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Field Trip

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John Sheppard was doing paperwork, something he typically avoided while on Atlantis. Being at Cheyenne Mountain, however, he felt compelled to look busy. He sat in an uncomfortable chair and leaned onto a grey metal desk that had probably been delivered to the mountain during the Cold War Era. Just as John was closing the last folder, Cameron Mitchell walked in.

“Hey, Sheppard. Feel like a field trip?”

John didn’t bother to feign disinterest. “Where are we going?”

“Jackson has this thing. Something about visiting an underground temple with hieroglyphs.”

John grinned. “Sounds better than paperwork.”

Cam smiled broadly and turned to leave. “Great! Grab your gear and meet me in the gate room in twenty minutes.”

While gearing up, John thought about the last time he had been on Earth for an extended amount of time, when the Lanteans had taken Atlantis. Despite the best efforts of his new gate team to cheer him up, he’d been miserable. Then he started spending most of his off-duty time with Cam and, well, that hadn’t been so miserable.

Cam kept inviting him along for all sorts of things and John found that he couldn’t resist. At first it was a pick-up basketball game at the SGC, a game John didn’t typically play. Then it was a sports bar after a hockey game in Denver when he was really more of a football fan. By the time it became routine, and by the time he’d thought about what it all meant, John was hooked.

Stealing a puddle jumper and returning to Atlantis was a perfect way to avoid thinking about whether or not he had a crush on Cameron Mitchell. Now, just two days back at the SGC and he was back to feeling all goofy whenever the man walked into the room. He’d easily ignore the whole thing if he hadn’t caught Cam’s gaze lingering just a second too long every now and then.

John entered the gate room wearing his grey off-world uniform with his Atlantis patch. Cam, Jackson and Vala were wearing black. Vala beamed at him.

“Colonel Sheppard. To what do we owe the pleasure?”

“Colonel Mitchell invited me. I heard there were hieroglyphs.”

Cam answered, “With Teal'c off visiting his son, I thought we could use a fourth. Plus, he looked bored and I need someone to talk to while you help Jackson translate whatever he finds in those caves.”

“Well, it’s wonderful of you to tag along.” Vala smiled. Turning to look at Cam, she said. “Why don't you help Daniel and I'll keep Colonel Sheppard entertained?”

Cam was about to respond when John cut in. “Please, call me John.”

Vala grinned and winked at John. Cam rolled his eyes, smiled and gave John a now-you've-done-it look before the four of them stepped through the gate.

Along the way to the village, the trio of Daniel, Cam and Vala kept up a lively banter. John tried to pay attention to what they were actually debating and not get entirely lost in the cadence of Cam’s voice. Something about that man’s slow drawl was distracting and he found himself enthralled with his commentary on Teal’c and Vala’s recent obsession with reality TV. OK, so he didn’t care about their TV habits, but he listened with rapt attention anyway.

A few hours later, they were gathered in the temple. Vala chatted with the town historian while Daniel took photographs and scribbled notes and interjected pertinent questions while he worked. They were so immersed in what they were doing that they barely paid attention to John and Cam when they told them they were going to wander off and explore the underground caves.

When John and Cam encountered a fork in the tunnels, they opted for a round of rock-paper-scissors to decide which direction to explore. John won and they forged ahead taking the path to the right. After just a few feet, they triggered a long-forgotten trap and plunged down a steep, curving tunnel. They landed in an oblong-shaped room deep in the mountain. The tunnel that deposited them in the room was too smooth and steep to climb out and they could find no other exits.

Thankfully, the radios were still in range and the signal was able to get through to Daniel. He and Vala conferred with the local historian who had some old scrolls back in his library that talked about how to unlock the door.

Daniel’s voice came over the radio. “Cyrus believes he has instructions on the tunnel system. Vala and I are going to go into town with him and see what we can come up with.”

The radio crackled off. John sat with his back against the wall, his P-90 cradled casually in his lap. Cam sighed and sat next to him.

"Well, it could be worse." Cam said finally.

"Don't say that, Mitchell. Don't ever say that. Because then it will GET worse."

"You're really that superstitious?"

John lifted his eyebrow. "You're not?"

