Pairing: Evan Lorne/Jonas Quinn
Word Count: 10,561
Warnings: depictions of major character with PTSD-induced amnesia may be triggering for some readers.
Disclaimer: Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate: SG-1, and their characters do not belong to me, but they are awfully fun to write about! :-D
Author's Notes: Santa Claus is back in town! Merry Christmas, hon. :-) Also, this work is extraneous to SGU, as I have not seen it.
Summary: Upon Jonas’ arrival in Atlantis, he seeks out Evan Lorne, the first real friend he made the year he was a part of SG-1. But Evan doesn’t remember Jonas—and he doesn’t remember joining the SGC, either.
One need not be a chamber to be haunted;
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
~Emily Dickinson, "Time and Eternity"
Evan Lorne should remember Jonas Quinn.
When Jonas defected from his home planet, the only thing he wanted was to become part of SG-1, so he could amend his mistakes and help make up for the loss of Dr. Jackson. This is what he told Evan, who’d been Captain Lorne then, not yet promoted to Major, not yet leading his own Gate team. He’d only been off-world a handful of times, met a few natives whose language he didn’t understand, and generally kept to himself.
Then Jonas Quinn came through the Stargate, stolen naquadria under his arm, apologies on his lips. Colonel O’Neill wanted nothing to do with him, and Evan had taken pity on him. He knew what it felt like to be rejected.
When Jonas asked Evan to train him so O’Neill would have fewer excuses not to let him on the team, Evan agreed.
Through Jack’s off-hand remark that his days of traipsing off-world with scientists who couldn’t defend themselves were over, Evan learned that it was because of his training that Jack agreed to let Jonas on the team.
Evan Lorne should remember Atlantis.
Because Atlantis lit up for him; because it was the first place he belonged without effort. Because flying a Puddle Jumper beat flying any other aircraft, every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Because Colonel Sheppard knows the truth and doesn’t treat him any different.
Evan Lorne should remember his team.
All of his family on Earth are nice to his face; they don’t know he’s overheard them talking about him behind his back, his sister warning his nephews about his “problem”. That sometimes Evan brings someone to family gatherings and holds his hand and it isn’t right, isn’t natural.
Evan went to Atlantis because he knows that sometimes, loving a person isn’t enough of a reason to stick around; that against every loyalty ever tested, he seldom measured up.
His team was different. His first team at Stargate Command, his first team on Atlantis, his second team, after losing the first to the iratus bugs while trying to save Sheppard’s life. His team looked out for each other,
Only, Evan Lorne doesn’t remember any of this.
Jonas Quinn stood at the bottom of the ramp leading up to the Stargate, large duffel bag resting by his feet. The last three months had been taxing, even for him, and he was eager to finally get to Atlantis and see Samantha Carter and Evan Lorne again. General O’Neill came by the first day he was back at the SGC, and visited when he could, but he was a busy man. Teal’c went back and forth with the rest of SG-1, the only member of Jonas’ old team who was still there, so he saw little of him as well.
He’d spoken with Dr. Jackson more than anyone else. General Hammond had passed away the year before. General Landry was congenial enough, but they largely ignored each other. Lorne had long since been promoted to Major and was now leading an off-world team on Atlantis. Carter commanded Atlantis for a time, then returned to Earth when she was replaced by a civilian leader, and now she was back on Atlantis, finally leading her own off-world team while also preparing scientific and military documentation of the Atlantis Expedition for future de-classification.
As the Gate began to spin, Sergeant Harriman announcing every chevron as it locked, Jonas bent and picked up his bag.
“I wish you well, Jonas Quinn,” a familiar voice called out behind him. He turned to see Teal’c standing the doorway to the Gateroom.
“Teal’c,” Jonas said in surprise. “Here to send me off?”
“Indeed.” Teal’c offered his hand, and Jonas shook it firmly. “I believe O’Neill is expecting you to return as a liaison for your people. He does not express it but he values your friendship. As do I.”
“Well, thanks, Teal’c,” Jonas said, and Teal’c gave a slight bow of his head. “I don’t know how often or how long I’d be back.” He gave a shuddering look at the walls that encompassed them. “I’ve been underground enough for one lifetime.”
“I understand,” Teal’c replied.
The Gate activated, the wormhole formed, and it was time to leave. Jonas dropped his bag and gave Teal’c a brief hug, then waved to Walter as he scooped his bag back up and headed off to another galaxy.
With the three months he did spend under the mountain, Jonas managed to get his hands on and read every mission report from Atlantis. He also found the city layouts and memorized the schematics of the explored areas of the city. To say he was eager to see what blueprints alone could not tell was an understatement.
Placing his first foot on the smooth marble floor of the Gateroom, Jonas crossed into the city of the Ancients. A friendly face peered over the balcony at him.
“Jonas Quinn, welcome to Atlantis,” said the man with a short spiky haircut.
“Thanks,” Jonas replied, unable to stop the slow upturn of the corner of his mouth. He looked back at the Gate, watched the wormhole disappear, and behind the Gate there was a magnificent view. He walked under the gate to the window, dropping his bag and propping an arm against the angular shaped window pane, enjoying the sight of a vast expanse of water even through fragments of multicolored glass.
