Author: jenn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Codes: Lorne, Sheppard, Mitchell (implied Sheppard/Mitchell)
Summary: At the end, two of them were chosen, but Lorne wasn't one of them.
Author Notes: Off prompts in this entry. This is the first of three (I think). Backstory, set after McKay is sent to Atlantis, but before John is caught.
Warnings: Please see this entry for series warnings. For this story, also pre-sexual assault.
Lorne stares up the barrel of the AK-47 with the feeling that this isn't going to end well.
He's heard the stories--Jesus, everyone has--but there's a difference clearly demarcated between the theoretical and the actual. He'd known he'd get caught; Mitchell's a lot of things, but subtle's never been one of them. Lorne knew the second he got the assignment that he was a dead man if he didn't talk fast.
He kind of thinks that was Mitchell's plan all along.
"Listen--" he starts, and gets the butt of the gun to his jaw for his troubles. Tumbling backward, his head hits the floor hard enough for him to see stars as the guy's boot comes down on his chest, grinding his bound hands into the metal floor. Pain blossoms across his face in cherry-red, and he can feel the jagged edges of a broken tooth cut into his cheek.
Theoretical: sent to take out Sheppard, dangerous, possibly suicidal, but interesting. Actual: about to die.
"Kill him." That's Bates, Lorne thinks, mentally carding through the files he memorized when he realized Mitchell was serious. Sheppard's pet henchman and charged with security in Sheppard's bases. The guy currently debating how to kill him is Stackhouse, looking even less pleasant than he did in his dossier. That's saying something.
"I have information," he says desperately, feeling blood dribble down his chin. He probably doesn't look like he has information; he probably looks like he’s about to crap himself. Jesus God, he should have had a better plan. Or told Mitchell to fuck himself.
From across the room, Lorne hears the door open as Stackhouse pushes the muzzle of the gun into his forehead, bored but ready to follow whatever orders he’s given.
"You know how much I hate not being invited to the party," a low voice drawls. Lorne twists around enough to get a glimpse of boots before Stackhouse gets him in the ribs. Yeah, those are broken; Lorne hisses in pain.
By the time he can see again, there's someone crouching beside him. Blinking away the blurriness, Lorne looks into amused hazel eyes hovering above a nine millimeter. "Sheppard," he grates out, because it's not like the guy doesn't have one of the most recognizable faces in the galaxy.
Sheppard's head tilts. "Cam's pet," he says, trailing the gun down the side of Lorne's face. "He get tired of you?"
Lorne freezes. "He told you."
"Maybe got a message about a possible incursion," Sheppard says easily, rocking back onto his heels. He motions idly with his free hand. "Everyone out."
Bates makes a dissenting noise, but Stackhouse just shrugs, flipping the gun up with a jaunty salute to Sheppard. Lorne doesn't fool himself this means anything; Sheppard's not known for his fair treatment of prisoners. He is known, however, for being ruthlessly pragmatic. As the door closes, he takes a breath, wincing at the pain in his chest. "I have information."
Sheppard nods agreeably. "And I should care?" The gun slides down, resting in the hollow of Lorne's throat for a heart-stopping second; Lorne can't smell gunpowder and his own fear. "Except Cam went to a lot of trouble to give you a very, very messy death."
Lorne wonders what shows on his face; Sheppard grins. "And you know it."
Fucking Carter: or he had been fucking Carter. Or O'Neill. Either one had gotten Lorne into this. The SGC's changing, and Mitchell's cleaning house as fast as he can. "Yeah."
"But you came anyway."
Lorne nods slowly, swallowing a mouthful of blood. "There isn't anywhere else to go."
Lorne was never part of Sheppard's teams; he'd worked off-world with the Asgard on projects they didn't want to dirty their hands with, but he was there for the intimidation, the public face of the SGC. Sheppard was the one sent in when intimidation didn't work.
