Pairing: Evan Lorne/Peter Kavanagh
Rating: PG13 for coarse language
Disclaimer: Vague spoilers for season one and mention of canon deaths
Author's Notes: This story is a remix of the wonderful movie Just Like Heaven starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo. I hope the writers and producers know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In case you're wondering, Evan gets to play Reese's part.
The title is from the song Weighty Ghost by the most fantastic band Wintersleep.
I would very much like to thank hoktauri and taste_is_sweet for their excellent, kind and incredibly accurate beta!
Merry Christmas Eviljr! Thanks for the opportunity to get these guys together.
Summary: Not all ghosts go to heaven.
He'd been in Atlantis less than twenty minutes, and already he was disappointed.
Peter Kavanagh, PhD. hefted his duffel bag higher up on his shoulder and felt a sneer pull up the corner of his mouth. He had arrived with the rest of the new staff on the Daedalus almost fifteen minutes previously, but so far the only welcome he had received was some dumbass in a uniform telling him to park by the wall and wait for someone else to show him to his quarters.
Typical, he thought, having to wait for some military monkey to get his thumb out of his ass when I could actually be doing something useful.
Peter huffed out a breath in disgust. He'd just arrived from Earth, for Christ's sake, and he'd come there because Atlantis had been practically begging for an electrical engineer who actually knew his shit. But not one single member of the leadership team had been there to meet him. Not one.
He'd had higher expectations of an expedition with a civilian commander, but clearly Dr. Weir was just like the rest of the clowns at the SGC, only in a more politically--correct package.
Peter grimaced. It seemed like this posting would be a bust just like all the rest.
When he'd first beamed down, he'd spent a few minutes marvelling at the splendour of the Gate room, with its huge, vaulted ceiling and stained glass. But now he was bored and annoyed, and debating whether or not he was going to go exploring on his own, and let his 'military escort' go fuck himself. Sighing, Peter let his duffel fall off his shoulder and onto the floor, deciding that he'd wait a couple more minutes for whatever trained monkey they'd assigned to him to appear. The one bag he'd been allowed to pack was damn heavy, and he wouldn't mind if someone else carried it for a while. He turned to look at the wall behind him.
It was a memorial wall, consisting of a row of neatly framed photos of people in uniform, their names engraved tastefully on silver rectangles underneath.
Peter blinked, and moved closer; pushing his glasses further up his nose to see the pictures better.
Colonel Sumner the first one said. The Colonel's photo showed a middle-aged man in uniform, bush cap pulled low over his eyes. The angles of his face were sharp and hard and he looked like someone who brokered no compromise.
"Bet you're glad you died with your boots on," Peter smirked to himself, and looked at the second framed print.
Dr. Abrams, it read, and the picture was of a shaggy-haired young man squinting off into the sun, like he was looking for something far off on the horizon. Dr. Gaul was the next one, which showed a slightly older man posing formally in the grey-and-blue uniform of the Atlantis scientists, his expression both excited and scared. Those pictures were followed by others: Dr. Wagner. Dr. Johnson. Dr. Peterson. Dr Hays. Sgt. Markham. Cpl. Smith.
Peter swallowed hard and straightened. There were nine men and women on that list. Nine and the damn expedition had only been out there a year. Peter frowned at how dead scientists outnumbered dead military personnel two to one. Typical, he thought. No one gave a shit about the scientists.
He was about to turn back to look for his 'escort' again when something caught the corner of his eye. He moved towards it, realizing that there was a tenth photo on the board. But unlike the others this one wasn't enlarged or framed, and there was no engraved plaque beneath it. Someone had clearly just stuck it to the board with a couple of thumbtacks, close to the bottom edge, and Peter scowled. It was just like the SGC to pick and choose who they would honour based on some unwritten popularity contest. He bent down to look closer at the photo, wondering what the guy had done to merit such little respect
The photo showed a close-up of a man's face, with short, dark brown hair and the edges of a military uniform visible on his neck and the tops of his shoulders. The man was smiling, wide and totally unselfconsciously, and deep enough to show the indent of dimples on both of his cheeks. His gaze was directed at someone unseen, the light hitting his face just bright enough to show that his eyes were a kind of blue in colour, or maybe grey. He had been undeniably handsome when was alive.
He looked happy and confident, like someone you'd want to have as a friend. Inexplicably, Peter found himself reaching out a finger to touch the photo, a strange sadness filling him as he wondered who the man might have been.
"Don't touch that," a voice said in warning.
Peter straightened and turned in one movement, feeling the heat of a blush colouring his face.
There was a young woman in military uniform standing there, glaring at him.
Typical, he thought. He'd been there all of twenty minutes and already he'd done something to piss somebody off. "What?" he sneered. "You're the only one allowed to look at your boyfriend?"
Her eyes narrowed in an expression that could only be called dangerous. "Major Evan Lorne was my commanding officer," she snapped, "and you will show him respect."
I was! Peter thought to himself. It's not like he had tacked up the photo instead of putting it into a proper frame. Peter snorted. "Like he cares."
Her expression turned murderous.
Peter rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah," he said, "I know. You want to kill me. Well, get in line." He gestured at his bag. "So, pick it up and let's get going. I need to unpack and then get to the labs so I can finally do the incredibly important job they're paying me for."
