Cam had been trying to plan the perfect date for weeks, but San Francisco isn't his town and nothing felt right for a first date. Especially a first date as important as this one. He and John had been together for going on fifteen years and they had never been on a date.
Sam, Daniel and Vala had silently laughed at him (mostly Daniel) because every time he caught them in their labs or offices (actually, Vala doesn't have an office but she's never too far from Sam these days so it worked out) and asked their opinions about the newest stack of hot spots and restaurants information printed in his hands. Vala kept saying he was adorable and 'cute as a button' because he continually shot down the choices.
Nothing seemed good enough.
Teal'c finally took pity on him and advised him that love and battle are no different and that he should go by the same instincts he uses in the field when plans go awry.
"So you're saying I should just wing it?" he asked incredulously. Cam had thought that someone of Teal'c's experience would have better advice when it comes to something like that.
Teal'c had nodded his head. "I believe that this would be the better choice, Cameron Mitchell. Obviously your strategy is being blinded by your feelings and so it should be those same feelings that should guide you in the moment. And it would also end the need to waste so much paper," he said and then picked up the very full waste basket for recyclables.
Okay, so maybe the guy had a point. "Um... maybe next time I should just hit you guys up in a chat window or something," Cam said, blushing.
Cam's almost nervous waiting for the boat from Atlantis to deliver its passengers at the dock. To him the day was doubly important because it was not only the first date (in public and free of the fear of being caught) for him and John but it was also the fifteenth anniversary of the day he and John first met. Cam doubts John remembers that little tidbit but he could never forget it since it was the day he feel head over heels in love with a dorky kid with floppy hair.
He fidgets with the rolled up cuffs of his shirt, hoping that Sam was right that the dark blue was okay with his gray slacks. She'd assured him that it was classy and ordered him to stop being such a girl.
Finally he can see the small boat approaching the dock with several people aboard and walks up to the stairs and wait.
Doesn't matter how many times Cam sees John, he's amazed that the man is with him. John helps one of the ladies step from the boat to the dock, he's wearing his shades in the afternoon light and looking like a damn movie star (which Cam will never tell him because John will tell him that he's nuts) in his jeans and white dress shirt. When John walks up the stairs and looks up, smile immediately on his face when he spots Cam. "Hey there, stranger," he calls out.
"Hey there, yourself," Cam answers, smiling just as widely.
There are several cabs that John's fellow boat passengers load into and it's habit that keeps them from hugging until they're just surrounded by strangers. "Missed you," Cam says, enjoying the moment because it's another first for them and he wants to remember each one today.
"It's only been a couple weeks, but I missed you too," John says back, giving one last tight squeeze before letting go.
He looks around and can see there aren't any other cabs waiting. "You rent a car for the day," he asks and looks toward the parking lot.
"Thought we'd walk around a bit and take in the sights. I've never been to San Francisco, at least not beyond the airport."
Lifting his shoulder in a little shrug, John nods. "Sounds good. I feel like I've been cooped up forever indoors between all the meetings and paperwork, and its driving me pretty stir-crazy. The only exercise is running and sparring with Ronon and Teyla."
Heading out toward the sidewalk Cam can see the tension in John's shoulders as he walks beside him. He knows that despite the relaxed exterior, lazy in the words of more than one CO, that John projects that he's nowhere near that. Every movement is control to give the world that image and if Cam has his way he's going to make sure that image is the real deal. Even if it's for one day.
Reaching out, Cam slips his hand into John's. He can see out of the corner of his eye that John's turned his head in Cam's direction, mouth hanging open in surprise. He thinks John is going to say something at first but instead John's hand tightens around his and doesn't let go.
The first time they've held hands in public without fear. Another memory to hold onto.
They don't make any real plans to visit any particular place with the exception of a restaurant that John said he remembered being not too far away, nothing fancier than surf and turf but it had pretty good food. Cam agrees that it sounds like a good idea for dinner later on once the sun goes down in a couple hours.
Cam is enjoying John pointing out different shops and people, laughing when they compare them to places they've been offworld. At one point, John pulls Cam into a shop after they notice a guy staring at them from across the street and mentions that he thinks the guy has been following them.
Cam wants to go confront the guy and find out but John stops him by kissing him. "I hate to tell you this, Cam, but he's staring because you look sexy and dangerous and completely fuckable in this outfit," he says and cups Cam's ass with gentle squeeze.