Sheppard shifts position, dropping cross-legged on the floor, gun in his lap; Lorne isn't fooled by the casual slouch or the lazy smile. "Cam's kind of pissing me off," Sheppard says, apropos of nothing. Leaning forward, Sheppard traces the beginnings of the bruise on Lorne's jaw. "Thing is, he's breaking the rules."
Lorne can almost feel the bullet in his brain, but Sheppard's gun is still in his lap. "What did he want you to do?"
Lorne hesitates. "Energy signature on your cruiser," he says finally. "Sabotage the main reactor. The names of everyone on your teams. And get the files you hacked from the SGC before you left." Lorne swallows hard. "That's all."
Sheppard smirks; Lorne figures he knows what Lorne's not saying. "Right. Definitely Cam. Not a subtle guy." Sheppard leans back on one arm, hazel eyes fixing with sudden, startling attention on Lorne's face, making a leisurely crawl down his body. Lorne wonders if he's supposed to be uncomfortable.
"I want in," Lorne says desperately, though he's not sure he wants that at all. He's held a gun, killed when he had to, been the SGC's muscle for five years. But he's not like Sheppard, not like the people Sheppard trained into the SGC's most secret programs, hand-picked before any of them had even known what the SGC was. He knows he was evaluated when Sheppard was still in the SGC and knows that whatever Sheppard had been looking for, he didn't have it. "I can--"
"That's the thing," Sheppard says, studying him, then shakes his head abruptly. "Never mind." Sheppard pushes him over with a hand on his hip, and Lorne turns his face just in time to avoid breaking his nose on the floor. Lorne closes his eyes, trying to fight the urge to beg, waiting for the feel of a gun against the back of his head.
But instead, his hands are suddenly free. Blood rushes painfully into his fingers, but Lorne only has time to flex once before Sheppard nudges him in the ribs. Wincing, Lorne makes himself look up.
Sheppard extends a hand. "Come on. I don't have a lot of time."
A woman Lorne doesn't recognize but feels like he should checks him over while Sheppard leans against the doorway and watches, oddly quiet. She glances over every so often, looking unhappy, but Sheppard just smiles back. Lorne wonders where Sheppard got her.
Bates hovers in the corner of the room, looking annoyed; no surprise there. Bates was Sheppard's first recruit at the SGC, as well as his most vicious. Lorne takes the pills that the doctor shoves into his hand; he figures if they were going to kill him, they'd wouldn't bother with drugs. Taking a drink of water from the bottle she gives him, Lorne sees Sheppard jerk his chin at Bates briefly.
Some kind of silent conversation continues between them for a few moments, then Bates nods, holstering his P-90 and going to the door. The doctor hesitates, looking at Sheppard, then follows him out.
Sheppard smiles as he closes the door. "Feeling better?
Weirdly, he does; whatever she gave him is fantastic. "Not bad."
Crossing to the bed, Sheppard hops up beside him. "She says you have a tracker implanted."
Lorne blinks. "Tracker?"
Sheppard shrugs, casually reaching down and pulling up his shirt. There's a fading scar on his side just below the armpit, a thin line of white against the fading tan. He's been in spaceships too long. "Yeah, I have no idea when they did it either. But they do it to everyone."
He *doesn't* remember. Lorne sorts through his memories of the SGC and comes up with nothing. No sudden soreness, no mysterious scars, nothing. "How—"
"Transporter of some kind," Sheppard says, shrugging. Fixing his shirt, he braces himself on one arm. "I'm letting you go.
Right. "They probably killed my access codes already."
"Not a problem. They'll find you, here. A little beaten up, looking like a good little SGC drone." Sheppard pulls out a PDA, poking a few keys, before dropping it on the bed between them. "This has the energy signature of my ship and some encrypted files from the database. When Cameron asks how you got away, tell him it was a gift, from me to him."
Lorne stares back at him. "Did you inject me with a plague or something to spread around the galaxy?" It wouldn't be surprising.
"Nah. But good thinking; I may try that someday if I can get someone past the filters."
Lorne thinks it over. "He won't believe it. Not that you didn't kill me."
