John Sheppard wasn't normally a very sentimental man. At least, that's what he liked to think. He traveled light, never having more than he could carry. He didn't cling to material objects or wax poetic over fond childhood memories. He chose a football game instead of familial reminders that first trip to Pegasus and hadn't regretted it one bit.
In contrast, he thought of Cameron Mitchell's apartment. The man had at least a dozen pictures of his family displayed, a few of SG-1 and some of college friends he still kept in touch with. Cam even had a picture of his childhood dog framed. On one wall, Cam had dozens of pictures of pilots he had served with over the years. John was in one of them. Just another pilot, another friend - nothing remarkable. He wasn't even standing next to Cam.
John had photos, too. Four of them. He usually kept them in an envelope in his sock drawer. One is a wedding photo of his parents. He removed it from an album when he suddenly realized he couldn't remember what his mother looked like. He didn't really look at it much anymore, but it gave him comfort to know it was there.
The second photo is of another wedding - his. The marriage might not have worked out, but Nancy was still a good friend. He kept it to remind him of all the things he didn't deserve and all the things he should have wanted. It mostly depressed him, so he tried not to dwell on it.
Another photo is a snapshot of his unit in Afghanistan. Only two pilots in the photo are still alive. He heard that Jones lost both his legs in a crash a couple years ago. John had sent an email, and had gotten a cursory reply. He hadn't looked at the photo since, not wanting to imagine all those pilots dead or Jones without his legs.
The last picture is older and all the pilots are younger. It was taken by Cam's mom just after the graduation ceremony for Advanced Flight Training. He frequently pulls the photo out and stares at the two of them sandwiched between other pilots from their class. They have their arms draped across each others shoulders and big smiles plastered their faces. Cam's gaze is focused on John, not the camera, and John is leaning into Cam. John can't recall the last time he had been that casually affectionate with Cam in public. Probably not since that day, before the reality of what they were doing settled in on them and they restrained their public behavior.
John Sheppard wasn't normally a very sentimental man. He looked at his surroundings and figured that he could cut himself a little slack, just this once. The landscape was a rocky desert, hot, dry and uninviting. Not a sign of life anywhere and he couldn't get the DHD to dial.
He was thankful his team got through the gate and knew they'd eventually mount a rescue mission. That is if they had any clue where he ended up. Rodney might figure it out - trace the planet-hopping John did to get here - but Rodney was unconscious. John had watched Ronon carry him through the gate while Teyla laid covering fire. He hoped Rodney was going to be all right.
The field dressing he hastily applied on his abdominal wound was soaked through. His water bottle was empty and he was starting to think perhaps they wouldn't find him in time. That this time his number was really up. Who would tell Cam?
It wasn't a new thought, but it wasn't a thought he'd really taken seriously before. For as much as people thought he had a death wish, he didn't.
He reached into his vest, peeled back the velcro and pulled out the old photo. He had no idea what made him slip it into his pocket that morning, it wasn't something he normally carried with him. Fate. Maybe this really is it. Game over.
He imagined someone going through his belongings, packing them up and sending them back to Earth. Rodney maybe. Teyla probably. Ronon would hang around and finish up the beer in his fridge. He felt sorry for whoever Ronon sparred with after that.
They'd send his things to his brother Dave, but what in the world would Dave do with them? He'd probably put the photo of their parents back into the wedding album were it belonged, where John had stolen it from all those years ago. Maybe he'd pass the other on to Nancy. He knew they still talked and had lunch now and then. He wouldn't pass anything on to Cam, not that there was anything to pass along. He thought maybe Cam would want his Johnny Cash poster or his surfboard or.... something. Dave wouldn't have a clue.
John didn't get an email from Cam in the last data burst from Earth. That had happened before, the timing not always working out for them. This time it made him uncomfortable. He knew things were getting pretty bad with the Ori and that the Priors were taking over more and more territory.
He realized this worry is probably what prompted him to slip the photo into his pocket. The only tangible evidence he had that Cam existed – crazy sounding as that was. Actually, it was more like proof that Cam-and-John existed. He thought briefly of the wedding photos as he studied the picture in his hands. It was just a group of pilots, nothing remarkable.
John had fully expected the end of his life to be filled with regrets. Regrets for soldiers he had let down, lives lost and families shattered. Regrets for waking the Wraith, bringing down a biblical pestilence on a population that wasn't prepared or recovered enough from the last time. Some people carried the world on their shoulders, John carried a galaxy. Looking at a photo of young pilots, he was hit with a fresh regret that no one knew. And if Cam really was dying on some mission now, no one ever would. Even if Cam was ok, who would tell him that John's last thoughts were of him?
John searched his vest pockets for a pen. His might die on this god-forsaken rock, but he had faith that his team would find him eventually. He didn't know what to call what he and Cam shared. He suspected it was something like love, a dysfunctional, what-are-we-doing, wild, mad, live-on-the-edge kind of love, but probably love. Whatever it was, he was sure as hell not going to let it fade without a trace. He had no paper, so he turned over the photograph. Pen in hand, he began to write... "tell Cam"... he paused. Tell Cam what?
His radio crackled. “Colonel Sheppard, do you copy?”