John wakes up in the wrong infirmary, staring blankly at dull concrete walls, not Atlantis's green and bronze.
There's a kid facing John in the next bed, a teenager curled on his side under a sheet, face relaxed in sleep. His brown hair is cut military short and he looks kind of familiar. John wonders why he's in the SGC infirmary under Cheyenne Mountain. He wonders why an army brat's in here beside him. He hopes the kid hasn't contracted some kind of space-plague from a gate team relative – but no, he'd be in quarantine, not out on the main ward.
John stretches, then winces. Maybe he's got space-flu himself? His muscles feel limp as overcooked spaghetti and there's a dull ache at the back of his head. He goes to sit up and his body just feels wrong. What the fuck? He pushes himself up and shoves the covers back. Has he shrunk? His body's too small, much too slender, and not nearly as hairy as it should be. He peers at one of his hands. It's got no calluses, and the scars across his knuckles from the accident in flight school have vanished. A spurt of panic blindsides him and he grabs his junk, but it's all there through the thin cotton scrubs: the comforting heft of his balls, his soft dick. Okay, so not turned into a woman, then. Maybe a body-swap?
"Feeling yourself up already, Sheppard?" says the kid in the next bed. His eyes are open and he's smirking. His voice is light, with a soft Southern twang.
John snatches his hand away, although his dick had been starting to wake up and take an interest. And that's odd, too, because when was he last that hair-trigger? "No, uh…" he mutters, flushing. His voice sounds nasal and weird, but maybe that's the space-flu, or whatever this is. "Who…do I know your folks?"
The boy looks puzzled. "Don't think you ever got to meet 'em, no. You'd remember Momma if you had." John's face feels tight, his jaw clenched, because he's pretty freaked out, here. The kid's eyes narrow. "You don't know who I am, do you?"
He's very familiar – John's sure he must have met him before. Some SGC meet and greet? But they don't do that here; it's not a normal base. No family picnics or Christmas parties with Landry playing Santa for the kids. And John's spent fuck-all time at the SGC anyway, just that messed-up few weeks after Helia kicked them out of the city, and…recently, he got called back…a mission? He forces his aching brain to remember. A mission with SG1? Holy hell.
"Mitchell?" John's voice almost breaks, pitched high and incredulous. "But you're…" he waves his hand, indicating adolescent Cam, then he focuses on the hand he's waving. The soft, scarless, young hand.
"Yeah," says Colonel Cameron Mitchell, looking tousled and snub-nosed and all of sixteen. "We got zapped."
John's never been good with authority, and it's ten times worse now he looks sixteen like Cam. They're in the main conference room with Landry, Sam Carter, Teal'c and Daniel Jackson. Sam's been beamed down from the Hammond for tech advice. She's seated herself on John and Cam's side of the table, probably for moral support, but it just feels like she's, god, their mom and Landry's the principal, or something. John scowls down at the table top. Cam kicks his ankle and he kicks back, annoyed. Landry frowns.
"What do we know about the device that did this, Colonel?" he asks Sam.
"Not a lot as yet, sir," she replies. "It seems to be Ancient tech, which is how Colonel Sheppard activated it."
"Didn't mean to," John mutters into the table. Cam kicks him again, and John shoots him a death glare. Landry's frown deepens, and John catches Sam hiding a grin.
"It was accidental," confirms Jackson, nodding. "I'd had no time to translate the block of Ancient script and it just looked like a wall panel. We were searching for something free-standing, from the clues I'd picked up before the mission. As you know, there were indications that it might be a universal translator, in something more like a pedestal console or DHD. We knew it was Ancient-made, which is why you seconded Colonel Sheppard from Atlantis to assist with the mission. Unfortunately, the Colonel tripped on some rubble and touched the wall, and Cam tried to steady him so he got caught in the beam as well. The rest of us were further away."
"Indeed," says Teal'c, nodding gravely.
"Have you translated the text yet, Dr Jackson?" asks Landry. He looks tired.
"Well, yes of course, I mean, they were out cold for several hours and it's one of the variants of Ancient I'm familiar with, so–"
"And?" prompts Landry.
"And, well, it's fascinating, really." Jackson adjusts his glasses and continues. "They intended it as a training tool for language acquisition. The brain is much more plastic when it's younger, and languages are learned more readily." His eyes shine excitedly. "I'd be keen to test it out some more myself, when we go back–"
"No-one's going back until we're quite sure what the effects are, Doctor," Landry interrupts, curt. "And probably not even then." Daniel looks crestfallen.
The door opens and Vala breezes in. "Sorry I'm late, I got…caught up." She grins at Daniel, who frowns and looks down at his hands. Vala beams at John and Cam. "Hello, boys." Somehow this isn’t as annoying from her as from anyone else – it's what she'd say anyway.
