A/N: Well, this Lorne/Keller story has taken me forever to write. Story is really just an alternative look at how Jennifer Keller might have ended up in Atlantis and how she met this particular flyboy. Pure and utter fluff.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to ShaViva for doing the beta work on this. I think I wrote this one as much for you as me this time.
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Stargate Atlantis or Stargate SG-1 and their wonderful characters.
Spoilers: Everything up to and including Season 4 Episode 2 – Lifeline
This story starts during Season 3 Episode 10 – The Return (part 1)
1 - Strangers
Jennifer Keller swiped her hotel key card off the counter before grabbing the handle of her suitcase and heading toward the elevators. As she looked around the lobby of the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, she was again overwhelmed by all the activity, grateful to reach the elevator quickly.
A man joined her before the doors closed and the two of them were swiftly lifted up. Jenn took in his casual attire and duffel bag. Her mind automatically registered a quick wouldn't be so bad in her head and she smiled quietly to herself.
Jennifer's head whipped up and her eyes met the stranger's for a moment. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that out loud." She quickly covered her mouth before she could fumble through more explanations or apologies. She watched the man's face soften with a smile until dimples began to show and she looked away.
Jennifer was sure her embarrassment was coloring her face and she quickly busied herself with the airline tag on the handle of her bag. It was stupid really, but upon elevator doors closing, her mind always went to the thought of what if the elevator got stuck? And of course the next thought was always, who would I be stuck with?
Jenn snuck another peek at her elevator companion and confirmed that it wouldn't be terrible to be stuck with this particular stranger. He seemed nice enough and he'd let her off the hook with a smile… a slightly knee melting smile, but a smile none the less.
Jennifer mentally shook herself and was grateful to see that her floor had finally arrived before her mind ended up completely in the gutter, all over a man who'd uttered two words and a smile.
As she began down the hall toward her room she realized that the man had exited the elevator as well and was following her. She tried not to pick up her pace as she moved along, listening intently behind her. She slowed slightly as she got closer to her room, hoping he'd enter his room first. It was irrational, but she didn't want him to see which room was hers. All of her co-workers had been adamant and exuberant with their safety advise before she'd come on this trip. Personally she thought they all watched too much CSI for their own good and obviously not all visitors to Vegas ended up dead.
Jenn peeked over her shoulder and noted the stranger stopping in front of a room a couple doors back. He gave her quick smile and salute type wave before entering his room. She mentally smacked herself in the back of the head for being such a worry wart and promised herself she'd find a way to thank the girls for planting ideas in her head that now had her slightly paranoid.
The room was beautiful, a step above any hotel room Jenn'd ever been in before. She quickly moved across the room and looked out the window, mesmerized by all the lights far below, as well as the even brighter lights of the Las Vegas Strip just a few blocks away. She hadn't wanted to come on this trip, but it was definitely a site to behold.
After puttering for a few minutes in the room and freshening up a bit from the flight, Jennifer looked through the information binder in the room, deciding since everything would be expensed for this trip, that maybe the steakhouse in the hotel would be a good dinner choice for this first night.
Only needing to seek directions once while weaving through the casino, Jennifer was greeted by the steakhouse's hostess immediately upon entering.
"How many in your party?"
"Just one," Jennifer responded with a moment of awkwardness, wondering if she should've just settled for room service.
"Would you like to eat in the bar, or at a table?"
The woman seemed so helpful that Jenn tried to tell herself that it was probably not odd for people to eat alone in Vegas. "A table would be nice."
The woman, whose name tag read Linda, gave her a smile, "Someone will seat you shortly." Linda then looked over Jennifer's shoulder, "And you sir? How many will be in your party."
"Just the one," said a voice she recognized as the dimpled stranger from the elevator.
Jennifer slowly turned and acknowledged his presence with a small smile.
"Unless of course you'd care to join me so neither of us have to dine alone?"
His smile was so sincere, and his eyes crinkled at the corners. Jennifer hesitated only to have Linda the hostess tap her on the shoulder. Jennifer turned back to the hostess in time to see her wink at Evan before addressing her.
"Sweetie, there are like a dozen cameras on you at all times while you eat. Safest blind date you'll ever be on, trust me."