He feels like an idiot and blushes. "Oh." Cam looks back outside through the widow and watches the guy shrug his shoulders then continue walking on. "How do you know that he wasn't staring at you," he asks, sliding his hands under the edge of John's shirt, "You're pretty damn fuckable yourself, mister." Cam feels the little shiver pass through John as his fingers trail over the bare skin of John's stomach.
"Um... He, um..."
Cam grins at the little fluster of words that John can't seem to make appear and has pity on him by taking his hands out from under the shirt and patting it down neatly. "You were saying?"
"You're evil, you know that? And he wasn't looking at me. He was checking you out. The guy really needs to work on being discreet if you ask me."
"And you weren't worried that I might run away with him if he approached me." Cam tucks an arm around John's waist.
"Not a chance in hell," John states positively.
Leaning over, Cam kisses the top of John's nose. "You are too cute sometimes. Come on, let's check out this shop since we're in here anyway."
John agrees by tugging him down one of the rows. "Okay, and I am not cute. I am dashing and brave and trust-worthy and I help little old ladies across the street, but I am not cute."
The store looks like it's a mish-mash of antiques, junk, and items that are just plain weird. Cam picks up a hula-girl nightlight and laughs as he shows it to John. "Oh, you are definitely all those but also cute. What the hell is this place?"
"Looks like a curio shop. Either that or someone decided to keep a permanent garage sale. Looks more like one of those markets, you know."
Nodding, Cam agrees. "Might find some cool stuff in here for gifts."
John points at the hula-girl. "Not that."
Putting it down, Cam shakes his head and picks up a vase. "You sounded just like Teyla there."
"I'll take that as a compliment." John moves further down the row looking at things. "Cam, check this out," John says excitedly and points at something hanging on the wall. There's a guitar resting on a stand behind a glass case. John lightly smacks Cam's arm and the look on his face reminds Cam of a kid at Christmas. "It's a fucking Martin dreadnought. What the hell is it doing here?"
Cam watches as John tilts his head, trying to see inside the instrument. John jerks up, eyes wide. "It's a D-42," he whispers and looks back where they can see the end of the shop's back counter.
"You're going to have to give me more details than that, baby. Does that mean its good brand?" he whispers in John's ear.
John looks back at him and Cam swears the look is straight McKay. "Yes," John says in shock, still whispering "Johnny Cash played one. They go for about seven grand and this place has it marked at just under four. And you are so going to get a lesson on fine musical instruments."
Cam's does his best to keep from laughing at John because he really doesn't want this day to end early if he hurts his feelings. "So, you going to buy it?"
"Fuck yes, I am! Let's find a shop worker, quickly. Just my luck someone would come in like a damn ninja and snatch it away and I'll lose this chance."
Now this Cam couldn't keep from laughing at. "A ninja?"
John doesn't stop until he's standing in front of the register and looks back at Cam. He can see that John is about to laugh himself as well and feels better for not being able to stop. "Yes, a ninja. And I know how that sounds and we will never repeat that in front of either team under penalty of no sex for a month."
He holds up his hands in surrender and stands beside John while a middle age woman comes out from the back.
"Hi, I was interested in the Martin you have on display back there," John says, pointing behind them.
The woman smiles. "You have good taste in guitars. Would you like to check it out more closely before you make a decision," she asks and pulls out a key ring.
"Nope, no need. I'd just like to buy it. Do you have the original case with it?"
The woman doesn't act surprised by John's answer or question. "Yes, I do."
John seems to bounce a little at that. Cam hates to rain a little on his parade by asking, "So you're going to carry it around for the rest of the evening?"
"Damn - pardon my language, ma'am, that totally slipped my mind."
Cam rests his hand on John's lower back. "Well, happy places that are physically in front of you tend to do that to people. We can grab a cab and take it back to..."
John turns to him, looking apologetic, and holds up a finger. "Hold that thought." He turns back to the woman who now has the guitar in her hand and holding it out to him. "Ma'am, is it possible to get this delivered either tonight or first thing in the morning? I don't mind paying extra," he says and takes the guitar from her.
She shakes her head. "No need to pay extra with the cost of this beauty. I'll be closing in the next thirty minutes and I can deliver it myself. Just give me the address where you're staying."
"Thank you! You just made the night much easier because we're actually in the middle of a date."