She takes the chair beside Jackson and he leans away. But that's where Teal'c's seated, his solid bulk calm and immovable. Jackson ends up sitting at an uncomfortable angle, shoulders tense. John tries to hide a smirk, but his face doesn’t want to do the blankly insubordinate thing he'd perfected to deal with superior officers. Landry frowns at him, and he widens his eyes and tries to look attentive.
Landry sighs. "How long?" he asks, looking from Carter to Jackson.
"Ah, the effects, sir?" says Carter. Landry nods. "We're not sure–"
"But most likely not more than a month, at most, two," adds Jackson "The text is a little obscure but it's clearly meant to be temporary." John feels something clenched inside him relax, hears Mitchell huff out a relieved breath.
"Okay, then," John says, hating his higher pitched voice. "So we'll be fine, yeah? Dr Lam said we were medically cleared now, and I feel fine."
"Me too, hell, I feel like a teenager again," says Cam. John kicks him and Vala laughs; even Landry looks amused.
John presses on. "So I figure I'll head back to Atlantis. The team there are used to this kind of crap happening; it won't raise any eyebrows. And maybe McKay can even figure out a way to reverse this thing sooner."
Sam frowns. "There's no way Rodney–"
"No one's going back to that planet until we know more about this," Landry interjects firmly. "And no, Colonel Sheppard, I've talked with Dr Lam and the IOA, and we're in agreement that you both be placed on medical leave until this…resolves."
John goes to protest, but it's no use. Landry's a general and he's a fucking teenager; it's just like trying to talk to his goddam father. "So, I'll take medical leave in Atlantis, then." Maybe he can fly a cloaked jumper across to Ocean Beach with a surfboard, yeah, that sounds like a plan. Or down to Linda Mar or Half Moon Bay. No reason he can't fly a jumper; he's still got the gene.
"Sorry, Colonel, but we want you close to base here in case there are any developments or we need to mount a return mission. It's only a month." Landry rises. "Right, ladies and gentlemen, meeting over." The others push back their chairs.
"A month, jeez," whines Cam.
"Or two," mutters John, mutinous. Fuck. He's stuck under the mountain in a kid's body. Could it get any worse?
"Never mind, Colonel," says Sam, approaching with Vala. "You can help us test the Ancient tech. Dr Lee will be delighted."
Lightswitch duty. Oh joy.
"Maybe we can hang out with Vala," Cam says hopefully.
Vala snorts. "Sorry, boys. Cute though you are, I have bigger fish to fry. I don't rob cradles." She waves cheerily and heads out the door.
John and Cam protest, talking across each other. "I didn’t mean–" "We're not really–" They both suddenly realize that they sound like squabbling kids, and fall silent. John's ears burn, and Cam's shoulders are hunched as he scuffs an over-sized boot on the floor. They had to have new clothing issued, but it doesn't fit right.
Sam grimaces. "I guess it's going to take a little adjustment. Come on, let's go get you some quarters."
Yes, Mom, John thinks angrily as they traipse out after her. Cam jostles John in the doorway. He is so going to pay for that later.
Rodney rants on, and John holds the landline handset away from his ear, rolling his eyes. In the bed across the room, Cam watches, grinning.
"And furthermore, now that moron Lee gets to have you turn things on when I need you back here to help calibrate the stardrive! How many times have I told you not to touch the damn Ancient technology? How many?"
"Gee, Rodney," John drawls as lazily as he can. "I dunno, I've kinda lost count."
"My point precisely: centillions of times! Are you deaf?"
"Yeah, probably will be after this phone call," John says, holding the phone away again until Rodney cools off a little.
"Look, it's only temporary," John manages to interject eventually, when the rant's subsided to an angry mutter. "A month, two at most, Jackson says." Tactical error, and Rodney's off again, yelling down the phone about idiot anthropologists and soft science that wouldn't know a quark from a quasar, let alone how long the effects of a de-aging device might last.
John sighs and rests the handset on his chest, folding his hands over it and letting Rodney rant into his t-shirt. It feels oddly like cradling a crying baby. He misses his team. Drinking tea with Teyla would really help right now, although Ronon would kill him in the gym, and he'd never keep up jogging. At least he and Cam can train together, he guesses.
John makes some more reassuring noises and signs off, promising to keep in touch. He sighs and folds his arms behind his head, staring up at the drab concrete ceiling. God, he hates the Mountain. "This sucks," he says, thinking about his day, stuck in the labs fondling long-dead artefacts while Dr Lee bustled around excitedly and Cam played video games on a laptop.
"Yeah, says Cam, rolling onto his side, head pillowed on one arm. "But on the bright side, we can probably jerk off repeatedly. My record was five times in one day at this age. Wanna watch some porn?"
John drapes his arms across his face and groans. "Jeez, Mitchell, we're not fratboys."
