Home on the Range
"Please assure Mr. Devon that his party will not be disappointed in the helicopter tour of the Badlands." Cam smiled as he spoke, because his Aunt Mildred once told him that people could tell if you're smiling when you talk on the phone.
That smile fell away as he listened to the nervous assistant on the other end of the call. Finally he just interrupted. "Yes, from Rapid City you're an easy drive to Mt. Rushmore, Deadwood, and the Crazy Horse Monument, but that's heading west. The Badlands are about an hour east. On your way out here, I'd recommend a short detour into Wall-" Cam scratched at the back of his neck.
"The Wall Chamber of Commerce should give us a discount for all the advertising you do," John said.
Cam did his best to ignore John. "Yes, that's Wall, South Dakota as in wall - there are four of them to most rooms. ... Yes!" Cam shook his head.
"There's the Wall Drug, which started out as a small town drugstore. It almost went under during the Great Depression. The owner decided to offer anyone who came in a glass of ice water. He put up signs on the highway and the rest, as they say, is history." Cam smiled again, because he didn't want the guy on the other end to sense the groan he wanted to let out. "Yes, it did survive the Depression."
"'Cause otherwise it would be dumb for us to recommend it if it was now a gas station," John mumbled.
"No, you won't need special directions, because there are dozens of signs along the highway."
John rolled his eyes and started laughing. "And you can still get a free glass of ice water."
"No. The Corn Palace is in Mitchell-" Cam let out a pained laugh. "Yes, that is my name, but the town is about three and a half hours out of your way. Another local attraction that you might want to check out is Ellsworth Air Force Base. They have tours of the Cold War era missile silos." Cam tapped his fingers against the desk. "Yeah, I thought you'd like that. When you're coming out of Wall, you'll head south on 240; it's the Badland's Loop Road. Before you get into the National Park, you'll see our office located on 236th Street."
"Why don't you tell him we live a couple miles down 236, just turn right at the red barn," John said.
Cam threw a tennis ball at him. John caught it easily.
"You tried to fly in this week, but you couldn't get hotel reservations? Yeah, that's because of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. ... Uhm, no. It's more like people who like riding motorcycles as opposed to violent gangs."
"Yup, can't trust those Satan worshippers that ride too fast." John shook his head.
Cam spoke really fast. "We look forward to seeing Mr. Devon next Thursday." He hung up the phone as quickly as he could.
"When did we become corporate tools?" John asked.
Cam looked across the oversized metal desk. John had his feet up on one corner as he leaned back in a wooden chair that matched the 60s era of the desk. There was a netbook on his knees and a stained coffee cup at his elbow.
"Corporate tools? You don't even have a desk."
"There wasn't room in here for a second desk once you brought in this behemoth." There was neither bite nor humor in John's tone. It was seemingly a simple statement of facts. It wasn't the full truth, but Cam was used to the baiting.
This time Cam smiled for real as he looked around their office with a sense of satisfaction. There was room for about four visitors on the other side of the counter. On the "business" side there was the huge desk, a coffeemaker on top of a pint-sized fridge, and a tall file cabinet where the third drawer never opened. It was an un-insulated shack in the middle of nowhere. It was paradise.
"I seem to remember you refusing a desk and then proceeding to take over half of mine. I believe that was what inspired me to bring in a desk big enough to share."
John took a sip of his coffee. "Hey, I'm just a glorified bus driver. I don't know what you're talking about." This time he shot Cam a glance. His face and eyes were still completely expressionless. This was how Cam had lost a hundred games of poker to the man in front of him - good thing they had a joint bank account.
"Speaking of which, if I might be the guy in charge for a minute…"
"I like when you're the guy in charge." The smile on John's face was now completely wicked.
"You need to clock some hours on something with wings to finish your flight instructor certification."
John's head fell back in complete dejection. "Aren't there things that I need to do for my Search and Rescue cert? You know, fun stuff."
"You did that a month after we moved here," Cam said.
John wrinkled his nose. "Couldn't I clean the bathroom instead?"
"Yes," Cam said automatically, because getting John to do any kind of housework was harder than getting him to fly the Cessna or the corporate jet that would keep them in hock for approximately the rest of their lives.
John's head whipped around, "Yeah?"
"No," Cam said, letting a little smug into his voice. "Your choice: a couple of dozen tourist flights over the Badlands or three or four long flights."
"Long flights with corporate weenies," John said. "Why did we stop being top guns, again?"
"Because the sex was good, so good that you decided to tell." Cam said with a big smile.
"Yeah, it was-"
"It is," Cam corrected him.
"Easy, big guy, I'm not ready to trade you in. The sex is good, and I...may have shot my mouth off."
Cam just looked at him.
"Okay, shot my mouth off to a couple of generals, but didn't O'Neill give us the option of being discreet?"
John pursed his lips. "Yeah, that was never going to work. You're too much of a boy scout for polite lies."
"You-" Cam tossed a pen at John, who dodged it with no problem. Now John was smiling, because he had suckered Cam again. "Okay, smart-ass, you're stuck with flying around families with sticky fingered kids."
"Slave driver." John looked much put upon, but Cam knew it was an act. John Sheppard would take a plane full of brats any day over a bunch of privileged bastards that reminded him of his brother.
"Speaking of which, why don't I have any flights today?" John asked.
"Family is coming in this afternoon, and we have to make the house fit for inspection," Cam said. "The flights are in the hands of our well-trained employees."
John looked at his watch. "Including the one that was supposed to be here a half hour ago to watch the counter?" He stood up, grabbing his cup and Cam's for a refill.
"Well, you know these ex-military guys. You can either set your clocks by them, or they show up thirteen seconds before you're ready to fire them."
"You trying to tell me something?" John said as he put down Cam's cup in front of him and leaned in for a kiss. Cam sighed into it, because the kiss was slow and warm. It was the kind of kiss that tempted him into rethinking the day's activities, starting with sweeping the contents off the desk and throwing John on top of it.
The phone rang and Cam reached for it. John intercepted his hand and the two of them wrestled for a second, laughing and messing up Cam's paperwork. The front door swung open, letting in the blinding sun and their errant employee, Bill, clad in riding leathers. "Hey, guys, the phone's ringing."
"Yeah, we noticed." Cam reached for it again, but Bill had hopped over the counter and snatched it up. Cam slapped John in the chest.
"About time you showed up, Bill, we have important things to do today." John leered at Cam.
Bill rolled his eyes. "Sheppard-Mitchell Aviation - best view of the bad men - I mean Badlands."
Cam pushed back his chair and reached for his motorcycle helmet. "Come on, bad man, time to mop the kitchen floor."
"Yeah, the bosses are unavailable. How can I help you?" Bill asked.
"Sam Carter won't say anything, and you know that Vala is the last person on earth who's going to complain."
"You're right on both counts. It's not that Sam will say anything, but she sometimes has this look."
"Couldn't we just clean the spare room where they'll be sleeping?"
"I think you've got us confused." Bill said. "We fly planes and copters - we're not a car service. Speaking of which, Ellsworth is an Air Force Base. Doesn't it have enough planes?"
John and Cam both turned towards Bill and frowned.
"Wait a sec," Bill said and put his hand over the voice piece. "Either of you know a General O'Neill?"
"At Ellsworth, 50 miles from here?" John asked.
Cam was thinking the same thing, but hit the speaker button on the phone. "General O'Neill, this is Mitchell. I've got Sheppard here, too - we're on speaker."
"Unavailable my ass." Jack O'Neill's voice rang out clear as a bell through the speaker. "Say, I just got off my third C-130, because apparently the US Air Force doesn't fly direct to South Dakota. How's about picking me up at the base and then you can explain why you set up shop in here instead of Hawaii."
Cam was going over all the plans in his head, including the small details like digging in the back of the linen closet for the fancy soaps Sam had sent as a housewarming gift. They didn't include unexpected generals. "Su-re, sir, we can do that. Where are you staying?"
There was a moment of silence. "Didn't Daniel call you?"
Cam exchanged a look with John, who shrugged. Then John pointed at himself, the phone, and the door, as he headed out.
"John's on his way to pick you up, sir. And no, I haven't heard from Daniel, but we'll be happy to have you both. I should let you know that Sam and Vala are heading up-"
"Yup," Jack interrupted. "They're coming up on their bikes for the rally, and Daniel's driving a car with their gear. I snagged some transport to meet them."
The pieces were starting to fall into place, and Cam was about to say so when the distinctive sound of rotors filled the room. He snatched up the phone from where Bill had put it down on the desk, and killed the speaker. "Tell me that's Andy!"
Bill looked out the back window. "Nope."
Cam briefly looked heavenward. "Say, General, apparently John decided to fly out to get you, so if you could let air traffic know he's-"
Cam listened, rubbing the heel of his hand against his eyes. "Yes, sir, Ellsworth Air Force Base does frown upon civilian aircraft breaching their air space. So if you could tell them that it was your idea that would be great. And, sir, if he offers to buzz Mt. Rushmore for you - don't let him."
Cam decided that there was no point in getting riled up. Recklessness wasn't necessarily something frowned upon in the household he shared with John. They spent an ungodly sum each year on insurance for planes, helicopters, motorcycles, a hang glider, and classification for being test pilots. Cam preferred it fast, and John liked the edge. They lived for reckless, having spent half their lives in fighter aircraft or carrying around automatic weapons, not to mention the occasional nuclear device. But that had been doing a job. Risking a pilot's license by violating restricted air space was just so...John. Cam kind of loved that about him, but it drove him crazy too.
He had tackled the worst of the cleaning tasks when he heard bikes pulling up outside the house. Stepping through the door, he was greeted by the sight of two lady bikers and a car, presumably carrying an archeologist. Cam was immediately jumped by Vala's wiry frame.
"Geez, Vala! Don't break anything!"
"You're tough, you can handle it."
Cam put her down and then gave Sam a squeeze. "You're looking good, Sam - glad you could take the time out for a visit."
"Are you kidding? I've been dying to ride in the Sturgis Rally for years. It's just been some combination of work and the inability to find a hotel room at the last minute."
"Let someone else save the planet for a while, and no excuses from now on. You're always welcome here." Cam turned and balked for a second because it wasn't just Daniel getting out of the car. Teal'c was also there. He grabbed Daniel's hand. "Jackson! Good to see you." Cam let Daniel go and grabbed hold of Teal'c's hand before swinging an arm around his shoulders. "Teal'c! No one let on that you were coming too. Heck, I just found out that General O'Neill and Daniel were joining us."
Teal'c held him by both arms and almost smiled. "Cameron Mitchell, it is good to see you. I had originally planned to be off-world; however, Vala Maldoran convinced me otherwise."
"I kicked his Jaffa ass," Vala said crossing her arms over her chest with a big smile. "And speaking of kicking ass, Daniel, you were wrong."
Cam could see Daniel mentally counting to five in a dozen languages. "And exactly what did I get wrong?"
Vala pointed at the past the garage into the backyard. "The local population still uses those tall pointy tents - the ones we saw a sculptural representation of at the rest stop."
"Tipis," Daniel said. "They're called tipis from the Lakato verb meaning to dwell combined with a pluralizing enclitic that essentially turns the word into they dwell. Basically it means house, but as a general rule their use died out when the Plains Indians were forced onto reservations and ceased to be a nomadic people."
Sam pointed to where Vala was looking, and Daniel was not. "That's a tipi."
"Indeed, it appears to be a dwelling, as opposed to the stone representation of its structure that we encountered," Teal'c said.
Daniel turned, blinked, and then looked at Cam. "You have a tipi in your backyard?"
"Yup." Cam shrugged and waited for the curiosity to reach explosive levels on Daniel's face. Sam was doing a poor job of holding back her own curiosity and amusement.
"Why do you have a tipi in your backyard?"
"They make modern tipis for longer term camping - canvas instead of buffalo hides. Because they were designed in this part of the world, they really hold up to the wind, cold, and rain. John and I thought they were really cool. The problem with using them for camping is modern transportation. The Plains Indians used the longest poles to create travois - kind of a land sled."
"Mitchell, I know what a travois is," Daniel said.
"Of course you do." Cam just smiled at him. "Problem is that once your poles get over eight or ten feet, they start getting unwieldy even in the back of a truck. So we opted to set it up in the backyard for the summer. We've got some nifty pop-ups that fit into the bike gear when we're taking trips."
"But, why?" Daniel asked.
Cam wrapped an arm around Daniel's shoulders. He pointed at the tipi. "Jackson, we have a tipi in our backyard, because it's cool."