"Trust me, Cameron will." Sheppard's mouth curves slightly in amusement, but there's something on his face that makes Lorne wonder. *Everyone* had wondered about Sheppard and Mitchell, the opposite sides of the SGC. They'd started at the same time with the SGC, offered teams and projects and special assignments, and if rumor was right (and Lorne's pretty sure it is), fucking like rabbits in the hall outside the gateroom still bloody from joint missions. But things had changed.
Mitchell became the favorite of the administration, rising fast within the ranks, shifting to become part of the SGC's public face under O'Neill's mentorship while Sheppard was still their dirty secret. Lorne knows they fought over mission assignments, escalation requests, the allocation of new personnel, though Sheppard for the most part got priority; it took very specific types of people to do those jobs, and Sheppard's judgment was never wrong.
Lorne's never quite worked out why Mitchell got preference, though he has some ideas. Sheppard was possessive of his teams and never loaned them out; practical, since Mitchell (not to mention the other SGC team leaders) had a bad habit of getting his people killed. He tended to ignore orders he didn't agree with. He wasn't good with internal politics, though Lorne suspects that was more from personal preference than not knowing how to play the game.
But Lorne thinks that most of it was the fact that those teams stopped being SGC teams when Sheppard took command; they became Sheppard's teams that happened to work for the SGC. Sheppard ignored orders that put his people in what he considered unreasonable danger, and protected them from being sent into suicide missions. He was possessive, vicious when they were injured, and other SGC team leaders learned fast that if they wanted to borrow one of Sheppard's specialists, they'd better get them back in one piece or die trying.
In return, Sheppard's people were fanatically loyal, viciously protective, and worshipped the ground Sheppard walked on. They'd die for him without even asking if it was necessary. They'd die just because they *could*.
Lorne was Mitchell's lieutenant and enforcer for years, like Bates was for Sheppard; there's not much he doesn't know about how everything fell apart for Sheppard when Carter and O'Neill took over.
He also knows this: that of all of Sheppard's personnel, specialist, scientist, and other, not one of them stayed with the SGC when he left, taking with them skills that few at the SGC can ever replicate. And that's something that Mitchell will never, ever forgive.
"Biro," he says suddenly. Sheppard's pet medic, trained by Carson Beckett before he finally cracked. Lorne remembers her vaguely now; she tended to stay out of the main labs, preferring the company of her team members and their territory in the SGC. Most of Sheppard's people were like that. "You got them all?" That Lorne hadn't known, and he suspected Mitchell didn't either.
Sheppard nods "Everyone not dead or locked up."
"So you're letting me go." Lorne still doesn't believe it.
"Pretty much. SGC will be here in ten minutes. Everyone's cleared out." He pauses, studying Lorne for a second. "I want the roster of SGC personnel that have been convicted or dismissed and where they are. It's classified, but no one cares enough about it to check access logs."
Lorne slow blinks his disbelief. "That's your price?"
Sheppard shrugs. "It's a favor, not a price. You don't have to do it."
"But you'll kill me if I don't?"
Sheppard slides off the bed. "No."
Lorne stares at him, trying to work out the angle. "Send someone else to?"
Now Sheppard grins. "Nothing will happen to you, your family, your friends, or your career." Sheppard drawls each word with a mocking expression. "If I'm going to fuck you over, you'd know about it." Stepping back, Sheppard touches the communicator in his ear. "Beam me up, Scotty."
An irritated voice that Lorne doesn't recognize fills the room. "Don't call me that."
"Whatever." Sheppard raises an eyebrow at Lorne. "Hey, tell O'Neill that I'll see him around." The grin widens. "And my condolences on the death of Carter."
Sheppard vanishes in a flash of light. Lorne's still staring at the space he occupied when the SGC arrives.
Mitchell's been acting weird since Lorne got back.
Lorne limps out of the infirmary, trying to swallow away the taste of the pills that Dr. Frasier had stuffed into his hand as another team was brought in. From what Lorne saw before he stumbled out, they weren't in great condition.