“Jonas!” a voice called, and he turned to see Samantha Carter striding toward him.
“Sam!” Jonas took her up in a hug.
“I’m sorry I was late meeting you,” she said. “I was finishing up a de-brief.”
Her smile was genuine, if somewhat forced, not quite reaching her eyes. Too used to seeing that smile overtaking her entire face, he knew immediately something was wrong.
Her smile faltered only slightly before it drew up again. “I forget how observant you are sometimes,” she said, picking up his bag.
“Hey, I can get that,” he said, but she ignored him, leading him out of the Gateroom.
“I’ll show you to your quarters,” Sam called over her shoulder. “Then maybe a little tour. We can grab dinner after.”
Jonas jogged to catch up with her, having slowed to allow his eyes to wander over every wall, chair, and dust mite of the Ancient city.
“Sam, what’s going on?”
“I don’t think now is a good time,” she said, pausing in front of a door along the corridor. She ran her hand over a panel in the wall, and the door slid open. She stepped inside just long enough to park Jonas’ bag and stepped back out. “Do you want the tour now?”
“Sure,” Jonas said, palming his door closed. “Lead the way.”
“I bet you already have the layout memorized,” Sam replied with a smirk, relief washing over her face when Jonas didn’t press for more information.
Jonas shrugged, ran a hand through his hair, and then nodded.
“Some things never change,” she said. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll give you the third dimension to go with those images.”
They took off down the hallway at a clip, heading for the ZPM lab where Jonas would be working, but Jonas wasn’t looking much at the walls anymore. What he really wanted was to find a balcony and get a better look at that view, the ocean paired with the sky, its twin, a visual he’d missed for the last two years.
A visual he wouldn’t have while he was stuck in the lab, he realized, as they crossed the threshold into a small room cramped with instruments, equipment, and data consoles.
As he watched Sam scroll through data in the console, talking about singularities, naquadah generators, and subspace, Jonas had to catch his breath. He never had a problem with small spaces before the Ori arrived on Langara, but spending two years crowded into a massive network of underground caves changed that.
He thought maybe they should cut the tour short, save it for another day. It wasn’t like he’d get lost here, at any rate, and he knew if he had a couple of days outside to enjoy the expanse of sky overhead, the caves and Cheyenne Mountain would fade into the background and he could get back to work.
“Is Major Lorne around today?” Jonas asked, hands sliding easily into his pockets. “Or is he off-world?”
“You were friends,” Sam said. “I forgot that, too.”
“A few years can make a memory fade,” Jonas said.
“But not disappear altogether,” Sam replied, looking up at Jonas. “The de-briefing earlier… it was about Lorne.”
Jonas felt his stomach sink at the hint behind her words. “What about him? What happened?”
“There was an accident, and he lost his team. Woolsey sent my team in and we managed to get Major Lorne out, but… he didn’t know who any of us were. He didn’t know what happened. He didn’t even remember Atlantis.”
She swiped at her eyes and Jonas pulled her into his arms.
“We can’t send him back to Earth because he might remember something, and he might talk about the Stargate,” Sam said against Jonas’ shoulder. “But he doesn’t recognize this place. It’s so alien to him.”
Jonas stepped back.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”
Jonas waved his hand. “No, no, I know. I just had a thought.”
“Well,” he said with a tentative start, “it’s almost like a new place for both of us.”
“He might feel more at ease if there were someone else he could talk to,” Sam said with a nod. “Someone who isn’t a therapist, someone who’s a friend.”
“Maybe,” Jonas said. “I mean, I don’t have any memories of this place. All the weird food Jackson was telling me about would be just as new to him as it is to me.”
Sam laughed when Jonas mentioned Daniel. “He would talk about the food.”
“It wasn’t in a ‘cross-cultural curiosity’ sort of way, either.”
“No, he was always weird about off-world food,” she said with a smile. “Oh, he’d eat it—because it would be rude not to. But then he’d complain about it as soon as we got back through the gate.”
Jonas’ laugh faded gently.
“When did it happen?”
“Two days ago.”
“Where is he now?”
“He just left the infirmary,” Sam said. “He’s probably with the base psychiatrist by now.”
Jonas nodded gravely. “How much does he remember? About anything?”
Sam sighed. “When he woke up, he thought it was 1996. He remembers graduating but not taking the Officer Candidate Test. He remembers some guy named Paul Weisman, but he doesn’t remember anyone on this base. He remembers going to Atlanta for the Olympics but not last year’s Super Bowl.” She sighed. “Which the entire city watched a week late in the theater we set up a couple years back.”
She made a face then and reached up to her radio.
“I’ll be right there,” she said.
“The biggest,” she said with the greatest sincerity. “Paperwork.”
“Don’t let me forget to get you hooked up with a radio,” Sam said, and she walked out of the lab.
Jonas took one last look around the lab before heading out, recalling the city’s layout in his mind. He hit the nearest transporter and headed for the medical facilities.
Evan’s head was pounding as he stared at the glass of water he held firmly with both hands, glad they’d finally stopped shaking.
The doctor sitting before him gave him an appraising look, one that swept over him like a biting wind, keener than an artist’s gaze.
He hoped to God he’d never made anyone this uncomfortable in his studio.