She didn't move, just crossed her arms.
Peter made a face. "Today?"
The soldier smiled in a way that was all menace and no humour. "You didn't say the magic word."
Peter returned his version of her smile. "And you have no idea how many 'magic' words I'm choosing not to say to you right now." His smile dropped. "Now pick up my bag."
She leaned in close. "Now you listen, you little shit-"
"Is there a problem, Lieutenant?"
A tall, lean man with way too much hair for someone in a military uniform seemed to suddenly materialize right beside them.
"No, sir," the woman said, never taking her eyes off of Peter. "Nothing I can't handle."
"Good," the man said. He turned to Peter, holding out his hand. "Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard," he said, "I'm the military commander here on Atlantis. I see you've already met Lieutenant Cadman."
Peter gave Sheppard's hand a perfunctory shake then crossed his arms. "It's about time you got here, Sheppard," he said. "I've been waiting over twenty minutes for someone to show up to take me to my quarters."
"And you must be Dr. Kavanagh," Sheppard said without a hint of surprise in his voice. He turned back to face the Lieutenant. "I'm sorry, Cadman."
"It's alright, sir," she said, hefting Peter's bag. "As soon as I drop him off, he'll be McKay's problem."
"Hello, still here!" Peter said, letting sarcasm drip through every syllable. Typical! he thought again. He hadn't even been there a full half-hour and already he'd been judged and dismissed, just like the SGC. "Can we do the hate-on-Kavanagh shit and walk at the same time?"
Sheppard turned to look at him. "Wow, Kavanagh," he drawled, "pleasure to meet you, too."
Peter scowled at him. "Tell it to someone who cares."
The walk to the residential area of Atlantis was made in near-silence. Sheppard had disappeared almost as soon as they'd gone past the Memorial Wall, leaving Peter with the Lieutenant, who had barely glanced at him since.
Right now, she was walking at a brisk pace, about three steps ahead of Peter, moving like she barely felt the weight of the duffel slung across her back. He would have been impressed, but he was more annoyed by the whole thing. Why every military base he ever went to had such nasty soldiers, he'd never know.
Peter had been hoping for a bit of a tour of the City, or even a brief explanation of whatever it was they were passing, or even where each corridor led, but it was obvious that his 'escort' had better things to do than help him out. That was fine though, Peter thought. He'd figure it out later on his own. He didn't need a hand-up from anybody.
They turned down yet another corridor, and Peter found himself stopping in his tracks.
The corridor ended at a huge balcony that overlooked the Lantean Ocean. The doors that led outside were giant panes of clear glass, allowing for a view marred only by the balcony railings stretching out at least ten yards beyond. Outside the window the sun was just beginning to set, and the sky was painted in multiple shades of yellow and gold, dappling every surface with light. The water was just visible as a thin ribbon of blue at the edge of the balcony's railings, and Peter had a sudden longing to be on the balcony, watching the sun as it slowly lowered into the rippling water.
Cadman turned her head, her eyes narrowed. "Coming?"
He made a face and started walking again, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from the balcony. "Are there rooms overlooking the water?" Peter said, and then grimaced as he heard the sound of pining in his voice.
"Sure," Cadman said, gesturing at a door right at the end of the hallway, right where they were headed. "That one."
"Really?" Peter said, feeling the edges of his mouth curl upwards. He started to walk faster, already feeling the cool sea breeze against his face.
Cadman was staring at him, his duffel at her feet. "Where do you think you're going?"
Peter stopped and looked at her. She was standing in front of the doorway next to the one that led to the room with the magnificent balcony. He pointed. "To my room."
She laughed as she swiped her hand over the sensor by the door. "Dream on, buddy. This one's yours," she said, neatly tossing his bag into the room. She started walking.
"Wait!" Peter called, disappointment making his tone harsh. "Why can't I have that room at the end?"
Cadman looked at him over her shoulder as if she was looking at something particularly disgusting. "That's Major Lorne's room," she said, then turned away so swiftly that Peter could swear he heard the rush of air from the movement of her head. Her walk accelerated.
"Major Lorne?" Peter called after her as she turned the corner. "But he's dead!"
But she had already gone.
"Typical," Peter muttered, and walked back towards his quarters. Even before he looked inside he could tell they'd be the size of a shoebox and even less comfortable. He looked towards the balcony again; then shook his head as he went inside.
Only the SGC would be so ridiculous as to keep a prime piece of real estate for a dead man but not even frame his picture.
"Typical!" he muttered again, and let the door slide shut behind him.
Peter lay on his narrow bed in the dark, staring up at the plain grey ceiling, cursing his life.
It had been two days since he'd arrived in Atlantis, and so far he couldn't tell if choosing to come here had been a complete mistake or not.
The work was great. He'd done more with his training and expertise in the past forty-eight hours than he'd ever had a chance to do when he was back in the States. So far, his main task had been to understand the usages of power by the expedition members, and then maximize energy savings wherever it was possible. He'd already made some small, but what he felt were significant, changes. Like having the lights come on in the training rooms only when people were actually in them, rather than having them blazing all the time. He'd even programmed them to dim if the activities inside were slow moving, such as the Tai Chi or Yoga classes that were sometimes taught, versus the intense martial arts or stick fighting classes that went on almost every day. He thought it would be nice to create an automatically restful environment for activities meant to reduce stress, but had he received even one word of thanks? No, of course not.
