Everything works out fine at the start.
John is just happy to be alive and in one piece. He’s happier that everyone he cares about is also alive. It’s great that Kanaan and Torren are on Earth with Teyla, that Amelia takes Ronon out to hike in the mountains, and that Rodney and Jennifer vanish for three days into an apartment in San Francisco and don’t emerge until someone from the SGC threatens to break in and drag Rodney out by scruff of his neck.
Cam tells John all about that particular phone call, both of them kicking back for an evening off from Cheyenne Mountain.
“You ever get the feeling they expect us to be jealous we don’t get the girl?” Cam asks.
And John laughs, thick and braying and godawful-sounding, because he’s pretty sure that’s the only reaction he’s allowed to have when Cam’s in bed with him, sated and half-asleep and stone cold sober.
Cam naked is a wonderful sight at six in the evening.
And John’s so glad to be alive and in one piece that he’s willing to enjoy it. No questions asked. Anyway he’s too old to worry about sexual identity crises any more. He’s not proposing, neither is Cam; they’re in it for fun and kicks.
And Cam is fun, even if John hasn’t played basketball for years and Cam doesn’t have the gene and therefore can’t fly the puddlejumpers.
But John can, and he takes Cam up as a favour from one pilot to another. Cam gets a particularly wicked look on his face before he drops to his knees, swivelling John around enough to get one hand into his pants.
John yelps and knocks Cam’s hand away but he looks down and Cam’s on his ass, propped up on his elbows, laughing at John as if it’s the funniest thing he’s seen all day.
Cam’s the kind of idiot who gets that this is funny, who’ll say, “What, am I distracting you, gene boy?” as if it’s all such a big game, like John’s not holding them in the air in a ton of metal and wire with the power of his mind.
John’s response is to spread his legs and leer a little. “You’re just not that good, Mitchell.”
Which makes Cam laugh harder, and then he kneels upright and blows him so hard John barely manages to get the ‘jumper on auto before he comes hard enough to see stars.
When he’s done he slides down and returns the favour, back propped uncomfortably against the chair he was sitting in while Cam gasps and bites at his neck.
It’s all fun and games at the SGC.
Even with Woolsey around, who John does not count as a friend so much as a grudgingly trusted ally- several steps up from Todd but with full memory that Woolsey’s loyalty is to the program, not Atlantis.
It’s not that he expounds on this at length but he does mention it. Carter looks at him in confusion and then grins.
“You’d be surprised,” she tells him.
And something about her tone makes him skulk around asking people questions until Cam smacks him upside the head and says, “He wants to take Atlantis back to the Pegasus Galaxy.”
John isn’t sure how he feels about that.
It’s not that he misses Pegasus. Doesn’t miss the Wraith, or the Genii, or the damn Council. Sure he wonders about Jinto and Ceras, about the traders that he sort of maybe knows by name and can chat to.
Teyla and Ronon are both ready to go back. They tell him so, sitting at a bar in San Francisco for what John thinks of as team night out until Rodney turns up with a huge smile and a proprietary hand in the small of Jennifer’s back.
John likes Jennifer; not only is she a nice lady but she’s saved his life, given him really good drugs on crappy days, and keeps Rodney from annoying the populace at large. Still, she’s not exactly team.
Neither is Amelia, who turns up an hour later with her sister, and just when John’s about to say something about how at least he has Teyla, she ups and goes ‘home’ to her son.
He’s mildly disgusted with the whole lot of them. But Amelia’s sister turns out to be a riot. She nudges him in the ribs and starts up a running commentary on the stupidity of courting couples, with explicit reference to the two in front of them.
John enjoys her company. She doesn’t try to seduce him, and it’s easy enough to ignore Rodney’s unsubtle Captain Kirk references when Sergeant Banks threatens to kick the Chief Science Officer’s ass for making the assumption that her sister is that ‘easy’.
Amelia’s pissed, Ronon’s getting squinty-eyed, Jennifer’s embarrassed, Rodney’s terrified and John... John is amused.
So amused that he laughs when he calls Cam at one in the morning to tell him all about it.
Cam snorts and says, “Didn’t you take your lemon?”
“I gave it to you,” John points out.
“Thought that was your cherry.”
“Damn, Mitchell, that ever work on the other boys?”
They talk nonsense at each other for a bit, and then hang up. There’s not a chance in hell that they’re going to have phone sex while in bondage to the Air Force. For all they know, the SGC has their phones tapped and drunken stupidity is one thing but phone sex is another.
So yeah, everything works out well right at the start.
John is relaxed, alive, in one piece, and so is everybody else.
And they’re going to go back to the Pegasus Galaxy.
John’s in two minds about it. He’s not saying anything but there’s a certain twinge at the thought of leaving again. He tells himself it’s the first time in a long time that no one’s been trying to kill him, and that he’s lazy, and that this thing with Cam is just really fun and convenient. Back in Pegasus, John has to be ranking officer and military commander of a motley crew of soldiers and scientists. On Earth, he’s just another flyboy Lieutenant Colonel.
And then Cam goes a little quiet and John catches a kind of tone in his voice.
They don’t do fun sex as much, though the sex is good, and there’s a lot less joking.
The games of pick-up morph into training and weights and running, sessions back at the weapons range and going back over old mission reports.
John is in two minds but his whole team is ready. Teyla and Ronon are back in Atlantis. Jennifer’s overseeing medical resupply and Rodney’s out in Area 51, rifling through old stock so he can impress people with his gene-therapy maximised genius.
John is three nights away from shipping out when Rodney unexpectedly turns up at the Mountain, ostensibly to go over data on energy reading anomalies with Sam, but he invades John’s base quarters with a yell of “Surprise!”, and then stares at Cam sitting on the bed as if John’s harbouring Wraith.
“What’s he doing here?” Rodney demands.
“McKay,” Cam says, in the same tone of voice he’d say, “Oh God, the dentist.”
“Hi Rodney,” John says.
And the whole evening goes from bad to worse.
Rodney does his grudging friendship thing and Cam doesn’t stir up trouble even if he doesn’t make an effort, and John wonders whether he should leave before he remembers that it’s his damn room. Then he wonders if he could throw them both out.
He could, he realises, and under any other circumstances he would.
So they sit and stew for twenty minutes before Cam gives up first and leaves.
John’s always been philosophical about Rodney being Rodney and his general effect on people, but this becomes the first time that he’s ever been actually annoyed with the man. That includes the time Rodney blew up five-sixths of a solar system.
Out of self-preservation- or a perverse, masochistic impulse- he asks Cam out to dinner. It’s mostly a joke, like Cam offering blowjobs in a puddlejumper, but it backfires when Cam doesn’t find it funny.
By the time they pick a place, John suspects this is going to be painful. He makes a reservation anyway and walks in there with the grim, tense feeling in his gut with which he goes on missions.
A naked Cam at six in the evening looking sated and half-asleep and happy is a good sight. John discovers, sitting there, that Cam dressed in civvies at eight in the evening, looking at John across a dinner table in public, is pretty damn awe-inspiring. If also terrifying.
“At least Rodney can’t find me here,” John says.
Cam smiles, but it’s a little distracted.
