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Redefining 'Long Distance'

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--

So he was a bit put out that the gene therapy hadn’t taken enough for him to pilot a Jumper. As it was, Cameron could only really make the lights flicker. John, leaning against one of McKay’s desks, tossed a few things his way (including what looked like a flashing Ancient bouncy-ball) but he couldn’t do much with any of it.

“Yes, well, it’s not for everyone, is it? It takes a certain-“

“Rodney,” John muttered. Cam wished he could master that tone to use on Jackson. It instantly caused McKay to break off, sending John a betrayed glare.

Cam grinned, handing the bouncy-ball back. “I guess I just have to put up with your flying to see the Jumper in action.”

“I can always leave you on the ground, Shaft,” John crossed his arms and kicked himself upright. It was a smooth move that Cam had seen John use for years. “Watch what you say.”

“You can’t resist the urge to show off. C’mon, time’s a-wastin’,” Cam let loose with a bit more drawl than usual, which had often worked over their many years of friendship to make John do exactly what he wanted; pay for an extra round at the bar, take his spare room while Earth-side, prank his Academy room-mate with him. Cam had always hoped he’d get to try it out in a more private, pleasurable setting, but he was beginning to face the fact that the opportunity may never arise now. At the very least, it would give more meaning to the term ‘long-distance relationship’.

“Alright,” and John was already heading for the door. As Cam followed, John threw back a, “Later Rodney.” Cam couldn’t see McKay’s face, but oh, wished he could.

Cam walked side-by-side with John through the hallways of Atlantis as they headed for the Jumper bay. He would have to be blind not to see the way the Lantean contingent respected and loved John. Nigh-on everyone at least nodded at him, most said a ‘hello’ and a few tried to stop and chat. John couldn’t be side-tracked though, and made his apologies. The only person that got more than a couple of sentences was Sam, and that was to get permission to take out a Jumper in the first place.

“Colonel Carter,” John touched his radio. He could hear Sam on the other end from here, muffled. Cam really wished the radios would have worked in the SGC – they were far more convenient than the telephones.

“Yes?”

“I’ve got a Lieutenant Colonel here, whining about seeing some flashy space toys before he leaves with the data-burst. Mind if I take Jumper One for a spin?”

Sam was laughing. It warmed Cam’s heart to hear it. “Are you sure? A slap works as well as anything to shut him up.”

“I’m not going to listen to his whining if the slap messes up that pretty face of his – and I do have to test out One’s inertial dampeners after last week,” John grinned at Cam.

He’d already heard about the epic run in between Jumper One, John’s baby for all intents and purposes, and a hurricane. Normally that would have posed no trouble, except the Wraith lurking behind a local moon had knocked out the shields and the hurricane had picked up a vicious plough from the planet’s farming settlement, the very one the Lanteans had been visiting. The tale of the Jumper killed by farm equipment had spread through Atlantis with startling speed. A trip out with Cam would just be a fortuitous opportunity to test McKay’s repairs, and Cam knew it. Still, he pretended to look affronted at the threat to his very pretty face (which had not-long healed from the run in with Marrick the Bastard Super-ReplicatorTM) even as Sam gave the expected, “Well, if it shuts him up, yes. But don’t go too far and stay cloaked outside of the atmostphere.”

“Will do. Sheppard out.” Another tap and Sam was gone.

“Good. Now, show me your moves, flyboy.” And if Cam wanted to hear some innuendo back, he never got it. It didn’t stop him imagining, later, John detailing just what he and his ‘moves’ could do.

--

Sam was smiling wider when he was leaving than when he’d arrived, so Cam called the weekend mission a success. Of course, ‘mission’ was a loose term, as it was essentially vacation, but reports would state that he’d been briefing Sam on new security procedures for Midway. Landry looked harassed and all-too-eager for Cam to return, so Vala and Daniel must have been running him ragged. Even Walter looked pleased to see him, even though it would be another twenty-four hours until he was Earth-side. “See you when I see you,” he told Sam with a hug, threw John a little salute and clapped Lorne on the arm as he left the control tower. He took his bag from an SF, gave another, final wave to the staff in the control room, and stepped through the gate.

He did his mandatory 24 hour quarantine on Midway, with a book and a long nap, and then he was headed through to Earth.

He made it to the end of the ramp before the searing pain in his skull began. He almost stumbled, but managed to hand his luggage off to another SF and head to the door which would take him towards the infirmary, as was procedure.

It seemed like his brain was trying to force itself out of his ears.

He felt, more than heard or saw, the gate disengage behind him. A nurse appeared, and then he was being manhandled onto a stretcher

...and then everything dissolved away.

--

Cam came to in a room that was more earthy than concrete, and he wondered if he’d even left Atlantis at all. Then the knifed marching band stuck up behind his eyes, and he remembered with a groan.

“Ah, he’s alive,” he could hear the grin in Sam’s voice.

“How’d I get back here,” he asked, his eyes screwed tightly shut and blood rushing past his ears.

He felt Sam’s hand cover his. “You collapsed, and they dialled us back to be sure it wasn’t a contagion they’d missed on Midway. When they heard someone on this end had collapsed, they sent you through. You were Earth-side for all of ten minutes and skipped the outbound quarantine, you lucky devil.”

Cam coughed out, “Who?” He tried to open his eyes to see the Lantean infirmary, and it took a few blinks to bring Sam into focus. He glanced around and spotted him. “Sheppard,” he rolled his eyes. Of course it would be. Keller was checking his vitals, waving a hand at Sam to indicate she’d be right over.