Even working for McKay wasn't that bad. The man was an egotistical tyrant who ranted at his subordinates like they were lucky for it, but he never minced words, and you knew exactly where you stood with him. It was clear to Peter that McKay didn't like him, but he was used to that. He just liked the fact that he knew McKay didn't like him. He hated having to figure it out through subtle, yet cruel actions over time, like what had happened in Colorado.
And in Area 51 before that. And college. And high school.
Peter grimaced. Thinking about his past reminded him of the things he didn't like about his present. The work may have been good, but once again, the people sucked. They were judgemental and harsh, just like every other place he'd ever been. And just like usual, no one could handle his plain speaking or the fact he didn't sugar-coat the truth. He'd thought that he'd do okay on Atlantis, knowing McKay's reputation and all, but apparently McKay had some magic cloaking device that Peter didn't have. Some people could get away with murder, and McKay was clearly one of them.
And clearly, Peter was not.
It was okay though. He did his work and kept his head down. At lunch, some of the scientists had tried to eat with him, but he'd scowled until they got the point that he wasn't interested in their pity party on his behalf. The last thing he wanted was to be subjected to the Atlantean Welcome Wagon, like he couldn't handle things on his own.
He was fine on his own. Always had been, and apparently, always would be.
Peter huffed out a breath and turned on to his side, hitting his pillow with a hollow smacking sound. His room was as tiny as he'd predicted, and even worse, the one window was small and looked out into the corridor. There were no windows to the outside, and that was the part that Peter hated most of all. He worked deep in Atlantis in the main lab, and only left it to walk through the indoor corridors to get to the mess. The mess did lead to a balcony, but it was usually always packed with people, so Peter generally ended up eating inside the building or back in the lab.
Considering he was living on a floating city in the middle of an ocean, he might as well be back at Cheyenne Mountain for how often he actually got to see the sky.
"I want that room!" he said to himself, thinking once again of the quarters just one door down that opened up onto the balcony. From what he'd seen of Atlantis' schematics, he knew that room was nearly twice as big as the one he had, and that the balcony would be extensive and private. He could sleep out there if he wanted, and no one could bother him. It made him wonder if Major Lorne had ever slept out on the balcony, letting the sound of the water lull him to sleep under the millions of stars.
An image of the Major's picture flashed into Peter's mind.
The man was dead, and Peter would never know anything about him, and for some reason, that still made him feel sad.
Peter sat up, scrubbing his hand over his face. The man was dead, he thought again, and his room was lying empty and wasted, and that was nearly as much of a crime as the death of the man himself.
"Fuck it," Peter said, and picked up the elastic he'd left on his nightstand, pulling his long hair back into a pony tail. He stood, found the shirt he'd worn the day before, and pulled on his pants. He put on his glasses and slipped his bare feet into his boots and in moments he'd stepped outside to the silent corridor and was standing in front of the door to the Major's room.
Peter smiled at the simplicity of the circuitry. He wasn't the best electrical engineer in two galaxies for nothing. With a satisfying whoosh the door slid open, and Peter was inside.
Peter thought the lights 'on' and stood, hands on hips, gazing around the room.
It was huge, with enough space for a couch, a desk and a bookshelf, and the bed was easily big enough for two people, which was a far cry from the tiny and too-short bed in his room. And just as he'd thought, there were beautiful glass doors that led out to the balcony. And the balcony was big enough for someone to sleep out there, just as Peter had suspected.
Not a thing in the room had been touched.
Peter frowned to himself as he started looking around. Why hadn't anyone packed all this up and sent it to the Major's family? There must have been someone back home that would have liked these small reminders of the man they loved. Gently, he picked up a rock from the bookshelf. It was solid and heavy and strangely warm, shot through with streaks of silver that glinted in the light. He wondered what the story was behind that rock, and why the Major had decided to keep it.
He put it back and traced his fingers on the books on the shelves. There were only a few, probably because of the restrictions on personal belongings, but the Major had an eclectic mix. There were two geology books, two books on how to paint with oils, and one on leadership. All had clearly been read.
And then there were the paintings.
Peter stood back and just looked at the pieces. There were five in total; small and medium-sized canvases showing scenes from Atlantis. The largest was a view of the City from one of the towers, glinting silver and blue from the reflections on the water. The strokes had been sure and deft, illustrating the movement of the light even while emphasizing the alien nature and solidity of the City herself.
Another showed a scene of the Gate room, taken from the balcony. It was of Dr. Weir with her back to the artist, as she stood in front of the Stargate, looking up at the top edge of the ring. There was obvious tension in her shoulders, but a sense of strength as well, like she didn't know what might come through next, but she would be ready.
A third painting showed what appeared to be an Athosian ceremony of some kind. Peter hadn't been there long enough to really meet any of the Athosians, beyond Teyla, but he figured it had to be something like that. The painting was dark, with a rich mixture of browns and greens, punctuated by the orange-yellow of the firelight, and yet Lorne had managed to capture a sense of joy and expectation in the way the figures were staged around the fire, and in the expressions on their faces.