"Nope, but we are roommates," Cam says, unfazed. "And I don't know about you but I'm not gonna be sixteen again and not enjoy the only good part of the experience, so you'll just have to stop your ears or something."
John pulls the covers up over his head. Then he rolls onto his stomach and tries not to rub off against the sheets. Fucking Mitchell.
The next morning when he's on his second bowl of cereal and Cam's on his third, John's almost ready to forgive the bastard. He crunches a froot loop – they taste even better now.
"No way are we getting stuck in those labs for weeks on end," says Cam through a mouthful of wheaties. "At least you've got a job there, but I'm gonna go nuts with nothing to do all day. So we're calling it a mission: Escape from the Labs. Like a Syfy movie."
"Our whole lives are like a Syfy movie," John says kind of grumpily. He didn't get a lot of sleep last night, what with the weird day and Cam's choked-off noises across the room, and trying to keep his hands off his own dick. And didn't that work out well, with the wet dream and having to dump his sheets in the laundry first thing, hoping nobody saw him.
"No, Shep, listen." Oh, he's Shep, now, is he? "You do your laying on of hands thing and keep Bill occupied, and I'll log onto World of Warcraft using his ID." John raises his eyebrows and Cam waves a spoon. "He was drunk one night – a rough patch in his marriage before they split. He told me his login details."
"Proably changed it by now," says John.
"Nah, why would he? It's not exactly top secret." Cam presses on. "Yeah, so I'll hack his game and, like, lose him a heap of points and stuff, and he'll kick us out of the labs." He sits back, beaming.
"You know how to play World of Warcraft?" John asks, sceptical.
"Nope," says Cam cheerfully.
"Well, that should work then." They grin at each other.
Later, after Dr Lee chases them out of the lab yelling something about Cam having ruined all his frost spells and trashed his teleportation capacity, they regroup in a janitor's storage cupboard. John leans on the wall catching his breath and fighting down the urge to giggle. He hasn't giggled since…well, since he was sixteen, he supposes.
It's strange – he still has all his adult memories, but they seem less…relevant. The state change has tipped him back into the hormonal stew of adolescence, and he keeps reacting to things like a teenager. He assumes the same thing's happening to Mitchell, but he doesn't know him well enough to judge, and to John he always seemed a little juvenile, hero worshiping SG1 until the cool kids let him into their club. But maybe that's unfair, the kind of immature snap judgement he'd have made when he was a juvenile himself. He doesn't know any more.
"Dark in here," John says, feeling a little stifled by the small space and the smell of their sweat from running, the sound of Mitchell's panting breaths. Mitchell reaches past him, his arm brushing John's chest as he feels for the switch beside the door. John gets hard: goddam inappropriate erections, he's been fighting them off all day.
They blink in the sudden harsh light, and John's thankful for the umpteenth time today that his BDU pants are too big for him, roomy in the crotch. He absolutely doesn't look down at Mitchell's groin. John feels his ears heat up.
"Your turn," says Mitchell. Is he staring at John's ears?
John looks down and scuffles his foot some. "For what?" he asks the floor. He wishes his stupid ears would stop burning. When he was really sixteen his hair was longer and it covered them. It doesn't now and he feels as though they're signalling his feelings like a pair of out of control semaphore flags.
"To plan the next mission, homeboy," Mitchell says, like it's obvious.
"We could…" John's stumped. He doesn't really know the SGC that well, to know what might be fun. He wishes he had the RC cars from Atlantis, but it'd take a few days for them to be sent over, and he doubts Rodney would let Mitchell borrow his one, anyway. He catches himself thinking this and grins about Rodney not letting Mitchell play with his toys. He totally wouldn't, though.
"Huh." Mitchell's leaning on the wall, arms crossed, a mocking smirk on his face. "I guess you badasses on AR-1 are mostly into bean harvests and making nice."
"Oh, we get plenty of action, don't you worry," John says, stung, slouching furiously in retaliation. "We do have a few life-sucking aliens to deal with out there, you know."
"Yeah," says Mitchell, shrugging, "but you're not in Pegasus any more, are you? You're just pushing paper these days."
John feels anger surge through him, feels it prickle hotly up the back of his neck. Why's Mitchell being such a jerk? He pulls himself up straight and gives him the Military Commander glare. It's slightly undermined by his pants, which want to slip off John's too-narrow hips. He hitches them up one-handed and tries to stare Mitchell down. Mitchell raises an eyebrow, and John feels like baring his teeth, like biting him. Must be the testosterone. "Escape from the Lab was child's play," he hears himself saying, and oh hell, he remembers this feeling of fucking up, knowing he's on the slippery slope and not giving a sweet goddam shit. "We should Escape from the Mountain. Go get ourselves some cool stuff in town."
"Damn, now you're talkin', Shep," says Mitchell and claps him on the shoulder. He grabs John's arm. "C'mon, let's do some tactical planning over lunch, I've got a hankering for roast beef."