"It is cool," Sam said. " And speaking of cool, we saw your business as we rode in."
"She means we saw a shack with your name on it," Vala said.
"That's our outpost to attract the tourist traffic, heading into the Badlands National Park. We've got hanger space up in the Wall Municipal Airport. That's where we keep all the bird and fly the copters out to the shack in the mornings."
Two more bikes came roaring up the drive. John was on a small bike designed for speed and maneuverability. Jack O'Neill was on the vintage hog that John kept at the hanger. Sam and Teal'c moved to greet the newcomers.
"Wait," Daniel said to Cam. "You said that you just found out that Jack and I were coming? Didn't Jack call you a couple of weeks ago?"
Cam laughed. "He called about an hour ago, looking for a ride. He thought you were calling."
Daniel bit his lip and threw back his head. "I'm sorry!"
"Don't worry; it's all good," Cam said. "We all forget stuff. John and I have a couple of acres, so there's plenty of room."
"No, I'm sorry that I didn't follow up with Jack, because he was supposed to call."
"No," Jack said as he yanked off his helmet.
"Yes," Daniel insisted
"That's some bike," Sam said, pointing at the vintage hog. "Sir, I thought they didn't let you ride anymore."
Jack tore his glare away from Daniel and turned it on Sam. "You gonna rat me out, Carter? And by the way, let this be a lesson to you. If you get promoted too many times they take away your planes and bikes. This one is Sheppard's."
John ran a loving hand over the seat. "She's definitely a sweet ride; Cam helped me rebuild her."
"Jack, you said you'd take care of everything," Daniel said.
"Ah-ha! And where in that sentence was the word, telephone? Hey, Mitchell, is that a tipi in your backyard? Cool."
Cam just smiled at Daniel.
"Could you two act any more married?" Vala said, as she moved between Jack and Daniel and tossed her backpack to Cam. "I'm assuming there's indoor plumbing somewhere nearby?"
"Come on in," Cam said. He hopped up on the porch, and held open the screen door. John and Sam stayed outside talking horsepower, while he gave the others the quick tour. "First we've got the living room."
"Not a bad sized room," O'Neill said.
"Yeah, plenty of space for a big screen and two recliners." Cam had to smile; that was the line he had used to convince John that this was the right place for them. The decision should have been about location, age of the house, and a million other practical things. John had been non-committal about every place they had looked at - John had been non-committal about a lot of things. Cam knew that this was going to be a good house, so he sold John on it.
"You have couches, as well," Teal'c noted.
Cam turned and held up both hands with a smile. "We like company." He took a few steps back into the eat-in-kitchen. "A lot of the other ranch homes we looked at were pretty cramped in the common spaces. That's one of the reason we liked this one - big living room and a table that'll hold ten."
"Ten?" Daniel asked, disbelief in his voice.
"Sure," Vala swung her arms around Daniel's neck and hung on him a second. "That is if you're willing to let someone sit in your lap."
Daniel pushed her back a little, but she just leaned in again. Some things never changed, which was comforting to Cam. "You might have to squish the chairs together a bit," he admitted. "Vala, there's a bathroom through that door."
Vala squeaked and pushed off Daniel hard enough to make him step back as she quick-stepped to the other end of the dining room.
"The door next to the bathroom leads to the garage." Cam pointed around the room. "That one leads to a screened in porch, and this one to the back yard. I'll show you that later, but you'll get to know it well. Any food worth eating around here is grilled." Cam could feel the light bulb go off over his head. "Grilled or deep fried. Teal'c, I'm not sure how we're going to defrost it in time, but I'm going to deep fry a turkey for you."
"Check the bottom shelf of the garage fridge. I put the turkey in there two days ago. That fridge also has the extra beer if anyone gets thirsty," John said from where he was slouching against the kitchen doorframe.
Suckered again. For weeks John had been pretending to forget about the company coming. It was almost scary how much Cam didn't mind, but that didn't mean he wouldn't get a little revenge. "See, this is why I moved to South Dakota with this man. He's got my six, and he does the books at the office. Did you know that he's got MENSA level math skills?"
"Sheppard, you're an accountant?" Jack asked.
John banged the side of his head against the doorframe. "Just a glorified bookkeeper. By the way, I'm going to kill Rodney McKay one of these days."
"He can be unpleasant, but I'm told that that's not enough reason to murder him," Vala said, as she rejoined the group.
"Vala's back, so I'll show you the bedrooms." Cam frowned as the last came out.
"You're the house Tetris champ," John said.
"You weren't expecting us. Jack and I could grab a hotel room," Daniel said, and Jack nodded.
"Oh no, you can't," Sam laughed. "The motorcycle rally is huge. There aren't any hotel rooms for a hundred miles. We could pick up some air mattresses-"
"Noooo," Cam said. "I've got you. Daniel and Teal'c in the spare room with the twin beds. Sam and Vala in the master bedroom. General, you're an outdoorsman. In August, the screen porch is the best piece of real estate in the house. If you're up for that, there's a daybed out there. It's got a pop-up trundle that turns it into a king-size bed."
"King-size bed?" Daniel repeated.
"Stop dreaming," Jack said. "I'll take the sportsman's paradise."
"Actually, I think Cam and I are taking that," John said. "Tipi?"
"Tipi," Cam said.
While John fired up the grill for a burger and dog lunch, Cam loaded their sleeping gear into the tipi.
"This thing waterproof?" Jack asked as he looked through the flap.
"You bet," Cam said. It's actually got better ventilation and waterproofing than most tents and has headroom to boot." Cam waved his hand over his head. "All the campgrounds in the Dakota's have some version of them. We were in the market for a tent and we kept looking at them..."
"Couldn't resist the cool factor?" Jack asked.
"Not in a million years."
Jack nodded. "You know, we feel bad about kicking you out of your own house."
"Well, Sam and Daniel do - probably Teal'c, too. We could rearrange. Daniel and I could come out here. Teal'c on the porch, so he doesn't get eaten by the mosquitoes, and the ladies in the spare room."
"That's nice of you to offer, but John and I are good out here. Heck, we spend a good part of every summer sleeping out here."
Jack looked like he was thinking that over. Then he grunted and looked back towards the house, shouting, "So, Sheppard, can you grill as good as you fly?"
*** later that night ***
The floor tarp crinkled a little as John settled into the blankets next to Cam. There was the smell of beer and sweat on both of them. It was familiar and comfortable.
"It's only midnight; did we get old?" John asked.
Cam laughed. "I think it happened when we weren't looking. That or we're like people in New York City that have never gone to the top of the Empire State Building. We live an hour and a half from one of the biggest motorcycle festivals in the country, and we've never done a single ride or concert."
"We toured around a bit that summer we were looking for a place to live. But yeah, there are people twice our age over at the rally concerts that are going to party through the night and ride at seven a.m.. Hell, did you see Vala dancing at the Buffalo Chip?" John rolled just a little and fit himself perfectly into Cam's side.
"I'm just glad we got out of there before the trouble that follows Vala around arrived."
"Does that mean we should have stayed?"
"Nah, Teal'c and Sam were with her. It just might mean that we'll have to bail two aliens and a colonel out of jail in the morning." Cam slid his arm under John's head. In a half-hour it would fall asleep and he'd have to move, but it always seemed to be worth the pins-and-needles.
"We own three bikes between us. How come we haven't signed up for any of the rally rides since we moved here?"
"Because for the last couple of years we've been working, I guess. We're always booked solid with tour flights during the Sturgis Rally. My mom says that means our business is thriving, because we can take some time off during the busy season."
"I like your mom," John said.
"I'm kinda fond of her too. She wanted me to ride in the Pink 'n Proud," Cam said.
"Is that gay bikers?"
"Nope. Raising money for breast cancer research."
"How does your mom know that?"
"The internet. She looked up all the concerts and rally rides. She says that there is a club meeting for gay bikers. She thought we should check it out," Cam said.
"God, we are those people who don't go to see the landmarks in their own backyard."
"We see the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Devil's Tower practically every day," Cam said.
"Then we're old," John said.
Cam sighed. "Yeah, maybe we are."
There was a rustle and something fell on the side of the tipi. Cam grabbed a heavy flashlight, which wasn't the best weapon, but it was something. By the time he turned back, John was on his stomach with a gun pointed at the source of the noise.
"It's your cat," John said.
Cam laughed, "My cat? It's my cat only in the sense that I feed him and clean his litter box. You're the one that gets the purring cat in your lap. I'm just the hired help to his majesty."
After putting away his gun, John crawled forward a few steps, "I guess our reflexes aren't so bad after all. Come here, Luger; did all the company scare you?"
"The company isn't home to scare him." Cam moved back into the bedding and waited for his partner to settle next to him. He kissed John on the neck as he ran his fingers down the cat's back. Luger purred, but slipped out of John's hands to explore the blankets. John turned and slid his hand over Cam's cheek and pulled him into a kiss.
It wasn't a good night kind of kiss. John's tongue pushed into Cam's mouth, and he welcomed it. Slipping his hand under John's T-shirt, Cam palmed the flesh over John's ribs and the hard planes of his chest. He pulled back only long enough to pull off John's shirt, and John took the opportunity to return the favor.
"So, Mitchell, maybe we're not so old."
"Night of partying, encounters with dangerous beast."
"And enough energy left to remind you why we moved to the middle of nowhere." John said and then began nipping at Cam's neck and ear.
"I'm all for that!" Cam moved to his knees long enough to push down his shorts.
"Tell me you lived up to your reputation for preparedness and brought some lube or something lube-like." John gave Cam a shove and yanked off his shorts.
Cam reached for a duffle bag and found he couldn't reach. He grabbed John's head and kissed him hard before flipping over and shimmying only far enough to grab the strap of the bag. "I assure you that I brought all the essentials." He pulled it open and rummaged around a bit before just starting to toss toiletries onto the floor. "Here!"
John grabbed it. The tube was squeezed nearly flat. "This doesn't look prepared."
"There was at least half a tube when we came back from that camping trip in Wyoming," Cam said, once again digging through the bag.
"Yeah, I remember that," John said. He popped the top and squeezed but nothing came out.
"Right, and then we just put the bag in the spare room," Cam said.
John looked up and frowned. "Until I took the bag with me on that trip to Chicago. The trip where I was grounded for three days due to weather and was stuck in a hotel."
Cam looked at the tube and glared at John. "I'm not going to even suggest that you had company to help you use that much."
"Cam, I did not-"
"I know you didn't!" Cam smacked John's shoulder, lightly. "That's what I was just saying. But did you buy a crate of toys that you didn't show me?"
"No! I was just..." John waved his hand at the tube. "Bored."
Cam laughed despite himself. "That's a lot of bored. So tell me, were you thinking of me?"
"Sure! You know, in and around the Internet porn. I'd have gone with the pay movies in the hotel room, but there was a sad lack of gay porn, and my boss gets pissed if I run up the company tab like that."
Cam narrowed his eyes.
"Okay, I thought I was grabbing the toothpaste and at the last second realized what I was putting on my toothbrush and I squeezed it out all over the sink."
Cam kissed him. "Did you save the toothbrush?"
"I sure as hell did."
"Good thing, because you're not using mine."
"You are such a freak about the toothbrush thing, and by the way, we still have a problem."
"One of us could into the house on a supply run," Cam said. They both looked at the tent flap.
"Yeah," John said tentatively.
"We could, but it's not going to happen, because-"
"The adrenaline from the cat incident is fading fast and restoring us to our former state of being old," John finished.
"Yuuup," Cam yawned.
The first time they had gone to bed and just slept with each other had been awkward, so awkward that John had gotten up in the middle of the night and gone to work. Now it was completely different. Now it was just right.
Cam woke up to a heavy, rumbling sensation on his chest. Then something bumped against the tip of his nose. Cracking open his eyes, Cam was greeted by the all too familiar sight of their overweight cat, lying on his chest. "Sure, now you want my attention. And where did you sleep last night?" Little pinpricks worked their way through his T-shirt as the cat kneaded him. In retaliation, Cam stretched out, throwing his arms over his head. The cat maintained his balance and seemed unimpressed.
A beam of light shot into the tipi as John came back inside. He knelt down for a quick kiss before scooping up the cat. "Nice job, boy. Keep him on his toes."
"What time is it? Do I have to be on my toes this early? Isn't this why we retired into a life of leisure?"
John held up his cell phone and checked the time. "Oh-five-thirty and unfortunately one of us has to be up. Bill just called and told me we have tourists waiting, for a six a.m. flight, but no pilot."