Nodding, she leads them back to the counter and rings up the purchase. Cam whispers, "Just give her my hotel and room number, it'll save some hassle."
John quickly writes out the address and room number and gives it to her along with his credit card while Cam looks at some of the jewelry in the case beneath the counter. "You can give it to the front desk and the concierge will make sure we get it."
"Very well. Let me go get the case so you can see the condition before you leave."
After she goes in back, John almost seems to caress the guitar a moment before picking it up. The look on his face is pure magic as he starts plucking out the chords to Ring of Fire and Cam would give anything to keep that look on John's face for the rest of his life because there isn't an ounce of tension in his body as John's eyes drift close to listen to the instrument in his hands.
When he stops, John seems almost peaceful for once. "I love watching you play," Cam says quietly.
Laying the guitar back on the counter top, John shrugs. "I'm not that good."
"You're good enough and I may not know about music or guitars but I can tell that you love it when I listen to you. That's all that matters," Cam tells him, moving closer. He rests a hand on John's arm and pulls him in for a kiss. "I'm going to keep looking around up here while you're waiting on her to get back out."
John returns his kiss, tongue sliding softly over his lips. "Okay. Shouldn't be too much longer."
Cam decides to work his way from one end of the display case back to where John is standing. There was the usual assortment of gold, silver, and diamond rings in one section. The next on display were more diverse and original. Cam wondered if they were done by local artists because he really liked some of the designs, especially those on a selection of bracelets. He spotted two matching pieces that he really liked. They were thin, the color almost looked like a soft mother of pearl with swirls of green, blue and black; and reminded him almost like a mixture of the hulls of the 302s and some of the molding in Atlantis.
He looked up and saw that John had the guitar in its case and appeared to be making small talk with the shop keeper. "Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, but I was wondering about these bracelets."
"We were just waiting on you," John said and came up beside him. "Something catch your eye?"
Cam pointed down. "The two that look like mother of pearl with the swirls."
Leaning down, John gets a closer look. "Pretty."
The shop keeper pulls them out and hands them to Cam. He's shocked to find that they're not as stiff as they appear and he gently twists them back and forth. "Wow... I think I'll take them. How much?"
"$200 for the both of them," she answers.
Digging his wallet out of his back pocket, Cam gets out his credit card and gives it to her. While she goes to run his card, Cam tries to see how to fit it over his wrist when the one in John's hand pops open. "Oh, shit."
"Don't worry, that's how they're supposed to work. They interlock and Sherry has something in the material that makes them slightly magnetic or something so that they don't release by accident," she informs them.
Laughing, John snaps it back shut. "Clever."
Cam takes it from him and puts it on John's wrist just above his black wristband. "There. And when you're in the field, you can slip the wristband over it."
John picks up the other half of the set and reaches for Cam's hand. "Gimme."
Holding it up, Cam asks, "I take it you don't mind? They just reminded me of certain things, of things we like..."
"I don't mind a bit and pretty sure they remind me of the same things."
The bracelet closes around his wrist. "Not too 'high school' is it," Cam asks with a grin as he threads his fingers in John's, the bracelets rest against one another.
Smirking, John shakes his head. "Naw. But I willing to bet that McKay will say it is when he sees them."
"Nope, not taking that one by a long shot."
They're interrupted when the shopkeeper comes back. "Here's your receipt, Mr. Mitchell."
Taking it, Cam tucks it into his wallet with the card. "Thank you."
"You both have a great night and thanks for stopping in," she said as they turned to leave.
Cam looks at his watch as he opens the door for John as they step back outside. They'd spent almost an hour in the curio shop and was starting to get hungry after all the walking they'd done all ready. "So how far are we from this restaurant of yours?"
John looks back and forth a little bit to get his bearings and bites his lip. "Don't happen to have a map handy, do you?"
"Damn, John. Don't ever change. Why don't you duck back inside and ask the lady, I'm sure she knows." Cam shakes his head. John is the only damn pilot he knows that could get lost in a damn grocery store but he'd never say that to him since the man has always been a little bit sensitive about it.
"Good idea. Be right back," he says and quickly goes back inside. He's only gone for a few minutes when he returns with a slip of paper in his hand. "She drew me a map."
"Well, lead on, McDuff. I'm starting to starve here."