“He was fine for about a day, complained he was tired and had a headache, and then this morning he passed out during a mission briefing.”

“Same time I reached Earth,” Cam concluded. “Anyone else affected?”

Keller was shaking her head as she reached his side. “It’s just you and Colonel Sheppard. Can you tell me how you felt after you left Atlantis?”

Cam shrugged in his prone position. He wasn’t going to tell Keller that it kinda sucked to be leaving the woman who’d easily be his closest friend in this world for an indeterminate period in another galaxy, as well as the distinctly-manly guy he’d been crushing on for years. Not with said guy and gal in the room. And not with half of that being pretty illegal. “I did the quarantine. I suppose I slept more than I expected to, almost a full twelve hours of it.”

“Headaches?” Keller asked.

“Nothing I thought was unusual, and the doc on Midway let me through, so I figured I was safe. I’m starting to feel better, actually.”

Keller nodded. “Well we took brain scans earlier, and you are both showing some slightly increased activity but what that’s translating to, we don’t know.”

“Ooh, brain surprise. It’s been a while since that was on the menu,” he relaxed against the pillows. “How long do you want to observe me?”

“I think we should take it day by day. Now you’re both awake – or in the Colonel’s case, napping – we’ll keep an eye out and see what happens with this unusual brain activity,” she turned to Sam. “I think they’re okay to be released from the infirmary, but I don’t want them on duty or going anywhere near the gate.”

“I’ll tell Major Lorne it’s his lucky day,” Sam nodded. “More time to do their paperwork, and the promise of no inevitable rescue mission? He’ll be over the moon. I guess you get to stick around a little longer, Cam.”

“All part of the master plan,” he said.

--

He was dozing, and clearly felt the screwed-up ball of paper when it hit his face. Cam didn’t even open his eyes: “Bored, Shep?”

“Target practice. You never know when you’re going to be stranded on a planet armed only with paperwork.” John was eyeing him carefully.

“I think you’ll find,” Cam said as he opened his eyes and sat up to face John on the other side of the infirmary, “that you just described Earth.”

“Even on Earth I get a P90,” John corrected, and Cam noticed he looked a little too relaxed. Clearly the six-week exile the year before was still a touchy subject. “So what the hell did you do this time, Shaft?”

“Nothing, I swear!”

“A likely story,” bitched McKay, who Cam finally noticed sitting on a bed to the right of John’s. Cam gave a very expressive eye-roll, and John grinned back. “Who knows what you managed to touch while you were trying out your shiny new gene.”

Cam shook his head. “Two words, McKay: personal shield.”

John honest-to-God snorted, “Took the words right out of my mouth,” and McKay threw him a betrayed glare. Cam decided it was undoubtedly his favourite of McKay’s expressions. John was slouching in the bed, and Cam thought this moment couldn’t get any better. Cam had always been partial to John’s slouch.

“And who fainted this time, hm?”

“Oh, give over, Rodney,” and John was the one rolling his eyes this time with a laugh, but he barely looked away from Cam. “How about you see what was in that box of tricks we were playing with the other day?”

McKay slid off the bed. “Like I don’t have enough to do?”

“Surely you want me to leave sometime, McKay?” Cam linked his hands behind his head and leaned back, every inch the relaxed soon-to-be-promoted Lieutenant Colonel. “I can’t do that unless we’re sure I won’t pass out again Earth-side.”

“They’d just send you right back,” agreed John, his smile wide.

“And I just know how much you’d hate that.” Baiting a jealous McKay may be Cam’s new favourite sport.

“He’d be insufferable,” John was all but outright laughing as the cogs turned in McKay’s head.

“You’re as bad as each other,” McKay griped as he stormed off.

John’s eyes followed McKay out, and then turned back to Cam. “But in all seriousness, you must have turned something on.”

“Okay, so I’m not touching that statement with a staff weapon,” Cam could swear John blushed, but a USAF Lieutenant Colonel had heard worse than some causal innuendo, not least from Cam himself over the years, “And you were the one tossing things my way, with your super-gene, so it’s more likely that you activated something.”

“Well whatever it is,” John said, slipping out of bed in red scrubs, “Rodney will find it. Until then... football?”

--

After Keller gave them both another scan (functional MRIs before bed-time; oh, those heady days had returned once more), Cam made his way back to the guest quarters he’d been using over his weekend stay. Someone had chucked his luggage through the gate after him, it seemed, and so he found his toothbrush and washed up for the night.

As Cam lay in bed, he pondered. McKay had searched through the so-called ‘box of tricks’ and found nothing obvious, and so Sam had him scanning them for the not-so-obvious.

Clearly, one of them was not just a pretty trinket that shines.

Not least because Cam could swear backwards that he’d known what John had been thinking all day.

Sure, Cam was willing to admit to his own mind that he often paid close attention to what John Sheppard was doing, or saying, or breathing. And that with years of familiarity came some fundamental understanding of someone. But this was just more. He knew to bring up McKay’s incident with the personal force-field from three years ago, even though it had been two years since he’d seen that report, and Cam had been more hung up on ‘holy shit, John ended up in Pegasus’ and ‘evil, energy-sucking Ascension monster’, than McKay’s personal growth and Hail Mary for the expedition.

John had joked that Cam had stolen his very words. Cam was entertaining the possibility that he had stolen John’s very thoughts.

It had been little things like that since he’d woken up to paper in the face. He knew John had the Air Force v. Navy football game without asking, or having been told; he knew John could feel the difference between the new planet and the old Lantea, and that Atlantis and John were closer than anyone knew.