He cracks the storeroom door and sticks his head out. "All clear." As they sneak out and make for the commissary, acting super nonchalant, John thinks that this is a very bad idea. He totally doesn't care.
It turns out that apart from being able to jerk off at will, another advantage to being sixteen and unnaturally cute is that the commissary staff love them. Cam's finally gotten them to make him roast beef with mashed potatoes and they tuck in hungrily, even if the chef does keep an eye on them to make sure they eat up their greens.
"We're gonna need some cover even to do reconnaissance," says John, working his way through a heap of mashed potatoes and gravy. It's good. "They won't let us get anywhere near the exit otherwise."
Cam nods consideringly then eats another forkful of roast beef. His eyes shut in pleasure, and he makes a noise in his throat. Just for a moment he reminds John of Rodney, although they're chalk and cheese in every other way. Cam swallows blissfully. "Mmmm, tasty. We can do something that looks real harmless. I know where there's a skateboard that one of the scientists left behind when he got transferred. You know they don't really see us at the moment, they just see a couple of kids." John's transfixed by a smear of gravy at the corner of his mouth. Cam wipes his mouth with his hand, then licks gravy off his thumb, eyes on John all the while.
"Yeah," says John, swallowing, dry-mouthed and strangely short of breath. "Okay, that could work. We can have a skateboarding marathon and work our way closer and closer to the exit, see how far they'll let us get. I mean, we've got our IDs, but somehow I doubt they'll just wave us through the main checkpoint. Plus, we don't look like our ID photos any more, so either they'll have been briefed and they won't let us out, or they won't, and they still won't let us through."
They get quite some distance with the skateboard and a beat up old football from the rec room, taking turns on the board and making sure to look harmless and goofy but not actually get in anyone's way or interfere with the running of the base. Their ID cards work fine when the only check is electronic like the stairs between some levels, or the elevators. By the end of the afternoon they're on the level below the main checkpoint and although a few idiots glare at them in passing, people mostly just give them a curious glance then leave them alone. A couple of SFs check their IDs and they say they've been released from helping Dr Lee, which they totally have been: released with prejudice.
"Go for it?" John raises his eyebrows at Cam, indicating the elevator to the surface.
"Might as well," says Cam, and they head on up, skateboard and football in tow. They've thrashed out a cover story that they were told by the SFs to go throw their ball around in the parking lot because they broke a light fitting on a lower level. It's worth a try.
The guards at the checkpoint are serious and polite, running their IDs through the scanner and listening to their double act about the need to stretch their legs outside.
One of the SFs frowns at his screen. "Sorry Colonel Mitchell, Colonel Sheppard. The general's tagged you as confined to base at present."
"Aw, jeez," mutters Cam, not sounding anything like a colonel.
John gives it the old college try. "Yeah, see, that was earlier. The sergeant who sent us up to get some air said he'd cleared it with Landry. Must have gotten busy and forgot to update the system." He puts on his best nice-colonel smile for the guards. He's not sixteen, damn it, he fucking outranks them. "We'll only be half an hour, tops."
The guard eyes them doubtfully for a beat, then another, and John can feel his smile congealing. "I'll have to check on that authorization, sirs, if you'll just wait here." Damn, busted. There's a tense wait and then the SF returns from the phone, face a blank mask. "Sorry, colonels, but that order still stands. I'll have to ask you to return to your quarters."
"Fuck," says Cam bitterly. He turns and stalks off, throwing the ball viciously against the wall of the tunnel.
John backs away. "Right, sorry about the…ah…mix-up. I'll just…" The guards are staring at him stone faced, on full alert in case he tries to make a break for it. He's momentarily tempted but he knows there are more staff outside and he'd just be picked up again. He couldn't outrun them for long, although he's fairly sure they wouldn't just shoot him in the back. Probably. John drops the skateboard to the ground and scoots off in search of Cam, feeling more like six than sixteen. So much for Plan A.
Back in their room Mitchell's still pretty pissed, pacing up and down between the beds. John's in a crap mood himself – clearly "we want you close to base" actually means "we want you locked up under a mountain of rock for weeks on fucking end". Rodney'd never handle it; he'd be in the infirmary with the screaming heebie-jeebies. Hmmm, maybe that's an angle…
"Boy, Shep, helluva plan there," Cam says, throwing himself down onto his bed. "Glad you're on my side."
"Shut it, " John mutters, head in hands. "That was just recon, not the plan. And anyway, you were no goddam help with your 'aw jeez' whining at the SFs. Ass."
There's an angry noise and suddenly Mitchell's on him, knocking him back on the bed and pinning his wrists up by his head. "Yeah? Well you’re not so impressive yourself, Shep, right now. Kinda puny there. And your ears stick out."
John struggles fiercely, trying to fling Mitchell off or get his legs around to flip them. Mitchell's clearly done some wrestling though, and he's got a little height on John, easily trapping his legs and immobilising them.