The guy’s name was Rutledge, according to one of the military personnel who’d led him here. He couldn’t remember that guy’s name now, but it didn’t matter. Give this Rutledge a few silent sessions and maybe they’d just discharge him and send him back to Earth. He could finally get out of this strange floating city.
Earth, he thought again, tumbling the word over in his head. Never once did he ever believe he would live anywhere else, much less another galaxy. He’d already pinched himself enough to start a nice bruise, so he knew he wasn’t dreaming. He also didn’t know where the last twelve years of his life went. One minute, you’re fucking your boyfriend senseless and falling asleep in his arms, the next you’re waking up to people telling you that you’re a part of the most bigoted, homophobic organization in your own country. Major Lorne, the doctor had called him.
“Is there anything you’d like to share with me now?” Dr. Rutledge asked.
“Nope,” Evan said, chasing the man’s stern glare with his own self-satisfied smirk.
“Very well,” Rutledge conceded. “We’ll pick this up again tomorrow. Same time.”
“I might not remember that,” Evan said, surprised at his own cheek. He still felt nauseous and weak on his feet after being released from the infirmary. He should probably not feel well enough to crack jokes at his own expense, but he figured if he didn’t, he really would go crazy.
When he stepped out into the corridor, he paused to assess the long hallway before him. He could remember the way back to the infirmary, but not to his own quarters, nor what his quarters even looked like. He was about to go back to Rutledge and find out exactly where he was supposed to go when someone rounded the corner, heading straight for him.
“Evan Lorne?” the young man asked.
“Yeah, that’s me,” he answered. “Do I know you?”
The man appeared to think on that for a second, and Evan took into account his well-built physique, the kind every artist dreamed of painting. Then he pushed the thought away. If he were to head back home soon, it was best not to get involved with anyone, even if the man did inspire Evan’s muse.
“Just say yes if I do,” Evan said. “I’m tired of everyone skirting around me like I’m… broken.”
The man gave a nod and held out his hand. “Jonas Quinn,” he said when Evan gave it a shake. “We’re friends, but it’s been a while.”
“Friends?” If that was code for something else, he hoped the guy would be more forthcoming about it.
“More like… friendly acquaintances, I guess,” Jonas said. “Professional colleagues.”
“Uh-huh,” Evan replied. “Here on… Atlantis?” He still couldn’t say the name with a straight face, marking air quotes in his mind every time it passed his lips.
Jonas shook his head. “Actually, I’m new to the city, but we met before. You trained me in hand-to-hand combat, military tactics, and Earth weapons use.”
“Earth weapons,” Evan repeated. “So you’re an alien.”
Jonas nodded, his mouth drawing out into a thin line. Evan couldn’t help but notice how expressive his face was.
“Fair enough,” Evan said. “Looks like I’m one, too.”
Jonas beamed at that. “Listen, I’m headed to the mess. I’m told there are some rather… odd menu selections that I’m interested in trying out. Thought you might want to accompany me.”
Evan realized he was kind of hungry. “Okay, but you’ll have to lead the way.”
Jonas quirked his mouth up on one corner, his eyes bright with relief. “I’m your man.”
As Evan followed him, he wondered just how true that statement really was.
Even when he picked out foods from Earth—or at least, foods recognizable on Earth—Jonas Quinn had an odd habit of pairing things that Evan would never have put together. At the moment, he was dipping an apple slice in soy sauce.
When he looked up to see Evan staring at him, Jonas let out a low laugh. “Sorry, I, uh… I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to meals.”
“I can tell,” Evan replied, stabbing his cut of chicken breast with his fork. “You’re really not from Atlantis?”
Jonas shook his head. “No one is, not exactly,” he said. “The city was abandoned by its former inhabitants, who left for Earth about ten thousand years ago. The Earth Expedition was the first to set foot in the city since that time. That was about seven years ago. There are some people in the city who are native to this galaxy, but there aren’t any more Ancients around.”
“People who built this place.”
It was a lot to take in, but Evan was glad Jonas was divulging what the others had been afraid to tell him. They were worried that too much information would cause him to go into some sort of shock, and maybe they were right, but he didn’t care. He didn’t like being lied to, and that included keeping secrets about his own life.
“Where are you from then?”
“A planet called Langara,” Jonas said, “in the same galaxy as Earth.”
“The Milky Way,” Evan said. “I do remember that.”
“Do you miss it?”
The smile faded, and Jonas placed his fork on his plate. “Sometimes. It’s hard to miss something that… caused you more grief than joy.”
“I get that,” Evan said.
They’d finished their meals and were walking quietly back to the corridor when Jonas continued.
“Thing is, I did everything I could to advance our society, to further our technology, and they just wanted to use it to kill each other.” He sighed. “And then the Ori showed up.”
“That almost sounded like Earth history,” Evan said. “What’s the Ori?”
“It was a religious cult, for want of a better term,” Jonas replied. “Most of my people started following them and went crazy giving up family and friends and everything else they’d previously believed in, all because this group made these promises of eternal life. False promises,” he clarified, “and there were some of us who saw them for what they were and resisted.”
“That couldn’t have been easy.”