So maybe this isn’t something he should tell Keller without something more concrete. After all, if Cam were wrong, how would he justify knowing John so very well? That was an awkward (and illegal) ‘telling’ waiting to happen.

Everything Cam had sensed during the day, it was all circumstantial and not-a-little obsessive on Cam’s part.

Cam decided to sleep on it.

--

Morning brought more confusion, and another fMRI. By lunch time, Cam was certain.

…Mostly because John cornered him.

Actually, they were walking down a hall towards the commissary, and John shoved him though a door Cam hadn’t even seen (he was in a disused storage room? A closet? Really?) and growled, “Would you stop thinking about macaroons, you’re making me crave coconut. I don’t even like coconut!”

“You... what?”

John ran a hand through his hair. “Yes, whatever you… we… touched... I can hear some of what you’re thinking and you’ve been thinking of your Momma’s macaroons all morning.”

That’s not all I’ve been thinking about,’ Cam thought, guiltily and a little on purpose. He had been thinking of his Momma’s macaroons all morning, hoping it would mask the thoughts he’d rather not have overheard. Just in case.

“Well, that’s all I’ve been able to hear,” John said, terse. “And you?”

“Me what?”

He huffed and Cam realised that John was really, very pissed off. “What have you been able to hear?”

It took a lot to piss John off, to get him truly angry. Cam had a (carefully concealed below macaroon-goodness) dawning realisation: John was scared. Terrified, even. So Cam told the truth: “Nothing as concrete. I knew you had that copy of the football game. I knew to mention that personal shield yesterday and I hadn’t paid that much attention to the report the one and only time I read it,” with every word John was relaxing a little more, imperceptibly letting the fear and anger slip away, “I know you miss Doctor Weir, but you’re happy to have Sam here, and I appreciate that.”

Cam didn’t miss the glance John threw him, slumped against the opposite wall, but said nothing. When John eventually nodded, Cam relaxed.

“So that’s the higher brain function Keller’s seeing?”

“Looks like,” John turned his slump into his usual sexy slouch.

’Macaroons,’ Cam thought furiously, grasping for the sensible questions. “Do you think it’s stronger on your end because you have a stronger gene?”

He was aware that John was puzzling over something. He hoped it was the question, and not the resurgence of the macaroon-obsession. “Yeah,” John drawled, slow and smooth. ’Fucking macaroons!’

“I suppose we ought to go tell Keller,” Cam suggested.

“Well,” John cocked his head, and Cam felt something bubble through him. It was light, and fun, and exceptionally mischievous. “She’ll only poke and prod and scan, and make us think at each other for hours…”

Cam groaned. “You’re really enjoying this aren’t you.”

The answering grin was wicked as John left the storage room (‘Closet!’ Cam’s brain shouted, then, ’MACAROONS!’.).

“I want to know what’s under those macaroons.”

--

Cam didn’t catch up with John, not being able to find him in the commissary, and instead took lunch with Sam and Keller. It was a good distraction, and even though he must have lied to Keller a dozen separate times about his health, he found he couldn’t quite dredge up any guilt over it.

Especially not when, only twenty minutes after parting ways with one Lieutenant Colonel Drawl-and-Slouch, he heard a thought that wasn’t his: loud, clear and dripping with trouble.

’How does one make a macaroon, Cam?’

Cam knew he had two options: ignore, or play. After Fergueson and the crash, Cam wasn’t into high-stakes risk in the same way anymore (because no-one could deny gate travel was a different kind of risk on an unparalleled scale) but ignoring John would be neither fun, nor advisable. He’d surely regret it.

Getting burned it was, then. ’With an oven and my grandma’s closely-guarded recipe.’

’I guess you won’t be making any for yourself, then?’

’Guess not…’ Non-committal, Cam wasn’t paying any attention to Keller or Sam.

’Shame that, what with you clearly craving them so badly.’ John sounded devious, and it was clear John knew Cam wasn’t craving macaroons at all.

Even knowing he’d been rumbled, and his epic macaroon defence was now next-to-useless, he couldn’t quite bring himself to abandon the pretence. Better to pretend to be craving macaroons than admit he was craving Sheppard (because although it seemed as though John was flirting, it wasn’t worth coming right out and saying it, as it were).

He wasn’t sure where this was leading but John was confident and mischievous – John at his best – and Cam wanted more of it. He’d have to be a little careful…

Some risks were worth it.

With as deadpan a thought-voice as he could manage, he replied, ’I’m good at delayed gratification.’ Cam swore he could hear John’s shocked splutter, even though the man was certainly nowhere in the vicinity.

“Cam?” He looked up to find two of the four scariest women in two galaxies (Vala and Carolyn Lam thankfully not present) staring at him slyly. They shared a look before Sam turned back to him. “What’s got you so amused?”

Cam realised he was smirking, and grinned. “Planning my next move.” Oh, he was going to have so much fun with John. He picked up his tray and stood. “I’ll see you both later.”

He wasn’t sure where he was headed – he didn’t exactly have a job to do here, while he waited for Keller to give up or this psychic thing to wear off – and eventually decided to see who was sparring. From what he’d seen of Atlantis, there was always someone sparring in the gym, and he quite fancied a work out while he puzzled over John Sheppard.

This was where he found Lorne, trading blows with Teyla.

If there ever was an antithesis of Vala, it was Teyla Emmagan. It was strangely comforting, like proof of some great cosmic balance. Cam was a little bit in love, he had to admit.