Looking at the little map, John takes hold of his hand again. "This way, should be just a few blocks. If the traffic isn't too bad, we should be there in about twenty minutes."
They pass a few more shops that look interesting and figure they can check them out the next time they're out together.
John points out a little pub ahead with several gay couples and their friends standing out front. "This place is pretty cool. I used to sometimes stop in here, great pool tables."
"Pool tables..." Cam gives John a look to tell him he's not fooling anyone.
John holds up his hand. "I swear, I just played pool in there. I was underage and no one would touch me but the bartender let me come in for a couple hours after school when the place was dead."
"Put your dang hand down before someone thinks we want them to join us." Cam can see several men checking them out and he wraps his arm around John's back, tucking his hand into John's back pocket and giving his ass a tight squeeze.
John reaches up and brings their heads together and kisses him, tongue sliding in and deepening it. They have to stop in the middle of the sidewalk until John pulls back. "Are you done being my macho possessive boyfriend?"
"Not a fucking chance in hell," Cam tells him and gives him another squeeze.
"You know... I have no problem with that at all."
Eventually they reach the restaurant just before the shadows have deepened too much outside. Cam sighs in relief at the air conditioning and fans himself with his shirt, feeling more than a little silly. It's not like it's actually hot outside. "John, why don't you get us a table while I go use the restroom." Giving John's arm a squeeze, Cam points to the sign.
"No problem," John answers and turns to the waitress approaching.
There's no one else in the restroom and Cam finishes quickly. He still feels hot even after several minutes in the cool, filtered air as he steps up to the sink. Wetting a paper towel, Cam pats his face and neck. Hell of a time to be coming down with something, he thinks when he looks at his reflection. He ignores the flushed look to his skin and touches the bracelet, enjoying the way it feels on his wrist.
The dull silver flash of the chain of his dogtags catches his attention in the mirror. He almost feels compelled to take them off, something that he'd done in the past if he wanted to check out a club alone because of the risk of being caught. This time the tags stay where they belong because he and John haven't done a damn thing wrong and they're just as every bit a part of who he is.
Taking a deep breath, Cam lets it out slowly. They hadn't done a thing wrong. He and John had just walked for hours in San Francisco holding hands and kissing and didn't have to worry about the consequences. It's hard to shake the old feeling that he was going to ruin everything he'd worked hard for - they had worked hard for - all these years. That his perfect record of obeying all the rules and orders, of being the consummate soldier even in the face of stupidity, was shot to hell because he selfishly wanted to be with his boyfriend in public.
His perfect record. "Talk about being a selfish bastard," Cam mutters, disgusted at himself worrying about only his career after John had re-built his up from the ashes of a bad order that had gotten men hurt needlessly. Until the repeal, John had even more to lose if someone had found out about their relationship. There was still a chance that someone in the IOA would object to John's continuing command; they'd just have to find another way to word the reasons why. Cam hadn't thought of that when he'd planned on spending the day with John. All he'd thought about was being able to enjoy something that other couples could do any day of the week.
Adding more water on the towel, Cam wipes his face some more and tries to control the little tremor in his hands. "Don't do this to yourself. They're not going to do anything to John and his command just because you wanted to be with him today. Now get out there where you belong," he tells his reflection and forcing himself to calm down.
He throws away the wet towel and moves to open the door.
The same waitress that John had spoken to is at the hostess station when he comes out of the bathroom. He quickly glances at her nametag. "Hi, Mandy, you seated a friend of mine a few minutes ago. Could you please point me in the direction I can find him?"
"He requested to sit in the back of the dining area. If you don't mind, I'll take you to him since there are three separate seating areas and its easy to get turned around," she says and starts to lead him through the maze of seats.
"Much appreciated," he tells her. It never hurt to show that the extra effort is appreciated.
Mandy takes him straight to John at a corner table laid out with candles and a bucket of champagne chilling (Cam can see that it's his favorite and only John knows that little detail about him since most people think he can't stand champagne), John stands and they both thank Mandy again. In the center of the table is a large covered serving dish. Both men sit and Cam looks around restaurant curiously and grins. "Looks like you've been here pretty recently."
"Once or twice," John answers, opening the champagne and pouring them both a glass before picking up his menu.