Jonas shook his head. “Leading fifteen hundred people in forty-eight different splinter cells while trying to live in an underground network that hadn’t been used since before my grandparents were born? It was a piece of cake.”
Evan chuckled. “’Piece of cake’,” he repeated. “Isn’t that an Earth phrase?”
“I spent some time learning them,” Jonas said as he led Evan into the transporter. He flashed him a smile. “I’m a very quick study.”
The next day, Evan went to his session with Dr. Rutledge, where he watched the pen glide across the page as Dr. Rutledge made his notes.
A part of Evan suspected he had been more than friends with Jonas, believed that Jonas was doing his best to be near him without asking too much of him, but he didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. He hated to think he didn’t remember someone whose presence had quickly become a comfort.
He fell into a routine with Jonas, Dr. Rutledge, and Teyla Emmagan—another alien. He found it odd that the only people he felt comfortable talking to were aliens. Even though Rutledge was from Earth, he didn’t count as such, since Evan had always considered therapists to be somewhat unnatural anyway.
Evan still could not recall the events that cost him his memory, but Colonel Sheppard requested he stay on base anyway. He said Evan was an asset—something he’d never heard anyone say about him before—and with re-training from Teyla and Jonas, he would be back in fighting form and ready to accompany a team off-world, if he wanted it.
He was surprised to find he did want it. The alien city had obviously once held his interest, judging by his own artwork in his quarters, and now it seemed she was doing everything in her power to keep him here.
Evan was beginning to think of Atlantis as somewhere he could belong, again, so that when he was placed on the same gate team as Jonas Quinn, he couldn’t think of anything that might be a better indicator of home.
It was part of their routine to have dinner together; they hadn’t talked about it, but it somehow became a standing arrangement.
One night, Evan didn’t arrive at their normal time. It was the night after a long mission, one that required them to help the native population through a harvest season in return for foodstuffs, and Evan had been exhausted.
So Jonas put a plate together for him and went it up to his room.
When he knocked, there was no response, but there was a great commotion on the other side of the door. Jonas knocked again, then palmed the door’s control panel.
Evan was bent over in his closet, pulling out shoes and gear and paints and books, dumping the contents behind him. Jonas shut the door behind him, setting Evan’s plate on his desk.
He paused in his rummaging, waving weakly at Jonas.
“Hi,” he said, and went back to emptying his life out onto the floor of his quarters. He stopped after a moment, pulling out a shoebox. He lifted the lid and sifted through its contents. Letters, pens, cards, tiny sketches on napkins, a thumb-sized umbrella on a toothpick.
“Are you looking for something?”
Evan went through each letter, scanning the labels, putting each one back in the box.
“An answer,” Evan replied, stopping with a letter in his hand. He pulled the folded piece of paper out of the envelope and smoothed it. Well-worn didn’t begin to describe the almost see-through paper in his hands.
“What is it?” Jonas asked, taking a seat beside Evan.
“It’s a letter from…” Evan stopped himself, shook his head as he started cleaning his room.
“An old friend,” Evan said quickly.
Jonas nodded and picked up a pair of shoes, placing them carefully back into the closet. He picked up an easel next, but Evan stopped him.
“Leave that out,” Evan said, clutching his paint set along with the shoe box.
Evan set the items on his desk and saw the plate sitting there.
“I guess you forgot about dinner,” Jonas said.
Evan sat on the floor by his bed. “I’m not that hungry, but thank you.”
“No problem,” Jonas said, sitting next to him.
Jonas watched Evan’s expression change as he read over the letter. First confusion, then shock and incredulity, then grim acceptance.
“Doesn’t look like good news,” Jonas said.
Evan handed Jonas the letter.
I figured by our discussion last week that you’d have had the common courtesy to break up with me first, before going
through with it. I know how important it is to you to prove yourself to your family, but after all we’ve been through? I didn’t
expect to find out from Jenna, of all people, that you’d gone and taken the damn test already. And that you’d gotten in.
And that you were flying out in two months’ time to go through basic training. When were you going to tell me any of this?
Obviously, I’m not as important to you as I thought I was. Especially if you’re joining an organization that requires you
to hide who you are, to hide us, and for what? So you can gun down innocent people in a third world country? So your
family will finally accept you? Do you think that acceptance is deserved if it means you coming home in a coffin?
Or maybe you’re not who I thought you were. Maybe this is who you really are, and we were just some sort of joke.
I don’t know. I don’t even care anymore.
Good-bye, Evan. Try not to get yourself shot out there.
Jonas took in a deep breath as he handed back the letter. “I hope you know that I would never betray your confidence.”
Evan snorted. “If I thought you might, I wouldn’t have let you read this.”
“Was this Paul Weisman?”
“How did you—?”
“Sam mentioned him,” Jonas replied. “You’d asked about him… before.”
“One of the natives on MX4-538 reminded me of Paul,” Evan said. “I kind of figured it was something like this,” he added, waving the letter. “With all the time that passed, and no one here knowing who he was…” Evan folded the paper neatly and replaced it in its envelope.
“It looks like you were close.”
“We were,” Evan said. “I wondered if I still kept journals after I graduated, and I did, for a few months, but there was nothing in them about what happened to him. The entries just sort of stopped. Judging by the date on this letter, now I know why.”