In fact, the whole evening feels a little distracted. It feels awkward and stressed and not fun at all, but when John looks at his watch, he finds it’s almost eleven and he still isn’t ready to leave.
Cam’s eyes are shadowed in this light, which is stupid because they picked a place that didn’t look like a cheesy romance getaway. It’s still a military town. There are families there, a group of friends, some kids one whom screams for five minutes straight- John winced; Cam didn’t.
They’ve brought their own cars but Cam catches John’s arm in the parking lot and says, “0500 you can get a cab back here.”
“It still looks suspicious.”
“Who the hell cares? No one is watching. And I’ll say you were shipping out and piss-drunk. Last night of freedom.”
John stares at his car and abandons it. He follows along to Cam’s, and it’s kind of nice. Not the car, which is, but the prospect of sharing it with intent, which shouldn’t be.
“You chariot awaits,” Cam says, and actually opens his door for him.
“Great,” John says, sliding in, “Does it turn into a pumpkin at midnight too?”
“Sure. And I turn into a mouse.”
John grins as he leans his head back against the headrest and watches the streetlights flash past. He reaches out- not looking- and puts a hand on Cam’s thigh.
Cam doesn’t knock it away.
It’s a pretty nice thigh so far as John knows. He hasn’t touched all that many, never mind Rodney’s tasteless Captain Kirk jokes.
“If we crash, it’s your fault,” Cam warns him.
John squeezes. “Payback’s a bitch.”
It’s not really, and it’s got nothing to do with payback. He fucks Cam nice and slow and it’s all over by four the next morning when Cam sits up in bed while John gets dressed.
Cam does not walk him to the door and John does not kiss Cam goodbye and it was supposed to be easy.
Rodney, annoying fuck that he is, tracks John down that afternoon and says, “Hey, where were you last night? I was looking for you.”
“Out,” John says briefly.
The thing is, he resents Rodney. He resents Rodney intruding, not just by turning up but by being in love and being so damn obvious. Most of all, John resents that Rodney asks, which no one is supposed to do, because that way he doesn’t have to tell and Cam doesn’t have to tell and they won’t have to sign discharge papers with the humiliating stigma of being queer in the United States Air Force.
John can just imagine the jokes already.
Rodney babbles at him for fifteen minutes and then leaves in a huff when he gets no answer.
John doesn’t see Cam before he leaves.
He sends him an email the night before Rodney and Zelenka pump power from God knows where to God knows what and give him the means to fly a whole city back to the Pegasus Galaxy.
Four days after they get back ‘home’, they’re summoned before the Council to answer charges of desertion, and learn that the Genii have made their bid to start taking over the galaxy.
They take Todd back with them, and for services rendered, release him into the wild on an uninhabited planet. Their ally is half-delirious from hunger and the part of John that sees things in black and white hopes that Todd dies before he manages to find a decent meal. Another smaller part of John’s mind hopes that Todd survives so that they continue to have a spy in the enemy camp. A dangerous spy, but some kind of spy all the same.
When the first databurst comes through, he gets an email from Cam. It says:
Did you hear the one about the magical tractor? It went down the road and turned into a field.
John laughs harder than he should at that, and feels something relax in his gut.
For the next three days that joke hijacks his brain at stupid moments, and he struggles not to laugh four times in one day before he’s caught grinning at nothing by Lorne.
Lorne doesn’t say anything, doesn’t ask, but John’s far too amused by the shittiest joke in two galaxies so he kicks back in his chair and says, “Major, you ever hear the one about the magical tractor?”
Evan looks confused before he slowly shakes his head.
Lorne doesn’t bray with laughter but he does grin.
He retaliates with, “I’ve got one for you, Colonel. Why did the farmer change his musical preferences for punk rock?”
John almost falls out of his chair.
It’s not that Evan Lorne has no sense of humour, but John would not have picked the man for a wise-cracking comedian. Also, ‘musical preferences’- he’s not sure he dares ask.
“Surprise me,” he says cautiously.
“He was sick of Hall n’ Oates.”
John does not laugh, not at all. He does not bray like an amused donkey because he is a Lieutenant Colonel and Military Commander of Atlantis. He does not laugh because then he would have a soul and the marines would lose all respect for him.
He doesn’t laugh but he sniggers, and his eyes water, and he holds up a finger as he grabs for a pen and a crumpled envelope and then he writes it down.
He doesn’t get a reply for two weeks but when he does, it starts with ‘LOL’, and that makes him bark with laughter all over again. The next line says:
My ten year old niece says that’s the cool way to laugh on the internet. Who am I to argue with her?
It ends with another joke:
What has four wheels and flies?
A garbage truck.
John doesn’t bray but he does roll his eyes.
Over the next few days he gets captured by Wraith worshippers and sees two of his people severely injured. They lose one in the field and manage to get the other back to Atlantis. The guy lives, but Keller comes out of surgery with the news that his femur is shattered.
There’s no joke in the world that can make that better. John doesn’t expect there to be. He’s there because his team is there, because it’s better than any other posting, because he loves Atlantis if not the responsibility, and because he’s still amazed that they’ve let him come back.
Sure, he knows the score and the history and he has invaluable experience but in theory Atlantis is a prestige post. It’s the kind of thing a leader is promoted to. He knows several people who could do his job and Colonel Cameron Mitchell is only one of them, though he suspects he’s biased.
It intrigues him for several days, wondering what Cam would do as Military Commander of Atlantis.
His next email says:
Simulation- The enemy’s infiltrated your command base. They’ve got the weapons, you’re alone, and they’re threatening two members of your team. What wouldyou do?
He isn’t expecting a reply for at least a week but he gets it the very next day:
Shoot everybody. Do I win a prize?
It’s John’s luck that Rodney comes up behind him in the mess hall while he’s fiddling with his laptop. It’s three in the morning and neither of them is supposed to be up. But they are.
Rodney leans over his shoulder to look and squawks, “What the hell is that?” as if it’s a personal affront. Then he snaps his fingers several times as he points imperiously to the laptop, “Give me that before you strain something.”
What John wants is a picture of a cookie. What John gets is an animated gif of a cookie that says ‘click me’ and moves every time the cursor touches it.
It takes Rodney an hour to create it, and John is reasonably sure that the reason McKay makes the cookie run away is because it’s for Cam, and in Rodney’s world, Cam doesn’t deserve cookies.
“So,” Rodney says, when John has approved the skittish cookie, “Since when are you friends with Colonel Blackmail anyway?”
John blinks innocently at him.
It’s deeply disturbing that his brain starts pulling up images of Cam in the middle of sex, lips swollen and pink and stretching obscenely around John’s cock. It’s kind of perverse to talk to Rodney while remembering Cam, getting to half-hard as much from the secrecy as anything.
“How’s everything with Jennifer?” John asks.
Rodney actually smirks but he also goes a little pink and his eyes go a lot soft.
“Good,” he says, “Great. Really, really great.”
“Great,” John agrees, and then apropos to nothing, says, “Hey, you know any good jokes?”
Rodney’s eyes go wide. “Oh God, you’re not going to subject me to the magical tractor joke again, are you? Because I’ll tell you right now, I’ll leave.”