"I swear I tattooed the schedule on every last one of them."
"And I'm sure whichever one it is will be there at five minutes to six, like clockwork."
Cam started to sit up, but John pushed him down.
"It's a copter tour; I got it. Grab some more sleep because you've got to brine a turkey today."
"Yeah, but I've got to feed the cat anyway, or he won't let me get any rest."
"I've got Luger." John said and pushed some hair out of Cam's eyes. "Look, I like all of them, it's just..."
"They're my team, and you hate being cooped up with too many people? That's why I moved us out here to the great outdoors." Cam smiled, knowing that he had got it right.
John shrugged and gave him a lopsided grin. "I did notice that."
"Are you mad at Rodney for not coming?" Cam asked.
John shrugged again and looked away, clearly pretending he wasn't disappointed. "A bike rally is not his thing. Besides, we'd have run out of beds. You wouldn't want to hear Rodney's opinion of the futon of doom."
"Oh hell, no."
John leaned down and gave Cam another kiss. "I'll be back in a couple of hours."
"For this, I'll make some beer-batter onion rings," Cam said, letting his eyes close.
He heard the flap move and John say, "See, Luger, I told you he loved me."
"I really do, John," Cam muttered.
An hour later, Cam counted his blessings as he poured himself a cup of coffee from the pot that someone else had made. With practiced grace, he got the milk in and out of the refrigerator before the door closed. A spoon of sugar later, he was feeling the healing effects of hot caffeine.
As Cam pulled an insulated carafe out of the cupboard, Teal'c came into the kitchen from the side porch, cradling the cat in his arms. "Hey, Teal'c. Did you sleep well?"
"Indeed I did, despite this animal's periodic attempts to suffocate me."
"Luger is very fond of sleeping on top of people's heads. You're supposed to consider it an honor because he just doesn't warm up to just anyone. Of course, cats also have a higher opinion of themselves and their right to rule the known universe than a Goa'uld. Coffee?" When Teal'c shook his head, Cam filled the carafe with the rest of the pot and began making another.
"I must say that despite the murderous inclinations, Luger is more pleasant than any system lord that I have encountered," Teal'c said as he gently stroked the cat's head with his finger.
"That's for sure." Cam patted the turkey that he had brought in from the garage refrigerator on his way in. "So, since you were out on the porch, I assume that the General is out and about?" As he turned to deal with the thawed turkey, Cam caught Teal'c glancing away.
"O'Neill and I changed sleeping spaces last night. I believe that he is currently quarrelling with Daniel Jackson in the larger bathroom."
Cam put the turkey in the sink and began tearing off the packaging. "I hope nothing was wrong."
"Daniel Jackson was snoring, so I left the room for a while. O'Neill said that he was accustomed to the noise, so we changed places."
"Huh." Cam flipped on the tap with his elbow. "I shared a tent with Daniel a bunch of times. It was almost like he was made out of stone. He can sleep anywhere and never seems to move."
Luger leapt from Teal'c's arms and began rubbing himself on Cam's ankles. Teal'c said, "Perhaps he was having a nightmare."
Cam gave a grunt and looked at his feet. "Don't think I don't know what you're up to, cat. John may have fed you half his breakfast, but you're not getting any of this people food." Turning to Teal'c, he continued. "One night, we decided to wait to clean up the leftovers and went to watch some TV. An hour later I came in here and he had parked himself in the middle of the kitchen table to eat half a chicken."
"Very much like a Goa'uld," Teal'c said.
"So who made the coffee?" Cam asked.
"Samantha. She woke early and intends to meet with other rally enthusiasts for a ride."
"Gotcha." Cam nodded and parked the clean turkey back on the platter. 'Samantha' - it wasn't how Teal'c usually referred to Sam, but it wasn't like it wasn't her name. "So is she taking Vala?"
Sam came in, dressed in her riding gear. "Vala believes that getting out of bed at this time would violate intergalactic treaties on torture."
Cam smiled at her. "There are treaties banning torture?"
"Unenforceable ones," Sam replied with a smile of her own. Then she saw the empty coffee pot and her eyes narrowed as she turned to Cam.
"Easy now, try the carafe there." Cam pointed at it with his elbow.
Sam opened the top and sighed in pleasure at the scent before filling her thermos. "I'm going to ride in the Pink and Proud this morning. Are either of you up for it?"
"I'm on KP duty this morning. This turkey isn't going to marinate itself. My mom would love a T-shirt though."
"Consider it done. Teal'c?"
"I believe that I would enjoy a ride, if I could borrow a motorcycle."
Cam smiled. "Go ahead, take mine. Key's on the hook by the front door - the one with the miniature Devil's Tower key chain."
"Devil's Tower?" Sam said.
"Look, we've got a lot of vehicles and therefore a lot of keys. It helps to have code names. Teal'c, Devil's Tower is a local mountain that just sort of rises-"
"Mitchell, I have seen Close Encounters."
It was one of those moments when the sheer volume of potential jokes overwhelms one into silence. "I'm sure you have. My helmet should be there by the door, too."
"Teal'c, did you see my riding gloves? I think they might be on the porch," Sam said.
"I will look."
"Did Vala snore, too?" Cam asked.
"Huh?" Sam's eyes went just a little bit wide. "Oh, I just thought that maybe Teal'c accidentally picked them up with his things."
"Don't you mean, the General? He was on the porch first and then he and Teal'c switched because of Daniel's snoring. That's where I was going with the question about Vala snoring."
"Oh," Sam said
Oh, what? Cam thought but didn't get to say anything because Teal'c came in from the porch holding his own leather jacket and Sam's gloves.
San smiled. "Great! There they are, and we have to get going or else we'll be late. See you later, Cam!"
"Later," Teal'c said as he slipped on a pair of dark sunglasses, and followed the hastily moving Sam into the living room.
Cam patted the turkey dry with some paper towel. "Later indeed."
Not long after, Cam had emptied what seemed like most of the refrigerator and half the pantry onto the counter top. He was beating together a bunch of ingredients with a fork when Jack came in and guessed, "Scrambled eggs?"
"Marinade for the turkey. We have some eggs though; I could scramble you a few."
"Nah, the plan is to be tourists today, so we'll hit a diner. Besides, it doesn't look like the kitchen can handle too many more operations."
"Believe me, this is as elaborate as it gets. Every once in a while I tried to make some macaroons, but the faces John make have dissuaded me from continued efforts."
Jack took a step towards the coffee pot, but Daniel had come into the kitchen and cut him off as he made a bee-line for the coffee. He didn't say a word or seem to notice that Jack stalled mid-step so that he wouldn't get run over. Jack rolled his eyes at Cam.
"Mornin', sunshine," Cam said.
Daniel held the pot in his hand and stared narrowly at Cam.
"Yeah, he's a bundle of joy before he gets his coffee. Hey, Daniel! Gonna share that?" Jack demanded.
Daniel looked from Jack to the coffee pot and finally poured himself a cup. "Good morning, Mitchell. Thank you for not being a royal pain in the ass, like some people."
Cam looked between them and was really glad that Sam and Teal'c had told him stories about the way these two treated each other. "Teal'c mentioned that he and the General had swapped bunks."
Jack took the pot from Daniel's hand and poured himself a mug. "Yeah, the porch was getting a little breezy for me, so I asked Teal'c to switch. Of course, if I had known what I was in for..."
Cam frowned into his marinade. Something had definitely gone down last night, but he didn't feel like it was his place to pry. "I hope you both got in some good shuteye, at least."
"Definitely," Daniel said. "You know me, I slept like a rock."
"Yeah, he didn't even move when Teal'c and I switched. Once my head hit that pillow, I was out," Jack said.
"Great," Cam said, trying to keep his expression neutral, but inside he was dying of curiosity. "So what touristy things are you doing today?"
"Crazy Horse," Daniel said right on top of Jack saying, "Mt. Rushmore." They looked at one another.
"They're right next to each other. You should be able to manage both in a few hours."
"Well, that depends," Jack said, glaring at Daniel.
"The museum at Crazy Horse is supposed to be relatively small. It's also much more about art and culture than academic study. I don't plan on spending days there."
Jack just stared at Daniel, who shot a look at Cam that demanded backup.
"I've gone to museums with you, Daniel, so I can understand the General's concern. But you are right that the museum is small. Rushmore's pretty quick unless you feel like hiking."
"Hiking? Is that what you're planning to do at Mt. Rushmore?" Vala said as she headed towards the coffee. Finding none left, she picked up Cam's cup. He opened his mouth to say something but just gave up.
"What were you hoping to do at Mt. Rushmore? It's a large scale sculpture," Daniel asked.
Jack leaned back against a counter. "Hate to disappoint you, but it was only a movie."
"Movie?" Daniel asked.
Vala stepped right up to Jack and then up on her toes. She still had to look up to see him eye to eye. "How do you know it was just a movie? Perhaps it was like Wormhole Extreme - a movie made to fictionalize reality."
"In your dreams," Jack said.
"Yes, and in my dreams there is hidden treasure."
"Treasure? Which movie-"
"Do you not see the flaw on basing your argument on Wormhole Extreme?" Jack asked.
Daniel lifted a hand and took a step closer to Vala and Jack, "Guys-"
"National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets!" Jack, Vala, and Cam said all at once.
Vala turned to Daniel. "Teal'c and I watched it. The movie shows how there is a fabulous treasure hidden beneath the monument on Mt. Rushmore."
"Supposedly," Jack scoffed.
Vala ignored him. "See, in the movie they had all these nonsense puzzles and codes; the kind of boring thing you like. I figure the whole process could be streamlined with the right scanning device."
"Vala, you can't possibly believe there's an actual treasure because it was in a movie," Daniel said. Cam was keeping his laughter to himself. He had a turkey to brine.
Folding her arms over her chest, Vala stuck out her hip. "And exactly what did we find beneath Glastonbury Tor?"
Daniel folded his own arms and walked up to her. "We found artifacts from the Ancients-"
"From Merlin," Vala corrected. "And how many movies have been made about him?"
Cam couldn't take it any longer. "She's got a point, Jackson."
Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Come on, I'll drive," Jack said.
"You're not buying into this, are you?" Daniel squawked.
"No. I figure we'll hit Rushmore first and then Crazy Horse. Vala can stay and treasure hunt if she wants. We'll pick her up later. Mitchell, you want to come out for breakfast?"
"Oh, I'm good. John will be home soon and we'll work on lunch," Cam said, happy to have a convenient excuse. "Just keep some time open for later in the week so we can give you the aerial tour of our corner of the planet."
Vala put down her mug and clapped, then followed Jack, who was on his way to the door.
"You're going to get arrested, Vala," Daniel said, looking wistfully at his empty mug.
"I will not!"
"Just call, Mitchell, if you do," Jack shouted.
"It looks like you're getting ready to plant a nuclear charge," John said, shaking his head.
Cam looked over his turkey fryer setup again. It involved fire extinguishers, fireplace tools, ladders, and winches to carefully lower the turkey into the hot oil. "And a little bit of excess caution is better than trying to burn the house down."
"You bring that up every time-"
"You decide to get on my ass about the safety equipment."
John smiled, because Cam had been had again. Pulling a plastic tube out of his pocket, John wiggled it invitingly.
"Lloyd was the missing pilot this morning."
"Lloyd? Lloyd Reed was late. Did the apocalypse happen while I was sleeping in?"
John handed him the cigar. "Nope. Child number four arrived a little early."
Cam took the cigar and saw the pink paper band marked, It's a Girl!.
"Damn, I forgot about that. Cindy wasn't due for another couple of weeks, right?"
"I'm told two, but I was also told that trying to associate the word 'schedule' with 'baby' is a bit of an issue."
"We should get him off the schedule, even if it means taking over his flights." Cam took the cigar out and bit off the end.
John was working on his own cigar. "Nope. It turns out that his mother-in-law arrived a couple of days ago, so she's watching the kids."
"Still," Cam said. John held out a lighter and Cam leaned down to start his cigar.
"Nope," John said, with the cigar in his teeth. "Apparently babies are expensive, so he wants the money from the tour flights. Also, not everyone has cool in-laws like I do."
"Ah-ha." Cam nodded.
"Yup," John said and took a puff. He blew out the smoke and held up his cigar. "Here's to your mom and her apple pie."
"You know, I could try making that again. I think that last time I just didn't get-"
"If you stay away from the oven, I promise never to make fun of the deep fried turkey setup again," John interrupted.
"Deal!" Cam said.
"Great, then I shouldn't get any flack about swinging by Pettinger's Farm Stand for pies."