Mitchell's waiting outside, like he's checking on the injured team, but Lorne gets the feeling that not why he's here. "Colonel," Lorne says slowly; Frasier's painkiller's aren't as good as Biro's, but they do the job. He's been on two missions since he got back, and he's beginning to wonder if his ribs are every going to completely heal.
"Major." Mitchell falls in beside him as Lorne slowly turns toward his quarters. It's unnerving; Lorne can count the number of times on one hand Mitchell's shown any interest in him at all outside missions. "You look better."
"Thank you, sir."
Mitchell stares straight ahead with a fixed expression, which is alarming all in itself. Mitchell's the kind that watches a lot.
"Is everything all right, sir?" There's nothing more surreal than small talk with his commanding officer; Lorne wonders if there was something in those pills that Frasier didn't mention.
Mitchell ignores the question. "We had some surprises the last couple of weeks," Mitchell starts, eyes still fixed ahead.
Lorne'd been in the infirmary after a bad mission when the news first hit; Sheppard had taken out the Asgard embassy on Chulak with extreme prejudice. With McKay rotting in Atlantis, the only thing the SGC could be grateful for was that Sheppard couldn't get his hands on another ZPM or they were all pretty sure that the planet would have been gone. As it was, twenty-two percent of the land mass was destroyed, buried under so much radioactive waste that the planet was going to be uninhabitable for a while. Sheppard through and through; no one could ever say the man wasn't thorough.
The thing is, no one knows *why*.
Probably a contract; there are plenty of people who hate the Asgard and some of them can even afford Sheppard's prices, since he could guarantee the job would be done. But Sheppard didn't usually take these kind of assignments: too obvious, too simple, without the need for complex planning or creativity. Sheppard loved his work, and he loved it best when it was a challenge.
Vaguely, it reminds him of the reports on Afghanistan; there, Sheppard had been making a point. Lorne gets the feeling Sheppard's making one this time, too, but why, he has no idea.
The second incident had been—strange.
After his second mission two days ago, the SGC had shut down; lights, power, *toilets*--but more importantly, the environmental controls that kept the sealed base oxygenated and the personnel alive. It wasn't that big of a deal; the SGC got everything back up in less than two hours. Lorne barely had time to get his medication from Frasier and wonder how he was going to swallow without water before everything was running again.
The thing was, it wasn't the power loss that disturbed them; that happened even when it wasn't sabotage. It wasn't even the fact that someone (Sheppard) had somehow gotten someone in here to do it. Terrifying, but not unexpected.
What was bothering everyone was this: no one could figure out why.
Though if anyone could guess, Lorne thinks, watching his commanding officer from the corner of his eye, it would be Mitchell.
When Lorne arrives at his quarters, he pauses, wondering if he's supposed to invite Mitchell in. "Sir?"
"Take it easy the next couple of days," Mitchell says suddenly, not meeting Lorne's eyes. "I'll put your team on stand-down. Get healed up." With that, Mitchell nods shortly and turns away, going back down the hall in a quick jog that almost looks like escape.
Blinking slowly, Lorne goes into his room, shutting the door behind him. On his desk, his laptop is still closed, holding the files Sheppard had asked for. He hasn't done anything with them but scan the names, wondering what Sheppard is looking for in them. Wondering how the hell Sheppard thinks Lorne can get these out of the SGC and to him.
Going to the small bed, Lorne drops down, closing his eyes. He could go home, but just the thought of the effort that would take leaves him panting. Shifting on the mattress, Lorne closes his eyes and waits for the painkillers to put him to sleep.
When one of Lorne's team members dies choking on his own blood in the mess hall, it dawns on Lorne that there's a pattern here. What, he has no idea, but there is one, and he's almost sure it has something to do with Mitchell.
Mitchell's in the infirmary with Dr. Frasier while she test the other team members and Lorne, frowning at the results. "It's very rare these days," she says, looking more animated than he's ever seen her before. Lorne twists around to see her chart as she finishes taking the last vial of blood
"What is it?"
