Content Warning: Nothing really ... established character death so maybe just a ‘sadness’ warning.
Summary: Kate Heightmeyer died, leaving behind someone who’d never taken the chance to tell her how he really felt. Episode tag/missing scene to 4.04 'Doppelganger'
Classifications: General/romance of a sort.
Pairings: What if - Lorne/Heightmeyer
Spoilers: Season 4 Doppelganger
Acknowledgements: Nothing specific
Disclaimer: The Stargate characters, storylines, etc aren’t mine. I am unfortunately not associated in any way with the creators, owners, or producers of Stargate or any of its media franchises – if I was Lorne would have been in a LOT more episodes with stories of his own! All publicly recognizable characters, settings, equipment, etc are the property of whoever owns them. Any original characters and plot and anything else I made up are the property of me, the author. No copyright infringement is intended.
Copyright (c) 2009 ShaViva
This occurred to me after listening to Kavan Smith’s audio drama, Impressions. Just a one liner from Lorne that had me wondering what if (if you’ve heard the story you’ll know which line I mean). Also, it always bothered me that they killed Kate Heightmeyer and then ... nothing. No funeral, no memorial, no real mention after the event. So this is also inspired by wanting to correct that in some small way.
This takes place the morning after Lorne’s barefooted scene in Doppelganger.
“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”
Charles R. Swindoll
It was possibly the worst feeling imaginable to realise too late that an opportunity had been there in front of you for too long - if only you'd had the balls to step up and make something of it. As Major Evan Lorne listened to Colonel Carter's all city address, that feeling was sweeping over him like ice slowly freezing him from the feet up.
"This is Colonel Carter. If I could have your attention please. I'm very sorry to have to tell you that we have lost a valuable member of the expedition today. Doctor Kate Heightmeyer meant a great deal to all of us. Her death is nothing short of tragic."
Kate was dead ... gone in a manner that both horrified and sickened him. He didn’t want to think about the details – imagine what she’d gone through in her dreams with no one there to help her. It was too much that she was gone. Gone because of him if you looked at in a certain way ... a way he couldn't avoid, despite assurances to the contrary.
Colonel Sheppard had come to his quarters to give him the news only minutes before Sam's announcement. Evan had been preparing for his morning duty shift when his CO had knocked at the door.
"Sir?" he frowned, concerned. It wasn't every day your boss came calling at your quarters ... in fact, Evan couldn't recall the last time that had happened, if ever.
"Can I come in?" Sheppard asked, his expression flat and far too serious.
"Sure, of course," Evan stepped back, letting John walk past him and then following him as the door swished closed behind them.
"Ah ...," John hesitated.
"Did something else happen, Sir?" Lorne asked when it looked like his CO was unable to say more.
Nodding, Sheppard swallowed visibly, licking his dry lips before meeting Evan's eyes. "Kate Heightmeyer was found dead in her room an hour ago," he said, his tone low and hoarse. "No signs of injury or cause ... so Keller's pretty sure it was the crystal entity. Kate died in her sleep ... in her dreams ... so we'll never really know exactly what happened."
The feeling of weakness that spread over Evan as he registered John's words surprised him. Stumbling slightly as he sat abruptly on his bed, Lorne didn't know what to do. His mind was a confusion of mixed thoughts and his heart was pounding so hard he wouldn't be surprised if John could hear it. He rubbed hands over his face and then looked up. "When?" That one word was the best he could do, his voice sounding strangled and unlike his own.
"Jennifer doesn't know for sure yet," Sheppard admitted. "At at guess she thinks only a couple of hours after Kate went to bed last night. Teyla found her this morning ... far too late for anyone to do anything."
Nodding, Lorne sat for a moment, until the one thought that had emerged above all the others fuelled a question he just had to ask. "The entity ... it was in me yesterday. Did Kate touch me then? Before we knew how it was transferring? Did I give it to her?"
"I don't know," John took a step forward, his tone purposeful. "It's using the power conduits ... we have no way of proving how many people it’s infected since you. I know you don't remember what happened yesterday. Kate was concerned about you - she wanted to help you because it was clear you weren't yourself. Don't blame yourself Evan. You want to blame someone - blame me. I brought it here."
"You didn't know what it was either, Sir," Lorne pointed out in a low tone. "Besides, Radek said the crystals have a way of luring you in."