"Get the fuck off me!" John grunts, writhing furiously. "Fuck you, Mitchell. You-you're a dick!" It's pretty feeble but his brain's a hot seethe, all the frustration of the last two days boiling up. He bucks his hips, panting and enraged, and fucking Mitchell's grinning, and he wraps his legs around John's and oh fuck, he's hard, they're both hard, and it all shifts gears.
Mitchell's grinding down against John's hard-on, and he leans in and kisses John, open-mouthed, possessive. John moans around his tongue, twisting his wrists in Mitchell's grasp and flexing his hips against the heat of his body. John's brain's completely off-line, it's all stronghotyeahfuckgood. He throws his head back, baring his throat instinctively. Mitchell goes for his neck, teeth scraping down the tendon, then he's nosing John's shirt aside, sucking and biting. He jams his flushed face into the crease of John's neck and shoulder and just fucking humps him, and it's so good, the hot friction on John's dick, being held, being used. "Harder," he gasps, arching up, and Mitchell growls and bites his shoulder, losing his rhythm as he comes. John moans, feeling it build at the base of his spine until he shudders, hips jerking under Mitchell's warm weight.
Huh, he thinks, dazed, as they lie there, catching their breath. Why is he so dumb about this stuff? He guesses there were clues, but he thought Mitchell –Cam– was straight as the proverbial arrow. He's a heavy boneless weight on John's chest and sure, he's smaller than his adult self, but it's still hard to breathe. John pushes at his shoulder. "Don't you pass out on me there, Mitchell, uh, Cam. C'mon, move your ass." Cam slides off, lying on his side facing John. He's flushed and drowsy, mouth curved in a sweet smile. He looks unbelievably young, and John wonders what Cam sees, if he looks the same way. Probably; he was fending off aunts who wanted to tousle his hair and pinch his cheeks right up until he joined the Air Force.
John turns to face him. "Didn't know you drove stick." Not that he's supposed to ask, but whatever.
"Yeah," says Cam, "sometimes." His smile darkens. "Right now I got so many hormones in me I'd probably fuck hamburger."
Jesus. John pushes the bastard off the narrow bed into a protesting heap on the floor. "Way to make a girl feel appreciated, dickhead," he mutters, and it must be his dry throat that makes it come out tight and hoarse.
Cam's head pops up beside the bed. "Hey, I'm sorry – you're right. I can be a jerk sometimes; Vala's always calling me on it. Wait, wait…" He scrambles across to his nightstand and pulls open the top drawer, grabs something then stands up, offering it to John. "Don't have any flowers for you, Shep, not under 2000 feet of rock, but I got candy." It's a Snickers bar.
"I'm not actually a girl, Mitchell," John says, still testy, but he lets Cam pull him up and slip the candy in his pocket, lets him kiss him again, sweet and slow this time, lets Cam drag him off for a much-needed shower.
Plan B requires some social engineering. After supper John gets hold of Rodney on the phone and gets him to agree to invite Jackson to Atlantis for a stint in the newly discovered library in tower East-17. They think it's a library, anyway, but they haven't been able to crack the Ancient script that runs around the room like a frieze. John explains to Cam that Rodney was going to invite Jackson out to the city anyway, but Jackson doesn't need to know that. The quid pro quo, as Rodney will tell Jackson, is that he and Vala have to get Landry to spring John and Cam from the Mountain. John figures there's no way Landry's going to let them out with just Vala playing mom, but if Jackson's in tow as well, there's a better chance.
"I dunno, Shep," Cam says doubtfully. "Vala'll definitely go for it, but Daniel? He's not gonna want to hang out with us and Vala – you know how twitchy he is around her. She does come on pretty strong."
"I'll talk to Vala," John promises. "Get her to tone it down some."
"What's in it for McKay, anyway?" Cam asks, sucking on his finger and drawing a wet circle around John's nipple. They're curled up together after mutual handjobs, plotting.
"He's team," says John, shivering. "And he wants me to get back there and touch stuff for him."
Cam pouts. "You're just tryin' to make me jealous now, Shep. No touching McKay's junk. Just mine." He takes John's hand and puts it on his cock, already half hard again. John strokes him, keeping it slow and teasing, and Cam pushes into his hand with a low moan. John doesn't anticipate getting a whole lot of sleep tonight.
He thinks about what Rodney said on the phone. "I have better things to occupy my valuable time, Sheppard, than your puerile schoolboy pranks. We don't really need that room in E17, which may not be a library at all, no matter what fevered imaginings Arbuthnot and Chen have been spouting, doubtless after smoking pot with the botanists. Jackson's a pain in the ass and he always gets into some sort of trouble. Like some colonels I could mention. However." John had grinned, hearing him huff out a put-upon sigh – Rodney was such a drama queen. "However, I need you back here ASAP for the stardrive, and the more trouble you get into in Colorado, the sooner Landry's going to kick you out. So yes, I'll email Jackson. But I want a pound of ground Kona, you hear? Real Kona, not one of those crappy Colombian blends."