Teyla took Lorne out with a few well placed blows, and while the Major caught his breath, collapsed out on the floor, she gave Cam a serene smile.

“Colonel, how are you feeling?”

“I’m feeling very well, thank you. And yourself?”

“I am well. Are you looking for John?”

Lorne waved a hand in the air, but as he hadn’t lifted his head, all Cam and Teyla heard was a muffled whine, punctuated by groans. “You wanna try that again, Lorne?”

His head lifted, and he set a baleful glare on Cam. “I said, sir, that the Colonel is hiding out in his office, not doing his paperwork and was last seen cackling over a game of Solitaire. Whatever you’re doing this time,” he added, “I want no part of it.”

“Noted,” Cam grinned. “You weren’t invited anyway. But if I were to ask where he’d be for the rest of the afternoon, you would tell me…?”

“John usually spends a few hours playing video games in Rodney’s lab this time every week,” Teyla offered, her eyes sparkling. “He’s most likely on his way there now.”

“Excellent,” Cam resisted rubbing his hands together deviously, “If the Major here is finished, would you have time to show me some moves?” The benefit of not being on duty was that he got to dress in spar-ready t-shirts and sweats.

Lorne finally rolled onto his back, gave a pained groan and slowly pulled himself upright. “Yeah, I’m done for today.”

“Need a hand there?”

“Honestly, sir?” Lorne turned to Cam, with a sheepish look at Teyla. “I could use a hand.”

Teyla gave a bright laugh as Cam hauled a sluggish Lorne to his feet, and he recovered his discarded bantos rods from the floor. As the Major shuffled away with an impending sense of dread at whatever it was his CO and Mitchell, two men he’d known for a good few years now, had brewing, Teyla took up a fighting stance.

Cam mirrored her, and they began to circle each other.

“You have known John a long time?” Teyla asked, as she tested his reflexes with a simple lunge.

He deflected easily. “About seventeen years, give or take. We were at the Air Force Academy together, did some flight training together and passed each other in bases around the world a few times over the years.”

The clacking of bantos rods meeting filled the room. It was comforting, and a slight peace settled over Cam as he lost himself in the movements. “And Major Lorne?”

“We met four or five years ago when we were both briefed about the Stargate Programme. We both tested in F302s, then he went into the SGC and I headed up the Snakeskinners.”

“Snakeskinners?” Teyla’s tone was mild, but one of her rods hit home at the back of his leg and he fought to stay upright. He managed to block her blow to his back, which would have seen him sprawled out, not unlike Lorne only ten minutes before, on his front; he and Teyla began to circle once again.

“My F302 squadron. In the Stargate Programme, ‘snake’ was slang for a Goa’uld symbiote. Snakeskinners.”

“I see,” Teyla remarked, narrowly dodging a blow to her hip, and catching Cam in the arm, preventing his next move. They were both starting to lose their breath a little. “Has Doctor Keller released you from her care yet?”

“She doesn’t know what’s wrong,” Cam replied, guiltily obfuscating. “We’re feeling fine, though. I suppose we’ll have to wait for McKay to reverse the change in brain function, or the effects to wear off.”

“You are welcome in this city for as long as you wish to stay,” Teyla said, and with three blows Cam was spread on the floor, his side cramping. He took a moment, got back up and began again.

--

As he showered in his room a few hours later, Cam tried not to think about the (rather accurate) implication that he was staying by choice and not necessity.

As ever, John didn’t get the memo on that plan.

’Well, Cameron Mitchell,’ John’s impression of a Southern Belle left much to be desired, ’You wouldn’t be lyin’ to your doctor to spend more time with little ole me now, would you?’

Cam groaned, stretching out his muscles gently as he dressed. ’Don’t you have McKay to be bugging? I hear this is prime Wii golfing time.’

’I can multi-task, John replied, defensive. ’You off your macaroon kick yet?’

In all the being-beaten-by-a-warrior-queen, Cam had forgotten the game he’d fallen into. And he’d had such good plans for distracting John while infuriating McKay, too. ’Yeah, I’m turning my thoughts to a warm, cinnamon apple pie.’

’I do like pie,’ came the drawl.

Cam had noticed the quality of the transfer focussing, and while it wasn’t like John was actually there, it was clear as a bell. He reasoned that perhaps that slight echo was to remind those transmitting and receiving that such thoughts were just that: thoughts. Of course, Cam was assuming that this effect was intentional, which wasn’t always a guarantee with the damn Ancients. He could almost hear McKay bitching in the background.

No, Cam realised, that was McKay bitching in his own background. With a quick look around, he realised he was already on the hallway that included the man’s lab, and if anyone had a voice that carried it was McKay.

“Are you even listening?”

“Of course I am, Rodney,” Cam heard John reply. But just as he heard the voice aloud, he heard John echo, ’Did you enjoy getting your ass handed to you by Teyla?.

Cam grinned as he walked into the lab. ’That I did. But you should have seen Lorne.’ “Hey, McKay. I thought that was your voice I could hear.”

“Well of course it is, Colonel,” McKay scowled, “this is my lab. And don’t you have the decency to make yourself useful instead of traipsing in here, distracting me?”

Cam threw a pointed look at the screen projected on the wall, where John was mid-swing in Wii golf. “Yeah, ‘cos right now you’re working hard. Have you figured out what’s been messing with our brains?” John took his swing, earlier than he’d have expected.

McKay tensed. “No,” he said.

’He’s lying,’ Cam told John, and he saw John’s hand twitch on the Wii controller.

’He’s not,’ John replied. ’But I know what it was.’