“That’s gotta be tough,” Jonas said.
“Hey, I’m sorry I dumped all this out on you,” Evan said. “I don’t even know if you… understand why I’d keep it a secret, or…”
“I spent a year on Earth, at Cheyenne Mountain, with more military personnel than Atlantis has,” Jonas explained. “I learned about your uniform codes.”
“And you think—? I mean, you’re not military, so I’m not breaking any rules by asking you, but… I guess I’m asking if it makes you uncomfortable.”
“That kind of behavior, in Kelowna… it was more of a curiosity than anything else,” Jonas said. “Like the way you look at me when I eat weird combinations of food. No one freaked out about it, just an odd look and everyone moved on.”
“Did it happen a lot on your planet?”
“Yes,” Jonas said. “I got the curious look many times.”
“Wait, are you saying…?”
Jonas rubbed the back of his neck nervously, and nodded.
“Were we…? I’d hate to think I don’t remember you.”
Jonas smiled. “That’s flattering, but no, we were friends. I never knew it about you, and I knew enough not to advertise it, once I got my hands on the codes.” Jonas trailed off, staring at his hand and picking at a dry patch of skin on his wrist.
“God damn it,” Evan whispered, resting his head against his arms, propped up on his knees.
“You look pretty tired,” Jonas said. “Why don’t you eat and call it a night?”
“No,” Evan said, sitting upright. He turned to Jonas, an eager look in his eyes. “I need to paint something. I know it may seem crazy, but it’s always been a way for me focus my mind.”
“Are you feeling unfocused?” Jonas asked.
Evan was already setting up his easel, a smile teasing his features. “More than you know.”
Jonas watched as Evan set up his canvas and paints. “What are you going to paint?”
“I’d like to paint you,” Evan said. He paused in his flurry of activity. “If you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind,” Jonas said, standing. It was something they’d done sometimes at the SGC, and Jonas wondered if it would help Evan’s memories to return. “Do you want me to sit at the desk, or…?”
“Actually, you were fine where you were,” Evan said, then to himself he mumbled, “Yeah, this isn’t working.”
Ignoring the easel, Evan set up his canvas on the floor, propping it against the corner of the bed under a small stack of books. He placed two rocks at the base of the canvas to keep it from sliding off, then looked at Jonas with intent.
He crawled across the few inches that separated them and reached for the hem of Jonas’ shirt, and stopped. “I want to paint you naked.”
For a moment, Jonas froze. He’d definitely wished things had gone that way in the past, but Evan didn’t remember that, didn’t even remember himself.
“I don’t know,” Jonas said, enjoying the feel of Evan’s fingertips skimming underneath his shirt, teasing him. He stopped the motion. “I don’t want to take advantage here.”
Evan pulled his hand away. “Tell me the truth, Jonas. Were we together before?”
“No,” Jonas replied, “we weren’t.”
“Then what is it? You don’t feel that way about me?” Evan’s eyes dropped. “I’m not the same person I was before, Jonas.”
“It’s not about that,” Jonas said. “You’ve drawn me before,” he added. “Although we were both fully clothed. We used to sketch each other all the time. That was it. I just thought… I don’t know what I thought. Maybe I was scared.”
“Afraid they’d send you back home?”
“Afraid of what they would do to you,” Jonas replied. “It wasn’t my code, it was yours.”
Evan reached out again, and Jonas lifted his arms as the shirt came over his head. As he removed his boots, he raised an eyebrow at Evan. “So is this how you normally work?”
“Used to,” Evan said before making a gesture at the paintings around his quarters. “It looks like I haven’t in a while though.”
Jonas’ skin was pristine as a naked canvas; no tattoos or visible scars marred him. Evan gently ran his fingertips over Jonas’ chest before reaching for his buckle. He gave Jonas a good long stare when he lost his pants, tossing them towards wherever his shirt ended up.
Evan leaned in, and Jonas smiled as Evan touched his face. He brought Evan closer and gently kissed him, running his hands under Evan’s shirt to feel the semi-rough skin beneath, carding his fingers through the hair on Evan’s chest.
“Maybe it’s only fair…” Jonas started, kissing Evan again, tasting every nuance of Evan’s mouth with his tongue, “that you’re naked, too.”
Evan sat back on his heels, pulling off his shirt. He held Jonas’ gaze as he unfastened his belt before standing to pull off his boots. His pants hit the floor and he kicked them away before settling on the floor again, leaning in for another kiss.
Pulling one leg up towards his chest, Jonas rested an elbow on his knee. Evan placed Jonas’ other hand on his thigh.
Evan drew a deep breath, smiled, and started to paint.
The Soje of MX4-722 were a peaceful people; however, their planet was barely habitable. The land was drying out and the soil was being depleted of its nutrients due to the shrinking populations of migratory wildlife. What once was a lush forest was well on its way to becoming a desert wasteland.