Picking up one of John's grocery bags, Cam saw that there were three pies. "I wouldn't have hassled you even if I did make good pies. What do you have in the other bags?"
"Corn on the cob and a bunch of salads. I figured you shopped for two guests, and women at that-"
Cam held up a hand. "I think you should apply some caution if you want to wrestle either one of them for the last slice of pizza."
John pursed his lips and squinted at Cam. "I could take 'em."
Cam smiled. "Hey, I'm not doubting you. You can take them down, but don't expect to come back with all your limbs intact. Let's focus on the more important thing here. You went grocery shopping without a list, a text message, a phone call or me."
"It's not unheard of," John insisted.
Cam remained silent.
"Okay, maybe it is, so don't get used to it," John said. "I'm just trying to make up for dumping all the cleaning on you yesterday. We're partners."
"Sure as hell are," Cam said.
"Does that mean there are onion rings?"
"You bet your ass," Cam said as he kissed John. "It also means that you're in charge of cutting the grass this weekend."
"Understood," John said, and they kissed again.
Someone sneezed. John and Cam both turned to see Daniel, Jack, and Vala standing outside the kitchen door. Daniel was wiping his nose with a bandana.
"Well, don't stop on our account," Vala said.
"We don't like to overshare," John said.
"A fine policy," Jack said and put two bakery boxes on the patio table. "We stopped and picked up some pie along the way."
"You can't over share pie," John said and added his collection to the table.
Jack pulled out a pocketknife and snipped the blue and white strings. "I got deep dish apple and peach."
John borrowed the knife and opened his own boxes. "Pumpkin, choke cherry, and shoo fly."
Vala waved her hand over the pies to scatter some flies. "So what kind is the last one?"
"Shoo fly," John said.
"Yes, I'm trying," Vala waved her hand more vigorously this time.
"It's a molasses pie," Daniel interceded.
"Oh, I love Shoo Fly," Sam said as she and Teal'c rounded the corner of the house. They were both wearing hot pink T-shirts. Teal'c had a matching bandana on his head.
There was a general pause at the striking sight they made - well, Teal'c made anyway. The air was charged like they all wanted to say something. Finally Jack said, "Teal'c, the pink suits you."
"Thank you, O'Neill," Teal'c responded and just like that, the moment happened, was acknowledged, and was done.
"I guess that you can't have too much pie." Sam stopped with bakery boxes in hand, looking at the selection already on the table. "Then again."
"There's one for each of us, so I'd say that's a good ratio," Jack said. "What kind did you bring?"
"Pecan and apple crumb," Teal'c said.
Jack pointed at him. "Pecan man."
"Then I bet you're going to love the shoo fly, too."
"Speaking of which, should we bring these inside?" Vala said.
"Maybe not all of them," Jack said.
"Do you have a cloche?" Sam asked.
"A bell?" Jack asked.
"So you do remember some French," Daniel said. Jack glared at him.
"What I mean is a plate with some kind of cover that we could stick one of the pies under," Sam clarified.
Cam snapped his fingers. "Where did we put it? The Tupperware pie-cake thing that my Aunt Heloise sent last Christmas?"
John shrugged. "With all the other kitchen equipment that Aunt Heloise sends, and we don't use?"
Cam remembered. "Spare room closet. I'll go get that. Everyone want lunch?" There were murmurs of assent as Cam headed towards the back door. "John, fire up the grill for some steaks."
He could hear O'Neill offering to help with grilling duties and then O'Neill and Daniel snapping at each other. Cam went into the spare room and opened the closet door. It hit the bed frame and wouldn't open all the way. It was weird because they had made sure that wasn't going to be an issue when they arranged the room.
As he shifted the bed away from the closet, it sank slightly, like it was a mechanical part slipping into place. He dropped to his knees and was able to see that the bed had slid back into the carpet dents where it must have been to begin with. What he couldn't figure out was why Daniel and Teal'c or maybe Daniel and Jack had moved the beds around.
The pop and hiss of beer being uncapped made Cam look up. Daniel was wiggling a bottle invitingly at him.
"Thank you, sir," Cam said, taking the beer.
Daniel sat down on the patio chair next to Cam's. He had a glass of something that might have been an iced coffee. "It seemed like the thing for this setup." Daniel gestured at the deep frying rig that Cam was keeping an eye on.
"It's a classic - fire and alcohol," Cam said.
"The onion rings were really good by the way."
"Thank you, and hopefully it's a sign of things to come," Cam said
"Yeah, I can't believe you're frying a turkey. Is this one of those things where we'll be here for a while?" Daniel asked.
"Nah, just the opposite. A twelve-pound turkey will be done in 35 to 45 minutes. When we break out the smoker and do ribs, that'll go on for a couple of hours."
Daniel shook his head, but smiled. "Multiple forms of outdoor cooking equipment, motorcycles, planes, helicopters, a tipi and remote control cars."
"Not to mention the X-box, Wii, and jetpacks. We are fond of our toys."
"Jetpacks?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah, we're testing them for an aerospace company. Test pilots can make serious cash and we've got to pay for the toys somehow. By the way, don't tell Sam; we're going to surprise her when we hit the hangar."
Daniel shook his head. "Is this what you imagined life to be when you left the SGC?"
Cam looked at him and bit his lip while he thought about that. "Actually, I had no idea what life would look like when we left. John and I had this vague idea about a running a company with the planes and other flying gear. We hadn't even settled on where we were going. You almost had to visit us in Hawaii or Alaska."
Daniel blinked. "There's a lot of difference between Hawaii and South Dakota."
"We biked up here to see the sights and saw the potential. I was originally leaning towards tropical paradise, and John was leaning towards glaciers. I don't know, something about staying on the mainland and not being too far from my parents made sense." Cam took a swig of his beer. "To be honest, I'd have been happy anywhere we ended up."
They both turned at the sudden noise from the far side of the patio. John, Sam and Teal'c were racing RC cars near the garage.
"I'd have thought the General would have been with them," Cam said.
"No doubt he will be," Daniel said. "He and Vala decided that the ratio of pie to ice cream was woefully off and something needed to be done about it."
Cam laughed. "I'm kind of surprised the two of them get along as well as they do."
"At first they might appear crazy in completely different ways, but if you look carefully, you'll find that they are both crazy in that way... How shall I put this?" Daniel sipped his coffee.
"Take what you want or blow it up, kind of crazy?"
"Yup, that's pretty much it. They were either going to get along or kill each other - not that those options are mutually exclusive."
Cam nodded and passed Daniel a bowl of cheese doodles. "It's kind of what family is all about."
Daniel clinked his glass against Cam's beer bottle. "Yes, it is." Daniel took a sip of his coffee. "Speaking of which, the SGC is always looking for consultants with the right kind of know-how. Top secret security clearance a bonus."
"Yeah." Cam got up and circled the bird. "I know you're not military, Daniel, so perhaps you're not aware that they have this little policy-"
"I'm aware, but-"
"But we told," Cam said.
"Not a rule for civilians," Daniel said.
Cam sighed and sat down. "Look, I appreciate what you're saying. It's nice to be needed, but John and I spent a lot of time wrestling with this possibility. Daniel, you're saying we should be civilian consultants, but do you think we could ever be just civilians in that setting?"
"Look, we were on the same team. I didn't have the same training as you and Sam. Hell, Teal'c and Vala didn't either. You just do what needs to be done."
"It's not the same for people that spent their lives in the military like John and I." Cam shifted in his chair and then tapped Daniel's shoulder. "How would you feel if they made you sit on the other side of camera in the SGC while someone dusted a ruin half a galaxy away?"
Daniel shrugged. "I've been doing that since the beginning with various gate teams."
"Yeah, but that wasn't the only thing you were doing, and you were dusting plenty of ruins on your own. Let me put it this way, did anyone on SG-12 or 13 ever tell you that it was their ruin and they'd take your advice when and if they needed it?"
Daniel raised his finger like he was going to object and then slowly lowered it. "Okay, maybe it's not the same thing. You can't tell me that flying the same pattern over a national monument day after day is like stepping through the Stargate."
Cam wiped some condensation off the bottle with his thumb. "No, it's not. There's something to be said for not stressing over the fate of the planet, and being able to just hang out the, gone fishing sign on the office door.
Daniel snorted. "Gone fishing -Jack would do that every day if he ever considered retiring. Maybe it's something about you military guys."
"You're telling me you wouldn't be reading a hundred books or maybe writing a few yourself? Maybe spend six months on a dig, somewhere local? And by local, I mean here on terra firma."
"Yeah, I can't do domestic digs anymore. I was out in left field before I found out about the program, and now I'm playing in a different league." Daniel shrugged. "Well, I could probably work on digs left by our departed extra-terrestrial friends and enemies. It's just that there's so much more out there.
A door closed and both Cam and Daniel turned to see Vala and Jack rejoining the party. John started laughing as he tossed Jack his remote control. "Don't think this life is without its mysteries." Cam glanced at Daniel who seemed focused on Jack.
"Nope, I suppose it's not."
With a nod, Cam swung his hand past the turkey, the house and the crowd at the garage. "Just a little piece of paradise."
In between the rave reviews of the deep-fried turkey and the evening rally activities, a torrential rainstorm had swept the plains, leaving everything cool, if a little humid. John and Cam bailed on the more festive plans and had retired to their tipi.
That changed somewhere in the middle of the night when Vala came crashing in, landing somewhat between them, but mostly on top of them.
"Geez, are we getting invaded?" John snapped as he sat up.
Cam stayed where he was, but poked Vala hard in the shoulder. "Vala, what's up?"
"I'm up, and I don't want to be up, and the walls are way too thin, and this is comfy."
Cam whistled. "Look who's three sheets to the wind."
"More like four," John said.
"Come on, Vala, we're not into threesomes. We'll take you back in and knock on some doors, see if we can't get everyone to stop snoring." Cam said, sitting up and trying to pull Vala along with him.
Vala laughed, accidentally spitting on Cam in the process. "Oh, everyone is much too awake for snoring. There's quite the activity going on inside."
John frowned at Cam. "I'm not convinced we want to know."
Vala rolled over suddenly and smacked John in the leg with her flailing arm. "The little obnoxious man is the worst. Going on and on about nobody answering the door and wondering where you two are."
John and Cam frowned at each other. "What man?" John asked.
"Mc, Mc, McWhatever! You know, the one from Atlantis."
"McKay, Rodney McKay is on the phone?" John guessed.
Vala looked at him very seriously. "You're not very bright, are you? He's in the living room with some girlfriend of his."
John and Cam abandoned the bedding to their drunken guest and headed back into the house. They were barely in the back door when Rodney's voice confirmed that more company had arrived.
"It has to be the right address because according to alien-lady that shouldn't be roaming the earth without an escort, half the SGC is here," Rodney insisted.
"Why would they abandon their own house to - what did she say? Play hide like Indians au natural?" Jennifer Keller replied.
Cam smiled at John, who was rolling his eyes. He moved into the kitchen doorway, and Cam stepped right behind him. Keller and McKay were still facing each other over a pair of duffle bags.
"I'm sure that's not what she said, because what you just said was one hundred times more coherent," Rodney said. "Do you think we should start knocking on the rest of the doors?"
"I think you should fess up to the fact that you can't calculate what time zone you beamed into," John said.
"See, they are here and not naked," Keller said.
"Why would they be naked?" Rodney frowned at her
"Vala said-" Keller started
Rodney made a dismissive noise and turned on John. "Do you know how many degrees I have?"
"Of course I knew what time it was, but it's not like the military cares about civilian niceties and decent hours, not that I'm admitting that we beamed in or that beaming technology is anything but a science fiction."
Cam tapped John on the shoulder. "Did he just call us idiots?"
"Nah, he just implied that we were idiots. When he wants to call us idiots, he'll just say it." John said.
"Gotcha," Cam said and walked into the living room, past Rodney and gave Keller a hug. "Good to see you again Dr.-"
"Uh-uh. Jennifer." She smiled at him. "Sorry we came in so unexpectedly."
"Yes, you'd think we'd be able to get in a better system of ship to shore -"
John shoved Rodney's shoulder lightly. "Hey, there's no such thing as spaceships either."
Rodney glared at him for a moment and then suddenly smiled. "Good to see you too."
"So how many time zones away are you?" John asked. "Because if you want to unwind a little, I've got some new controllers for the RC cars in the garage."
"What are we waiting for?" Rodney said, heading towards the front door. John spun him around and pointed him toward the kitchen.