John smiles, working Cam's dick a little more urgently. Once he's fully hard, John wants Cam to fuck him; he's got lube and condoms he stole from the infirmary. Got to make the most of it while he's here with Cam, in case the plan works and Landry packs him off back to California without passing Go or collecting $200.
It takes a few more days, but finally, finally, Landry caves in to Vala's wheedling and Jackson's subtle but relentless bullying about the likely psychological damage caused by 24/7 confinement in the bowels of the SGC.
They don't have problems filling the time. They're regulars at the gym, and they both like jogging. For the first time since he was shot down in his F-302, Cam can run long distances without any pain at all. The gym's the usual drab concrete bunker but it's great to be moving, getting back in the zone. John tries not to think about the catwalks and piers of Atlantis, of running between gleaming alien towers, Ronon yo-yoing ahead and dropping back to urge him on.
John's not given to chatting while he runs – or ever, really. He's happy with the blood beating in his head, his breathing echoed by Cam's as their feet fall into unison, slapping out a duet on adjoining treadmills. Cam's more used to weight training, so they spot each other on the bench and compare their now punier biceps. John shows Cam the rudiments of bantos sparring, and Cam teaches him some Sodan martial arts techniques and wrestling throws. That leads to them cutting short their session and high-tailing it back to their room so Cam can put his moves on John where no one can see quite how much John likes being slammed into the mattress and made to submit.
They don't talk a lot, except to plan how to stay out of the labs and well away from Landry. Dr Lam checks on them each day. She offers to clear them for administrative tasks, like mission reports and other tedious bullshit. They stare at her in horror then make whatthefuck? faces at each other behind her back until she grins and shoos them out.
Physical concerns take precedence as they relax into the change. They eat hugely, fuck as often as their teenage refractory periods allow, and sleep curled together, nestled in a sprawl of limbs. John wonders if it's their de-aged brains, or if Cam's as bad at talking as he is, content to let their bodies and hindbrains take over. It's the best vacation he's had in his life.
One time, Teal'c comes across them when they're flicking towels at each others' legs in the hallway, and raises an eyebrow. "Cameron Mitchell," he says, then nods to John. "Colonel John Sheppard." John desperately avoids catching Cam's eye because he's this close to cracking up. Teal'c makes him feel like a kid caught stealing candy, which he guesses he is, kind of. John hopes Teal'c won't make them spar with him: he's scarier than Ronon.
No one realizes they're fucking like crazed rabbits. Being de-aged by an alien device gets you a big free pass behavior-wise and people are mostly indulgent, treating them like kids because they behave like kids. They actually do break a couple of lights, practicing throws with the ball. They snort over lame jokes and give each other noogies. It's easier to go with it than constantly protest that they're actually a pair of forty-something colonels. Even here at the SGC, people don't like the dissonance, and neither of them wants a replay of that scene at the exit with the guards.
When Vala plops herself down beside them in the commissary and announces that she and Daniel have worn Landry down, it's almost an anticlimax. But the wider world –well, Colorado Springs– beckons, filled with opportunities for mischief. John high-fives Vala and Cam puts his arms up and spins like a top. Mission: Escape from the Mountain is a go.
The guards at the exit are different this time when they leave, John and Cam in borrowed civvies. John's jeans hang low on his hips, Cam's are slightly too short, and Cam's t-shirt has a picture of John Denver on it. John's has a cannabis leaf with Rocky Mountain High printed underneath, so John totally got the better of that deal. He figures they can get some new threads at the mall.
Their authorizations for supervised day-leave duly stamped and initialed, they clamber into Jackson's 4WD. Vala rides shotgun, of course, and Cam and John slouch in the back seat playing Rock Paper Scissors and arguing about where to go first. Shopping wins out, as Vala's also keen to expand her wardrobe, so a glowering Jackson drives them to Citadel Mall. He tries to dump them there, saying he needs to collect some things from home, but Vala's having none of it, sweetly reminding him of Landry's final instructions not to let "those two juvenile delinquents" out of their sight.
Daniel's an accomplished sulker and he keeps it up all morning while John kits himself out in a decent pair of black skinny jeans and a fitted black tee. Cam goes for blue jeans and a stone-washed denim shirt over a Southern Comfort tee. The blue matches his eyes, and John keeps sneaking looks at him, smirking as he catches Cam doing the same. They spend a while at Game Stop, picking up the latest Grand Theft Auto, and at an electronics store they score a couple of seriously cool radio-controlled helicopters. Vala keeps an eye on them while browsing through jewelry booths and trying on black leather thigh-boots.