The fourth painting was of a sunset, which Peter immediately dismissed, and he turned to the last one on the wall. Involuntarily, he sucked in a breath.
He recognized Lieutenant Cadman immediately, even though she had been painted out of uniform, her red hair falling in waves to her shoulders. She was standing and laughing beside two men, who were also in civilian clothes. Peter wasn't sure who they were; he thought the tall blond man might have been a botanist he'd seen at their all-divisions meeting held on his first day in the city. The other man was clearly military by his stance and his short haircut and Peter knew he'd never seen him before. But that didn't matter.
What mattered was how alive the painting was, how it showed the intense affection those three people had for each other, their deep respect, and a bond that was almost palpable. These people were a team. Lorne's team. And the Major had painted them to preserve this feeling between them all.
It was almost like he'd known his life was exceptionally finite, and the painting would end up being a moment in time none of them would have again.
Peter swallowed hard, thinking about everything these three people must have lost when the Major died. He wasn't normally so sentimental, but there was just something about the face in that photograph, and the talent displayed in these paintings, that made Peter feel as if somehow the loss was personal.
"Too bad, so sad," he murmured, turning away from the painting, and forcing the sadness to dissipate. It hadn't been his loss, after all. There was no real reason for him to care. He turned to focus on the room. It probably won't be that hard for me to move in my stuff, he thought, I'll just put the Major's stuff into my old room and--
"What are you doing in here?" a voice said. Peter whirled.
It was Major Lorne. His arms were crossed, and there was a hard glint in his eyes that Peter could now see were a light grey in colour.
Peter felt like his heart had just jammed itself into overdrive. Before he could stop himself, the air rushed out of his lungs, and he could feel his consciousness leaving with it. His eyes rolled back into his head, and everything went dark.
When Peter woke up a few moments later, the Major was crouched by his head, his expression a cross between annoyance and concern.
Peter's heart was still racing, but the fact he wasn't either bleeding or dead made him feel a bit calmer. "Thanks for putting me in the recovery position," he groused, because he was still too freaked out to know what to say to a guy that everyone thought was dead, but clearly wasn't. "I could have choked on my own vomit."
The Major frowned at him. "You're fine."
Peter sat up, slowly, because the head-rushes after his faints were killer. "No thanks to you," he whined. "Jumping out at me like that."
"You shouldn't have been in my room." Lorne said, glaring.
They stared at each other, silence settling uncomfortably between them.
"Everyone thinks you're dead!" Peter finally blurted.
The Major blinked. "What?"
"Dead." Peter repeated. "They think you're dead. They've put your picture on the Wall and everything!"
Lorne stood. "I'm not dead!"
Peter stood too, moving carefully in case he'd damaged himself in his faint, but luckily he'd only have a few bruises, nothing worse. He looked at the Major. The man was wearing a clean, broken-in military uniform that fit well over his strong frame. His hair was neat, his face shaven, and except for his unmistakable good looks; there was nothing extraordinary about him at all. Nothing about him indicated anything other than the good health of a living being.
Except for the fact that he was hiding out in his room, letting everyone else think that he had died.
"Everyone thinks you're dead," Peter voiced his thoughts out loud. "And it sure doesn't help with you hiding in here."
"I'm not hiding," Lorne barked. "And who the hell are you anyway?" He took an aggressive step forward.
"Dr. Peter Kavanagh." Peter said immediately, taking a step back with his hands raised. "I'm one of the scientists."
"Then you should know that other people's rooms are off-limits!" Lorne said, taking another step forward. Peter stepped back, and felt the back of his legs hit the edge of Lorne's desk.
"Now just hold on!" Peter said, hearing an unpleasant note of panic in his voice. "If I had known you were in here, avoiding everyone like a hermit, I wouldn't have come in! Next time you fake your own death, you should tell someone!"
Lorne's voice was a growl. "You need to leave."
"And you need to get out more!" Peter said, edging around Lorne and heading towards the door. "Don't think I'm not going to tell people you're in here," he continued, looking back over his shoulder, "because I so-"
Lorne had disappeared.
"Holy shit," Peter breathed. "Holy shit!."
Needless to say, the next day, Peter was highly distracted.
His productivity was way down, and McKay even yelled at him appropriately for once, when his intrusive thoughts kept him from noticing how a particular way he was routing power was actually beginning to overload the circuits intended to receive them.
"Just, just go somewhere, get some coffee or something." McKay had said finally. "You're useless today."
"Pressure's gotten to you already?" Simpson called after him as he stalked out. He gave her the finger over his shoulder and didn't turn around. Stupid blonde bitch.
But he hadn't gotten coffee. He'd gone straight to the Major's room instead, slipping inside like a thief through a window, equally as silent.
The room seemed totally empty.
"Hello?" Peter called, feeling both stupid and scared at the same time. Last night, the 'ghost', or whatever the Major was, hadn't done anything particularly dangerous, except to appear out of nowhere, but things could change. And maybe now he'd be a vicious poltergeist, bent on murdering intruding scientists. "Hello?" Peter said again, this time his voice was barely a whisper.