Jennifer threw back her head. "You're kidding, right?" She looked at Cam. "What am I saying - of course they're not kidding."
Cam tapped her arm and picked up the duffle bags. "You're gonna have to get used to how he acts when his boyfriend is around. I did."
"I'm not gay!" Rodney said.
John smiled and patted him on the back. "Sure you're not."
Rodney made an indistinct noise and glared at John. Cam thought that it was a damn good thing that Rodney wasn't gay or bisexual, because he was selfish enough to hate competition.
"Okay, if I'm not mistaken, the master bedroom should now be empty," Cam said.
"Won't Vala be coming back?" Jennifer asked.
John shook his head. "Nah, she looked way too comfortable in the tipi."
"Tipi? So she was right about the cowboys and Indians?" Jennifer asked.
With a dismissive wave of his hand, Rodney said, "He's making it up. There is no tipi."
John just smiled at him and turned back to Cam. "What about Sam?"
Cam stepped through the open door to the master bedroom and found it empty, just like he'd suspected. He smiled because Sam and Teal'c would be good for each other. He heard a muffled grunt and turned towards the sound. It was coming from the spare room that Daniel and the General were sharing. Cam blinked and put down the bags a little louder than necessary. The walls were thin.
He came back out and said. "Yeah, it looks like Sam may have grabbed the trundle bed out on the porch - hard to blame her since she had been sharing with Vala. You two are in here. We'll shuffle in the morning if we have to."
John's squint was more inquisitive than confused. "Sounds good. Are we heading back to the tipi?"
Cam snorted. "You can join Vala, if you want. I'm going to face the futon in the home office."
John sucked in a breath. "Vala or the futon-of-doom. Tough call, but I'll be joining you. Come on, Rodney."
Rodney and John were already comparing stats before they took the first step towards the garage. Cam turned to Jennifer. "There's a master bath in there. Do you need anything from the kitchen?"
"No, no. You guys have already gone to enough trouble for one night. You know we could take the futon-"
Holding up his hand in a stopping motion, Cam gave her a gentle push into the master bedroom. "Trust me; it's better this way."
The futon always looked comfortable, but it had developed a crease from spending most of the time in couch-form. Whatever part of you that you didn't want in the crease, eventually found its way there. As a result, Cam was sleeping but not well. He half sat up when John came into the office and sat at the end of the mattress.
"Did Rodney go off to bed?"
"Yeah, I just sent him in. Hopefully he finds the bed partner he was expecting," John said.
"You're coming up here with me. I set aside a special lump with your name on it." Cam patted the mattress.
"Cam, why does Rodney think that we're all going to Iowa so that you and I can get married?"
Pushing himself up on his elbows, Cam squinted at John. The light coming in from the window left the room too shadowy to fully make out his features. "I don't know. Why does Rodney think we're going to get married? It's got to be a good punch line."
"He was serious."
"Huh? What time is it? I don't know where he got the idea from; you're the one that talks to him."
"Yeah, and I didn't tell him that we were going to get married."
Cam expected John to go on, but he didn't. After a long pause, Cam said, "So why would you think that I'd know?"
"You talk to Jennifer."
Cam sat up. "Yeah, I talk to Jennifer after you and Rodney have been on the phone for two hours, and she's brainstorming ideas to get his attention back. You think I told her something about Iowa?" This was a stupid conversation and it was starting to annoy Cam.
"Did you?" John's tone said he was riled, too.
"No," Cam said, hoping this would be the end of it. "Can we get back to sleep and sort this out with Rodney in the morning?"
John stood up. "Yeah, we'll do that."
When John took a step towards the door, Cam asked, "Where are you going?"
"There was something I wanted to check down at the hanger. I may crash down there."
Cam held out both his hands not sure about what they should do to resolve this and wondering why the hell it felt like it was on his shoulders to do it. "John-"
John dropped to all fours and leaned in to give Cam a quick kiss. "I'll see you in the morning." He was on his feet and out the door before Cam could think of anything else to say.
"Go away, cat," Cam grunted and shifted around, but failed to scare off the cat. Now there was a paw on his face. With a sigh, he gave up and opened his eyes. "What alien device did you find that lets you walk through walls?"
He got up and made his way slowly to the kitchen. First he fed the ravenous feline and then popped a couple of ibuprofen . Staying up at 6:30 seemed like a better idea than continuing to torture himself on the futon. Since Cam was up, he figured that he should work on breakfast for everyone. He poked through the cabinets and wondered if he was up to taking on the blueberry muffin mix.
John did most of the indoor cooking, because he was better at it. They always joked about how much money they could win off other people. Mitchell or Sheppard - which one is more likely to follow the instructions off the package? To be fair, Cam did a good job of measuring and mixing. It was the careful application of heat where John excelled.
Cam figured if he mixed up the batter and laid out the griddle, maybe one of the others would do the cooking. He started a pot of coffee and was pulling out the maple syrup when Sam stumbled, red-faced, into the kitchen.
"Did you know that Jennifer Keller and Rodney McKay are in your bedroom? Rodney is shirtless and possibly worse," she said.
"Worse?" Cam pulled out a pair of coffee cups.
Sam held up a hand. "There were blankets, thank God."
"Yeah, they arrived late last night; Vala let us know by more or less falling on top of us." Sam winced and Cam poured them both some coffee, wondering if he should ask. "So, Goldilocks, whose bed have you been sleeping in?"
Sam turned beet red and cleared her throat a couple of times, as she sat down at the counter. She gestured back. "I've been..."
Cam smiled and slid a cup to Sam. "On the side porch with Teal'c, taking in some fresh air? Why the big secret? Don't you think your friends would be happy for the two of you?"
"Well, yeah, but..." Sam let out a breath and looked into her coffee.
"But we surmised that there would be people in your government that would object to our relationship," Teal'c said, as he came up and laid a hand on Sam's shoulder. The gentle way he touched her was in stark contrast to the intensity in his eyes as he looked at her face.
The moment was a little more intimate than Cam could handle, especially since his own partner had gone off the deep end on him. He went into the fridge to grab the butter and eggs.
"Cam, we're sorry we just didn't say something, but we've gotten used to huge amounts of discretion."
There was that word again. "Been there, did that for a while," Cam said. "I get it. You don't need some crusading general or NID guy on a quest to keep the earth pure."
"Indeed," Teal'c said and leaned down to kiss Sam.
"Huh," John said from where he was coming in through the back door. "That's how you knew that Vala and Sam's bedroom was empty?"
"Yup," Cam said and crossed half the distance to John.
John met him half-way, "I may have been a little... you know, last night."
Cam waited for an admission of some kind, but it wasn't coming.
John pointed at the counter. "Are we making pancakes?"
"Yeah, you are."
"Yeah, I am," John agreed and headed toward the food. He had to stop short when Daniel walked in front of him, heading for the coffee.
"Mornin', Daniel, how did you sleep? When I setup Rodney and Jennifer in the master bedroom, it sounded like things were restless in your room."
Daniel was staring at Cam and not watching the coffee he was pouring into his cup. As if by some sixth sense, he looked down in time and had poured a perfect cup. "Yeah, it was fine. We were fine. Weren't we, Jack?"
Jack O'Neill had come in and was giving the lack of space between Sam and Teal'c an interested look when Daniel distracted him. "Huh?"
Daniel looked at him with an expression that screamed, pay attention. "Last night Cam says he heard some noises coming from our room, but we were fine."
Jack seemed to notice the curious looks coming from around the room. "Yeah, fine. And how would you know, weren't you out in a tipi?"
"I was until-"
"Coffee, there's got to be coffee. I can smell coffee," Rodney murmured as he came into the kitchen.
Jennifer was following behind, straightening her hair with her fingers. She said, "Good morning. It is morning, right?"
"Where did you two beam in from?" Jack demanded.
Rodney took a sip of coffee and then handed the cup to Jennifer. "Technically, there's no such thing as beaming. We-"
"Oh, please," Jack said. "It'll save so much time re-briefing them, if we don't convince Mitchell and Sheppard that their lives for the past five or ten years didn't exist."
"They're coming back-" Rodney turned on John. "You're coming back and you didn't tell me?"
"No, Rodney, we're -"
The backdoor opened and Vala came in clutching her head.
"How is it that we can spend hours on the phone and never tell me anything important?" Rodney threw his arms wide.
"Maybe you never let him get in a word," Vala said, as she took Cam's coffee cup. He glared at her, but it had no impact. So he grabbed the ibuprofen bottle and shook it next to her ear. Vala hissed at him as she snatched the bottle from his fingers.
Rodney went on as if he and John were the only people in the room. "Wait, you're going to Iowa to get married, but does getting married make it harder to come back to the program? Sure you'd be civilians, but trust me, that doesn't mean the US military is any easier to get alone with. And geez, why Iowa? Sure you don't have as much opportunity with the backwards culture here south of the border, but there's always Toronto or Vancouver."
Everyone moved at once - not much, just enough so that they were staring at Cam or John.
John looked at Cam and said, "See? I'm not sure where-"
John was drowned out by everyone trying to talk at once.
"Whoa!" Cam waved both hands in a flat cutting motion, making Vala back up a couple of steps. He was going to get to the bottom of this. "Rodney. No, wait a second." Cam turned slightly. "Jennifer, did you know about this supposed marriage in Iowa?"
Jennifer glanced around. "Uhm, yeah."
"And you heard it from?"
Cam folded his arms over his chest and looked at John. John lifted a finger and turned. "Rodney, how did you come up with the marriage story? Did I tell you that Cam and I were going to get married?"
"Rodney!" John shouted.
"Well sorry if I ruined the surprise, but you told me about how the two of you went to Iowa to get a marriage license. Then you've been on me for months to visit this week, not last week or next week, but this week. Then I heard that Mitchell's old team was going to be here and I put two and two together-"
"And in some other quantum universe arrived at five!" John said, and then scratched at the back of his neck as he turned to Cam. There was almost, if one looked hard enough, a touch of chagrin on John's face. "I may have been mistaken-"
"Is that really the word you were looking for," Cam demanded.
"Look, I never told him we were doing anything. Rodney just jumped to a bad conclusion," John said as he tried to deflect.
"I don't know," Daniel said frowning.
"I think I may be with Daniel here," Jack said.
"Huh?" John said.
"It's the marriage license thing, isn't it?" Vala asked.
"Yes." Daniel nodded
Sam said. " I don't mind debating probability with Rodney, but I'd say that guessing that you two would get married after obtaining a marriage license were pretty good odds."
"Indeed," Teal'c added.
"And of course you'd want your best man here," Rodney concluded.
John just looked at him as everyone else tried to hide amusement. John bit his lip and pointed to Cam. "Rodney, I've got my best man right here."
Cam didn't let the sudden warm and fuzzy feeling get to him. He took his cup back from Vala. "Maybe now, but I seem to remember my feet getting cold last night." He took a sip.
Cringing hard, John offered, "I could maybe take the next week of Cessna tours."
"You need to do that anyway to finish your instructor's certification," Cam said. "I was thinking more about the litter box."
"For a week?"
John let out a breath, "Deal."
"Good," Cam said. "Now let's get some breakfast on. I'm sure we could all do with something to-"
"Wait a minute," shouted Jack. "Let's get back to the marriage license. You went to a different state to get one and haven't used it?" There were murmurs of assent around the room. It was almost instinctual how John and Cam took up defensive positions next to one another.
"It's probably not what you're thinking," Cam said.
"That people get marriage licenses to get married?" Daniel prodded.
"Okay, here's what happened," Cam started. "It was early May and we had to do an overnight trip to Des Moines, Iowa. It's a five-hour trip from where my parents live in Kansas, but a lot closer than traveling between here and there. We booked a couple of hotel rooms and got them to join us. We figured we'd see the sights-"
"Such as they are in Iowa," Rodney inserted.
"Any place with a golf course is a good place," John said.
"There's also a really good English pub in the middle of town," Cam added.
"Cam's parents were going to meet us around lunch time, but we needed to fly in early to make our delivery. We brought along with our chief mechanic, Bill, who was going to meet up with some relatives of his own. We dropped our bags at a hotel downtown and decided to get some breakfast."
"That was when we strolled past the courthouse. There were a dozen or so people carrying signs protesting gay marriage. It was the anniversary of the Iowa Supreme Court upholding the right," Cam said.
"The more I looked at it, the more I was getting fried by the entire attitude," John said.
"You weren't alone," Cam confirmed.
John brushed his arm against Cam's and then shrugged. "So I said we should do it. We should just go in there, do it, and give them something to really squawk about."