Jonas read the mission report from Sheppard’s team and studied a map of the planet’s topography; he started coming up with ideas about irrigation and replenishment that he brought to Woolsey’s attention. Woolsey okayed a mission to implement Jonas’ plans and called a meeting with Evan’s team to square away the details. A couple of weeks later, Jonas and Evan were walking into the Jumper bay to meet up with Sergeant Reilly and Lieutenant Donovan, ready to head through the Gate. Their first mission was to discuss their plans to save the land. Sheppard’s team had already offered to negotiate with Atlantis’ allies to find a place where the Soje could seek refuge. Jonas believed that even if they left their homeworld, with a few months’ time, the Soje could return to find the land restored to its former abundance.
“You really think your plan will work?” Evan asked Jonas.
“Yes,” Jonas said. “The Tiranians on my homeworld had a similar issue a few decades ago. They did the very same thing I’ve suggested we do here. Granted, it was on a much smaller scale, and they had rivers to use, as opposed to a swamp.”
“Wait, a few decades ago? How would you have known about it?”
“I read about it,” Jonas said with a shrug.
Upon their arrival, Evan brought the heads-up display online so Jonas could review the data. He scanned the planet, searching for the natives and a place to safely land.
The planet greeted them with a dry heat and severe winds. There were a few emaciated trees in the surrounding environ, attempting to remain upright in the onslaught. Roots were not only visible but a danger to the team as they walked, the nomadic villages of the Soje camped about two hundred meters from where Evan parked the Jumper.
The Soje leader, Bolus, and his chief commander followed Evan and his team back to the Jumper, directing them towards the swamplands.
Evan settled the Jumper on a stretch of dry land just outside the border of the swamp. Bolus led the way along the edge of the murky water, pausing every few feet to glance back at Evan and his team. The chief commander brought up the rear of the group.
They stopped about a half a mile from the Jumper and Jonas took samples of the water.
“What are you doing?” Bolus asked.
“I’m taking a sample back for study,” he explained. “We want to make sure that if we help you set up a way to water your lands, it’ll have the desired effect.”
“What effect might that be?”
“Fertile soil,” Jonas replied. “If it works, you’ll be able to grow crops again. And we’ll also be able to tell you whether this water can be made potable.”
Jonas walked a little further up the bank, leaving Evan, Reilly, and Donovan with the Soje people.
Bolus turned to Evan. “Do you really think we’d be able to stay here?”
“Sure, if that’s what you want for your people. I have to admit, even if we can salvage the land, I don’t know that we can increase the wildlife populations at a proper rate.”
“That’s fair,” Bolus said. “Your people have already been more than helpful.”
“Thank you,” Evan said.
“Your companion seems to be wandering off,” Bolus said with a smirk. Up ahead, Evan could barely make out Jonas’ form where he knelt, testing the depth of the swamp with a stick.
Evan keyed his radio. “Jonas, why don’t you head back? I can barely see you from here.”
“You should catch up then,” Jonas said, and in the distance, he saw Jonas stand and wave. “I’m pretty sure I hear a waterfall ahead. I’d like to check it out.”
Evan sighed. “All right. Stay where you are, we’re on our way.” He signaled the rest of the team and the Soje to follow.
Jonas started walking again as soon as Evan was beside him. The swamp had begun to narrow and the water moved steadily, carrying sticks and leaves along at a pace slower than Evan’s stroll. They walked another quarter-mile before Evan heard the sound.
“Jeez, you could hear that from way back there?”
“Just barely,” Jonas replied. Evan gave him an odd look, and Jonas merely shrugged.
The water picked up speed as they traveled further down the bank, and after another half-mile, they reached a peak overlooking a drop of about fifty feet. Jonas and Evan peered over the edge to see a wide basin into which the streaming water flowed. The main waterfall had a width of maybe ten feet, and several smaller streams tumbled over the rocks in either direction.
“This looks cleaner,” Evan said. Before he could stop him, Jonas had shrugged off his vest and was making his way down the rocks to the bottom of the falls. “Jonas!”
“I’m just gonna grab a sample,” Jonas called back.
“You should wait for some rope,” Evan said, stepping forward to reach out for him. “We could lower you down.”
“Won’t take but a minute.”
“He should not be doing this,” Bolus said.
“I tried to tell him—”
“You don’t understand,” Bolus protested. “The water beneath the falls is not good for us.”
“What do you mean?” Evan asked, watching as Jonas made his way over the rocks.
Bolus opened his mouth to answer, then watched silently as Jonas’ foot slipped back when he was halfway down the rock face. He only barely managed to catch himself by gripping the branches of a small shrub sprouting between the cracks.
“That’s enough, just wait there,” Evan called down. He dropped his pack on the ground and fished for the rope. Then he heard a shout and a splash and rushed back to the edge to see Jonas lying face up in the water below.
His heart was pounding against his ribcage as he watched Jonas lift his head slightly, shaking water from his hair and face. He visibly winced at the movement.
“Don’t move!” Evan called down to him. “I’m coming down to you.”
He hurried back to his pack and pulled out the rope, handing an end off to Reilly. She secured it around a tree, and she and Donovan held the slack as Evan climbed down to the basin.
At the bottom of the falls, Evan radioed the rest of his team. “Donovan, Reilly, get back to Atlantis. Get Beckett or Keller out here with a medical team.”
“What about the Soje, sir?” Reilly asked.
“They want us to lower them down, too,” Donovan added. “They said they can help.”