"We'll get this thing and we'll make sure it doesn't hurt anyone else," Sheppard promised. Slapping a hand to Lorne's shoulder, he stepped back again. "Colonel Carter will be making an all city announcement in a few minutes. I know you and Kate were friends so I ... thought you should hear it from someone personally."
"Thank you Sir," Lorne was grateful for that, even though the idea of thanking someone for giving you bad news seemed contradictory.
Nodding, Sheppard turned and headed for the door. "I'll see you on duty in a couple of hours Major." When Evan looked up in confusion, John explained. "Take some time this morning to react ... without an audience watching your every move." Not waiting for a response, Sheppard left.
Lying back on his bed, Evan stared at the ceiling, thankful for the respite from duty but wondering just how much his CO thought he knew about Evan and Kate. He'd been given time to react but what could he do? Cry at the loss of someone who'd been a close friend but nothing more, despite the feelings that had bubbled away under the surface since the day he'd met her? Hit something? Direct the anger he could feel building at the wall or a punching bag because he couldn't direct it where he needed to - at an entitly he couldn't fight. How did you seek retribution from something you couldn't even see?
He felt sadness, loss, anger. He felt powerless.
But above all of that he felt regret. Regret for what might have been. Regret for a wonderful opportunity he'd let himself see only as an impossible situation.
Rolling, Lorne opened his bedside draw and removed a single envelope. Sitting crossed legged he looked at it, his fingers tracing the name written across the front.
Doctor Kate Heightmeyer.
He thought there’d be time ... and that seemed kind of ridiculous now. The Pegasus galaxy was a dangerous place – he knew that. Hesitating when you knew what you wanted was just ... dumb. But that's exactly what he'd done.
Evan couldn't take the silence ... the inactivity. Jumping up, he jammed the envelope into his pocket, grabbed his running shoes and hurriedly pulled them on. Leaving his room, he headed down the corridor to the nearest transporter that would take him as far from the populated parts of the city as he could get. His expression warned anyone he passed to say nothing ... Evan was well liked and not given to angry outbursts but he could do "Keep out" body language with the best of them.
At the base of the outermost tower, unused save for infrequent research in some of the labs, he ran. Up flight after flight of stairs until he reached the top, out of breathe and heart pounding hard. But it wasn't enough to shut off his thoughts and he realised nothing would be.
Standing on the balcony, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the envelope again, staring at it for untold minutes. Eventually he roused himself to open it, taking out the single sheet of paper inside.
Startled, Evan crumpled the paper, stuffing his hands into his pockets as he turned to face his visitor.
"Teyla." He frowned. "How'd you find me?"
"Rodney kindly scanned the city for me," Teyla explained. "There was only one life sign so far removed from the centre of the city ... I guessed it would be you."
"I'm ah ... I'm sorry about Kate," Evan got out, turning away and looking out to sea. "I know the two of you were friends."
"As were you," Teyla walked across the balcony and stood beside him, touching a hand to his arm.
Nodding, Lorne glanced down at her for a moment, covering her hand with his in comfort before looking away again.
"It is a difficult time," Teyla's voice was thick with unshed tears. "I feel angry that I was unable to do anything to defeat the entity. And I regret the things I never did ... or said. The plans made for the future that will no longer take place."
Evan said nothing ... not because he didn't agree but because he did, too much. He felt on edge, Teyla's grief pushing his own too close to the surface.
"I am not sure when it would be appropriate," Teyla turned, taking his hand. "Kate wrote a number of letters ... she entrusted them to me and asked that I deliver them in the event of her death."
"It's something most of us do," Evan acknowledged in a low tone.
"There is one for you," Teyla said simply.
Looking down, Lorne saw the envelope she held out to him. For a moment he felt reluctant. Did he really want to read what Kate only felt able to say from the safety of the grave?
"It was important to her," Teyla intoned softly.
Wordlessly, Evan took the letter, nodding.
"I will be here if you wish to talk," Teyla said, squeezing his hand before turning and silently walking away.
Lorne looked at the envelope for a long time, just stood there, eyes on the innocent looking white rectangle with his name written across it in Kate's distinctive style. It wasn't going to go away and it wasn't going to be easier reading it sometime in the future.
Moving to the railing, Evan turned and sat with his back to the sea, knees raised. Quickly opening the envelope he withdrew the single sheet and unfolded it, his eyes catching words here and there as he smoothed it out.
Friend. Regret. Love. Hate.
Taking a deep breath, he started at the beginning.
"Dear Evan," Kate had written.