“What,” McKay was bitching again, but Cam could barely hear him over the anxious rushing of blood past his ears. “No ‘try harder’?”

Cam was a bit stuck on the part where John knew what was causing their psychic connection, but managed to force out, “There’s no rush, McKay, it’s just a few more brain cells lighting up.”

The scientist huffed but didn’t comment any further, instead turning to his laptop and concentrating on the screen. They’d both lost his attention, but Cam wasn’t interested. With his back to Cam, John had paused is golf game, and his hand was clenched tightly around the controller.

’So you knew it was something in the box; you made that suggestion straight away. Did you know exactly what?’ Cam tried to reign in his anger at being lied to, and tried to separate the anxiety he could identify as John’s. It was easier, being able to separate their emotions, but knowing John felt guilty didn’t assuage Cam’s anger.

John resumed his game, realising Cam wasn’t going to let this go or do it elsewhere. ’Not at first,’ he answered, lining up another swing. Cam took a seat on a nearby stool to watch. ’But as soon as you were back on Atlantis I could hear you, and when I went to Rodney’s lab yesterday morning I could sense exactly which piece of tech it was in the box.’

Cam sighed, ’Right. So your stronger gene means you felt the effects sooner, and have more control over it. What was the passing out about?’ Cam kept one eye on McKay, who was apparently engrossed in his work, while watching John.

’Too much distance, John suggested, and Cam watched the muscles ripple in his back under his t-shirt as he suppressed a shrug. Like an elastic band snapping, I guess. I’m sorry.’

’Trust you to only say that when you can’t be heard,’ Cam wished for a second he had left the room, but he wasn’t sure where this conversation was going to go. He felt John’s amusement, but the anxiety was still there, and a penny suddenly dropped for Cam. ’As soon as I came back?’

’Well… yeah. I wasn’t napping when you woke up, either,’ John said.

’Oh.’

John had heard every single thought he’d had since he’d woken up two days ago.

And if Cam’s hunch was right, even those he’d been attempting to hide under a macaroon blanket.

John knew.

John knew everything.

’Anything else you wanna …tell?’ He gave John a minute that dragged as long as an eternity. John kept his back to Cam, and he watched his head fall to his chest. There was silence, not just in his head, beneath the roaring of blood rushing past his ears, but in the lab. McKay was working on, oblivious. ’Right,’ Cam thought, hollowly. ’I’m going to take a walk.’

He left the lab, and as he reached the transporter he heard McKay start up again, “What the hell was that?”

He imagined Teal’c, eyebrow raised, ‘Indeed.’

--

He found his way up to Sam’s office, and when he knocked she looked at him like he was the second coming… for all of half a second before she seemed to see something and she ushered him in. The doors closed, the glass tinted and Cam sank onto the sofa with a manly whimper.

She sat beside him. “What’s wrong?”

“Can we have a conversation so far off the record we’d need to explore a…” he quickly counted: Milky Way, Pegasus, the Ori galaxy and the Asgard galaxy… “fifth galaxy to chart it?”

“That far?” Sam asked with a small smile. “If you need me to, I’ll forget you were even here the moment you leave.”

Cam blew out a shaky breath, and thanked the cosmic balance for Sam. She was easily his closest friend in any galaxy, but he still couldn’t look at her as he let the first part of his problem flow. “So the higher brain function Keller is seeing? John and I have developed some sort of psychic …bond. And I can hear some of what he thinks but he can hear everything I think. He can control it better, and it’s been harmless or at least it was until I realised this all of ten minutes ago and I’m about to stray into illegal territory here so tell me to stop if that’s a problem.”

He finally looked at Sam. “Oh,” he scolded, “Don’t you dare laugh.”

It burst out of her, bright and giggly and he groaned. “Please, Sam.”

“Alright,” she giggled. With a deep breath, she steadied herself. “Okay, there’s no need to tell anything. I can see where you’re going with this.”

“Thank god,” Cam let his head fall against the back of the sofa. “Well, once I realised he’d heard more than he bargained for, I gave him the opportunity to say something, anything…and nothing. Not out loud, not in my head, just silence.”

“Oh, Cam,” Sam sighed, reaching out to take one of his hands in hers. “First off, I don’t think he would, but if he came to me he has no actual basis for an allegation. So don’t worry about that.” Cam didn’t bother saying that he’d been so caught up in the ‘rejection’ phase that he hadn’t even gotten to the ‘UCMJ’ part.

“Secondly, you lied to me!” She used her free hand to smack him on the arm, ignoring his perfunctory cry. “So later we’re going to find that flashy orb and switch you both off.”

He squeezed her hand gently. “I love you, you know.”

“Mm-hmm,” she nodded. “And then… We may get drunk.”

“Sam!” Cam made a show of being scandalised.

“As Jack says ‘what’s the point of being the boss if you can’t put someone else in charge sometimes’.”

Cam nodded sagely. “I can see why he made General.”

“Please, that was all me,” she grinned. “It’s the 2IC’s job to make your CO look good.” She thought about that for a second. “Poor Evan.”

He snorted, and then a calm quiet pervaded the room. “Thanks, Sam,” he said eventually.

“Anytime,” Sam said. “And by the way, even if it’s completely backfired on you, I’m glad you came.”

“Yeah. Me too.” He let the moment last. He imagined he could hear the water outside, though it was too far away. “How did you know?

“I didn’t, really,” Sam didn’t need him to spell it out for her. “You two have always seemed very careful around each other, but you’ve been friends for years. I guess it made sense once you started explaining what was going on. When are you going to sort this out?”