“We don’t have time for that!” he replied, sloshing water into his boots as he waded out to where Jonas lay. “Just get back to Atlantis.”
“Jonas,” Evan said, kneeling in the shallow water. He wrapped a hand around Jonas’ neck to support his head, so it wouldn’t fall back and drown him. “Told you to wait, god damn it.”
“Sorry,” Jonas said with a shiver.
“Are you in pain?”
“Yes, and... cold,” he said.
“The water’s a bit chilly,” Evan agreed. “I’d move you, but I don’t know that I should chance it. You could have injured your spine with that fall.”
“Probably… did,” Jonas said amid his chattering teeth.
“Can you feel your feet?” he asked.
“No,” Jonas said. “You?”
“Thinking maybe… I’ll freeze… before help arrives,” Jonas stuttered.
“Don’t talk like that,” Evan said.
Jonas started to move, trying to sit up, but he winced again and fell back. The movement must have disturbed something beneath him, because the water turned brown from the shifting sediment.
The stirred-up dirt began to spread beneath Jonas’ back, refusing to re-settle. Evan’s eyes widened as he realized it wasn’t dirt.
It was blood.
He shifted the hand around Jonas’ waist to his back and felt the sticky substance at his fingertips. Moving gingerly along the wound, he felt the nub of the stick poking through Jonas’ body, between two ribs on his left side.
“Jesus…” he heard himself whispering.
“Hurts there, too,” Jonas winced.
“Yeah, I’m sure it does,” Evan said, his voice meant to be a soothing reassurance that Jonas would be all right.
“Gotta move me,” Jonas begged before his eyes rolled up into his head.
“Jonas?” Evan wanted to shake him but he was sure that was a bad idea. The thrum under the press of his fingers around Jonas’ throat told him that he was still alive.
Water splashing behind him drew Evan’s attention away from the man in his arms. Bolus and his chief commander were wading out to them.
“We must move him,” Bolus said, a hint of urgency in his voice. “He cannot stay in this water.”
“What’s wrong with the water?”
“There is something in the water that brings a sickness for many weeks,” Bolus said.
Evan looked down at Jonas’ pale form. His lips were turning blue, and the water around him grew darker. For an instant, it wasn’t Jonas in his arms, but another man, a face he knew but couldn’t name. Blood on my hands, his blood, Evan thought. I can’t lose another one.
Evan shook the memory away. It wasn’t helping now. “I need help supporting him,” Evan said. “He may have serious injuries and the more movement his body experiences, the greater the possibility of permanent disability.”
Bolus waded the rest of the way to them and lifted Jonas’ feet. The chief commander took up Jonas’ middle and Evan cradled his shoulders and head. When they reached the bank, they laid him down gently. Evan stripped his own jacket and rolled it up, placing it under Jonas’ head.
“What does the sickness look like?” Evan said, pulling out a small pair of shears from his vest. He started cutting away Jonas’ wet clothing.
“It begins with head pain, then a strong heat burns through the person’s body. If they are lucky to survive the heat, they sweat profusely and experience sudden chills and sometimes the shakes. There is also sometimes a confusion that settles over a person. Usually there is coughing and an excessive expulsion of waste.”
“That sounds exciting,” Evan said. “Is it fatal?”
“Most of our people who’ve survived the heat will be able to endure,” Bolus replied.
“How many people don’t survive this… heat?”
“A quarter of the victims do not survive,” Bolus said, his voice low. “How long will it take your people to return with aid? Do they have ways of helping with this sickness?”
“Yes, we’ve dealt with things like that before,” Evan said. “But it’s going to take some time before that happens. The flight back to the Gate, gathering the right personnel, and then returning here. All told, it’ll probably be about six hours before we have him back on our planet.”
“Then I should head back to the village with Cairum,” Bolus announced. “We have means of helping to ensure a person will overcome the first stage of sickness. We will return as quickly as possible.”
Evan nodded. “Thank you.”
Bolus and Cairum left, and Evan started to unlace Jonas’ boots. He had to warm him up somehow. He already had him stripped to his undershirt and boxers, but now he was exposed to the cool air wafting towards them over the water. Unfortunately, Evan’s emergency blanket was in his pack, sitting right where he left it at the top of the waterfall. He checked Jonas’ pulse again.
It wouldn’t take but a few short minutes to walk up the path Bolus had used and grab his pack, but he didn’t want to leave Jonas alone either.
Evan lifted Jonas’ shirt to see if the stick had gone all the way through. It hadn’t, but there was discoloration on the left side of his chest, like a bruise. When he laid a hand, however tentatively, over the purple splotch on Jonas’ chest, Evan had another flash of memory.
Another forest, another teammate injured, nonresponsive. Voices calling out, the Jumper behind him somewhere, he wasn’t sure how far. No pulse, he heard himself say. Help me!
Chest compressions, a deafening crack beneath his hands, mouth-to-mouth.
Evan shook his head, willing the memory gone. He couldn’t focus on Jonas if he was too busy reliving the past.
Thirty minutes passed like years and every sixty seconds, Evan re-checked Jonas’ vitals: pulse, airway, injury. He noticed a dark stain forming in the dirt beneath Jonas, directly under the wound site. Jonas Quinn’s skin was cool to the touch and his lips still retained a blue tint, sparking memories in Evan’s mind.