"I hate to start this in the clichéd manner but if you're reading this then it means I'm dead. I'm sorry for that ... for myself obviously, but for the people I'm leaving behind too. My parents. My sister. My friends.
You've been a wonderful friend Evan. You know how hesitant I was coming to Atlantis for the first time. That whole trip on the Daedalus to get here ... I don't think I could have coped so well without you keeping me company. You didn't know what to expect either but you were just so positive ... so unflappable.
You were my hero then and you still are now. Every difficult situation I've had to face in this city you've been there, handling everything, doing your job like it was just another day. You gave me the strength to do my job too - not just to pretend confidence but to actually feel it, and to give some of that to my patients as well.
I love that about you - how calm and capable you always are. And I hate it too. It was always so hard to read what you were really feeling. Not for day to day things, not for the things you let people see. But for the important things - those you keep so close that no one even knows they're there? I can't tell you how many times I wanted to just grab you and shake you until you told me what you were thinking. I wonder now what you would have done if I had.
I treasured every moment of our friendship ... the time itself, the companionship, and the fact that you let me know you better than most people do.
Did you ever let yourself feel ... more? Did you know how much I felt for you?
If I were counselling myself I would have said 'talk to him, tell him how you feel. Ask him how he feels.' The right words but I couldn't do that to you. Our positions, our respective roles. I knew you'd see it as impossible - inappropriate - one step back from blatant fraternisation. A place you'd never go. And so I kept silent.
I regret that now ... not because it would have changed anything but because you deserve to hear me say the words rather than just read them on an impersonal piece of paper.
I love you Evan ... it kind of crept up on me when I wasn't looking until one day I just knew it to be true. I wish ... too many things to be able to write them down, but you know me well enough to know what some of them would be. I don't know what happens when we die ... I'm not sure what I believe but for one thing. Love is too strong to just disappear. Somewhere my love for you still exists ... and it always will.
I won't ask you not to forget me because I know you'd never do that ... when you're thinking of me, remember that I loved you. And that it was enough.
Yours, ... Kate."
The echo of Kate's voice in his head died away, leaving only numbness and an unnatural silence.
And then his own thoughts rushed in the fill the void – moments together, little things Kate had said to him, her smile, the way her eyes shone when she greeted him ... Oh God.
Eyes misting, breath coming in short bursts, Evan struggled to control himself. Burying his head in his hands, he concentrated on gathering everything back inside, pressing his palms against his eyelids until he saw white.
Kate had loved him, really loved him. How had he not seen that? Was he so focussed on his job, so grimly determined to 'do his duty' that he was blind to everything else?
Major Evan Lorne ... the model career soldier.
God, he hated himself. Right there and then he wished he was anyone other than who he was. Because if he had been Kate would have asked those questions and he would have known. He'd realised as soon as Colonel Sheppard had told him the news that he'd let an opportunity pass him by. He just hadn't realised how much of an opportunity it had been. Now he did and it burned him inside. Fire to melt away the feeling of being encased in ice he’d had since he’d heard the words ‘found dead’. Regret and anger and ineffectual self loathing pounded inside his head – he was never more aware of the truth in the statement ‘you can never escape from yourself’ as he was right then.
He felt uncomfortable in his own skin. Shifting, the sound of crinkling drew his attention. The sheet of paper he'd crumpled into his pocket when Teyla had approached.
Taking it out, he smoothed it against his knee, his eyes tracking words he knew by heart.
Okay, so you're reading this and hopefully not cursing me for being stupid enough to get myself killed. Please let me have died doing something heroic and useful! Anyway, I'm dead and I'm sorry for that but if it was in the line of duty then know that I'm comfortable with it. I knew the risks and I took them with my eyes wide open. Being here, doing what I do - it was everything I ever wanted.
Well ... not everything, but more than I could have dreamed possible for my career.
But you knew all that. What you didn’t know ... and I can’t believe I’m going to write this in a letter you’ll only read when I’m gone ...
What you didn’t know Kate, is that I love you. And no – I don’t mean friendship love, although that was certainly there almost from the beginning. I mean romantic love ... the kind a man feels for a woman he can see being in his life for the long haul.
I always thought there’d be time for us both to end up somewhere I could pursue the possibilities ... somewhere not here in Atlantis.
Obviously, since you’re reading this, that didn’t happen. I regret that ... regret that I didn’t have the chance to show you what could have been between us ... because I’ve always been convinced, since those four weeks on the Daedalus on the way to Atlantis, that we’d have been something pretty damn special.