"But this isn't a date," Jennifer choked out, her face heating and her desire to never turn around and face the man behind her strong enough to root her to the spot.
The waitress that would escort them to their table arrived at that precise moment, "Two?"
"Just dinner and I promise to be on my best behavior," came the light teasing voice from behind her.
Jennifer could think of no reason to say no other than the complete embarrassment she felt right now. She promised herself then and there to have room service for each and every one of her remaining meals. Still without turning around Jennifer nodded her head at the waitress.
"Right this way," the new woman, whose name tag read Amy, called as she turned and began to walk into the main part of the restaurant. She seated them at a booth and recited the specials before taking their drink orders.
There was a long stretch of silence and Jennifer tried to look engrossed in the menu, when in reality not one word was registering.
"I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable… it wasn't my intention."
Jenn looked up at his worried face, the space between his eyebrows furrowed, and tried to give him a reassuring smile.
"It's okay." Her mind searched for something else to say, "Umm, my name is Jennifer Keller."
His grin was contagious as his hand reached across the table gesturing for a hand shake. "Evan Lorne. Nice to meet you."
"So… are you stalking me, Evan?" Jennifer asked, beginning to think that having the chance to eat, talk and even look at this man for the next hour wasn't going to be so bad.
"It does seem that way doesn't it?"
Evan knew his offer of a shared meal was impulsive and out of character, but he couldn't make himself feel any regret over it. Their steaks had arrived and they were halfway done eating and the conversation hadn't waned yet. It was all impersonal so far, with just a hint of teasing and flirting thrown in.
He was usually the predictable, stable, man-with-a-plan, both in his personal and professional life. Lately though he'd been very spontaneous, giving in to impulses, and he didn't need a base shrink to help him find the reason for his changed behavior. As much as he'd probably deny it if asked, getting kicked out of the City of Atlantis had left Evan reeling.
Major Lorne had been able to keep to himself how deeply having the Ancients send them packing had affected him. Like Rodney though, he internally wished the Daedalus and Sheppard's team hadn't rescued the Ancients from their slow trip to Earth. While testing McKay's intergalactic gate bridge, the Ancient ship had passed them at a screaming pace and in hindsight Evan wished they hadn't hailed them and set the expedition's eventual move back to Earth in motion.
Evan thought of Atlantis as home and the thought of leaving hadn't entered his mind. Even with family on Earth, his heart had quickly been taken by the City as well as the people in the Pegasus and the members of the expedition. Now looking back he wished he'd made more time for personal things such as his team and friends as well as the painting he'd always thought he'd find time to do one day. He missed his team and working under Sheppard as his CO.
After two weeks of debriefing and being reassigned to Peterson, Evan put in for leave time. No thinking through what he'd do on his leave or where he'd go, he just filled out the paperwork and was actually shocked when he'd gotten the paperwork back approved. He'd spent the first week at his mom's in San Francisco, much to her delight, before coming to Vegas for the second week.
Looking across the table now at the beautiful woman sharing dinner with him, Evan had a hard time thinking of his spur-of-the-moment offer of dinner as rash, reckless or out-of-character, but rather as an opportunity he was glad he hadn't passed up.
"So, Jennifer," Lorne started after a slight lull in the conversation, "what's brought you to Las Vegas? Work or Vacation?"
The woman smiled slightly before meeting his gaze, "Work actually. There's a medical conference here this week. Starts in the morning in fact."
"That doesn't sound like fun," Lorne chuckled, finishing up his last bite of food and leaning back in the booth, in no hurry for the meal to be over.
"No, I don't think it does either. I expect a lot of boring lectures, too much alcohol consumed each night and being hit on by married doctors… but the food will be good." She said the last part with a lilt in her voice, so he concentrated on that rather than the irritation he felt at the thought of drunk, married doctors hitting on her.
"Bad cook?" he teased, enjoying the spark it brought to her eyes.
"Well, since it's just me at home, I don't tend to cook much - at least nothing fancy." Lorne watched her tilt her head slightly to the side and narrow her eyes minutely, "How about you?"
"How 'bout me… are you asking if I'm unattached," he asked, enjoying the slight flush to her cheeks, but finishing his sentence before she could stammer through an explanation, "or whether I can cook?" He liked the idea that she wanted to know the first part.
