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And I Know It's True

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John wasn’t equipped to talk about feelings. He could barely talk about his own. He wasn’t sure how the hell he was supposed to talk about someone else’s, but multiple people had come to him about the same issue, and now he felt professionally obligated to address it.

So late one night, he knocked on Lorne’s door.

The door hissed open without John initiating the lock. He’d forgotten that for all he was Atlantis’s favorite, other natural gene carriers were by no means weak.

Opera music spilled into the hallway.

John had been forced into a tuxedo and dragged off to enough cultural events both as a child and during his marriage to Nancy that he recognized that the singer was a tenor and the song was Nessun Dorma, but he couldn’t identify the singer, and he was okay with that. He stepped into Lorne’s quarters and found Lorne propped up on his bed, barefoot in a USAF t-shirt and sweats. Lorne had his shoebox of personal effects open beside him. He was reading a letter.

Lorne looked up, saw who it was. “Sir!” He sat up straighter, started to rise.

John shook his head. “You’re off duty. I’m off duty. Tomorrow’s your designated Sunday, right?”

Lorne nodded, eased back down onto his bed. He refolded the letter and set it back in the box atop another stack of letters. A tilt of his head, and the music either paused or was set on mute.

“I didn’t know you liked opera,” John said.

“Not usually my thing, but a friend recommended I try it,” Lorne said.

John nodded. “I went to the opera sometimes, growing up. Who’s the singer?”

“My friend, actually.” Lorne smiled fondly, and suddenly John understood.

Well, damn.

Teyla, Teldy, Ronon, hell, even Rodney had insisted that something was wrong with Lorne when he came back from leave. Best as John could tell, no one in Lorne’s family had died while he’d been on leave, otherwise his leave would have been extended to include some compassionate leave. John hadn’t noticed any difference in Lorne’s job performance - he got things done, his team did well offworld - but the others had insisted that something was amiss and John, as Lorne’s CO, ought to talk to the man, make sure everything was five by five.

John was pretty sure that sort of thing was the purview of the base psych, but when all four of them had descended on him at dinner and insisted he do something about it, Lorne didn’t look right, well, what could it hurt? A little buddy talk, maybe some beer (but not on the pier, that was John and Rodney’s spot), and things would be all right.

“Your friend’s pretty good. I know enough, from having been subjected to opera.”

“I hadn’t expected it, actually. I mean, I knew he liked opera, but I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and I can’t hold a note to save my life.” Lorne reached out and slipped the cover back on his box of personal effects. The gesture seemed innocuous enough, like he was getting ready to put everything away for bed, but John knew better. “What can I do for you, sir?”

“I was just swinging by to make sure things with you were all right.”

Lorne raised his eyebrows. “All right?” In his year and a half of serving as John’s 2IC, they’d never had a conversation that came anywhere close to this, not even after the time Lorne was kidnapped by the Genii.

“Yeah,” John said. “Some of the others - I - noticed you seem a bit...off. I know it’s rough, getting back into the swing of things after going on leave, but I wanted to be sure it wasn’t something else. I mean, if it was something big, I’d say go see Heightmeyer, obviously.”

John didn't much like psychology or psychiatry, but he trusted Heightmeyer. Heightmeyer had been with Atlantis since the beginning.

Lorne stared down at his hands for a long time. Then he looked up at John. “You were married once, weren’t you, sir?”

John grimaced. “Once. Not well.”

“But you felt deeply enough to take that step, once upon a time.”

“In a galaxy far, far away.”

“Was it hard, shipping out? Leaving her behind?”

“Yeah. It was. For both of us. Too hard for her, in the end.” John took a deep breath. He’d never even talked to Rodney about Nancy this much. “She gave up. And I couldn’t blame her. I can’t imagine trying to sustain a relationship with someone now, someone who didn’t know what we do or at least understand how classified operations work.”

“I wonder if it would be worse, for someone who knows about this war,” Lorne said. “Someone who knows the danger, who knows the likelihood of us coming home in a box, or not at all, just a letter and a medal on the doorstep.”

“At least they’d know what you were fighting for,” John offered.

Lorne stared down at his hands for a long time. “There is that,” he said finally. He sighed, smiled wryly. “I promise I’m fine, sir. You’re right. It is an adjustment, after two weeks on Earth and then all that time cooped up on the Daedalus.”

“If you’re sure,” John said.

Lorne smiled again, more brightly this time, and that lovely tenor voice crescendoed out of the background. “I’m sure.”

“All right. Good night, Major.”

“Good night, sir.”

John turned and headed for the door. He heard the singer hit that one note, the one that had taken his breath away the first time he’d heard it, awed by the sheer skill, and once again his breath caught in his chest. Then Lorne’s door hissed shut behind him, and he headed for his quarters, where Rodney would be waiting to hear how it all went.

John thought of the letter he’d glimpsed, the schoolteacher perfect cursive, and of the voice he’d heard, and wondered who at the SGC was a trained opera singer. He’d never ask, though, so Lorne would never have to tell.