Anyway, I hope this doesn’t come as a complete shock to you ... and that in some small way it’s welcome, even now when I’m not around to live up to the promise it makes to you.
Your friendship was important to me ... YOU were important to me. Don’t ever forget that.
Yours, ... Evan.”
Leaning his head back against the railing, Evan looked up at the sky. The similarities in their respective letters saddened him because it was just another advertisement of what he’d lost.
Why had he thought he’d be the one to kill that opportunity? That Kate would be the one left behind with an ‘I’m sorry I never told you I loved you’ letter? Why had he thought his feelings were one sided? He’d known Kate ... they’d spent plenty of time together, watching movies, talking about books. He’d done the requisite psych visits too, made easier by the fact that he felt so comfortable with Kate. She’d known him too – better than anyone. Maybe she should have known he’d loved her too.
Maybe she had. He’d never know now ... unless ...
“Teyla,” Evan’s voice was low and urgent as he activated the radio earpiece he’d put on that morning without really thinking and then never taken off.
“Major Lorne?” Teyla’s voice came back immediately.
“Could you ...,” he trailed off, not sure how to ask for what he wanted.
“I will be there in a few minutes,” Teyla promised softly, as though she’d already known he’d call her.
“Thanks.” Evan stayed where he was, the sounds of the sea behind him and the sun on his face. He closed his eyes, trying to clear his mind.
“Major,” Teyla’s voice drew him abruptly back to the present.
“Teyla,” getting to his feet he moved towards her.
“How can I help?” she asked him, taking the hand he held out to her.
“I ah ...,” he swallowed and then started again. “Did you know what was in Kate’s letter?”
“Not specifically,” Teyla replied. “But I have a fair idea of what she would most have wanted to share with you.”
“She told you then?” Evan glanced at Teyla, watching as she nodded slowly. “Why would she do that Teyla?" he asked, moving to lean over the railing, looking down to the sea churning below. "Tell you but not me?”
“Because she knew you Evan,” Teyla said softly, putting a hand on the arm he had resting on the balcony. “If you had known of her feelings what would you have done?”
“I don’t know,” Evan replied, thinking. “Tried to work out a way for us to be together I guess ... maybe a transfer to the Daedalus or back to Earth.”
“Yes,” Teyla nodded. “She believed that your place was here ... for the time being. Both for your career and for what you bring to our battle against the Wraith and the Replicators. She wanted nothing to jeopardise that.”
“Yeah, well it would have been nice to be consulted instead of having that decision made for me,” Evan shot back, knowing his anger was irrational.
“Kate knew her feelings ... and she knew yours,” Teyla offered. "She was content."
“She knew I ...,” even then he couldn’t bring himself to say it aloud.
“I believe she knew you loved her, yes,” Teyla smiled fondly, if a little sadly. “Like you, Kate was also ... fearful of risking so much of herself to an uncertain future. She thought there’d be time ... she was content for things to remain unchanged.” Teyla smiled again. “It amused her that you were so oblivious to her true feelings. I believe she said something about needing to hit you over the head with a very large object to get your attention.”
“That sounds like her,” Evan agreed, smiling faintly.
“I am sorry Evan,” Teyla’s voice was gentle. “I feel a great sadness,” she added, doing nothing to hide her tears.
“Me too,” he ground out.
And then Teyla did something rare for her. She hugged him, putting her arms around him and resting her head on his shoulder. Evan hesitated for a moment before hugging her back, knowing she was comforting him as much as he was comforting her.
Should he feel better knowing that Kate at least had understood the true feelings of both of them? Would that help him put aside the questions that would now remain unanswered?
Maybe ... right then he just didn’t know.
Stepping back, Teyla wiped away her tears. “We will have a memorial service,” she stated firmly. “A party to celebrate Kate’s life ... you will speak for her, as her closest friend?”
“I’ll try,” Evan replied. “Thank you Teyla.”
“You have nothing to thank me for Major,” Teyla returned. “Kate would have expected me to look after you.”
Nodding, he watched her leave, before turning back to his contemplation of the ocean surrounding them.
Taking out Kate’s letter again, he read it, this time smiling at her declaration of love. And then he carefully folded that single sheet of paper and put it into his pocket, next to his letter to her.
It wasn’t much but it was a beginning ... a start to accepting the ending of something that had never been as much as it could have been.