Their relationship, if that’s what this is, consists of little more than occasionally hanging out at Cam’s place (which is not nearly as small as he made it out to be) and continuing their one-on-ones. They can’t do anything else, be overt, even risk being the tiniest bit careless. It’s difficult for both of them, but neither wants their shot at the sky to be taken before they get their feet off the ground, so they stay below the proverbial radar.
It’s because of that fact that they end up with nights like tonight. Cam is hosting a party of sorts, though it’s of course not being called a party, as that would be against regulations. No, it’s just a bunch of guys watching college football in the same place, with food and drinks and a friendly atmosphere.
John hates nights like tonight.
It’s not that he doesn’t like other people – a few of those gathered tonight are John’s friends, though most are Cam’s. It’s just that he feels tense, like he’s walking on eggshells, like bringing all of these other people into a space where they’ve shared more than football will somehow alert the others. Like John might slip and do or say something that will have light bulbs flaring on over everyone’s heads. Nights like this put him on edge.
It doesn’t help that Oris, his bunkmate, had been pestering him about Cam this afternoon. “What’s with you and Mitchell, anyway?”
John had made himself keep walking, to not tense up. The only thing he could force out was a strangled, “What?”
Oris had rolled his eyes. “Three months ago, he was your flight instructor. Now you spend a lot of your free time with the guy. I’m just wondering why he’s your new best friend.”
John had made himself shrug, smirk. “He likes NC State,” he had quipped, grabbing an orange from the other man’s tray. “ Unlike you heathens, Mitchell actually recognizes that they’ve got a shot at the bowl this year.”
Oris had given John a smirk right back. “You’re both insane, then,” he’d said, laughing. “There’s no way…”
John blinks, brought back to the not-party by the sound of the same laughter from the next room. Oris is here, watching the game and joking around with everyone else. It had been Cam’s idea to invite him, and John had gone along with it, not really caring until their conversation today. If Oris already suspects something, and John makes a stupid move…
Which is why he finds himself locked in the bathroom, sitting on the closed toilet with his head between his legs, trying hard not to hyperventilate. He jumps when he hears pounding on the door and Cam’s voice. “Sheppard! Only one bathroom here, buddy!” John doesn’t answer for a minute, and Cam pounds again. “Hey, you okay in there?”
John reaches out and unlocks the door, and Cam opens it a second later. He pokes his head in and, seeing John’s state, yells to someone down the hallway, “Go use the one in the rec room!”
John hears laughter from the living room as Cam steps in and locks the door behind him. He’s kneeling in front of John a second later, and it’s cramped, John’s knees brushing up against Cam’s chest. Cam has his hands on John’s arms and John calms a little. “What’s up?” Cam saw softly.
John shakes his head. Cooping himself up in here is a terrible idea, would make Oris much more suspicious than if he’d just sat in the living room and pretended to have a good time. “Oris was asking about you this afternoon. About us,” he says, remembering the conversation again. “I just… freaked a little.”
“Don’t freak,” Cam says, smiling. “We’re fine. Oris is suitably impressed by my television and the fact that I managed to get some beer on base. He thinks you hang out with me because of my entertainment system.”
“Maybe I do,” John tries to joke, but he can’t manage to get his face to make a smile. He wants to leave, to not be surrounded by these people, but if he goes now Oris will follow him back to their bunk, and that will just make it worse.
Cam frowns at him and hauls him up off the toilet. He wraps his arms around John, and John slumps forward, tucking his face into Cam’s neck. He really is freaking out far more than he should. Cam backs away a minute later and studies John’s face.
“Okay,” he says softly. “I’ll make your excuses. Go lie down before you lose your lunch.”
John’s eyes dart in the direction of the living room. “Oris is just gonna follow me home,” he says, and Cam shakes his head.
“Go lie down in my room,” he says gently. “I’ll tell them you had one too many and you’re gonna sleep it off here. Go,” Cam repeats, more firmly, and John nods, tucking his face to Cam’s chest for a brief second before stumbling out of the bathroom and down the hall. He’s down to his boxers and asleep in Cam’s bed in less than three minutes.
“Hey,” Cam says, rejoining the party in the living room “What’d I miss?”
“Penn State made a great block,” one of the guys says, and the conversation around him dissolves into an argument about the game. Oris walks nearer, standing just out of Cam’s field of view, looking a little… nervous? Cam turns to the younger man and grins. “Hey, Oris.”
Oris straightens. “Mitchell,” he says, and there’s something in his tone of voice that reminds him of how the guy addresses superior officers. Cam glances around and realizes that with John now down for the count, there’s nobody else here the kid knows. His other friends had split an hour or so before. “Look, do you need me to get Sheppard out of here? I can get him back to the bunk.”