“No, I already told you that one. I was wondering if you knew any more?”
Rodney actually thinks about it, brows pulling together in concentration.
John theorises that Rodney’s brain is one gigantic computer, and sometimes watching him think is like watching him conduct a database search.
He’s startled out of his idle musings by Rodney breaking into an excited grin with, “Oh, I’ve got one! You’ll love this.”
John does not love it, but it’s so terribly science-y that he can’t resist adding it to his store.
Rodney is so enthused by the experience that he sends John an email with about eight more of the same.
John rolls his eyes but has to smile at a couple of them.
Then Jennifer runs a post-mission check on him and says, “I heard you were collecting jokes, Colonel.”
“Who said that?” he asks.
“Rodney might have mentioned something.” There’s silence for exactly two seconds before Keller offers, “I know a really good one.”
John resigns himself to the inevitable. He resigns himself to the inevitable even more when he starts receiving email from the rest of the scientists. Most of it is terrible and some of it he doesn’t even understand.
But then again, he thinks, picturing the look on Cam’s face, that is the point.
The soldiers get in on the act, too, as do the medical team and the tech heads. When he starts to receive email from the smaller support departments like the catering crew and the maintenance crew, he succumbs to the hilarity of the situation.
He approaches one of the database people to create a search folder for it on the server. One of the IT people runs the code and John forwards on the apparently limitless humour available on Atlantis.
The only thing Woolsey stipulates is that all the jokes are scanned for anything remotely considered offensive. That cuts the entire pile down to half, but a black market print-out almost immediately appears on the Lantean underground for those who want the uncut version.
John turns a blind eye and absolves himself from blame.
Cam sends him an email with an animated picture of a cookie being splattered by a gigantic hammer. Underneath is typed ‘copyright of S. Carter’.
For posterity’s sake, and just to indulge in the fine sport of McKay-baiting, John shows it to Rodney, who seizes his laptop and starts getting really competitive.
John is reasonably sure that they’re not meant to use work resources in quite this way but he formulates a rousing defence in his head that includes the phrases ‘morale’, ‘networking’ and ‘building ties with the wider organisation’.
John spends seven whole months in a drowsy haze of funny emails before he realises that he’s effectively conducting a long-distance homosexual relationship right under the noses of the Air Force on a heavily secured and censored server.
He realises this at eight in the evening, lying in bed propped up by pillows with his laptop on his lap.
Lorne looks a little alarmed at the crazy glaze in his eyes the next morning but nobody asks. It’s one of the highlights of being the ranking military officer.
He expects Teyla to ask, or Rodney or Ronon, because they’re his team and he knows they notice things like this, but they seem preoccupied with their own lives.
His panic slides into self-pity and he ends up sulking in his room in his free time, ploughing steadily through ‘War and Peace’ to keep his brain from overloading. Over half a year of lonely masturbation and heavily-recycled memories of a physical relationship that lasted three months suddenly manifests itself in a huge surge in his libido.
He finds himself ogling anything and everything, and thinks he might go crazy when a sudden burst of hot weather makes the kitchen staff break out ice-cubes and popsicles made from some kind of fruit that the botanists bring back from a tiny little village somewhere.
By the time he stops racing back to his quarters for quality time with his right hand, two days have passed. At the end of two days, Zelenka bangs on the door while he’s panting in the afterglow and yells that it’s an epidemic and possibly fruit-related.
They get rid of the fruit and John finally has a moment to look around.
As the effects wear off, people start to look sheepishly at each other, or avoid each other entirely. When Lorne starts sidling away from a girl half his age in maintenance, John decides that he really doesn’t want to know.
The entire city seems embarrassed and, worse, chafed, and no one wants to talk about it at all. The incident report gets logged as ‘affected a variety of human impulses such as heart rate, body temperature, and heightened sensory perception’.
John assumes anyone reading that report at Stargate Command will file it under ‘sex pollen’, which it really isn’t, but it’s still better than being hypnotised by whales.
He wonders if Cam will read it, see it for what it is, and he wonders if Cam will think he jumped the nearest warm body with a glad cry. Actually, John can’t imagine doing anything with a glad cry but his point stands. He also wonders what Cam would do in the same situation because the fact remains that even with a pass John hasn’t slept with anyone since Cam. And that’s saying something, because he slept with Cam almost a year ago for three months under the mutual expectation that this was just a bit of fun.
Two months after the incident, Rodney starts acting stranger than normal. He’s distracted and nervy, even more neurotic than before, but somehow he’s grinning like a lunatic at the same time.
John debates having it out with him versus his desire not to get caught up in other people’s problems but when he catches Rodney and Teyla whispering in each other’s ears on the balcony his great plan of inaction goes out the window.
Rodney blushes at the sight of him and then grabs him by the arm and says, “Just the man I wanted to see.”
John is expecting anything from ‘I found a ZPM’ to ‘I’ve left Jennifer for Teyla’. He gets “Congratulate me, John, I’m going to have a kid.”
John’s brain shuts down. His mouth, though, comes up with, “That sounds painful.”
Teyla laughs and says, “No, John. Jennifer is pregnant.”
It turns out that when everybody was in the grip of a sexual frenzy, Rodney and Jennifer had an interlude in a storage room. The result is a little bump that shows up in the scans that makes Rodney puff up like a pigeon and look so ecstatic that John starts to look for Wraith under his bed.
Jennifer is very clear about her decision to return to Earth.
John nods enthusiastically, grateful that he is not going to be held responsible for the safety of an unborn baby. His experience of Teyla’s pregnancy leaves him so anxious that the arrival of the Daedalus makes him actually sigh in relief.
He stalks off to the gateroom with a spring in his step, happily envisioning news, supplies and the removal of stress as pertaining to pregnant women.
He is expecting Caldwell. He doesn’t get Caldwell. He gets Cam.
John Sheppard is a Lieutenant Colonel, ranking officer and military commander of the Atlantis expedition. He is a veteran of several military campaigns, the most recent of which have been fought in another galaxy and at least one against a race of alien space vampires. He has technically died once, almost turned into a giant bug, fled from an exploding solar system, been immortalised in paint as the greatest coward in two galaxies and survived a sex pollen episode without having any embarrassing stories to tell. That is his legacy.
When he sees Cam Mitchell smirk at him from the middle of the gateroom, he freezes.
It’s been one year and one month and Cam looks older. Cam looks thinner. Cam looks...
John almost swallows his tongue.
“Colonel Sheppard,” Cam says, the bastard, and steps forward, “Mr. Woolsey.”
“Colonel Mitchell,” Woolsey says, “I believe congratulations are in order.”
“What happened to Caldwell?” John asks. And then, “Not that we’re not happy to see you.”
Woolsey actually winces.
Cam’s smile dims a little. “Colonel Caldwell is on extended leave of absence. Medical reasons. He sends his regards.”
“Right,” John says, and frantically tries to remember if he got that memo.
And then Rodney bursts in on the scene. “Oh no,” Rodney says, and crosses his arms, “Colonel Mitchell.”
“Why are you here? Where’s Caldwell? They didn’t promote you again, did they?”