"What are you doing here?" Major Lorne said from behind him.
Peter spun around, hand on his chest, feeling his heart lurch in fright.
The Major's eyes grew wide. "You're not going to faint again, are you?"
Peter shook his head. "No. Well, I don't think so." He forced himself to breath deeply, feeling his heart begin a more normal rhythm.
"Do you faint often?" The Major asked, taking a step closer as if he planned to catch Peter if he fell.
"It's happened ever since I was a little kid," Peter said. "I get scared, my heart starts to race, and bam! I'm on the floor."
"Why? What causes it?" Lorne asked.
"How should I know?" Peter shrugged. "It just happens."
"Didn't you ever go to a doctor?" Lorne said.
Peter sneered. "Doctor? What kind of wimp would go to a doctor for something like that?"
Lorne raised an eyebrow. "The kind of wimp that faints at the first sign of trouble?"
Peter scowled. "Ha ha."
"Seriously," Lorne said, "you should get that checked out. Make sure you're okay."
"Says the dead guy," Peter shot back. "You're not exactly an expert on healthy living now, are you?"
Lorne narrowed his eyes at him. "I'm not dead."
"Well, you sure are something not normal!" Peter shot back. "How many military officers do you know that disappear and reappear like a ghost?"
"There's nothing wrong with me!" Lorne all but shouted. "It's you who has the problem, the way you keep barging into my room! Now you have two seconds to explain yourself, or I'm calling security!"
"I don't think I need to explain anything here!" Peter shouted back. "I'm not the one who's dead!."
Lorne swung at him, a powerful movement of his arm that should have sent Peter spiralling somewhere far into next week, but instead Lorne's fist passed harmlessly through him.
Peter's immediate shiver had nothing to do with the cold. "Holy shit," he whispered, unable to tear his eyes away from Lorne's hand.
Lorne looked down at his fist, then up at Peter, his expression stark. "What's happening to me?"
"I've been trying to tell you," Peter said. "You're dead."
Lorne sat heavily on the bed, sinking slightly into the covers. "I'm dead," he repeated. He breathed out, and Peter frowned.
"How do you do that?"
Lorne looked up at him. "What?"
Peter gestured at where Lorne was sitting on the bed; "Sit. Stand. Breathe!" he said. "If you couldn't hit me, how can you sit on the bed? And why are you breathing at all?"
Lorne blinked at him. "You expect me to know that? I can't even figure out what happened to make me like this!"
Peter made a face. "You died, duh."
"Thanks for the news report," Lorne snapped back. "But how? How did I die? And when? And why am I like this?"
Peter tilted his head. "You don't remember any of it?"
"No," Lorne said. "Not even a little bit."
Peter felt even more puzzled. "Nothing about your death at all?"
"No." Lorne shook his head. "I can't remember very much, actually." His wrists were resting heavily on his thighs, hands hanging down. His expression was terribly bleak.
"Do you remember what you were doing before you died?" Peter asked, but Lorne just shook his head again.
"How about when you first got to Atlantis?" Peter asked.
Lorne looked at him. "Is that the name of this place?"
Lorne licked his lips. "And my name?"
"You don't remember that?" Peter said, incredulous. He'd always thought your name was as much a part of you as your height or your eye colour.
Lorne's expression sharpened. "Would I be asking if I did?"
"Evan Lorne." Peter said.
"Evan, huh?" Lorne said, "Evan sounds right, but..." he shrugged, then gave a small laugh. "You could've said my name was 'Ivan' and I wouldn't know the difference."
"It's Evan," Peter said with certainty, "and you're a Major in the Air Force. The United States Air Force, that is," he shrugged. "Or at least you were."
"Oh," Lorne said. "I kind of thought I was a painter." He gestured at the paintings. "I sort of remember doing something like that."
Peter glanced at the paintings behind him. "Maybe you were, in your spare time?"
Lorne shrugged. "Maybe."
Peter pointed to the painting of Cadman and the two men. "Do you remember these people?"
"I don't think so," Lorne said, and he looked worn-out, defeated.
"Well, her name is Cadman," Peter said, gesturing at the red-haired woman. "But I don't know the other two."
Lorne's smile was faint. "Well, that makes both of us."
Silence filled the space between them.
"So, you're dead," Peter said, when the silence was beginning to feel too raw. "And you have no memories of how you might have died, and no idea how long you've been...just hanging around like this?"
"Yeah," Lorne said. "Or why. I don't know why."
"So, no white light, or anything?" Peter said.
Lorne half-shrugged. "Not that I can remember."
"Huh," Peter said. "Well, that's not very helpful."
"I'm so sorry," Lorne said sarcastically. "I'll try to do better next time I die."
"It just doesn't make sense that you wouldn't remember anything!" Peter snapped. "What kind of stupid afterlife is that?"
"I don't know!" Lorne replied testily. "It's not like I asked for this!"
"Well, there must be a reason you're like this." Peter said, "It can't just have happened."
"Don't ghosts have some unfinished business?" Lorne asked. "Isn't there something they have to do before they're allowed to move on?"
"I don't know," Peter sneered. "Do I look like I watched a lot of 'after school specials' when I was a kid?"
Lorne cocked an eyebrow at him. "You're not very nice."
