they - they -'
'They clearly were aware of the technology, even through it far exceeded their apparent level of development. They threatened me with the captured weapon. Apparently they thought I was Genii too.'
'They took the safety off.' Parrish knew his voice was trembling but he could not stop it.
Lorne stared at him. If they had been in the garden, he would have moved to him.
'They thought they'd knocked me out so they weren't watching me closely. I was behind them so I could grab the gun.'
Lorne interrupted. 'It was incredibly dangerous. You shouldn't have done it.'
Parrish hissed back. 'What was I supposed to do? Let them shoot you?'
Lorne was virtually vibrating with anger. He shouted, 'That was not your choice to make. You had the opportunity to get away and to go to Atlantis for back up.'
Weir looked at the usually calm man in surprise. 'Perhaps we can continue this report tomorrow. When you have had the time to reflect on matters.'
'Ma'am, yes ma'am.'
Parrish knew Lorne's retreat into military formality was a way of dealing with stress. Weir clearly recognised it also. 'Dismissed,' she said helpfully.
Lorne erupted from his seat and chivied Parrish out the door. He stalked through the corridors, heading for the garden with the directness of a bullet fired from a gun.
Parrish raised a hand to his face and tried to erase that image. He stepped closer to Lorne, reminding himself bodily of his warm presence.
Lorne swung into the garden and he followed, a mere half step behind. The soldier pivoted and slapped the security lock by the door.
'Don't ever do that again.' He pushed up against Parrish and he stepped back into the door. Lorne was shorter than him but stronger and, at this moment, entirely focussed on him. His body pressed against him and Parrish was glad, so dizzyingly glad, that he was alive.
'I had to. I - I couldn't -'
Lorne growled and moved closer still, closing the few millimetres between them. He moved up and pressed a fierce kiss against his lips.
The End (Parrish and Lorne)
For a second Parrish's body tensed and then he relaxed. He ducked his head down so Lorne could kiss him properly. Lorne stepped onto his toes without breaking the kiss, savouring every touch and every sensation.
It was unbelievably good; it was like coming home. The sweet scent of the illium blossoms surrounded them, alien and familiar.