Cam blinks. “No, really,” he says distantly, “I’m overwhelmed by the warm welcome.”
Hours later, when it’s not quite so strange anymore and Woolsey has informed John acerbically that, yes, they did receive word that Caldwell had suffered a minor heart attack and been removed from active service pending medical evaluation, John tracks Cam down to the mess hall.
His intention is to get some time alone with Cam, maybe apologise for his reaction, maybe see how Cam’s been doing, maybe make it clear that he’d really love to jump Cam’s bones if they can only coordinate their schedules and pinpoint a location.
But Cam’s in the middle of a huddle of flyboys, describing the working systems of the F302s and what they can accomplish in a dogfight.
So John hangs back, and as he hangs back he finds Rodney at his elbow, scowling at the scene with a glare that’s two parts suspicion and one part pure loathing.
“Seriously,” Rodney says, “Why is he here? The crew of the Daedalus can fly this route blindfolded. It’s practically a milk run. They don’t need a babysitter just because Colonel Caldwell’s sick. If you ask me this is the tip of the iceberg. The SGC has clearly sent Mitchell here on some kind of undercover sting operation.”
John, who can imagine no one less likely for that than Cam, tries hard not to cast Mitchell as some kind of galaxy-hopping version of Mata Hari. When it gets to feathered headdresses and stripteases with veils, he slouches as far down in his seat as he can get and swallows the pitiful groan.
“Colonel?” Rodney says, and inconsiderately pokes him in the arm with his fork.
“Ow,” John says plaintively.
Ronon drops down beside him and waits for exactly one heartbeat before he says, “What are you staring at?” before he attacks his food as if it’s done him personal injury.
John drags his eyes to front and centre, and tries not to watch Cam from across the room, tries not to stare, but his attention is definitely drawn when Cam suddenly bursts out laughing.
It doesn’t sound like an amused donkey but it is loud. John feels a surge of affection for that laugh.
Cam gets up and nods in friendly fashion at his audience before he untangles himself from their midst and walks away. Walks towards John and Rodney and Ronon.
John pushes his tray absently away to the centre of the table. Rodney steals his roll and Ronon steals his pudding cup.
John meets Cam halfway. “Colonel,” he says, “A word in private, if you don’t mind.”
“Well, I’m kind of tired,” Cam drawls, “Long trip, you know. Maybe we can pick this up in the morning.”
Cam’s blue eyes are shadowed even in the late evening sunlight that’s streaming through Atlantis’ stained glass windows. There’s a green square of light over Cam’s right eye and his face is a sickly patchwork of yellow and red that stretches down his collar and out across one shoulder.
“Actually,” John says guilelessly, “It’s about that thing we discussed back on Earth. I had another thought about that.”
“Yeah. I did. Thought we could continue our discussion, if you’ve got a minute.”
Cam snorts. “A minute, huh.”
“Maybe two,” John admits, “Or three.”
Cam levels a calm, almost-cool stare at him and then taps his radio. “Daedalus, I’m gonna be a couple more hours. Colonel Sheppard and I have reports to go over. I’ll call when I’m ready for a ride back home.”
John curses himself as he leads the way back to his quarters. Nobody’s giving them a second glance but it’s too damn risky and anyway, who’s to say that Cam will say yes?
It’s been a year and one month. It’s entirely possible that this long-distance relationship that John feels he’s in is one-sided. For all John knows, Cam’s been jumping every warm body that’s stayed still long enough. Hell, for all John knows, Cam could be married. And isn’t that a scary thought.
“You’re not married, are you?” John asks.
Cam squints at him sideways and his expression is the exact shade of bemusement John’s been imagining since he left Earth. “No,” Cam says, like he finds it strange he needs to answer that.
John wants to point out that in their world, it’s not unusual for strange things to happen. Getting married to some chief’s daughter on a mission off-world hasn’t happened yet but it wouldn’t be so bad, he thinks. Or son.
John glances sideways and wonders if there’s anyone else for Cam back on Earth, some other soldier who doesn’t tell if no one asks, who laughs at Cam’s jokes and doesn’t have to wait for a databurst through a stargate to send an email in code.
“You know,” Cam says suddenly, softly, “You guys really need to work on your welcoming committee. McKay I get. Just thought you’d be a little happier to see me.”
John clenches his fist tight and then carefully shifts closer, like it’s an accident and he can’t actually walk in a goddamn straight line. It’s all an excuse to gently brush his knuckles over the soft, weathered skin on the back of Cam’s hand.
“Last time I saw someone I didn’t expect in the gateroom,” John says, “They tried to kill me.”
“I have never tried to kill you.” A second and then- “Not your quarters. Too obvious.”
Anywhere on Atlantis is too obvious but John doesn’t care. Not once he gets Cam inside the first empty bedroom he can find.
The mattress is bare and there’s a dead plant in the corner, but he ends up with his back to the door, Cam’s mouth on his, and it’s all really, really wonderful until he starts to notice that Cam’s scrabbling at something beside his left hip and muttering curses like he can’t find what he wants.
“What are you doing?” John whispers, because just anyone could be walking down the corridor outside.
“Where the hell are the locks?” Cam demands.
And John bursts out laughing.
It’s loud and braying and he knows it sounds terrible but Cam swats a hand over his mouth irritably and actually hushes him, like an old school librarian with pursed lips and a finger raised and everything.
John reaches out blindly and swipes his palm across the console with the bright blue light. Cam’s face goes pink and sheepish as his brain makes the connection between being around Ancient tech and actually using Ancient tech.
“Right,” Cam says, and lets go.
John softens. “Wait,” he says, and reaches out with both hands, “You can show this one to Jackson when you get back.”
He touches Cam’s face lightly with the tips of his fingers and slants it down, even as he leans his own head forward. Cam’s skin is cool and his jawline is scratchy. The skin on his forehead is smooth. John shuts his eyes and just breathes as he rests there, forehead to forehead.
“Is something else supposed to happen?” Cam finally whispers.
John draws back. “It’s a traditional Athosian greeting for trusted friends and family.”
Cam stares at him. “Should I worry that you’re thinking about Daniel for things like that?”
There are a thousand funny things John could say to that, and a thousand funny things he’s already said. This whole thing has been about fun since the beginning. It’s been about fun and convenience, and it’s been about how easy all this is.
Cam made it easy, right at the start. Cam was the one who asked; made it easy for John to tell because Cam said he was a sure thing in just that tone of voice that could have been a joke but wasn’t. Could have been just a guy playing a prank but wasn’t. And Cam, even after the world’s most awkward dinner date, made jokes about carriages and mice to keep John laughing and relaxed.
John smiles. “Never on my mind. Why? Is McKay on yours?”
“Hell, no,” Cam groans, “Way to kill a mood, Sheppard.”
John laughs, because he’s pretty sure that there’s no other way to react when Cam is warm and alive and standing with him in a locked room in Atlantis, glaring at him with lips still swollen from kissing him up against a door.
“Let me rephrase that,” John grins, “It’s been ten months and if you don’t fuck me, I’m going to go crazy. And then you can explain to everybody why the military commander of Atlantis is foaming at the mouth and trying to rip your clothes off.”