Peter rolled his eyes. "Tell me something I don't know."
"Maybe there is something I have to do before I can go," Lorne said. But then his voice dropped. "But I just can't remember."
"Maybe," Peter agreed. "But if you can't remember; it's kind of a moot point, isn't it?"
Lorne sat up straighter. "Someone else will know."
"Maybe," Peter said again. He was looking out the doors to the balcony, watching in admiration as the sun created long shadows as the day slipped into afternoon.
"You can have my room if you help me," Lorne said suddenly.
Peter turned to look at him. "What?"
"If you help me figure out what I'm meant to do before I can leave, I'll let you have my room," Lorne repeated. "Deal?"
"I could just take your room," Peter said. "It's not like you're using it."
"But I need your help," Lorne said.
"Help?" Peter repeated, dread beginning to curdle in his stomach. "I don't think--"
"But I need help!" Lorne exclaimed. "I can't remember anything!"
"Why don't you just go outside and ask people yourself?" Peter said, in what he felt was a very reasonable tone. "You don't need me for that."
"I guess," Lorne said, not looking terribly convinced. "I guess I'll try."
Peter suddenly couldn't bear it. "I'm going to go back to my room," he said, pointing towards the door with his thumb. "I guess I'll, uh..."
But Lorne had already disappeared.
Peter went to lunch.
He was still feeling off-kilter after his interaction with the Major-ghost-guy-thing, but unlike the Major, he was still alive, and therefore hungry. So he headed off to the mess.
He barely paid attention to what it was that ended up on his tray; his thoughts were buzzing as to what actually had happened to Lorne. What had killed him, and why hadn't he passed on to the great white light in the sky? Dr. Jackson had died at least four times by now, after all, so how hard could it be?
But there was no way he was helping Lorne find out why.
Peter actually shuddered at the thought, earning a confused look from the server behind the counter. He glared at her in response.
Peter didn't want to talk to anyone about anything, let alone what they might have known about a dead guy. What if someone started crying or something? Or thought that Peter was being a dick for bringing it up? Not that Peter actually cared what anyone thought of him, but the less people screaming for his blood, the better.
No, the big dead soldier was going to have to solve his afterlife issues on his own, thank you very much. Peter was otherwise occupied.
Feeling a bit more settled, Peter found an empty table near the middle of the room and sat to eat. He picked up his fork, stabbed a piece of what looked like meatloaf, and raised his head to take the bite.
Major Lorne was sitting opposite him at the table.
"Holy shit!" Peter yelled and fell backwards onto the floor, his chair landed with a thud behind him.
The mess immediately went quiet, all eyes turned on him. Peter could feel his face heat with a blush and he glared at the room in general. "My chair slipped, okay?" he said with a belligerent expression.
"Fuck you, too," someone muttered, and the noise of the mess returned to normal.
The Major was standing over him, arms crossed. "I'd offer you a hand up, but..." He shrugged.
"What are you doing here?" Peter hissed at him as he righted his chair. "Aren't you meant to be, I don't know, interviewing your pals about details of your death, or something?" He took his seat and picked up his fork from where it had landed back on his tray.
Lorne sat back down at the seat across from Peter, leaning on his forearms. "Turns out, no one can see me but you," he said.
Peter reared back. "What?"
"Like I said," Lorne said, "you're the lucky guy with the 'sixth sense.' No one else can see or hear me." He sighed deeply. "Believe me, I tried."
"Oh," Peter said, digging into his meatloaf once again. "I don't really see why that's my problem."
"You're the only one who can help me figure out what's stopping me from passing on." Lorne said, waving his hands with vehemence. The tips of his fingers passed through Peter's water glass, not even causing a ripple on its surface.
"Just-just look for the white light, or something!" Peter whispered harshly. "I have way too much work to do to play detective for a dead guy." He glanced around to see if anyone was noticing him talking, but apparently after his tipping chair episode no one could care less about his continued welfare.
Lorne narrowed his eyes, and Peter was struck by how beautiful they were; clear and pure as the gray of the ocean. He blinked to get the fanciful notion out of his head.
"I will make it your problem," Lorne said, with an audible threat in his tone.
"How?" Peter sneered. "By boring me to death with your conversation?" He shook his head and shovelled in another bite of meatloaf. "I'm not too concerned."
Lorne's smile was nasty. "We'll see about that." And then he disappeared.
"Nice start!" Peter said too loudly to the empty seat in front of him. A few people turned to look, but Peter just made a face at them until they looked away.
I ain't afraid of no ghosts! Peter thought to himself, and then laughed out loud.
Peter returned to the lab that afternoon, and immediately realized that the Major was going to make good on his threat.
Lorne parked himself somewhere beside Peter, and started up a running monologue of stream-of-consciousness commentary on everything Peter was doing. It was horribly distracting, made worse by the fact that Peter couldn't speak to Lorne directly without looking like he needed a straight-jacket and a nice quiet stay in a padded room.
"Shut up!" Peter whispered to Lorne once, making the ghost laugh, and earning him a harsh glance from McKay.
"You got something to say to me, Kavanagh?" McKay said, crossing his arms and staring at him.
"If I did, I wouldn't whisper it!" Peter shot back, figuring the best defence was an offence.