“Is ‘later’ an option? I’m free ‘later’,” Cam grinned at her. “What time is it?”

She checked her watch, a specially adapted digital watch that measured New Lantea’s twenty six hour day. “2038 AST. Dinner?”

“That sounds like-“

’Cam?’

“Cam?” Sam’s thumb was rubbing circles on the back of his hand. Cam didn’t have to say anything. “Whatever you do, I’ll back you,” she said.

He let out a long breath. “Thanks Sam. I better go.”

“Good luck,” she said, letting go as he stood up and walked to the door. “And Cam? He’s a good guy. Don’t let him push you away out of some misguided attempt to protect you.” The door opened and she let him go. She adjusted the panels back to transparency and went back to work. When had SG-1’s problems stopped being space aliens and become relationships?

--

’What is it?’ Cam tried very hard not to be sharp, but there was an edge to his thoughts regardless. ’Sorry,’ he added. They had been friends for years and it was stupid to ignore all that over a bit of heartbreak.

’No,’ John sounded resigned. ’Don’t apologise. Can you come to my quarters? We need to talk. …Aloud.’

Cam was halfway there already, guessing John would want to be on familiar territory for any conversation. ’I’m on my way.’

There was a few seconds of silence, and Cam was expecting it to stay that way, but just as he was stepping onto the hallway with John’s room on it, he heard him softly: I do feel… I mean it’s not that I don’t…’

Feeling a little more buoyant, Cam let a smile touch his lips. ’Don’t strain yourself, Shep.’. He could sense John relax a little to, and hope filled Cam. Perhaps this was going to go better than he’d thought.

He reached the door of John’s quarters, and ran his hand over the crystal panel. The door barely chimed before it slipped open, and John was standing in sweats, socks and a t-shirt. He’d showered in the time Cam had been talking to Sam, and his hair was still damp. He looked beautiful.

Of course, then he smirked and Cam rolled his eyes. ’Shut up.’

’Sorry,’ John replied, though still smirking. “Come on in.”

The door closed behind him and Cam was aware that it had also locked. “Look, I’m sorry,” Cam said. “We’re going to get this thing switched off, and everything will go back to normal.”

John was sitting on his bed, elbows on his knees and hands clasped. He looked up at Cam. “If that’s what you want.”

“Like hell that’s what I want!”

’But you just said-!’

“I was expecting that to be what you want!”

’But that’s not what I want,’ John said, staring confusedly at Cam.

’Then,’ Cam forced himself to stop shouting. He moved further into the room and away from the door – the walls weren’t soundproof. ’What do you want?’

Only the inhales and exhales could be heard, although Cam was certain his heart should have been booming out of his chest, it was beating so fast, so loud.

Eventually, ’We have so much to lose.’ John sounded… cautious. Not uninterested. Not unwelcoming.

’We don’t have to lose anything. For most of the year we’re in different galaxies! If that’s not discreet, I don’t know what is. He wasn’t sure when they’d switched from speaking aloud to using this bond of theirs, but perhaps it was better. Some things that needed to be heard were better left unsaid.

John ran a shaking hand through his hair. ’I want to. I do’ he said eventually. ’But Atlantis, and SG1…’

’Let’s face facts: SG1 is going to be disbanded in a year at most. They’ll even retire the designation. Sam’s here, Jackson’s wearing O’Neill down slowly, Vala is the little lamb to Jackson’s Mary and Teal’c will go back to the Jaffa Government and his family. After that, it’ll be back where I started, picking my own team… or whatever. Don’t worry about me,’ with that off his chest, Cam turned to reassuring John.

’As long as Sam is here, we’re safe. As long as O’Neill is in Homeworld Security, we’re safe. The IOA can change one of those things, but O’Neill is the most stubborn bastard there ever was and for some reason he likes us,’

Cam crouched down in front of John, and John gave him his eyes. ’You will not lose Atlantis. I swear. So help me, I will stage you a coup if that’s what it takes. I think this is worth it. He sighed. ’But I’ll go with you on this.

John barely blinked, gathering his thoughts. ’At first it was great. Then I freaked out, and needed to know what you’d been able to hear. Just so you know, I’m really not all that keen on macaroons.’

Cam huffed a laugh, but kept his eyes on John. ’They were the least sexy thing I could think of.’

’And the pie? John smirked.

’Metaphorical.’

John slid a hand up Cam’s arm, leaving goosebumps in his wake, and rest his palm on Cam’s neck. ’And then I thought… I just wanted you to say something. I had no idea what I’d do about it if you did, but I didn’t care. And then I walked into the lab and I could feel that device and I knew it was a matter of time. You’d figure it out.’

The thumb stroking circles over his pulse was distracting Cam. ’What are we going to do?’

Cam was aware of John’s intentions, though he perceived no explicit thoughts, as John leaned forward just a fraction. It was enough for Cam to get with the programme and he met John halfway. It wasn’t fireworks, it wasn’t a revelation and it wasn’t chaste. But after a moment, John stroked at Cam’s side and got the other man to gasp, and then it was ’perfect.’

It didn’t take much to get them horizontal, even if they did end up kicking the duvet to the other side of the room. ’You need a bigger bed,’ Cam pulled back and grinned, rolling his hips down into John’s. The motion ripped long moans out of them both.

’Shut up and fuck me,’ John dragged an unresisting Cam back down to him.

Cam settled between John’s knees, ’Yes, sir.’