“Sex pollen,” Cam says promptly, “Really strong.”
“Good excuse. Bed? Please? Now?”
The sex is good, though over somewhat faster than John would like. Cam really isn’t kidding about being tired because he conks out right there on the unmade bed.
John debates panicking and running around in circles, trying to get Cam dressed and create alibis on the other side of the city. He debates just getting out of bed and being conspicuously somewhere else with witnesses, so no one puts two and two together to make one beast with a very bare back.
When he’s burned through all these debates, he lays his head back down on his bundled clothes and drifts off.
He wakes up to the sound of a loud thud as Cam rolls over and bangs face-first into the wall. It takes him a moment to figure out what it is, but once Cam sits bolt upright and clutches his nose, cursing fluently under his breath, John laughs so hard he lands on his ass on the floor. The sight of Cam’s face hovering over the edge of the bed, staring down at him in annoyance only makes it even funnier.
But finally, finally John stops laughing. Cam gets out of bed, steps over him and gets dressed, fingers buttoning his shirt as he looks around for his radio and finds it in one dusty corner.
John stands up and stretches luxuriously, feeling sleepy and sated and boneless. There’s a soreness in his hips that comes from being bent entirely the wrong way for a little too long but even that is almost a pleasant twinge. Kind of like a secret. Like talking to people and picturing Cam in the middle of sex, all hot and bothered and private.
He watches Cam tap his radio and ask that someone beam him up, and he lifts a hand in a fond wave as Cam flickers away into the wide blue yonder.
Then he makes sure to check around corners for Wraith as he saunters back to his quarters, just in case. He taps his radio and checks with the on-duty security staff to make sure that nothing’s blown up, activated, vanished or killed anyone while he’s been off-grid.
For once the universe conspires to be almost nice to him and he gets to go back to sleep.
In the week that follows, he exists in a hazy world of secret smirks and a heartfelt attempt to try not to make things difficult for Cam. He counts it as lucky that Rodney is too busy saying goodbye to Jennifer and their unborn baby, Teyla too caught up in Torren running around Atlantis like it’s his personal playground.
Ronon’s never been much of a talker, and John trusts him. Trusts that Lorne won’t talk even if he notices something. Trusts that Woolsey wouldn’t even know what to suspect if John sat in Cam’s lap and nibbled his earlobe.
The morning that the Daedalus starts the journey back to Earth, Rodney is a mess. Ronon and Teyla gather round and prod him patiently out of it, but McKay seems genuinely upset. John sympathises. He feels genuinely upset too.
It’s not as though John imagines flying off into the sunset with Cam in a puddlejumper or anything.
The first month after the Daedalus leaves is unexpectedly difficult. John has never considered himself a bad tempered person but his mood is positively foul for about four weeks. Lorne makes himself scarce, his people fidget when he’s around, and the scientists stand one discreet step further away than they normally do.
The only people who approach him are his team, and they get snapped at frequently enough to draw Teyla’s attention.
“Is there something troubling you, John?” she asks, tying back her hair.
John stifles the kneejerk urge to ask her why she never asked him that question eleven months ago. He just shakes his head and smiles. “I’m fine,” he says coolly.
She narrows her eyes at him but he distracts her by trying to injure her with a pair of sticks.
It works for the most parts.
Ronon is a lot more difficult to evade, mostly because he’s far more blunt, but Ronon doesn’t ask, so John doesn’t tell, which only serves to make John’s mood worse.
By the time he gets his first email from Cam, he’s ready to call it quits and demand they open up the stargate to send him back to Earth.
The thing is, he doesn’t care about the Pegasus galaxy. He loves Atlantis, but not the responsibility. He loves his team- in a completely platonic way- but they’re all moving on. Teyla and Kanaan are spending far more time with each other now that Torren has his own little personality. Now that Torren smiles and says ‘Papa’ and ‘Car’. Carson is back, sort of, running the medical team and Woolsey seems to have some sort of political game of chess going with the Council.
The Wraith seem to be hibernating again, licking their wounds and retreating now that their food has started fighting back.
It’s not that John feels useless. They’re still an expedition and he still gets to turn on Ancient devices and see what they do. He still gets called down to the labs to poke at things and pick them up. There’s still so much of the City to explore, so much of the galaxy to discover. They still do get attacked and they still put their lives on the line but it just doesn’t feel the same.
John finds Rodney one night, sitting on the pier and staring at the two moons hanging low in the sky. There’s no beer this time, and maybe that accounts for the lack of jokes.
“I think I’m getting tired,” Rodney says.
It’s a big improvement on ‘goodbye’, but to hear the smartest brain in two galaxies say that he’s running out of steam depresses John like nothing else.
The baby finally gets born a week early. Rodney gets a call to report to Woolsey’s office and for a couple of days his blood pressure hits the roof. The reports say that Jennifer is fine, that mother and child are doing well, but finally he gets a video from Jeannie with Jennifer waving hello and introducing him to his daughter.
The news gets announced over the City-wide speakers and Rodney looks like he’s going to literally burst with pride.
John thinks of Cam and how neither of them will actually have that, not with each other, unless there’s something Cam’s not telling him about, and the lingering trace of resentment shifts to envy. He envies Rodney this chance.
He’s still happy for him, though, and he gets it, so when Rodney says, “John, I want to talk to you about something,” John doesn’t even look up from the Ancient device they’re supposed to be trying to examine before he says, “Yeah, Rodney, I think you should go back.”
Atlantis survives. John almost doesn’t.
There’s a terrible mistake with the generators and there’s a moment when John taps his radio and yells, “McK...” and realises that Rodney’s no longer there to fix whatever’s gone wrong this time. Zelenka is slower, but he steps up to the plate. And he says nothing about John’s little slip-up, not even when anyone patched into the public channel could recognise it for what it was.
John thinks Radek’s generosity might have something to do with the fact that the military commander is lying on a bed in the infirmary- again- with his hands and his chest wrapped in bandages and the threat of permanent nerve damage burning through his brain cells.
Carson fusses over him and John gets email from Rodney that Teyla reads out for him, stumbling a little over the unfamiliar words and not getting the tone right.
But it’s Rodney. When Teyla reaches the part where Rodney points out that he always predicted people would manage to blow up Atlantis if he wasn’t there to keep an eye on it, John laughs.
It’s a small huff of breath more than a sound, but he is doped to the eyeballs and it’s enough to relax the knots in his shoulders.
His email from Cam is a lot briefer. It isn’t funny. It doesn’t have a joke. It simply says that Cam hopes he’s alright, and wishes him luck with his hands.
In the circumstances, John isn’t asked to type his report. He gets Chuck to type it up for him, which makes him feel very important, lying there and dictating his report to someone lower down the hierarchy.
Still, he has no regrets when Carson tells him that there is no permanent damage, maybe a bit of scarring but nothing that will stop him doing what he’s always done.
John thinks of touching Cam’s face and hips, wrapping his fingers tight around Cam’s biceps, and he’s a little glad that he’s not going home because of something that will stop him being able to enjoy that again.