Dr. Frasier glances at Mitchell briefly, then nods, almost as if in answer. "Plague."
Mitchell doesn't seem to be seeking him out, but Lorne notices that he's always around, hovering just in view, watching Lorne with disconcerting attention, like he's searching for something. Personnel start giving Lorne odd looks, sidling away when he comes too close; what the hell that's about, Lorne has no idea. He and the rest of the team were cleared of any sign of the stuff that killed Martin.
Mitchell's pissed, too; Lorne notices that the personnel are looking more harried, the scientists are staying in the labs, and even the SGC brass are walking lightly. Mitchell reacted to a failed mission by trying to shoot the team when they came back through the gate. He's got MPs with him constantly, and if the SGC was supposed to improve under the new regime, Lorne hasn't seen any sign of it since Carter died.
Plague. What the *hell*?
When Mitchell stumbles into Lorne's room at midnight, Lorne's pretty sure Mitchell's decided to take Lorne's impending death into his own hands once and for all.
Sitting up, Lorne grabs for the gun under his pillow, but Mitchell disarms him almost casually, smelling so strongly of alcohol that Lorne's gagging as he's pinned to the bed, one of Mitchell's knees pressed into his still-healing ribs.
Almost casually, Mitchell straddles him, pinning Lorne's hands beneath his knees, staring down at him with glazed blue eyes. "This is kind of pissing me off."
Lorne stares up at him. This is nuts, even for Mitchell. "Colonel—"
The backhand hits perfectly on the fading bruises from Stackhouse's gun; Lorne barely manages to keep from screaming. The knee against his side presses in with a bright flare of pain. Lorne wonders if the rib's broken again. It wouldn't surprise him. "Shut up."
Gasping, Lorne tries to work it out. Sheppard likes to make points. And Mitchell knows him better than anyone. "He's pissed you sent me to kill him, isn't he?" Lorne says breathlessly. The knee pushes into his ribs, and this time, Lorne screams, but fuck, what the hell does he have to lose? "The—the Asgard, your special buddies there. The power failure. Martin." Though why Martin, Lorne has no idea, except he's Mitchell's favorite these days and Lorne's fairly sure Martin was supposed to be Lorne's successor.
Mitchell laughs bitterly, staring down at Lorne. "Not about me, Major," he spits. One hand circles Lorne's throat as Mitchell leans down. Hot breath smelling of something one hundred and eighty proof taken in shots covers Lorne's face. "You're stupider than I thought."
Lorne's prepared for the knee in his ribs, but not for the kiss, hard and wet and too much tongue, sloppy and sickening, teeth cutting into his lip like a razor. Lorne holds still, feeling the hand around his throat tighten, nausea rising up in the back of his throat. Strangled or choking on his own vomit; neither death ever made his top ten list.
Then Mitchell pulls back, mouth swollen and shiny, flecked with Lorne's blood. His hand loosens just enough for Lorne to draw in a breath. "So fucking stupid."
"I don't—" Lorne stops. *When Cameron asks how you got away, tell him it was a gift, from me to him.* "A gift."
Cameron grins toothily. "Sheppard has a way with words. Looks like he wants his last recruit back."
Blinking, Lorne stares up at Mitchell, feeling something uncoil in his chest. "He wants you to join him?"
"No," Mitchell whispers, and there's something in his voice that sounds like pain. "He wants you."
When Lorne came to the SGC, there was two months of evaluation and training, working beneath Mitchell with twenty-two recruits from all over the world. Former Islamic militants, Greek mercenaries, Russian soldiers; the SGC had no prejudices when it came to their military. They wanted the best.
Mitchell's people became SGC team members, team leaders, acting as diplomats, explorers, and occasionally, muscle for the Asgard and Nox. Anyone who made it through the two month evaluation could get in, though Mitchell's favor decided your place; leader or cannon fodder.
Sheppard was different.