Sitting here, doing nothing, and Emerson’s dying, Evan recalled. That wheezing doesn’t sound good.
Evan stood up, pacing as he considered going after his pack again. It was easily a two hours’ walk to the villages, so Bolus and Cairum would not return soon. It would take at least an hour for the Jumper to return to Atlantis and load up the medical team, then another half hour or so to return here.
Evan couldn’t wait any longer. He should’ve retrieved the pack sooner.
He started up the pathway Bolus had taken down, and within a minute or two, he was back at the top of the waterfall. It had seemed to Evan that he was with Jonas in the water a lot longer than that, before Bolus had arrived.
Scooping up the pack, Evan returned to the path and finally to Jonas, kneeling and pulling out the blanket. He laid it over Jonas’ body , stopping when he looked over him again and noticed the swelling and discoloration beginning around Jonas’ left calf and knee.
“Damn it,” Evan whispered, and he pulled the blanket to cover Jonas from his shoulders to his feet. Then he checked his pulse again.
It was getting weaker.
Evan had a small fire going a few minutes later, and within ten minutes of that and securing the blanket around Jonas, color had returned to Jonas’ lips.
He checked his vitals again, and instead of the faint pulse he found before, he felt a rapid pounding against his fingertips. At this touch he also observed that Jonas’ skin was clammy and hot.
Evan reached up for his radio. “Donovan, this is Lorne, come in,” he said. He knew it was too soon for them to be back, but he was restless and eager to do something. “Reilly, this is Lorne, do you read?”
He received no response.
Sergeant Thomas, I repeat, do you copy?
His own voice came to him unbidden, a snippet of another memory.
Dr. Emerson is not responding, I repeat, not responding. Request immediate back-up, including a medical team.
Evan started to pace along the water’s edge, his eyes shifting from Jonas to the waterfall. He didn’t want these memories, not now, not after avoiding them for so long. Not after what had happened in the first place.
Only he couldn’t shake them this time. Everything was the same, it was happening all over again—he would lose Jonas just like he lost the others.
He heard a soft groan behind him and turned to see Jonas attempting to lift his hand off the ground. Evan knelt beside him, touched his face, and said his name. His skin was now sticky with sweat, a good sign, but it was causing the soot on his face to streak.
Jonas opened his eyes.
“Who’s Emerson?” he asked weakly.
Jonas blinked up at Evan. “You called me ‘Emerson’.”
“No, I didn’t, I said ‘Jonas’,” Evan replied. He didn’t know anyone named Emerson—at least, he didn’t remember if he did.
“Emerson,” Jonas repeated. “Say the name.”
“Just say it.”
Evan gulped, wiping away sweat and grime from Jonas’ face. “Emerson.”
“Yeah,” Jonas said. “I’m here.”
His eyes drifted shut again, and the world spun out from under Evan’s body. He shifted his hand, searching for a pulse. There was nothing.
“Emerson? Wake up! Come on, buddy, don’t do this to me!”
The soft whir of a Puddle Jumper purred overhead. Evan clicked his radio on. “This is Major Lorne, do you copy?”
“Copy, Lorne,” Sheppard’s voice came through. “We’re looking for a landing spot.”
“Beckett with you?”
“He is. How’s Jonas?”
Evan shook his head, his brain going fuzzy. Jonas. The name was familiar. The alien you trained at the SGC years ago.
Was he here, too?
“Lorne? You still with me?”
“Uh…” Evan stalled. “Requesting immediate back-up.”
“I’m landing right now,” Sheppard replied, his voice low and calm. “Stay with me, Major.”
The Jumper landed a few feet away and the hatch dropped open, Beckett and Sheppard rolling out a stretcher. The rest of the medical team trailed them, followed by Rodney and Teyla.
“Evan, are you all right?” Teyla asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Emerson…” he whispered. Then he looked up as Beckett lowered the stretcher. “There was an avalanche, we breathed in… a lot of soot. He’s been touch and go for over an hour. I lost his pulse… tried CPR, but…”
Teyla guided Evan away from Jonas. “Evan, we need to let Dr. Beckett and his team work.”
Evan nodded, watching as Beckett and two others surrounded Jonas, placing the backboards under his body. There was already an oxygen mask over his face.
“His pulse is weak, but it’s there,” Beckett reassured him. “We have to get him back to Atlantis immediately.”
Rodney was the first one back in the Jumper, taking the co-pilot’s seat as Sheppard helped Beckett secure the stretcher. Teyla ushered Evan onboard, to the seat behind Sheppard, and the rear hatch closed behind them.
There was something nagging him in the back of his mind, something he was supposed to know about what happened.
“The rest of my team?” he asked Teyla.
“Lieutenant Donovan and Sergeant Reilly are back on Atlantis,” she replied.
“No, my team,” Evan repeated. “Sergeant Thomas and Captain Serra?”
Teyla gave him a pitying look. “I am afraid they did not survive.”
Evan glanced back at Jonas, lying still, Beckett checking him over with a scanner.
Don’t give up now, he thought. Hold on, Emerson. We’re almost home.
( If Memory Serves, Part Two of Two )