By the time he’s fit to go off-world again, three months have passed. He gets another scientist for his team, a bubbly girl with a good head on her shoulders and a surprising knack for swearing in French, but she seems to know her job and doesn’t interfere with his, so he’s happy. Mostly. Maybe.
He thinks of Ford a lot the first few times and feels like it’s just no fun anymore.
It never was, really, it just seemed bearable when there were people around who came from the same planet and spoke the same language. His new scientist is nice but she’s so young. He doesn’t know her and he’s spent so much time learning how things worked with Rodney that it’s weird to break in someone new.
Another month goes by before he finally sits himself down and puts in his papers for leave. He wants a month but he’ll take two weeks. Hell, he’ll take two days.
When he sees Cam again, Cam still looks older and thinner and John fights not to grab Cam by the biceps and just kiss him where they stand. He could, he thinks. They’re in a small town, dressed in civvies, taking two weeks off that accidentally coincide.
How Cam wrangled it John will never know.
Predictably, their mutual luck holds. It’s supposed to be two weeks of sunshine in a shack in the mountains, with fishing and hiking and possibly driving down to the probably overgrown golf range that’s half an hour away from the nearest town. It ends up raining.
It rains and rains and they sit in the cabin and stare out of the window, moodily drinking beer and bitching at the weather.
Finally Cam makes a break for it. He has to, they need food and John challenges him to a game of prime/ not prime for it. Best three out of five, John says. Cam comes back triumphantly bearing two packs of cards.
They start with poker and degenerate to strip snap.
The sight of Cam mostly naked and damp is a rousing sight and John may not be a gentleman- and Cam is certainly not a lady- but he handsomely offers to make the next run into town for sustenance and amusement.
He comes back with bad food, worse beer, and movies. He also comes back soaked to the skin, shivering and feeling a bit pathetic. Cam tosses a towel at his head and doesn’t seem to notice that there’s anything wrong.
By the end of two weeks, they’re heartily sick of the sight of cards, and of each other, and of a shack in the mountains.
The drive back to Colorado Springs is conducted in near silence and the sun breaks into view when they’re an hour away from the base.
“Look what I found by the side of the road,” Cam says to the kid on the gate, waving a hand at John in the passenger seat, “We lose any Lieutenant Colonels lately?”
The kid looks confused, mouth open and brow wrinkled, looking in panic between them as if he’s not sure whether to smile, shake his head, or call a superior officer.
John sighs. “Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard,” he says, and hands over his ID.
He leans across Cam without thinking and he can feel Cam’s chest against his arm, warm skin and rough polo shirt and if he looks properly, he’ll see the corner of Cam’s mouth close enough to kiss.
John tenses and draws his arm back slowly. He doesn’t look at Cam. He’s fairly sure Cam doesn’t look at him.
Instead Cam drives on.
John goes back on the Daedalus, sneezing all the way.
By the time he gets to Atlantis, the cold has degenerated into a fever and he beams down, mumbles at Woolsey, and promptly collapses. Apparently Ronon shrugs, slings him over a shoulder and carries him to the infirmary, which is where he spends the next two days.
Lorne reports there when he’s more or less conscious, and his smile doesn’t seem mocking but John glares at him weakly from his nice, soft pillow just in case.
“How was your holiday, sir?” Lorne asks brightly.
John glares harder. “Fine,” he rasps.
To Carson, John says, “If I ever ask for time off again, shoot me.”
He’s been half suspecting that Cam’s stint in command of the Daedalus might continue into a more recurring role. He constructs a few fantasies around it. Imagines having Cam arrive every three months, looking like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth until he gives John a filthy leer and tips his head to the nearest exit.
John thinks fondly of driving golf balls into the ocean with someone who knows which way round to hold the damn club. Maybe they could throw a ball around, or put up a hoop somewhere.
He gets to where Cam starts lessons on hand-to-hand with Teyla and Ronon and yanks himself brutally out of that. It’s a pleasant dream, but highly impractical. Not least because Cam is not in command of the Daedalus. They haven’t talked about it, but if he is offered a ship, it’s not likely to be one that flies out to Atlantis.
Cam’s speciality is getting the shit kicked out of him by the Ori, the Trust, and occasionally the Goa’uld- the bad guys of the Milky Way. His experience of a Wraith is Todd, who stayed locked in a prisoner containment cell on Atlantis when they were off the coast of San Francisco and who affably mocked all the military personnel and scientists who came to gawk at him like an exhibit in a museum.
John hasn’t seen or heard from Todd since they let him go. He doesn’t know if Todd is alive. He doesn’t actually care, in all honesty.
Not after Todd took over the Daedalus and threatened to kill his people.
John goes hot and cold at the thought of his one trip to the future-that-was, where Rodney-the-hologram told him Sam Carter died on a ship that had never been properly finished before it was sent into battle. Things aren’t life and death anymore and John’s fairly sure that the future has changed now that Torren is safe with his parents on a fully functioning Atlantis, but it could still happen. Somewhere in the future a commanding officer could die on a ship that isn’t as ready as they thought it could be.
Even the Death Star had a weak spot.
John sends Cam an email:
Simulation: Congratulations. You have command of a ship. But then you get the shit kicked out of you and your ship’s going down. What do you do?
His reply comes back the very next day:
Get my crew off. And then get the hell out of there. What did I win this time?
He types ‘my undying love’ before he even thinks about it and hits send before it occurs to him that that’s probably not the most discreet reply. Or the most subtle.
He’s precluded from worrying too much about being emotional and obvious by Zelenka’s urgent call for assistance from the lab. They’ve been exploring the City on downtime and someone’s accidentally activated a machine they don’t know anything about.
Caldwell arrives not four days later, and this is a regular enough occurrence that John doesn’t pay it much attention until Caldwell taps him on the shoulder and says, “Colonel Sheppard, a word, please.”
John has an office. He really does. It’s a room with a door and a desk.
Caldwell isn’t impressed with the decor but John doesn’t blame him. He isn’t impressed with it either.
“What’s this about?” he asks.
“I’ve been asked to apprise you of a probable change in regulations,” Caldwell says, sounding as awkward as he looks, “The United States military is reviewing the regulations concerning inter-personal relationships.”
John raises an eyebrow.
“Like DADT,” Caldwell elaborates, “And some of the regulations concerning fraternisation.”
“I know what you mean,” John says, “What I don’t know is what you mean by ‘reviewing’.”
“They’re thinking of removing them. Permanently. Effectively, openly homosexual personnel will be allowed to serve.”
John’s arms drop to his side.
“Yes,” Caldwell says, and smiles thinly, “Oh. Seems the lobbyists have finally got their way. General Landry assumed you wouldn’t be aware of the rumours it may go through, given your location in another galaxy. He asked me to pass on the message.”
“Right,” John says, and stares hard at the door. And then, “Rumours?”
“The amendments haven’t passed yet,” Caldwell admits.
The amendments pass.
John wants to sit down and take a long hard look at his life, and his past, and his future, but unfortunately a contingent of pissed-off Travellers decide that now is the time to go rogue. And they want technology from Atlantis. Of course. The City of the Ancestors.
Zelenka’s juicing up the shields and John’s trying to think up ways to take out the ship without going on suicide missions.