’No sirs in the bedroom, please.’ John slid warm hands up Cam’s sides, pushing the thin, worn USAF t-shirt up. ’Arms up.’ The t-shirt came off and his hands started on pushing down Cam’s sweats. Deciding that things were getting entirely one-sided, Cam leaned away and after a few moments of fumbling, pushing, pulling and some opportunistic groping, John was straddling Cam’s hips and grinning.

’How exactly did that happen?’ Cam asked.

John reached into the bedside cabinet and pulled out a condom and a half-full tube of lube. ’I’m just that good.’

’Give me that.’

He pulled John down into a kiss and slicked up two fingers, reaching between John’s legs and teasing him with small, light strokes. John was torn between moving closer to give Cam more access and pushing back. “Fuck,” he said aloud and Cam chucked, pushing more firmly and beginning to stretch John out in earnest.

He ripped the foil open with his teeth and steadied himself with one hand on the bed as he rolled the condom down over Cam’s cock.

He hissed, and John mouthed a few kisses into his neck. When Cam hit John’s prostate, repeatedly, stretching John out with three fingers, John shuddered. “’M ready.” Cam pulled his hand away, resting his palms on John’s hips as John used his own hand to guide himself down and then-

Everything seemed lost in warm, white noise for a second, and there was groaning but Cam couldn’t distinguish his from John’s – aloud or in his head. His palms on John’s hips were guiding his movements, but after a minute Cam managed to roll them over on the small bed. He could sense John’s approval as he began moving in and out with long, fast thrusts. It didn’t take much once Cam reached between them for John to come with a low groan, the hand in Cam’s hair tightening. The spike of pleasure pushed Cam over the edge and he buried his face in John’s neck.

Cam felt the slight pressure of John’s hand moving through his hair. He moved away long enough to tie off the condom, throw it in the small bin and return to sprawl over John, and he let the contented buzz he could feel from John flow through him.

--

Sam’s radio buzzed to life. “McKay to Carter.”

“What is it Rodney?” She checked her watch and it was close to 2300AST. Most good little scientists were at least thinking about their beds. Especially on Atlantis, where it wasn’t a race against other research groups, and mostly it wasn’t a race to survive.

“Have you seen Sheppard? I think I’ve found what’s messing with his and Colonel Mitchell’s brain function. I’m not quite sure what it does but it’s the only thing showing residual activity-“

She sighed, “McKay!”

“And I- What?”

“I haven’t seen them, but it’s getting late and this can wait until morning.”

“Oh,” McKay sounded a little shocked. “But we don’t know what that activity could be doing to them long term-“

“It. Can. Wait,” Sam said clearly, deciding to lie if only to give Cam and John the space they needed, whatever their outcome. “If you have to do something, see if you can find out what it does so we can safely switch it off.”

“Right. Fine. McKay out.”

Sam resisted the urge to bang her head off the desk. It was only long training with both Jack and McKay that she managed to suppress the twinge in her neck. She looked back at her screen, and the repair report from Jumper One.

Hoping Cam and John were shut away in one of their rooms, fucking like bunnies, Sam decided her work could wait and head for her quarters. Perhaps she could write a letter to Jack, or find some trinket for Vala that Cam could take back with him. She couldn’t stall McKay for long.

--

’I should leave,’ Cam thought eventually, his face still hidden in John’s neck, his body half draped over John’s and their legs twined. The bed really was too small for any other position. John didn’t shrug, but Cam could feel the impulse. John’s consciousness was like a warm hum, just in reach of his own, but he found he could tune it out. He didn’t want to right now, and let it hum away, but it was good to know he could.

John was rubbing small, absentminded circles on Cam’s flank with his thumb. ’Probably,’ even his thoughts sounded sleepy. ’Not much stays secret in Atlantis.’

Cam huffed out a breath. ’You wouldn’t know if it did.

’True,’ he smiled, turning to Cam and catching his mouth in a kiss.

’I really ought to go,’ Cam pulled away slowly. John gave a moan of protest, but let Cam go, repositioning himself on that tiny bed once Cam was standing. Resolving to just do his walk of shame to his room smelling of sex and John, he dressed. ’See you in the morning,’ Cam could feel John losing the battle with sleep.

’Mmm,’ John replied. ’L’ve you C’m.’

Cam grinned and locked the door behind him when he left.

Of anyone to pass in the hallway in the middle of the night after some mind-blowing, seventeen-years-in-the-making sex with a shit-eating grin on his face, Lorne was possibly the best and the worst. He may have only smirked and rolled his eyes, but Cam could practically see the various piss-takes and methods of blackmail and extortion forming in that logistician’s brain of his.

Of course, Cam had heard about Lorne and David Parrish, so at least he had something to fight back with. He showered and fell into bed, hoping tomorrow would be less eventful than the day he’d just had.

--

Sam’s voice woke him bright and early, “If you don’t open up I’ll be forced to override the door!”

“Just let me put some pants on,” he called back, ignoring her giggle.

’She says it wouldn’t be the first time she’d seen you pantless,’ he heard John add, and his amusement bubbled through Cam. ’Should I be worried?’

’Hardly, but if I lose my pants one more time before Christmas, I think she wins the pot. Cam rolled out of bed, pulled dressed in near-record time and opened the door just as Sam was reaching over to pull the crystals. “Nice try, Sam.”

“Eight hundred dollars, Cam,” she said sternly, and Cam tried to ignore John, stood by her side and grinning. “That’s the flowers for my wedding.”

’Wedding?’

’O’Neill,’ Cam added, finally locking gazes at John. For a second the world fizzled out and narrowed to the two of them. John blinked and Cam ripped himself away to face a very entertained Sam. He glared.