When Vala appears holding up a couple of barely-there bathing costumes, asking Jackson if they'd be right for the beach on P3X-494 he finally flees into a bookstore, but he tracks them down a while later and drags them off for lunch. Cam and John insist on King's Chef Diner where they both have "The Thing" – a plate mounded with toast, bacon, hash browns and eggs, smothered in green chili and cheese.
"Oh, man," moans Cam as he tucks in. "This is great. No need to drive us, Daniel, we'll just fart our way back to the Mountain." John nearly spits coke all over the table, and Daniel buries his face in his hands.
"Now, boys," admonishes Vala, sipping a tall glass of cranberry juice. "Play nice or I'll make you play World of Warcraft with Bill until he wins all his magic back." Yeah, right – like Bill would let them anywhere near his precious game again.
"We runed him," Cam says fake-mournfully, and they elbow each other and snigger. John can see Vala doesn't get the pun, but Jackson does, rolling his eyes and looking martyred.
Back to the mall after lunch, much to Daniel's disgust, but Vala wants some dresses. They hit Footlocker for some Air Jordans to replace their too-large military boots, then locate Jackson, who's sprawled angrily in a seating area while Vala swans in and out of the store modeling skimpy sundresses. Every so often Daniel mutters that McKay'd goddam well better give him the keys to Atlantis after this.
John and Cam pretend to be interested in down jackets at a nearby shop, and in a change cubicle out back, John slides to his knees and blows Cam fast and dirty, pressing Cam's hips to the thin partition with an arm across his belly as he wraps his fist around the shaft and sucks hard, losing himself in the taste of cock. After, when John's so turned on he can barely breathe, Cam pulls him back against his belly, licks his hand and jerks John off ruthlessly, his other hand across John's mouth to stifle his cries.
The storeowner figures they're not planning to buy anything and evicts them, and they manage to give Daniel and Vala the slip and sneak off to dick around with the guys at the Armed Forces Career Center at the mall, pretending they're wide-eyed high school kids keen on joining up. They nod earnestly through the recruitment spiel, accept a bunch of brochures and then turn at the door and snap off two picture-perfect salutes, startling the guy on the desk into a crisp response before he catches himself. By then they're long gone, playing tag through the wide polished hallways, dodging irritated shoppers until a mall guard chases them out.
In the car on the way back, Daniel hunches over the wheel, glowering. John and Cam pass the time parodying the "there's strong, then there's Army strong" message in the recruitment brochure. John manages "there's wrong, then there's Army wrong" and Cam counters with "there's schlong, then there's Army schlong" before Vala pulls a zat on them. She'd totally use it, too, so they zip it and sit there, wide-eyed. She turns around and slips the weapon back into her bag, smirking. It's probably a facsimile, but Cam's hand creeps out to curl around John's and John doesn't let go for the rest of the ride.
Mooning Jackson in the showers the next day turns out to have been a tactical error, given that while on the loose in the mall they'd gotten matching custom-made tattoos on their asses reading "ET phone Λ", the Λ being the glyph for Earth. Landry's not impressed by Jackson's report, and even their protestations that they were just party tatts, not real ones, fails to placate him.
"The fact remains," Landry snaps, "that the girl operating the booth saw that design when she printed off your stick-on tattoos." He indicates the photos of their decorated ass cheeks in the file in front of him, taken on Landry's orders by the SGC's medical photographer just that morning before an orderly cleaned the offending designs off with alcohol wipes. "That's a breach of your non-disclosure agreements. If you weren't under the influence of alien technology at present, gentlemen, it'd be grounds for disciplinary action." John wants to protest that it's not as big a breach as Vala stashing a zat in her handbag, but who knows, maybe she's got a damn licence for it? Anyway, he's not gonna rat her out.
"This can't continue," says Landry, and he does look kind of frazzled. "I'm putting you on a transport back to Atlantis tomorrow morning, Sheppard, whatever the hell age you are. Meanwhile, you're both confined to quarters, and I'm putting a guard on the door. Dismissed."
"It's probably fixable," John says reassuringly, because Cam's looking like someone kicked his puppy. Their room wasn't really big enough to test drive the RC helos but they had to try, and now one of them's lost a rotor after a nosedive into the concrete floor. "Maybe you can get Dr Lee to fix it? Rodney'd have it sorted in no time, back home."
"Bill's probably not talking to me yet. Any anyway, he'd want to play with it himself, and this is your one," says Cam, slumped on the bed beside John staring sadly down at the broken bird in his hands.
"He'll get over it, he's a nice guy," says John. "And we do sort of owe him a favor. I don't mind if he flies it." And I'm not going to be here to use it, he doesn't say, but it hangs there between them all the same. "C'mon," he says, taking the toy from Cam and putting it carefully back in its box, "let's play some more Grand Theft Auto."