"I don't know what's gotten into you," McKay said, shaking his head, "but you are really off your game. Either get it sorted out, or get out, but I can't deal with whatever little crisis you're going through. You have five minutes to get it under control." So saying, he turned back to his laptop, glaring at Peter for good measure.
"You just got me in trouble, you jerk!" Peter hissed at Lorne.
Lorne snorted. "I can do this all day."
"Leave me alone!" Peter whispered vehemently, "I don't need this!"
"And you think I need this?" Lorne said, gesturing at his body. He was standing in the middle of Peter's table, his legs invisible beneath the desk-top. "You have to help me, Kavanagh!"
"All right, all right!" Peter caved. He glanced at McKay, who was now seemingly completely absorbed by his computer and didn't even look up. He looked back at Lorne. "But you let me do it my way, without you materializing all over the place and wrecking my concentration like some kind of vengeful Banquo!"
"Ooh," Lorne drawled, "A MacBeth allusion. Well done."
"Just let me work," Peter muttered.
Peter ate supper in the lab that night, scarfing down a few Powerbars he filched from McKay's stash in the back of the supply cupboard. He pretended he was working late to make up for the time he'd missed that morning ghost-hunting, but he knew it was a way for him to avoid having to go to the mess and perhaps actually talk to people about the recently-deceased Major.
Everyone else had gone to eat already, so the lab was blissfully quiet, and Peter sighed in relief. It's not that he minded the Major's company so much, it was just that a ghost only he could see was incredibly distracting. And the fact that Lorne was impossibly good-looking didn't help much, either.
Great, now you're crushing on a dead guy, Peter thought to himself, then shook it off. Noticing someone's aesthetic appeal wasn't the same as a full-blown crush. It was like noticing that someone was good-looking from their photograph. No big deal at all.
And speaking of photograph, Peter's thoughts continued, I am going to get a frame for Lorne's picture the first chance I get. The fact that the Major's photo remained unframed was really getting to Peter. The SGC should really show more respect to the dead.
"Hey," Lorne said, as usual appearing out of nowhere.
Peter didn't even jump this time, Lorne's appearance seemed like an appropriate extension of his thoughts. "Hey, yourself."
Lorne leaned his hip against the desk, causing his body to sink into it a little. "You're working late."
"Yeah, well, I had to make up for my lack of productivity," Peter said pointedly, flashing Lorne a look.
Lorne laughed. "I'd say 'sorry,' but I'm not."
Peter found himself smirking, too. "I actually thought McKay was going to kill me for a moment there."
"Yeah," Lorne smiled, "and then we'd both be dead, and it wouldn't be quite so bad."
Peter looked at him.
Lorne rubbed the back of his neck. "Sorry," he said, "it's not that I actually want you dead, or anything..."
Peter snorted. "You'd be the first."
Lorne tilted his head. "About that," he said, "why does everyone hate you?"
"Because I'm smarter than them," Peter said immediately. "And I'm not shy about it."
"Okay," Lorne said. "But there are lots of really smart people on this base, and yet, you're the only one that no one likes." He looked at Peter out of the corner of his eye. "Seems kind of strange."
Peter gave Lorne a look. "Oh, do tell," he said sarcastically. "I'm desperate to know the opinion of a ghost!"
"You could be nicer," Lorne said with a shrug. "It might help."
"And I could spend all my time pandering to other people's egos, as well," Peter said. "No, thanks!"
Lorne shrugged again. "Just a suggestion."
Peter turned back to his computer. "I'll take it under advisement." He worked in silence for a while, every now and then glancing at the Major out of the corner of his eye, just to see if Lorne was still there. Lorne seemed content to just watch him work, and it was strange how comforting it was to have his ghost in the lab with him.
"I don't know anything about you." Lorne said suddenly, making Peter jump.
"I like to work in silence!" Peter said tartly. "How's that?"
Lorne laughed. "No, seriously. I don't know anything. Like, where did you grow up? Or why did you become an engineer?"
"I grew up in Michigan," Peter said, not looking up from his computer. "Hayes Township in Clare County." He shrugged. "Not much else to say, really."
"I grew up in--" Lorne stopped. "Okay, something else I don't remember."
Peter looked at him. Lorne was looking down, obviously affected by his lack of memory, and Peter felt something constrict in his chest. "Hayes is a pretty rural area," Peter continued, suddenly desperate to distract Lorne from whatever he was thinking. "It was just me and my mom for the longest time, and I remember how hard she had to work, to make sure there was enough to eat and that I had shoes..." Peter let his voice trail off, feeling his throat tighten at the memories.
"Sounds rough," Lorne said.
Peter turned back to his computer. "It was fine," he said, voice harsher than he knew it had to be. "We got by."
"She must be very proud of you," Lorne said quietly.
"She died when I was sixteen," Peter said curtly, "and she was too deep into the alcohol by then to tell me if she was proud or not."
"Ah," Lorne said, as if he had just understood something, "I guess you've been on your own for a while."
Peter glared at him. "What the fuck would you know about it?"
Lorne's smile was sad. "I think I'm developing a good understanding of being alone myself. Wouldn't you say?"
"It's not the same," Peter snapped. "You had friends."