"I said yeah, let's do it. We grabbed Bill to be our witness and marched right up the courthouse stairs."
John smiled. "Then we stopped right in front of them and kissed."
"It was a damn good kiss." Cam smiled at John. "It must have looked good too based on the nasty crowd reaction."
They stood, remembering it fondly, maybe for too long, because the next thing Cam knew, Vala was shouting, "And!"
"I am not familiar with all earth marriage customs. By kissing, did you complete a required ritual?" Teal'c asked.
"Uh, no. Kissing on the courthouse steps is not an official part of the process. We improvised." Cam said.
"The official ritual involves filling out forms and paying $35," John said.
"And waiting three days," Cam finished. "We were there for about thirty-six hours."
"But you have six months to pick it up," Rodney jumped in. "Sheppard, you told me that."
"Well, yeah. And how is it that you remember that part?" John shrugged and looked at Cam. "It's just that..."
"After we found out about the three day thing, we went out to breakfast and talked about it. We decided that that piece of paper and ten minutes in front of a Justice of the Peace didn't really mean anything to us."
"Uhm, other than being married?" Rodney scrunched his nose and held out both hands.
"Rodney!" Jennifer snapped. "There are a lot of things that have to be considered in that decision."
Dejection fell across Rodney's face, and Cam could see concern flit through John's eyes. Rodney cleared his throat and looked down. "It seems to me that sometimes there are too many factors being considered."
John coughed and kicked Cam lightly on the shin. Cam looked at him and John was begging something with his eyes. Cam had no idea what that was, but started talking hoping that it would do something. "Yeah, that's the thing; we had done all that already. In the everyday world, boy meets girl; they date; they get engaged and they have a heart-stopping moment in front of an altar. After step one, we had to sneak around and hide step two. The last two steps weren't even options in Iowa when we decided we were done sneaking around."
"I can see what you're saying," Daniel said. "Well, except maybe for the heart-stopping moment part."
"He didn't realize he was getting married when he was doing the chicken dance at the reception," Jack said.
"He spent the first part of his honeymoon hanging out at some ruins and translating ancient Abadonian with his bride."
"At least I didn't arrive at the altar with a hangover from my bachelor party," Daniel said.
"Okay, fair enough." Jack said. "But I've got to say that that was how I knew that she really loved me, because she didn't walk away. I will admit that it did up the potential of a heart attack." He turned to Cam and John. "There's something to be said about the feeling."
"There is," Teal'c agreed. From Cam's point of view he was deliberately not looking at Sam, and Sam was looking a little green.
"I'll raise your hangover with being immaculately impregnated by the Ori and fooling a nice guy into marrying you so the villagers didn't burn you alive." Vala had gotten out a half finished pie and was eating directly from the pan.
"Pie," Jack said and turned toward the refrigerator.
"Do you have any pie without lemon?" Rodney asked and crossed the kitchen to join Jack.
"There were way too many lawyers and bank accounts involved for any moment to be considered heart-stopping, unless you consider the moment we added up the bills," John said.
"You got that right." Cam smiled, remembering the first days of setting up the business and their home. Then he turned to John. "Actually, I remember our wedding vows."
Every one stopped halfway through passing slices of pie or mid-bite.
"Huh?" John said.
"I remember. We had spent months trying to figure out how we could be together and continue to be in the Air Force and work for the Stargate program. We kept coming to the same conclusions, but then we'd start the conversation all over from the beginning. One morning, John asked me what was important and to put it in order."
"Being together, flying, and not lying to everyone we knew. It turned out that saving the universe had fallen to fourth on our list of important things," John said.
"See, you guys didn't tell me that part," Jack said accusingly as he pointed a forkful of blueberry pie at them.
"Hold your horses, General, we're getting to your part in the ceremony." Cam took a pie from Sam and passed it to John. "It was two days before Thanksgiving, and we headed into General Landry's office. The words were something like, General, after serious consideration I've chosen to retire and am officially requesting terminal leave beginning the first of May."
"And I said, me, too," John smiled.
"Me, too - did you really say that?" Rodney asked.
"Rodney, I didn't even know where to look for the retirement forms. Cam's in charge of paperwork."
"Oh, goody for you," Jack said to Cam.
"Trust me, I'm good with that because John's in charge of the taxes," Cam said.
John cringed and then plastered a smile on his face. "Yeah, Rodney, remind me to thank you for advertising my supposed skills in math. We'll talk about that later."
"So that was it?" Sam asked. "You just requested terminal leave and went on with your new life?"
"Not exactly," John said. "You know how on TV weddings they ask if anyone objects?"
"General Landry objected," Cam said. "Actually at first he laughed because he was sure it had to be some kind of joke."
"He moved onto theories about alien mind control or possession. I tried to argue that if aliens were controlling us they wouldn't make us retire, but apparently that's happened before," John said.
"Yeah," Daniel said. "While we had a pleasant lack of life-sucking aliens here in the Milky Way, there was an overabundance of mind-altering substances, robot recreations, and, well -"
"Snakes in the head," Jack finished.
There were murmurs of assent from the former members of SG-1.
"He was alternately threatening to send us down to the infirmary for full work-ups-"
"Which he did do later," John said.
"And demanding to know what we were thinking. That was when I decided it was time to drop a big hint. I said him that we would tell him, but we weren't supposed to." Cam said.
"The problem was that he was worked up into a fine rant, and it blew past him a little. So I dropped a bigger hint."
Cam rolled his eyes.
John went on. "I said that we were only using one bed in our apartment and were tired of pretending that we were there was any use for the second."
"Subtle," Jack said. "And again, if I had known about that part of the discussion-"
"Where does Jack fit into the story?" Daniel asked.
"Soon," Cam said. "After John clarified matters, Landry order us to sit down and called for Walter. He made Walter sit at his desk, told him everything said in the room was top secret, and he would be executed if he repeated any of it."
"Then he told Walter to talk us out of getting married," John said.
Sam started laughing so hard that she started crying.
Cam laughed too. "The general didn't clarify that we were together, so Walter very uncomfortably tried to talk us out of marrying whichever floozies we had picked up."
"Landry was apparently buying some time, so he could make a phone call or two." John pointed towards Jack. "Then he sent us to the infirmary to check everything out."
"I remember that day," Vala said. "I was bored and went to see if you were up to anything interesting. General Landry dismissed you both and expected to see you both at 0900 and not before. You wouldn't tell me what you had done and wouldn't take me with you."
"Oh, there's a surprise," Daniel said. Vala slugged his arm in response.
"We went home because we didn't know what else to do. We figured that letting the general cool down would help," John said.
"We thought that the challenge phase of our retirement was over, but a couple of hours later, General O'Neill knocked on our door." Cam gestured at the man.
Jack looked around the room. "I'd just like you all to understand that Landry was calling from one secure phone to another. He didn't give me all the details."
"I have to say, General that you started off well with the beer and pizza," John said.
"You were going to sell me out for beer and pizza?" Cam asked.
"Hell, no. It was just a better start than sending in Walter to try and convince us not to marry girls."
Jack made a frustrated gesture with his hand. "Oh, cut to the chase. I appealed to their sense of duty-"
"Tried to guilt us into keeping on saving the planet," John said.
"I pointed out there were no 302s in the civilian world."
"That one was actually hard to get past," Cam admitted.
"I banged my head against a wall a couple of times, but not too hard," John said.
"Yeah, I was doing so well and then I stepped right in it. I told them that while the military in general had its head up its ass about gay people serving, not everyone was a pinhead about it, including Landry and me. I told them that with a little discretion we could make this work."
"With DADT, there was no way around that part," Sam said.
"And we didn't want to live with it anymore," Cam said.
"I remember that night," Daniel said. "Jack, you showed up on my doorstep with a full head of steam, ranting about personnel issues. He didn't tell me it was you two."
"Excuse me," Rodney said. "And after all of that, why aren't you two excited about the prospect about actually getting married?"
"Rodney, we did." John said. "The minute we decided what was important, that we were going to be together and not care who knew about it. The rest was just jumping through the legal hoops to give us some of the same rights that married people just get."
"That's it...yeah, that's it," Cam said and to his own ears it didn't sound convincing. He didn't know what it was, the bad night's sleep, lack of breakfast, or the tension in the room that seemed to have nothing to do with them. Cam took a bite of pie.
"Figuring out what's important; seems like that is the most critical part," Rodney said. Jennifer tossed her fork into his pie plate and walked out of the kitchen, towards the bedroom. Rodney put down the pie and didn't look anyone in the eye. "Yes, I think I'll...I'll just..." He followed behind Jennifer.
Cam looked at John and it turned out that so was everyone else.
"Well," Vala demanded in a stage whisper.
"Not my story to tell," John said. "I'll just say that both of them have seen too many possible futures."
"Then I understand their suffering," Teal'c said and headed to the side porch.
"I'm going to check out the tipi," Jack said and headed out the back door.
"Jack-" Daniel frowned as the door closed. "I'm going to check it out, too."
Rodney walked back into the kitchen. "I'm going to see if I can boost your battery packs for the RC cars." He headed into the garage as Daniel went out the backdoor. John looked at Cam and pointed at the garage as he followed Rodney.
Vala shoved the empty pie plate at Cam. "I need a shower."
"Yes, you do," Cam agreed as he put down the dishes he was holding. He walked over to the counter and sat down next to Sam. "You okay? I mean, you don't feel obligated to be okay, because no one else seems like they're are."
"Did Teal'c ever tell you what happened in the time loop?" Sam asked.
Cam sat back. "No, he wouldn't tell any of us."
"He didn't tell me anything either, not until a couple of months ago. Teal'c tells me that over the decades we had on that ship that he and I fell deeply in love with each other."
Cam studied her face, but Sam wasn't joking. "That's a lot of pressure."
With a slight smile, Sam shook her head. "I was already in love with him before he told me."
"Okay. How come we're not giving the two of you the third degree about your future plans?"
"Not so simple - think about who we are, the responsibilities we've both taken on for our respective people."
"You know, civilian life-"
Sam put her hand on his. "Teal'c isn't a civilian. I'm not sure they would let him live freely here. And I don't think they'll let me disappear through a Stargate, because I know too much."
"That may suck more than the options that John and I had available to us."
Sam shrugged and stood up. "It's hard to compare. Sorry we pushed earlier. It's just that I'm jealous of the freedom you and John found." She patted Cam's shoulder as she headed to the porch.
Cam got up, poured himself a cup of coffee and took it out on the patio. As he settled into a lounge chair, he wondered why he didn't choose it over the futon the previous night.
He jumped when John woke him up. "Are you okay?" John asked.
"I'm good," Cam said. "A little hectic this morning."
"Yeah..." John squinted and looked past the tipi. "Say, you know, I'm kinda, well-"
"Don't hurt yourself trying to dive into that apology." Cam sat up and waved a hand. "I've already forgotten, except for the cat box." He slid forward on the lounger until he could put his feet on the ground.
"Litter box demerits have been acknowledged. I've got to ask you something."
"Something like, what are we having for breakfast, or is it lunch?"
"Still early for lunch, not that I'd turn down a burger. But that's not it. It's more like one of those things I might hurt myself with."
"Gotcha." Cam nodded and then shrugged. "I'll go easy on you."
"How do you really feel about Iowa? I noticed when I told Rodney that we were as good as married, you didn't seem as certain as I was."
Cam studied a crack in the concrete. "This was supposed to be hard on you?"
John squatted down in front of him. "It's about feelings and ... stuff, and as I think you're aware, I'm not always good with that."
Cam looked up and snorted. "You completely suck at it. To be honest, but completely selfish, I kinda like it, because it's not like I'm a pro."
"Hey, I need to even if neither of us is good at this."
Reaching out a hand, Cam ran his fingers down John's cheek.
John accepted the touch, but said, "Tell me about Iowa."
"I don't know what I think about Iowa." Cam let his hand drop and sat back. "I mean, I have a lot of confusing thoughts about Iowa."
"We can go to Iowa," John said.
"No!" Cam slapped his hands against his thighs and looked around the patio. He could hear noises form the open windows to the house. "Let's go someplace more private." He pointed toward the tipi.
John stood up first and extended his hand to pull Cam up. He took it, and didn't let it go once they were on their feet. Hand in hand, they made their way to their makeshift home away from home.
When they pulled back the tent flap, they saw Jack and Daniel. They were kissing, naked and jacking each other off. John shoved down the tent flap while Cam shouted, "Sorry!" They stood up and fast stepped towards the creek that ran along the back of the property.