Lorne remembers him watching every day, even the days Mitchell commanded their training. Leaning on a wall, in a room, sitting on a chair, sharp eyes following their every move; reading their simulation reports; watching them day in and day out, Bates a silent shadow at his elbow, taking notes from comments that none of them could hear.
They all knew what Sheppard did, what he was, what they'd do if they went to him. Sheppard was the SGC's silent weapon, their executioner, their open secret. His teams went on missions that were never recorded, got results that were never acknowledged. Sheppard helped make the triumvirate the single most powerful force in the galaxy.
Sheppard's people were specialists, the best at what they did, as ruthless as he was and just as driven. They had their own quarters, their own medic, their own rules, sectioned away from the rest of the SGC by policy and by choice. They were handpicked by Sheppard, tested and trained and polished; Lorne had heard stories of the early days, before the SGC knew to give Sheppard his way; personnel he didn't want had a tendency to die young and die messy on alien worlds.
Lorne and the recruits knew he was watching them, evaluating them; they knew Sheppard was down two men and that a chance like this would never come again.
At the end, two of them were chosen, but Lorne wasn't one of them.
He thinks now that maybe he's never gotten over that.
"He wanted me. When we were recruited."
Mitchell smirks. "Ten years and he never forgave me for that. Guy can hold a grudge, huh?"
Yeah, Sheppard can. It's insane, but it's Sheppard. One Asgard embassy for Lorne almost dying in a firefight, sent out by Mitchell while still high on painkillers. One SGC blackout after a second failed mission, barely escaping hostile natives when his code for the gate didn't work. One dead Martin, because Sheppard was tired of waiting.
Sheppard said, tell him it was a gift. A loan. Everyone knew Sheppard didn't like his people getting hurt.
Lorne grins. "He didn't want you, did he?"
Mitchell snarls, but this time, Lorne catches the punch, sloppy from alcohol and stupidity. Pushing him off, Lorne ignores the sharp pain in his side, grabbing his gun and turning it on Mitchell.
Sitting up, Mitchell reaches slowly for his gun. "You aren't that stupid."
Keeping his eye on Mitchell, Lorne reaches clumsily behind him for the doorknob.
"You won't get out of here alive." Mitchell stands up slowly, watching Lorne's gun. "You weren't ever that great at this part of the job, Lorne. Even if he'd gotten you, he'd have killed you off."
Maybe, but Lorne can learn. Pulling the safety, he fumbles the door open, backing out, wishing to God he'd taken a painkiller earlier. Would have shot his reflexes, but at least he wouldn't be in danger of crumpling.
"Lorne—" Mitchell says, then stops, just as Lorne stumbles, hitting the doorway hard enough to make his teeth rattle. A arm catches him, pulling him up, and Lorne jerks the gun around, trying to get a shot at—
"Cool it." The gun's twisted out of his hand so casually he's still grasping at air when he's turned around. Lorne recognizes the wristband before he sees the face, but he thinks he should have known all along. "I see Cameron gave you my invitation."
Mitchell hovers at the doorway, gun pointed at them both; somehow, though, Lorne doesn't think he's going to shoot. Sheppard and Mitchell stare at each other for an endless moment, then something in Mitchell's face crumples. "John."
"I have the list," Lorne manages to gasp out; Sheppard's tense against him, even if his face is all bored amusement. Sheppard holds a grudge, Cameron was right. And the middle of the SGC is not the place to indulge it. "On my laptop."
"Go get it," Sheppard says over Lorne's head; a figure slides from the shadows, slipping by Mitchell like he's not there. In a few seconds, the man is slipping back out; Sheppard slides under Lorne's arm, careful of his ribs. "Been fun, Cam," Sheppard says lightly. "Gotta go, though. Tell everyone I said hi."
Lorne can feel Mitchell watching them long after they've left, when he's curled up in the back of a tiny ship, shot up and bandaged by Biro, a new scar on his side from the tracker she removed. Sheppard is on the edge of his bed, watching him with veiled amusement.
Lorne grins, letting the painkillers draw him down. He hurts everywhere. "Perfect."