They’re limping through the situation when Larrin turns up and shoots the bejeesus out of her sister ship.
Not that Larrin’s help doesn’t come with a price. John looks the other way, whistles, and boards the ship unarmed with Zelenka to poke at some doomsday device she’s convinced is going to save her people.
His track record with Larrin is pretty miserable and he’s got Radek to worry about too, now, so he is understandably a little tense, but Larrin only tries to kidnap them once, however, which is practically friendly on her part.
John is also habitually incapable of spending time with a woman and not flirting, so Radek starts smiling into his wires like he’s already savouring the gossip.
John lets him. He even flirts a little harder out of an instinct for creating smokescreens.
Radek is practically rubbing his hands together in glee by the time they’re done. Larrin is patently not interested but she smirks at him like she sees right through his little act.
John doesn’t care; he’s got mail.
It’s from Rodney, all the way over on Earth in the Milky Way, sitting in a lab in Colorado Springs.
“Colonel Mitchell’s been replaced by a replicator,” Rodney writes, “He keeps asking about you. How are you, by the way? I assume you’re not dead.”
John’s not counting days down on his calendar. That’s the sort of thing he expects from a twelve year old girl with her first crush. He’s not, for instance, waiting for the 20th of September to dawn bright and clear.
He has, however, made all the requisite announcements to his people. He’s had meetings with Woolsey, Lorne, SGA off-world team leaders, the medical staff, the scientists, and what feels like every other department on Atlantis. He’s even left his office door open, though admittedly he’s never there. Still, he’s sure that the metaphor isn’t lost on anyone who cares and he is sort of on-call twenty-four hours a day.
He gets another email from Rodney, this time saying:
Congratulations. Welcome to the modern world.
January the twentieth turns out to anticlimactic. The most that happens is Vega asks some woman out, but even she has the temerity to do it discreetly. The only reason anybody knows is because the scientists gossip.
Nobody wants to change their medical proxy. Nobody walks around holding hands. John shrugs philosophically and decides he’s actually rather glad that the marines are being quiet. He’d half expected them to be a lot more vocal, make a lot more jokes, but clearly he’s underestimated their sensitivity.
Until he gets called to the mess hall and finds it set up as Date Central.
Someone’s managed to dim the lights, and someone else has managed to find real white tablecloths. There are candles and bunches of scraggy wild flowers from the mainland and a team of six marines are sitting two to a table, staring soulfully into each other’s eyes.
John almost turns around and walks right back out again.
Lorne gets there thirty seconds after he does, and when that happens John smiles grimly and stands aside.
Lorne breathes in deep, and then lets loose. He has the marines take down the decorations, blow out the candles, clear off the tables, and lined up at attention in double-quick time. John knows drill sergeants who would weep with joy at the mastery of Lorne’s ‘I will kill you but if you do exactly what I say you may not suffer’ shouting.
His turn to rip the marines a new one comes later, when they’re suitably chastened and a little pitiful, and he’s had a chance to think up some really cutting, sarcastic things to say.
Then he goes to his room and laughs his head off at the memory of Sergeant Murphy holding Captain Dunhope’s large hand between both of his, saying, “Baby, your eyes are blue like two activated stargates.”
His email to Cam is brief, and he agonises over it for an hour before he decides on:
Why did the skeleton go to the party alone?
Because he had no body to go with him.
Cam sends him back another:
I ever tell you about the time I woke up and saw the ghost of Gloria Gaynor standing at the foot of my bed holding a knife in her hand? Well, first I was afraid... then I was petrified.
John does what got him into this mess in the first place- he thinks about where he is in the universe. And then he thinks about where Cam is. And oddly, he doesn’t see any reason why they have to be in two different places at all.
It’s odd because he doesn’t do big romances, gay or otherwise.
As a professional courtesy to the people who have to live with him, he gets Carson to do a full medical check on him. His blood work is normal, his brain scans are normal, his motor function is normal. There is nothing wrong with him.
So clearly it’s not some kind of freaky drug or love potion or sex pollen.
He wants Cam. He maybe wants to spend time with Cam- experience of constant rain, strip snap and colds notwithstanding- and nobody’s going to throw him out of the Air Force for wanting that.
The question becomes- what does Cam want?
This is the first time that John physically curses the fact that they’re in a whole other galaxy. Even in Afghanistan he could have called home. If he was desperate. If he was lucky. If he wasn’t dead. But he could have and did, because he’d had Nancy waiting back home for him.
It’s practically impossible to call Earth long-distance from Atlantis. Certainly not unless he uses the stargate. And if he does that, he’s going to end up having this conversation in front of everybody in two gaterooms.
He can imagine the horror on Cam’s face if he tries.
Though it would solve that pesky problem of coming out.
Unless Cam doesn’t want to come out.
And there is that possibility, that Cam prefers his private life to stay private. John is all for that. In theory. So long as he also gets the chance to do stupid things like leer at Cam when they’re off-duty, maybe kiss him, maybe just joke with him. Lean into his space a little and not worry about what people are thinking because they’d be thinking the right thing.
In the end, the SGC does him the biggest favour since sending them their first ZPM- they order him back for a performance review.
It’s not a complete surprise. They’re getting to just about that time of the year and John missed the last one due to having burns all over his hands and chest. Carson had flatly refused to let him out of bed for anything less than incipient destruction of the universe, so John has two years’ worth of fun memories to justify to the IOA and his superior officers.
By the time he’s stepped through the stargate, he’s convinced that nothing good is going to come of his visit to Earth. He’s convinced that the SGC is going to stand him down and that Cam is going to reject him, and the only thing he isn’t sure about is whether his inappropriate pining for a fellow officer will be part of the reason he loses Atlantis, never mind the repeal of DADT.
He’s assigned quarters, meets with Landry, gets told who will expect him when, and then the rest of the evening is his to do with as he pleases.
It’s a little too risky to start asking around for Colonel Cameron Mitchell so soon after his arrival but by this point, John just wants to get it over with. He wants to finish making a fool of himself, or getting laughed at, or even gently told that he’s an idiot and this was only ever meant to be a bit of fun.
Cam’s on the base basketball court with Jackson and two other guys. There’s a lot of sweating and panting and yelling.
John remembers that. Two and a half years ago, he was in that game, teamed with Cam because Jackson was drooling over the Atlantis database with twenty other scientists.
John leans against a wall and watches, fingers twitching and stuffed into his pockets. Cam’s seen him; he knows because Cam’s looked over, raised a quick hand in acknowledgement.
The game’s over in about ten minutes but it feels like eternity.
John feels more ridiculous the longer he stands, like a schoolgirl watching the jock she likes out on the football field.
He’s mentally started to pick out short skirts when Daniel Jackson jogs over to him.
“Colonel Sheppard,” he says, “Nice to see you again.”
John resigns himself to wasting time talking to Jackson, who apparently has the skin of a rhinoceros because even when Cam joins them at a slow stroll, none of the hints John’s been dropping do them any good.
It’s almost like talking to Rodney again, with less arrogance.
Cam actually smirks at him and encourages Jackson, all honest blue eyes and earnest head nodding.