"Did you know about that?" John asked.
"There was something up with the noises in their room and the furniture being moved around. I had some wildass speculation, but the reality was a little graphic."
John stopped and grabbed Cam's shoulders. "You hit the showers with Daniel, right? You've seen him naked. Are you going to tell me that you never thought about that?"
"What am I, dead? I thought about it, but he was on my team."
"That doesn't seem to have stopped anyone else on your team."
"You're-" Cam cut himself off and thought about it. "Yeah, you're right, but I didn't spring on opportunity. Tell me Colonel Sheppard, who found his way into the Stargate program after an adrenaline packed ride with General O'Neill, what are your thoughts on actually seeing him naked? I seem to remember our first sexual escapade involved nearly getting killed."
"I don't sleep with everyone I nearly get killed with. Although, I'm not saying I would have passed up the chance if there had been opportunity." John kicked the ground and then frowned. "Damnit, I should have known about them. When the General and I got to the base at Antarctica, he told Daniel that I was a great pilot, but then he vanished with Daniel."
"Are you saying it was obvious because he should have been overwhelmed by not only your hot flying, but your tight ass?" Cam laughed.
"I could answer that, but you have to tell me about Iowa," John said.
Cam turned towards the creek and made his way to the lone cottonwood and sat in the shade. Sitting next to him, John rested his hand on Cam's thigh.
"Iowa," Cam said. He kicked at a tuft of dry grass with the heel of his boot. "I agree with everything that we said in the kitchen. I know that there's zero legal benefit to getting married in Iowa. I know that I'm right where I belong, with the person I belong with." Cam rolled his head against the tree.
"But..." John said softly.
"I don't know. Sometimes I think that even if it doesn't mean anything for you and me, maybe it's another tic in a statistic that someone else will use to take down DOMA or DADT. Maybe two other guys don't have to give up the program to be together. Hell, maybe it will help push someone to the Supreme Court, and they'll actually do right by us."
"You're my favorite activist."
"I'm not really. For me it's more about the other part. People who have been married for decades raised me. It kinda of stuck in my head."
John scratched at his ear and pulled up a long piece of grass. "I've been married before, but I keep forgetting that you haven't been. Maybe it's too easy for me to say that the paper isn't important."
"You guys have a stream? Why didn't I know about this?" Jack O'Neill said in an obvious attempt to announce himself.
"No fish, General," John said.
"Sheppard, that doesn't stop a man from fishing. Good shade under that tree, too."
"Uh-huh," Cam said and nodded through the long silence that followed. "Say, General, we're having a moment here."
Jack pointed at them. "Right, I can see that. Daniel and I just wanted to say we were sorry about the whole..." Jack made some gestures behind him toward the tipi.
"Why the hell don't you retire, and get your own tipi?" John demanded.
Jack glared at him.
"That may not have come out how I intended," John finished.
"Allow me to translate; I've had to get good at it," Cam said. "How come you don't retire, so that you can spend all your time in a tipi? I mean, we completely understand about the kind of quality time one can spend in a -" Cam took a breath and reassessed the conversation. "I'm going to stop now."
"I knew what he meant. They don't promote you to general until you can interpret half-assed reports," Jack said.
"Oh, I'm feeling the love here," John said.
Jack looked down at his feet and then shrugged. "The whole saving the planet thing. Daniel's not ready to give it up. Personally, my knees hurt too much to do that anymore. Of course, I've got a whole Pentagon thing going. I suppose I still help save the planet, somewhere in the paperwork. Besides, I can't give it up until I convince them that openly serving homosexuals in the US armed forces do not create an issue with the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion."
"We're...in favor of that," Cam said, wondering where this conversation was headed.
Jack shoved his hands into the pockets of his shorts. "I may have to do that affecting the morale of several generals and admirals by kicking their asses into the 21st century. Anyway..."
John and Cam waited.
"Did you catch the vibe between Carter and Teal'c?"
"Maybe more than a vibe," John said.
Cam nodded. "Actually, sir, if you want to redirect your administrative ass-kicking, Sam and Teal'c would like a more open arrangement."
Jack lifted his hands to the sky, "Why the hell didn't they say anything?"
"Yeah, why didn't they say anything?" John frowned.
"They don't want their life to be a B-grade movie - Jaffa Warriors Need Earth Women."
"I can see where that might be problematic," Jack said and turned to walk back towards the house.
"They're not there," John said.
"Sam and Teal'c?"
"Yeah, they took went on a rally ride to Crazy Horse. They took Vala."
Cam pushed his shoulder into John's. "Rodney and Jennifer?"
"They were going to borrow the car to go and see the Wall Drug. She's worried that we didn't fully fix the alternate reality, and she's going to suddenly die from the Hoffan drug that we encountered in Pegasus. She doesn't want to put Rodney through that. Rodney's having trouble convincing her he doesn't care."
Letting out a breath, Cam felt like the weight lifting off his shoulders. "Do you realize that we're the only ones with a happy love life? We're the only ones that figured out how to be together. It seems like that's the important part."
"Not to rub it in, but I've been kind of saying that all day," John said with a smile.
"You're the one that wanted to know what I thought about Iowa," Cam countered.
John let a piece of grass fly in the wind. "If I might observe, you still don't look fat, content, and happy with that observation. Well, maybe-"
"Don't. I can't wait for the day that your metabolism crashes and burns with the rest of the over forty crowd." Cam smacked John's arm lightly. "Look, I don't know what the deal in my head is. It's like we attacked the enemy base, won the battle, but are debating whether we should abandon it and move onto a new target."
"Cam, for you, I am completely willing to risk divorce again. Let's go to Iowa and search for land mines. Hell, if you want something more scenic, we can pick something on the East Coast."
"Boston, but not Canada? You know, it could be quite the adventure to arrange a ceremony in a two-man bobsled on the Vancouver Olympic track," Cam said.
"See, I'm not sure I can go for all these hearts and flowers," John said very seriously, but Cam saw right through it. "Besides, if we got married in Canada, Rodney might think he was right about something, and I can't allow that to happen."
"Look, I still don't know what I feel about the getting married, but I know that I don't want to fly to Iowa. Not today, not next week." Cam rolled far enough to kiss John.
"So what do you want now?" John wagged his eyebrows.
"A rack of ribs," Cam said.
"Slave driver," John said, as he slapped the ground.
"You better get started because I was thinking of taking our guests on some tour flights."
"More than half our guests are pilots."
"Yeah, two of them don't understand why we risk our lives in a gravity well, when we could be flying ships with our minds."
John frowned. "Were you counting Rodney in that?"
"Teal'c and Vala."
"Ah. Add Rodney to that club." John kissed Cam on the cheek. "I've got to make some ribs."
Cam caught a ten-minute nap under the cottonwood and then headed back to the house. Since he'd never gotten his pancakes, he decided to get the leftover turkey out of the garage fridge and put together some sandwiches. When he came into the garage, Daniel was leaning against the washer, reading a book.
"You know, while we don't have an official reading room, we have some comfy chairs."
"No one expects the comfy chair," Daniel said completely deadpan.
"Teal'c's movie night?"
"Pfft - Jack. I always opt for the Monty Python over the Simpsons and Benny Hill. And speaking of Jack, I'm really, really-"
"It's okay. The General took care of it."
"He apologized?" Daniel asked.
"Sort of," Cam said.
"Ah, then let me apologize in a meaningful way; I'm washing the sheets."
"Appreciated," Cam said. "You know, we could rearrange the sleeping spaces."
"Normally, I'd be noble and tell you not to bother, but two adults don't fit well into a twin bed." Daniel said. "And see, when you push twin beds together, you run the risk of the mattresses sliding apart and dumping you onto the box springs, and it goes down from there.
"We'll figure something out," Cam promised. "Turkey sandwich?"
Before Daniel could answer, three motorcycles roared up the driveway and parked outside the open garage door.
"You're just in time for turkey sandwiches," Cam called out when the motors were all turned off.
"Oh, food," Vala said, strolling up to Daniel who was putting the wet laundry in the dryer. "Exactly what did you spill on the sheets?"
Sam and Teal'c looked at each other in a way that Cam could only characterize as weird. "You guys want some sandwiches?"
"That would be nice," Sam said. "Can we help?"
"Sure. Why don't you get the salads and sides that are in the kitchen fridge and bring them out to the patio? John and the General are out there working on dinner."
Teal'c nodded and put his helmet on the seat of the bike, and then they headed into the house.
Cam followed him with his eyes. "That was..."
"Weird," Daniel finished. He poked Vala. "What's up with them?"
"Don't worry about it." She stepped up to Cam, peeled back the foil of the package he was holding and began snacking on the turkey. "They've been like that since they got their marriage license."
Cam could see Daniel's jaw hanging open and it was only then that he realized his was too when Vala stuck a piece of turkey in his mouth. "They're going to probably be like this all afternoon. There's some kind of mass marriage thing in Sturgis late this afternoon." Vala looked between Daniel and Cam who were both stunned. She shrugged. "We're all invited." She took the turkey bundle and headed into the house.
"We need cheese!" Vala shouted as she worked her way through the crowd of bikers and motorcycles. Crowded for downtown Sturgis, which was usually fairly sleepy, but during rally week, it was party all the time. A local restaurant had set up a platform and in one corner of their parking lot where marriages were being performed by a biker justice of the peace.
"Cheese? Could you possibly elaborate," John said.
"It is custom at the rally to dispense with the normal cultural traditions of marriage and replace them with personalized rituals and cheese," Vala said.
Cam took a second or two to frame a response and explanation. He could see that John, Daniel and the General also had their mental wheels turning.
"Vala, the cheese they're talking about is not literally cheese-" Daniel started.
While they had been talking, the marriage ceremony on the platform was coming to an end. The loads speaker boomed, "I now pronounce you Biker and Biker Chick. Can I get a 2100 cc salute?" In response every biker in earshot revved his or her engines.
"Yeah," Daniel said, "This might take a second or two to explain. When is Teal'c and Sam's turn?"
Vala bit her lip. "Let's see, they're couple number thirteen and they're calling up couple number ten now."
"Fifteen minutes or so a ceremony, we've got about forty-five minutes or so," Cam said.
"Then we've got time. Vala, let me explain the difference between tradition and cheese," Daniel said as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her to the side.
John's pulled out his cell phone and popped it open. "Hey, Rodney, where are you? We figure that you two only have-" John paused and then frowned as he held the phone to his ear. "So where are you?"
Jack came up next to Cam and gestured at John with his chin. "Is that McKay?"
"Okay, that's around the corner. Hang out there and I'll come and find you." John scrubbed his palm against his forehead. "No, you cannot go back to the house and work on the battery packs-" John pulled the phone away from his ear and looked like he was going to hurl it to the ground.
"So they're coming, right?" Jack asked.
John said. "Despite the fact that he's talking a thousand words a minute, I don't think I have the full story yet. It looks like Jennifer decided that South Dakota wasn't for her and made Rodney drop her off at the Rapid City airport."
"Ouch," Cam said and Jack whistled, shaking his head.
"Don't worry. He doesn't know it yet, but Rodney is joining us," John said. "Rodney. Rodney! No it would not be easier to beam out!"
Jack took the phone from John. "McKay! Do you think that the resources of the US Air Force and the IOA are there for you convenience and amusement? Damn straight they're not!" Jack handed John back the phone.
John took a breath and smiled. Cam knew that he had taught John that. "Rodney? Yeah, I get that you want to go back to the house. Okay, Rodney, I see your point. Let's just talk for a minute and go over logistics." John was already heading across the parking lot, as he continued to talk.
"I wonder if that's a good idea, considering what's happening here," Cam said.
"You mean, McKay's delusional idea that Carter would give him the time of day in any universe?" Jack asked.
"Uhm, technically she did in one, but she also divorced him in that universe," Cam said. "It's just that John told me that Rodney's been trying to get Jennifer to commit for a while."
Jack grunted as he nodded.
"Then again, taking him back to the house and leaving him out of the action might make things worse."
"We'll see," Jack said. "Hey! If it isn't the bride!"
Sam actually blushed as she ducked her head.
"What do you need? Old, new, borrowed, blue?" Cam asked.
"No, I'm not worried about silly superstitions, I'm just..."
She looked breathless and maybe ready to pass out.
"Sam, are you-"
"I've never been happier in my entire life!" She threw her arms around Cam.
"Happy to-" Cam hugged her back. "What exactly did I do?"
"Hey! I recruited Teal'c to the team," Jack said.