Later, he gets Cam to fuck him again, slow and easy, spooned on their sides with Cam's arm around his chest. Cam nuzzles the nape of his neck as he pushes John over a little on his front, hikes his leg up and slides in deeper. "Yeah," groans John, shivering, "oh god," and Cam rolls his hips and gives it to him good, until John bites the pillow and makes a mess of the bed. They mess up the other bed sometime before dawn, John on all fours as Cam fucks him brutally, both of them needing to feel it in their bones, to make it hurt, to make it last. They fall into an exhausted sleep afterwards, so they sleep through the change this time.
"What the fuck?" It's 0730 by the digital clock, and Cam's on the floor again because the damn bed's too small. Fucking SGC, they're as bad as the Ancients. John blinks blearily down at him; he feels like ass, but he guesses that was what he wanted. It's not just Cam's dick he's feeling, though, he feels heavy, and weird, and –he looks down at himself– wow, really hairy.
Cam hauls himself up, moving awkwardly like his center of gravity's off. He lurches a little, finds his feet. "Damn, " he says, "I feel like a crock of shit."
John had no idea Cam was that tall. Cam reaches down and helps John get up too. Huh – he's almost as tall as Cam, and quite a lot hairier. They stare at each other, taking in the harder planes of muscle, the adult squaring of jaw and brow, the gray in the hair above their ears. Their faces are lined, worn and lived-in, and all their scars are back. Cam's are pretty spectacular, but John's got a few good ones, too. Souvenirs of Pegasus, he thinks, touching the deep indentation in his belly where Keller's hive ship tentacle impaled him.
"Fuck," curses Cam. "I'd gotten used to not dealing with the pain. My threshold's all messed up." He hobbles about, trying to find his pants. "Need a long, hot shower or I'm gonna seize up big time."
"Sounds good," says John. He picks up his new tight black jeans but of course they're way too small. They hadn't planned for this. "I guess Jackson got it wrong," he says. Cam looks up from where he's frowning at his own undersized blue jeans. "About it taking a month or two," John says.
Cam throws the useless jeans into a corner. "Yeah." He grabs a towel and wraps it around his waist, limps to the door and sticks his head out. "Corporal," he says to the guard outside. "Can you tell General Landry we're not teenage brats any more." He opens the door a little wider, letting the guard get a look at his adult face and body. "And have someone bring us clothes that'll fit, 'cause I'm sure as hell not meeting with the general bare-ass naked."
"Sir, yes sir!" snaps out the guard, and okay, at least people won't be treating them like they need their carrots cut up for them; that part John won't miss.
It's mid afternoon before they're finally cleared, after hours of medical tests and scans. There's a tense meeting with Landry where they're basically told that no one's blaming them for anything they did as sixteen year olds, but they'd damn well better not keep pulling those stunts now they're adults. They're back across the table from the general again, but without anyone playing mom. Cam kicks John's ankle and John shoots him a dirty look.
Landry sighs. "Then again, that may be asking too much, given both your track records."
Back in their room, Cam's hands cup John's stubbled cheeks as they re-learn each other's mouths. John's fingers grip Cam's biceps, muscles flexing under his fingers. He maps Cam's scars with his tongue and feels the burn as Cam pushes in, a fresh first time for these new-old bodies. It's harsher now, more painful and real, the slap and grunt of weightier flesh, freighted with history and consequences.
After, they lie side by side in the too-small bed. "Wasn't sure you'd want to," Cam says to the ceiling.
John squints at him sideways. "What? Fuck?"
"Yeah," says Cam, shutting his eyes. "You know, now we're," he gestures vaguely, "older." He shoots John a look. "I'm kinda banged up."
John snorts. "Yeah, like I'm in mint condition here." He rolls on his side. "It was weird being a kid again. Pretty hot, yeah, but not, you know, real. This is better." He traces the curve of Cam's jaw with the backs of his fingers. "You should come see the West Coast. Let me know when you get leave; I'll take you surfing."
"On these legs?" Cam snorts. "Yeah, no. I'll lie on the beach and enjoy the view, though. Or there's always bodysurfing."
"Mmmm, bodysurfing," murmurs John. "Let's get some practice in now," and he pulls Cam against him for a kiss.
Shadows are lengthening by the time John finally heads back to Atlantis. It's home, where his team is, and there's no reason to stay in Colorado now – Landry's clearly had enough of the two of them. John's packed his duffel and Cam comes to farewell him in the parking lot topside, where a jeep and driver wait to take him to the airport.
"So long, Shep." Cam shakes his hand and then rolls his eyes. "Ah, c'mere." He pulls John into a hug and John goes with it, awkward and grinning. There's some manly back-slapping. "One for the road," says Cam, giving him a final noogie before pushing him toward his ride. Cam's gone when John takes a last look back, before they pull out onto the road..
A few miles later, his mobile buzzes with an email. Remember, hands off McKay's junk.