John’s ready to just grab Cam and make a run for it when Daniel suddenly snaps his fingers and says, “Hey, you should come out with us tonight.”
“Tonight?” John echoes, and he will swear before God and his country that he did not whine.
Cam’s smile is growing more diabolically evil by the second.
“Yeah,” Jackson says, “Cam and I, we were gonna go to this place in town. Nothing fancy, you know. You should come too. They do a mean steak.”
“They sure do,” Cam drawls, and pulls up his shirt to wipe his face.
John can see a long expanse of skin and stomach and that terribly obscene trail of hair, and his brain gets a bit sidetracked.
Which is why it jumps to entirely the wrong conclusion.
He looks between the two of them and he feels his eyes narrow. Cam’s still watching him, and Jackson’s beginning to look a little confused.
“Colonel? You okay?” Daniel asks.
“Fine,” John says distantly.
And Cam finally, finally takes pity on him. “Tell you what, Sheppard, how ‘bout we take a nice walk back to your quarters and I’ll make sure you don’t die on the way.”
John glares at him.
Cam grins shamelessly.
Daniel backs away. “Well,” he says, “I’m going to go. Clean up.”
They stand there in silence while Daniel disappears and then Cam offers John a small bow and an ironic wave of his hand towards the exit.
John doesn’t budge. “So,” he says, “You and Jackson.”
Cam opens his mouth, gleeful mockery written all over his face, and suddenly he just stops. He softens, shakes his head, and looks at John with something close to fond exasperation.
“You’re an idiot,” Cam says, “And you can’t take a joke.”
John’s blood pressure is about to hit the roof and he wonders if this is how Rodney feels all the time. He’s just glad that Cam isn’t trying to touch him because then he’d have to kick Cam’s ass, and he’s pretty sure that after his training with Teyla and Ronon, he could do that no problem.
And then his traitorous brain twists it around so that it’s all about getting his hands on Cam’s warm, sweat-slick skin, and pinning him to the floor and maybe pressing down into him, chest to toes, and the way Cam arches, neck stretched long and so very inviting...
He groans and thumps his head back hard against the wall. And when that helps a little, he does it again.
“Whoa,” Cam says, grabbing him by the front of his shirt and pulling him away from hard surfaces, “Don’t give yourself concussion yet. We’re not even at the good part.”
“What good part?” John asks, “I’m an idiot and you’re sleeping with Daniel Jackson.”
Cam sighs, still not letting go of John’s shirt.
If John concentrates and leans forward, he’ll feel those fingers up against his chest. And sure, he could kick Cam’s ass, but Cam has plain ol’ body weight on his side. Cam’s broader, heavier, and possibly if he gets John right where John shouldn’t be, he’ll have brute strength in his favour.
John swallows against the sense memory of Cam fucking him into the sheets.
It’s really not appropriate for the on-base basketball court.
John mentally makes a note to look at private apartments in Colorado Springs before he mentally smacks himself in the head for it. They don’t need apartments. Cam has a house off-base. And Cam’s got a new lover. Or something. John’s not sure, because John is confused and possibly delirious with jealousy.
“Okay,” Cam says, and lifts his other hand to John’s cheek, “Breathe. Shit, John, I was just kidding. You know? That thing we do? It’s supposed to be funny.”
“It’s not funny,” John repeats, “Look, in fifteen hours I’ve got to stand in front of a lot of people who are going to make my life miserable for the foreseeable future. I don’t have a lot of mind to mess with right now.”
Cam’s fingers really are warm, and his fingertips are rough, and then he drops his hands from John’s cheek and John’s shirt and reaches for John’s right hand. He lifts it, and traces the irregular burn scars.
John hasn’t noticed them in months. The scars are all over his chest and his hands but everyone on Atlantis knows about them. Cam knows about them too; he’s seen them in a shack in the mountains- pink and new and a lot uglier.
It hits him hard that Cam never joked about them. He remembers that email, with no funny lines and no teasing- just the hope that everything works out fine.
John forces every muscle in his back to relax, forces his frustration down. “It doesn’t look that bad, does it?”
“I don’t know,” Cam says, and then he yanks up his shirt, slaps John’s hand over the soft skin of his stomach and tips his head to the side as if he’s seriously considering it. “What do you think?”
Cam’s stomach is flat and soft beneath his hand and the skin is definitely warm. John can feel the fine, blond hairs against his palm and he rubs almost before he thinks about it. It feels like every nerve in his body suddenly goes on high alert.
“Looks great,” John says breathlessly, “Best thing ever.”
And then he looks up and Cam’s pupils are widening, black edging out the blue, and John gives up entirely.
“Your quarters,” Cam growls, “Now.”
“Sir, yes, sir,” John replies, and grabs Cam by the shoulders, spins him and shoves him at the door.
The walk to his room is excruciatingly long, and there are so many people. Cam walks beside him, face blank, not touching him, but John keeps having to walk off-course, just to brush the back of his clenched fist against the weathered skin on the back of Cam’s hand.
Nobody seems to notice and then Cam grabs him just outside his room, slams him up against the door right there in the corridor and kisses him hard enough to melt his brain.
John yelps, “Wait, wait, people can see,” like a twelve year old girl, and Cam says, “Let them. Repealed, remember?” and John thinks he’s happier than he’s been since before he ever went to Afghanistan.
The sex is loud and enthusiastic, and John interrupts them both in the middle to sit up and say, “Hey, wasn’t Jackson waiting to...?” before Cam bites him hard on the shoulder and says, “If you’re thinking of Daniel while you’re fucking me, I’m going to kill you and get Teal’c to hide the body.”
John goes back to blowing Cam, smiling up at him in just the way he knows will make Cam’s spine do that impossible liquid arching thing that no human body should.
When it’s all over, John whispers, “Cam?” into Cam’s neck, and waits until he gets a ‘hng’ in reply before he asks, “Just to be clear, this thing- it’s not just about fun, right?”
“Never was,” Cam says sleepily, and rubs his fingertips gently against the back of John’s hand on his waist, right over the burn scars.
John breathes in deep and closes his eyes. “We telling anyone?” he asks.
He can almost hear the sated grin on Cam’s face when Cam says, “If they ask, yeah. Or we could just tell Vala. Whole damn base will know by tomorrow night.”
“Think I’d like that,” John says, “At some point. Not yet. Let me get through tomorrow.”
Cam snorts. “You think anybody else is stupid enough to want that posting? Atlantis is like frontier war with nukes. Only one crazy enough to survive it is you.”
“You say that to the other boys?”
“Baby, there’s no other boy for me but you.”
John groans and bumps his forehead lightly against the back of Cam’s head. “That was terrible,” he says.
And suddenly Cam pulls out of his arms and turns around, leg thrown over John’s bare hip and grinning like he’s trying to strain a facial muscle.
Cam says, “Hey, gene boy, got another one for you.”
“For fuck’s sake,” John says.
“No, you’ll love this one. What’s got dark hair, a silver oak leaf, and is green with jealousy?”
John stares at him for just a second and then grabs a pillow and clocks Cam right in the face with it.
That does, of course, lead to a pillow fight.
But it’s alright. Everything works out fine at the end.