Cam laughed at that and they sat in comfortable silence for a while. At least John hoped he came across as being comfortable. Somehow Cam's leg was resting alongside John's and John was trying to concentrate on something other than the heat radiating from the other man. Why did the man have to sit so close? He was trying not to focus on Cam's breathing and instead concentrated on keeping his own calm and steady.

After a few moments, Cam started telling John about the time his team had been stuck in a ravine. John countered with a story about the time his team was trapped by a mudslide and they passed time trading stories. And if John's heart lurched every so often, particularly when Cam would smile, then it was no one's business but his own.

Eventually, Daniel, Vala and Cyrus returned. Cam’s radio crackled.

“Mitchell, can you hear me?”

“Go ahead, Jackson.”

“OK, so you should see a large boulder on the north side of the room.”

John and Cam looked around. There were boulders strewn across the room. Cam thumbed on his radio. “You’ll have to be a bit more specific.”

“It should be the only boulder with a symbol carved on the top.”

John motioned to Cam and pointed to a random boulder. “OK, found the boulder. Now what?”

“Which symbol is on the boulder?”

“What?”

“The symbol indicates which room you’re in and will tell you what you have to do to get out.”

“It’s a swirly thing with two spokes.”

There was a pause before Daniel’s response came through. “Ok. You’re deeper into the cave system than we though. Um... stand by.”

“Copy that.” Cam replied. John and Cam stood at the boulder staring at the symbol. John tried not to fidget.

Several minutes later, although it felt longer, the radio came back on. “Uh... guys?” Daniel said.

“Go ahead, Jackson.”

“Remember I told you that this planet’s primary language is from an older form of...”

“Jackson!” Cam interrupted him. “The point, Jackson. Please get to the point.”

“Well, the instructions say that if more than one person is trapped in that room that they’ve shown the gods they cannot get along.”

“Get along?” Cam asked.

“So we have to work together to get out?” John asked.

“Well, yes. Basically. In a manner of speaking. But there’s more...” Daniel trailed off.

“More?” Cam prompted.

“I can’t tell how important the removal of clothing is, but the exchange of bodily fluids is quite specific.”

“We have to... what?”

“Hang on.” Daniel said.

John looked at Cam. Then John tried not to look at Cam. John’s earlier thoughts about how to pass the time while stuck in a cave with Cameron Mitchell came back to him and he imagined the other man naked and shoved up against the wall...

“Did you do this on purpose?” John asked Cam, shaking himself from his thoughts.

“Did I... what?” Cam sputtered, a flush had risen on his face. “You’re the one that chose ‘rock’ … while in a cave. Talk about tempting fate, Sheppard.”

John smirked at him. "You're really that superstitious?"

“You think a spit-handshake will cover it?” Cam asked.

John shrugged. “Worth a shot.”

They both spit into the palm of their right hand and shook hands. Holding on longer than usual, they both looked around the room to see if it had any effect. They didn’t notice any overt scans but eventually they heard the scraping of a large boulder being moved and a narrow hallway beckoned them.

Cam thumbed his radio on. “Got a door open, Jackson. Which way to the surface?”

“That was.... quick.” Daniel replied.

Cam rolled his eyes, but didn’t reply. Daniel came back on the radio and relayed a complicated set of instructions on how to get out of the underground maze. They both entered the hallway and began navigating their way out.

 

Later, when they’d returned to the SGC and debriefing was wrapped up, Cam caught up with John while he was getting ready to leave the base.

“Hey, Sheppard. Feel like a field trip?”

“I don’t know. Last time you asked me that, we got stuck in a cave.”

“This time I’m thinking sports bar or maybe take-out and ESPN.”

“Are you asking me out on a date, Mitchell?” John tried to sound casual, half hoping Cam would take it as a joke.

When Cam didn’t respond right away, John grew uncomfortable. He was about to stammer something about making a bad joke when Cam spoke. “Maybe. Would that be awkward?”

“Not nearly as awkward as having to ‘exchange’ in a cave, Mitchell. Although I have to give you points for creativity on that one.”

Cam acted indignant. “You still think I planned that?”

John smirked and followed Cam to the parking lot.

~end~