Cam takes a sip from his glass, enjoying the champagne and trying to give John a chance to explain the big silver dome in the middle of their table. But the guy he loves more than life itself is being a royal pain the butt and doing a horrible job of being nonchalant and is ignoring how Cam keeps glancing at the serving dish. "After seeing all this I'm surprised that you didn't already have the meal planned out."
Shrugging, John says, "Didn't want to presume."
"Uh-huh." Cam wonders what John has up his sleeve (the last time he tried something like this, Cam ended up with 50 yard line tickets to the Rose Bowl as a birthday gift when they found out they were both going to be stateside at the same time) and goes back to picking out his dinner before settling on a steak and salad.
Setting down the menu, Cam can't help himself any longer. "So you gonna tell me what's in there?" he asks, pointing to the center of the table.
John tries to give him that innocent look that has never worked on Cam. "Pick up the lid and see for yourself."
Quirking an eyebrow at the other man, Cam does just that and lifts the lid away and in the middle of the platter is a piece of paper, folded in half and leaning against a small box. Stomach fluttering at the sight, Cam picks up the paper and opens it. He's shocked to see that it reads: Will you marry me?
Swallowing a couple times, Cam almost thinks he won't be able get the words out when he looks from the rings over to John. "We go out on our first official date and you ask me to marry you - don't want to presume, my ass. And the answer is yes, now get over here before I have to climb over this table."
John immediately does as he's told, smiling even more widely than when he saw the guitar earlier, picking up the box from the table. Cam scoots his seat back and pulls John onto his lap. John opens the box, revealing two silver bands and takes out the one in front and reaches for Cam's hand. He slips the ring on Cam's finger and waits while Cam does the same to him with the second ring. Cam loves the feel of John's hands on the side of his neck, the coolness of the ring gently pressing against Cam's skin as John leans down to kiss him. The fact that John is still sitting on his lap in the middle of a restaurant doesn't even enter Cam's mind because all he can think of is the feel of their mouths and tongues, pressing and touching, John's familiar taste is everything. Cam starts to feel overheated again for a whole other, more welcome, reason as his arms circle John's waist.
"There's something else I wanted to surprise you with," John whispers as he touches his forehead to Cam's.
"I rented a penthouse for us, for the rest of your stay. I, I mean if you want to stay there that is," John says quietly, sounding almost nervous.
Cam laughs, rubbing his hands up and down John's back. "You goof; you know I want to stay wherever you are." Cam's so happy at this moment he'd probably give John anything and everything he could ask for. "You don't usually go this big for things. I mean, a penthouse..."
John leans back a little, the corner of his mouth going up as he grins. "Special occasion."
"That it is," Cam agrees readily.
John trails a finger from Cam's face down his neck."Yeah, it has a private swimming pool on the roof and there's one thing I've always wanted to do with you."
"What would that be and if we don't stop we're going to be arrested for indecent exposure when I throw your gorgeous ass down on this table," Cam tells him and gives John's ring finger a kiss.
"This is going to sound silly as hell, and don't you dare say anything about a chick flick moment," John's mischievous grin is made adorable but the blush that colors his cheeks again, "but I've always wanted to have sex with you under the stars. There had always been too much of a risk of being interrupted or called to duty, but now..."
"But now, none of that matters, and I can't wait." Cam is almost sure that he's dreaming everything that's happened because this stuff just doesn't happen to him. Yeah, he's been lucky in his life, but not this damn lucky. If this is a dream, well he's going to enjoy every single second of it. He gives John a smack on the leg. "Hop up, baby, because we have to eat and then get to that hotel. We have got some celebrating to do."
After John gets back to his seat Cam holds up his champagne glass and waits for John to do the same. "I've been sorta keeping track of all the little firsts we're finally able to do together today and I have every intention of keep on doing it for the rest of our lives, but I never thought I'd have the possibility of doing it as your husband, John. I love you and want thank you for being with me."
John clears his throat, and blinks back the tears that Cam can feel welling up in his own eyes. "I'd been trying to figure out the best time to ask you to marry me for a long time now and when you picked today, of all days, for our first public date, I knew I had to do it now. Because, Cam... I have wanted to spend the rest of my life with you from practically the moment we met," John glances down at the table for a moment before raising his head, and Cam can feel the intensity in his stare, "Cameron Mitchell, you have made me the luckiest and happiest man in the world for a long time and now I get to be those things as well as your husband. There was no better time to ask you than the anniversary of the first time I laid eyes on you. I love you, Cam."