"That I don't remember," Lorne snapped back. He sighed. "Look." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I don't want to fight with you Peter. I just--I just want to be your friend, okay?"
"So, I'm Wendy to your Casper?" Peter said sharply, but he couldn't help the upward curl of his lips.
"Something like that," Lorne grinned back.
"Alright," Peter smirked. "Tomorrow. I'll start the hunt for your 'unfinished business' tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay," Lorne said. "And tonight... I think you should move into my room." Peter was surprised to see that a ghost could still blush.
"Oh," Peter said, a bit taken aback. "I thought you'd want me to wait until, well, that white light thing?"
"You're the only one who can see me," Lorne said, holding his gaze. "I think that's dead enough for now."
"Point taken," Peter said.
"Thanks," Lorne replied.
Peter turned back to his work, smiling.
Peter would have said that he slept like the dead in Lorne's quarters that night, but he wasn't sure if the dead did sleep, and he was loathe to ask Lorne for details.
Instead, he just stretched appreciatively in the huge bed, enjoying how the sunlight glittered along the water and the fresh ocean breeze blew gently through the windows he'd left open.
He sat up and put on his glasses, taking in the view again now that he could really see it, and then getting up to use the bathroom and prepare for his day.
"Hello?" he said experimentally, half-expecting Lorne to be wandering around somewhere, just like a real roommate. But the room seemed empty. Peter wondered for a second why that made him feel so alone.
He stayed alone all the way through showering and getting dressed; and on the walk to the mess for breakfast. Normally Peter skipped breakfast, preferring to grab coffee and some kind of Powerbar in the labs, but he had made a promise to Lorne yesterday, and he knew that the best place to find people would be where there was food. Plus, it was first thing in the morning before most people would have had their ersatz Atlantean coffee, which might mean they were too stunned to get mad at what Peter was going to ask them.
Peter grabbed a coffee and something resembling a muffin, and then purposely surveyed the mess to find someone to quiz about the late, great Major. He swallowed against the sick feeling in his stomach, but steeled himself for the task at hand. Peter might faint at the first signs of trouble, but he had shown his whole life that he wasn't a quitter, and he wasn't going to start quitting now.
Taking a fortifying breath, he plunked his tray down opposite Lt. Cadman, pointedly ignoring the deadly look she shot in his direction.
"This seat's taken," she said unpleasantly. "Go sit over there."
"Look," Peter said, "I know we got off on the wrong foot--"
"You were an ass." Cadman cut in.
"--and I'm hoping we can start over," Peter finished. He gave her what he hoped was a charming smile. Her responding grimace told him he had probably missed the mark
"I don't know what anyone told you," Cadman said, with an expression that looked like she had tasted something particularly bad, "but I have a boyfriend, and yes, we're very happy."
"She's dating Carson Beckett, our doctor," Lorne supplied helpfully at Peter's side, and it took all the self-control Peter had to not whip his head around to look at the Major.
"I'm glad to hear that you and Carson are doing well," Peter said, biting off the sarcastic retort that had been his first response. He had a job to do, and putting Cadman in her place wasn't it.
"Oh," Cadman said; a note of surprise in her voice. She looked at him askance. "So, if you're not here for a date, what do you want?"
"Ask her about me," Lorne said before Peter could even open his mouth. "Ask her how I died."
Peter looked sideways at Lorne, wishing he could elbow him in the ribs. "Actually," he said in what he hoped was a casual manner, "I wanted to know about Major Lorne. What happened to him?"
Cadman visibly stiffened at the mention of her commanding officer. "Why do you want to know?"
"Because I'm stuck here!" Lorne shouted loud enough to make Peter wince.
"Because I was struck by his picture on the Wall," Peter said instead, shooting what he hoped was a quelling glance at Lorne but not one that Cadman would notice. "He seemed like a nice guy."
Cadman's smile was wistful. "He's the best," she said. "Well, was, I guess," she amended quickly. "The best officer I ever served under." She pressed her lips together, clearly getting herself under control. "It's horrible what happened."
"What did happen?" Peter asked gently, he could feel his heart start to pound at the thought that she might start crying right there at the table. He hated it when people cried.
"He got hit off-world," she said, looking down at her coffee mug. "We got him back through the Gate as quickly as we could, but..." She let her voice trail off with a small shrug, the gesture eloquent in its expression of her remembered helplessness.
"I'm so sorry," Peter said softly, swallowing against the tightness in his throat. If hearing even this tiny bit about the Major was this hard, how the hell was he meant to help Lorne figure out what his unfinished business was? Even this amount was torture.
Cadman nodded, accepting his condolences. "It's been a tough three months," she continued, "since we lost him. I mean, I know he was a workmate really. But Evan," and here she smiled at the memory. "Evan had a way of making you feel special. He did that for all of us, his whole team. We felt like we were the best damn foursome in the Pegasus Galaxy. It was a privilege to work with him."
"Wow," Lorne breathed, seemingly overwhelmed by what Cadman was saying.
"I wish I could've," Peter said, meaning it. He glanced at Lorne, and then smiled tentatively at Cadman. "Tell me more?"
( A Ghost Just Needs a Home - Part 2 of 2 )