“Yeah, yeah,” she said, glancing between them. “McKay’s got your flashy bouncy-ball and he’s waiting for us in his lab. Are you ready?”

Cam spoke for the both of them, “I guess we are.” He stepped out of the doorway and they walked towards the transporter.

“So, how did you get to eight hundred dollars?” John asked, ’I’m curious, how often do you lose your pants on missions?’

’It’s an exaggeration,’ he said just as Sam replied, “Easy money.”

Transporters were another thing Cam wanted to introduce to the SGC.

’The pool for my next capture is up to 34 chocolate bars, 6 porn mags and the rights to the first viewing of The Dark Knight come summer.’

’That’s… I’m not sure what to say to that,’ Cam sighed as John flashed him a smug grin.

“What, did you three crawl all the way here?” McKay huffed when they entered the lab. “This,” he held aloft a tarnished metallic ball, an inch in diameter, “is our culprit. It’s the only piece of technology that showed any residual energy, so it has been activated but it is now dormant. Unfortunately, we have no idea what it does.”

“We do,” Sam said. “Just hand it over McKay so we can have Colonel Sheppard switch it off?”

McKay actually recoiled. “Well what does it do?”

John brought a hand up to his neck awkwardly. He looked at Sam, who shrugged. “It forms a psychic bond between two compatible gene carriers.”

’Wait for it…’ John told Cam, watching as the veins in McKay’s forehead began to pulsate.

But the explosion they were all anticipating – even Sam, who was clearly working out how best to calm the scientist down – never came. McKay looked between the three of them, then narrowed his eyes at a very sheepish John (’I’m never going to hear the end of this,’ John told Cam) and then seemed to deflate.

“Right. Fine,” McKay looked away and each word was bitten out and clipped. “Just think ‘off’.” McKay handed the sphere over to John. Sam took a step back to stand near McKay as John turned to face Cam.

’You sure?’

’Yeah,’ Cam nodded once, and he tried to ignore McKay following every gesture and blink from the sidelines.

John sighed, and looked intently at the ball. Cam wasn’t sure what was stopping him, but he knew John wasn’t trying yet. John was still staring at the device when Cam heard, ’I kinda love you, you know.’

He grinned as John looked at him nervously, ’I know. Me too. Let’s do this.’

’Okay,’ John adjusted his grip on the ball. ’Off.’

Nothing happened. No lights, no sounds.

“Are you even trying?” McKay snarked from the desk. Sam shushed him.

Can you hear me? Cam asked, tentatively. “Anything?”

’Yes,’ John replied, even as he shook his head and said “No,” aloud. ’It can’t be reversed.’

Both Sam and McKay relaxed, although Sam definitely looked suspicious. “Get yourselves to Doctor Keller,” she ordered. “I have a scheduled check in with the SGC in twenty minutes, and we’ll make arrangements depending on the results.”

’Ah,’ John thought. ’I forgot about Keller.’

Cam resisted the urge to roll his eyes, because McKay seemed to be examining them. “I think I’m running out of free fMRI vouchers for this month.”

“I’ll spot you a couple. Swap for full blood work?” John grinned.

“Done.”

--

Sam met them in the infirmary, a few hours later. “What’s the verdict?”

“The activity isn’t as high as it was,” Keller said, standing between the two beds that Cam and John were sitting on. “That said, it had been steadily decreasing since the first scan. I’d say it’s just normalising, but I’ll tell Doctor Lam to keep an eye on it.”

Keller had already shared this with Cam and John, who looked appropriately relieved. Inside, however, they were dealing with the practicalities of faking normalcy with an intergalactic psychic bond.

’You do realise this is insane, right?’

’It might not even work between Earth and Pegasus,’ John responded, like it was a legitimate excuse. ’Anyway, like I said, it can’t be reversed. Is… is that okay?’

Cam covered his soft smile with his hand. ’It’s great.’

“Cam, I’m sorry to rush you out of the city,” she flashed him a sad smile, and an apologetic one to John too, and Cam registered John’s embarrassment and appreciation, “but Landry wants you back ASAP. If you leave by midday AST then you’ll get to Earth for Wednesday night. He wants you on base overnight, in the infirmary first thing Thursday and apparently if you’re given the all clear you’ve got a first contact scheduled for Friday. Teal’c almost cracked a smile.”

Cam rolled his eyes, noting the time at 1115AST. ’Duty calls.’

’Always does,’ John said. “Does that mean I’m back on active duty?”

Keller shrugged. “I don’t see any reason not to, at this point.”

“We’ll try your briefing again this afternoon,” Sam decided. “In the mean time, I’m going to plan my incident report.”

“Please, this is nothing compared to some of the shit that comes out of the SGC,” Cam argued as he hopped down from the bed. “That jump back to 1969? Jackson body-swapping with a crazy old scientist? Blowing up a sun? The evil version of SG-1? Meeting Merlin, searching for the Holy Grail, hell we practically lived a Python movie.”

“I swear, the next person to mention that sun is barred from my wedding.”

--

He gave Sam a hug and a promise to pass on some messages, and Lorne got a too-hard clap on the back for his smug little grin. McKay was lurking in the corner, most likely to ensure that Cam did actually leave.

’I think we’ll stay conscious this time,’ John said as they approached the event horizon. “Happy twenty-four hour quarantine.”

“Thanks. Don’t do anything stupid,” Cam warned. ’Come find me next time you’re Earth-side.’

John nodded, almost imperceptibly, ’I will.’

Cam stepped through onto Midway.