Cam shakes his head, going for flippant. “He passed out on my bed,” he says, rolling his eyes. “I think he had a little too much to drink. Probably not a good idea for your bunk supervisor to see him like that.”
Oris winces and nods. Jennings is a little bit of a hardass sometimes, and he’s pretty intolerant of drinking on base. Cam shrugs. “Don’t worry about it. He can sleep it off here, and I’ll make it fine with Jennings.” Cam knows the older man pretty well, and figures he can probably talk John’s absence away without too much effort.
“If you’re sure,” Oris hesitates, his eyes flicking to the door. Cam gives him a grin and claps him on the shoulder.
“You good to get yourself home?” he asks. “I can give you a lift if you’re not.”
Oris shakes his head. “Nah, I’m fine.” He hesitates. “Thanks, Mitchell. For the invitation and for looking after Sheppard.”
Cam keeps the grin in place and thinks back to what John had said before, about Oris asking about them. “What are friends for?” he quips, steering Oris towards the door. “Other than taking care of you when you’re sick and making fun of you for it in the morning, of course.”
Oris laughs, shakes his head again, and leaves.
The rest of the people clear out not long after that. The game had ended while Cam was talking to Oris, and Cam waves off his buddies’ offers to stay and help clean up, citing John sleeping in the bedroom. He’ll just make Sheppard do it in the morning, he jokes, and his friends laugh and help him clear the couch before they split.
Cam makes his way back to the bedroom after they leave and takes in John’s form, curled tightly in on himself, right on the edge of the bed. He doesn’t look peaceful or childlike or any other words used to describe sleeping people; he looks haunted and worried and stressed out. Cam strips down to his boxers and slides in, curling up into John. He tugs John’s body back against his own, forcing tensed muscles to relax. John stirs a few moments later and freezes as he takes in their position.
“Cam?” he asks, awake but not yet alert. “Someone could-”
“Everybody’s gone, John,” Cam says, and John’s muscles relax again. “They all cleared out pretty quickly after you went down.”
“Sorry,” John says, though he doesn’t sound it at all, and Cam smiles into his hair. “How long was I out?”
“An hour, give or take,” Cam says, running his hand idly up and down John’s arm. “Penn State won.”
“Good for them,” John declares, more awake now. “Wasn’t sure they would pull it out.”
“Yeah, well,” Cam says, shrugging against John’s back. “I told Oris to take off not long after you crashed. Told him I’d set it straight with Jennings.”
“Jennings likes me,” John shrugs back. “Doubt I’ll have a problem.”
“I’ll talk to him anyway,” Cam says. “Are you feeling better?”
John nods. “I wasn’t really sick,” he says, and Cam knows he wasn’t, remembers John’s panicked face and his worry about his bunkmate figuring them out. “I’m sorry I flipped.”
Cam stops the movement of his hand and tugs on John’s shoulder until the other man turns over to face him. “Don’t apologize,” he says seriously, looking into John’s face. “You worry too much, I’ll give you that, but you don’t have to apologize for it, John.”
John’s face is still worried, and Cam closes the last few inches between them to kiss John lightly. “Don’t worry about it,” he repeats, hoping that John can just let it go.
John is still worried about Oris, about him figuring it out, but worry is quickly being replaced by the realization that he is currently in bed with his – boyfriend? He’s still not sure what, exactly, they are to each other – and they’re both almost naked. And Cam just kissed him.
He leans forward again, capturing Cam’s mouth, and they kiss slowly, languidly, almost sweetly, but neither of them would ever call it that. Cam’s hands are in his hair, and John is holding Cam’s jaw with one hand while he runs the other up and down Cam’s side. John shifts and they both gasp and pull back as their hips come into alignment.
“Um,” Cam stutters, pulling back. John’s hand tightens on his side, holding him close, and John waits until Cam’s eyes rise back to his before he speaks.
“I want to,” he says quietly. “Do you?”
Cam nods and glances away, and even in the darkness of the bedroom, John can see the faint color rise in his cheeks. “I haven’t – with a guy,” he confesses, and John tugs and shifts until Cam’s mostly on top of him.
“Neither have I,” John admits, and Cam’s eyes cloud over with doubt. John rocks his hips up and Cam groans. “But I want to.”
“Okay,” Cam says, dropping his head to John’s. And they do.
Afterwards, curled up together, John presses his face into Cam’s neck. “You going up today?”
Cam buries his face in John’s hair and wraps his arms tightly around his back. “I already have.”