Evan watched her straighten her back just a bit, "Are you single and can you cook?" Her eyes held a note of challenge and mischief, "Of course if the answer is yes to both I'll have to wonder what is actually wrong with you. Maybe I should be grateful for the dozen cameras on us at all times while we eat."
Evan couldn't hold in his laughter, "I am unattached, but I can't cook. Went straight from my mom's cookin' to the mess hall, haven't needed to learn."
"United States Air Force," Lorne answered watching her face closely for any uncensored reaction he might detect. He was relieved to see a smirk appear, although upon a quick second thought he wasn't sure if that was a good sign really.
"So a flyboy?" Her eyes narrowed again, "Is it true, what they say about a girl in every port?"
"That's Navy," he answered with exaggerated disdain. "We are much more honorable."
"Good to know." She said it with a slight eyebrow lift as if she was cataloging the information. "So what brings you to Las Vegas?"
"A buddy threw out a half-hearted invitation to visit sometime-surprised him by taking him up on it. We used to fly together here at Nellis AFB. Another buddy found out I was coming to town," Evan shook his head, still feeling hood-winked, "made me promise to come to his wedding at the end of the week."
He saw her smirk before looking at him aghast, "That's terrible, having to go to a friend's wedding."
"Hey," he attempted to defend himself, "all those flowers and lace… and white," he shuddered, "a little unnerving for a guy. At least there wasn't enough time for him to put me in the wedding."
"Dodged a bullet there," she replied with a roll of her eyes as she reached for her glass of water.
Evan was having an enjoyable time talking with Jennifer and was happy to see that she'd also gotten more comfortable on her side of the booth once she'd finished eating.
"So I know you said you're here for the medical convention. What do you do in the medical field?"
"I'd make you guess, but it irritates me that the first guess is always pharmaceutical sales. Of course that guess is usually by older doctors who are hoping I'll be in awe of their title." Jennifer looked a little flustered by her rant, "Sorry." Her face flushed as she continued, "I'm a doctor at the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota."
"Stop right there," Evan interjected, leaning forward. "What kind of doctor? Keep in mind that if you say kids doctor I'll have to propose to you. My mother would disown me if she ever found out I met a beautiful pediatrician and didn't propose immediately."
"It looks like we're both safe," she answered, her blushing as endearing as it was red, but she seemed to get it quickly under control. "Not a pediatrician, surgeon actually as well as researcher in my spare time."
"More like curious." He watched her shrug away his admiration. "Actually that's why I'm here. Research requires funding, funding requires donors, and donors want to be wowed. I'm supposed to rub elbows, be available and I have a presentation or lecture, depending on how you look at it, to give on Thursday."
"So a busy week."
"Well, on Thursday for sure, but the rest of the week I only signed up for a few of the lectures. Most are going to be boring and falling asleep during one doesn't impress the donors."
"I suppose you're right, but it is always entertaining to watch someone fall asleep," he chuckled, finding her sense of humor enjoyable. Actually, there wasn't much about this woman he didn't find enjoyable.
They stepped into the elevator, Evan insisting on walking her back to their rooms. As the doors slid closed Jennifer's glance slid over to where he stood out of habit. She blushed as she looked away; a girl could only hope to be stuck in an elevator with Evan Lorne. She glanced in his direction again and found him watching her, causing her to wonder at his thoughts, both acknowledging the other with a smile.
They started down the hall, both silent until they got close to Lorne's room.
Jennifer slowed in front of his door, "Thank you for keeping me company." She smiled at him sheepishly. "Kind of monopolized your evening in fact."
"Enjoyed every minute of it ma'am," Evan drawled, and he had. They'd talked for several hours. Their waitress, Amy, asking them in a teasing voice whether they were planning to stay through to the next meal being what had finally propelled them from the steakhouse.
Jennifer blushed slightly at his flirty response, "Me too." Jennifer gave him one last small smile before turning and beginning to walk toward her room, "Goodnight," she threw over her shoulder.
"Sweet dreams, Jennifer," he called after her, watching until she'd entered her room and closed the door before entering his own.