"Sir," Sam laughed and gave him a short hug. "It's just that Cam and I had a good talk this morning about getting priorities straight between work and home."
"So Mitchell, you retired and became Dr. Phil?" Jack said.
Cam was about to deny him when a heavy hand clapped him on the shoulder. "His wisdom outshines Dr. Phil and Oprah combined."
Turning his head, Cam saw the rare sight of a smiling Teal'c. "You're not helping my reputation buddy."
"Flowers! I found some!" Vala ran into the center of the group carrying a potted plant.
"Well, technically it's flowering," Sam said.
Daniel said, "Vala, traditionally-"
"I thought this was a non-traditional wedding!" She stamped her foot on the asphalt. "Daniel, I'm the bridesmaid here, and you're not helping me execute my duties."
"The word maid. Are you aware that that implies-"
Vala shoved the plant into his arms.
"You, McKay." Vala pointed an accusing finger at Rodney as John half-dragged him over. "Have you ever been to a wedding on this planet?"
"What?" Rodney mumbled.
"Perfect!" Vala said. "You're going to help me."
"Uh, Vala," Jack said and put a hand on her arm and whispered. "Keller just dumped him."
"So I've heard. Looks like he could use some distraction." She winked at Jack and Cam and then spun on her heal. "Come on, McKay, we're on a mission."
"What!" Rodney squawked as Vala began pulling him back towards the main street. "John-"
"You're in good hands, Rodney," John said. "He is in good hands, right?"
"It'll..." Cam hesitated.
"It'll probably be okay," Daniel said. "You see, despite what Vala comes off as..." Daniel had waked as he talked, taking John out of ear shot, but Cam could see that he was looking more relaxed.
Cam and Jack stood in silence for a few minutes and then Jack spoke again. "This isn't right."
Cam gave Sturgis and the sea of motorcycles a good look. It wasn't commonplace, but there was nothing wrong with it. Then Cam caught a look at a bride in half leather and half lace, but not in a good way. "Yeah, but you can't fault a bride on her wedding day."
"What?" Jack frowned. Cam made gesture toward the bride in question. Jack's head leaned back slightly as he said, "Oh." Then he frowned and pursed his lips. "Ohhhh."
"But like I said-"
"Nah. No. That's not what I meant, but your point is well taken. I'm just looking around and we've got music, a festive atmosphere, but it's a wedding."
"There should be cake. Right?" Jack held out his hands. "It's a wedding; there should be cake."
"Well, I suppose," Cam said. "I bet we could find some pie."
Daniel and John turned around. "Yes, Jack?"
"Have you ever heard of wedding pie?"
"Well, in Morocco there's a savory chicken dish with phyllo and cinnamon that they serve for virtually every festive occasion-"
Throwing back his head, Jack said, "Why do I even try?"
"Yeah, please forgive me for not being able to read your mind a hundred percent of the time. What are you trying to ask?" Daniel snapped out.
"Shouldn't there be cake?" Jack demanded.
Daniel smiled and sighed. "We've got at least twenty minutes; let's go find some. We passed a food store a couple of blocks that way."
As they started walking, Jack asked, "So you agree with me?"
"I didn't say that, but I know how you feel about cake. Say, did Sam ask you to stand in for her father?"
"They are so married," John said in Cam's ear. Cam turned to face him and couldn't help the smile that came to his face.
"Are you trying to say that we don't have enough intuitive banter to be married?"
"Nope. I'm saying that's what you become when you do it right."
Cam leaned forward because he wanted to kiss John, but they tried to be less demonstrative in public. He bumped his shoulder into John's arm instead. "And they did it without ribbons. They did it without tags. They did it without packages, boxes, and bags."
"It looks like they did it without cake, too. By the way, your Grinch impression pretty much sucks," John said.
"Well, I need cake, and a pig roast. That is to say if we're ever gonna do this, and we don't have to." Cam said.
"Damn straight. No fancy clothes or anything, just some down home cooking and whomever'll come."
"Iowa or New England?" John asked. "Or do you still have your heart set on the two-man bobsled in Vancouver? For the bobsled, I might be able to do Canada."
Cam shook his head. "I'm a Kansas boy, so that means that there's no place like home. And by home, I mean right here in lovely South Dakota."
"We might be in our eighties before they let us," John said.
"It might be next year. I'm just saying that I can wait for the paper to get here, because I've already got what I need."
John took a step forward so they were standing side by side, looking in opposite directions. He bumped their shoulders together. "I love the way you think. Hell, that's not the only thing I love about you."
"Ditto," Cam said.
Cam gave the picnic table a final wipe and then stood up to find John standing next to him, holding a fork with a piece of cake on it. With a smile, Cam leaned forward to eat it, frowning when John pulled back his hand. "I think you'll find that's a tactical mistake, Mr. Sheppard, keeping me away from my cake."
"I'm not keeping it away from you," John said and pushed the plate with the full-sized piece into Cam's nose.
Cam bit into the cake, getting icing all over his face, as he mumbled, "You looking for a food fight?"
John laughed. "Nope, just reenacting."
Cam nearly spit out the cake because he laughed so hard. "Geez, did you see that? Sam paints a dot of icing on his nose and then Teal'c looked like he was going to shove her entire head into the cake."
"I was there. Do you think he was planning on stopping or do you think it was the General shouting, Hey! Save some of that for the rest of us!?"
Cam took the cake plate from John and pushed the mangled slice into John's face, getting it mostly at his mouth. "We may never know, for the ways of the Jaffa are inscrutable." Damage done, Cam put the plate on the table and kissed some icing off John's face.
John returned the favor. "Mmm, you know, this isn't a bad way to end the evening."
"I'm with you, except if we ever do it, it's going to be a twelve layer coconut cake," Cam said.
"What is it with you and coconut?" John asked.
"Hey, it's a tradition in some parts of the South."
"Then I'm good with it, as long as you're not baking." John grabbed a dishtowel and gave each of their faces a quick wipe. "Tipi tonight?"
"Nope, that's the honeymoon suite."
"Ah, dare I hope for our own bed?"
"Let's call that the anniversary suite. Daniel and the General let Rodney into their discreet circle," Cam said.
"That's a little surprising," John said.
"Apparently not if you consider the logistics of two grown men and twin beds."
"Oh. So the porch?"
"Yeah, Vala was a little disgruntled about losing the master bedroom, which she had had to herself."
"Oh come on, she'd fit in a twin bed."
"But we were putting Rodney in there..."
"Okay, Okay, I get it. That leaves the futon of doom," John said.
"I'm thinking we take the damn futon out to the garage and replace it with some air mattresses," Cam said.
John kissed him. "You're always thinking, I love that. But next time let's make someone suck it up so we can have a real bed."
Cam grabbed some odds and ends of food and put them on a tray. John grabbed the cake and followed him into the kitchen. There were video game noises coming from the porch and suddenly Vala squawked, "Damn moles!"
John called out to the entrance to the porch. "Vala, do you want some more cake?"
She danced into the dining room in an oversized shirt and bare feet. "Did someone say cake?"
Cam opened Aunt Heloise's cake carrier and slid the cake to the other side of the counter. "Porch working out?"
Vala used her finger to swipe a long line of icing off the top of the cake and sighed, "Well..."
"Not good with all the hooking up?" John asked.
"Oh, hell no, I don't care about that," Val said and licked the icing off her finger. "I had a fantastic time getting Rodney drunk tonight."
"Uhm, not to be nosey or anything," John said, pointing at the porch. "But he's not out there, right?"
"Well, Mum," Vala said and Cam started laughing as he got out a fork for the cake.
"Hey, the guy just got his heart broken," John protested.
"It will do him good," Vala said, poking John in the chest to emphasize each word. She sliced off a piece of cake as she talked. "Trust me, women are going to treat him a lot differently once he starts asking them out because he likes them and not because he's got a life schedule that includes breeding."
"Yeah, but that's not how he started dating, Jennifer," John said.
"And that's what I'm saying," Vala insisted. "He knows the difference, or at least he could come to see it if a friend pointed it out."
John thought about it a moment and then nodded.
"Pretty smart for a woman I met when she handcuffed herself to the guy she liked," Cam said.
Vala shrugged. "And then life happened. It was an odd marriage that I had. It wasn't all good, but it wasn't all bad either. Maybe I'll want to do it again at some point, but in the mean time it's made me appreciate being on my own and hanging out with friends. Made me understand that there might be a better approach than handcuffs."
"Here's to friends," Cam said, taking a sip of his half-finished beer and sliding it to Vala. She drank and passed it on to John.
"So it's good," Cam said.
Vala started heading back to the porch, taking back the beer from John as she went. "I'm good and the game system makes up, in part, for the loss of the nicer bed and private bath."
John started to laugh and Cam pulled him towards the bedrooms. He whispered. "Get the extra blankets out of the guest bedroom, and I'll get rid of the futon. "
John nodded and led the way towards the bedroom. Cam could see him quietly open the door and shine a mini-red flashlight inside. Suddenly he turned and slapped on the light.
Joining him, Cam asked, "What's up?" As soon as he looked inside he knew what the problem was. The room was empty.
"This isn't good." John shook his head. "I don't care what Vala says. He was seriously drunk and unhappy."
"We didn't hear any cars, so he couldn't have gone far. Maybe he wandered into the wrong room."
They both turned at a distinctive set of noises coming from the master bedroom.
"Damn, the walls are thin," John said.
"Yeah, unless they're into threesomes, I don't think Rodney's in there."
John had stepped across the hall and shook his head as he looked inside the office. Cam joined him and saw Rodney laying ramrod straight on the futon of doom, clutching a pillow. "Hey, is that your pillow or mine he's drooling into?"
John pointed at Rodney's legs where a second pillow was sandwiched between his knees. "Which one would you rather be yours?" John asked.
Rodney shifted around and mumbled some incoherent math equation.
"More laundry tomorrow," Cam said. "And hey, he's stolen your cat." Luger was a tight ball, squeezed between Rodney's shoulder and his neck with one paw stretched across Rodney's Adam's apple.
"Take care of him, boy," John said as he closed the door. "What was that you were saying about grown men and twin beds?"
"Don't worry, I've got a plan. We take apart the beds and put the mattresses on the floor. If we get an extra king sheet for the daybed, we can make them one."
"Take apart the beds? Aren't you afraid of waking everyone?"
Mumbles of calculus came from the office as grunts came from the master bedroom, mixing with the faint sound video game explosions.
"Doesn't seem to bother the rest of our teams," Cam said.
John shrugged and moved into the guest room. The spent a couple of minutes taking apart beds and neatly stacking the unneeded pieces so they wouldn't fall.
As they were pulling a sheet over the mattress, John said, "You know, I don't think we should wait for the whole paper in South Dakota thing to have a honeymoon."
"Can you have a honeymoon without a wedding?" Cam asked.
"You recited our wedding vows this morning without a wedding." John pointed out.
"True enough," Cam said. "Where we going?"
"You know, we could have set up an island hopping business there," Cam said.
John shook his head. "Wouldn't have jet pack testing contracts if we were off the continent. That and you'd have gotten tired of it."
"Really," Cam said. "Did you check with me on that?"
"Sort of," John said. "You'd have been sighing at your watch that it was too late to call your mom, and wondering who stole the seasons on you. I bet that you'd have climbed the mountains all the time so you could check the horizon. You're not happy unless you can see the weather four hours away, coming at you across the plains."
"You thought about all that when we were looking for a place to live?" Cam said.
"Sure, and then there was the part where you wanted to see the Badlands again and never talked about booking a flight to the islands. Second viewing of this place when I knew you found a house you'd be happy with. Cam, why are you looking at me like I've got two heads?"
"I'm not! I mean, I don't mean to be. I'm sorry, but I just never thought that you paid so much attention to the details. It's flattering all the attention you've paid to me," Cam said.
John shrugged. "It seemed important. Besides, it was how I figured out you wanted me the first time we got together. I wasn't sure the first time you checked out my ass, but the second time."
Cam threw a pillow at John, "It was my ass that was being checked out. It's why you wanted to take up the rear instead of leading."
"Yeah, keep fooling yourself," John said and swung the pillow hard into Cam's hip.
There was a knock on the wall followed by Jack's muffled voice. "Hey, walls are thin."
Cam bit his lip to stop laughing. John walked across the mattresses and slid his arm around Cam's waist and kissed him.
John said, "I kinda like you."
"You sure?" Cam asked.
John cocked his head and pursed his lips like he was thinking. "More like I love you, I guess."
"Ditto," Cam said.
Fic: Home on the Range