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Green and White and Red

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Cam has to put in a few minutes charming a nurse--John's message had lacked a few key details--but he eventually manages to find his way through the maze of hallways to a stark green and white room where a handful of people are waiting with varying degrees of visible anxiety.

John's in the corner, leaning forward in the hard plastic chair with his elbows resting on his knees and his hands clasped together behind his neck. His head flies up when Cam enters the room, right hand falling automatically to where his gun would be if only he had one with him. He relaxes when he registers who it is, leaning back to watch as Cam crosses the room toward him.

He looks terrible: pale beneath his stubble, bleary-eyed with pain and fatigue, so generally worn down that it's all Cam can do not to go over and wrap him in a hug. But of course, he can't. Not here. So instead, he sits down next to John, leaning in so that their shoulders are almost--but not quite--touching. "How's Dave?"

"Still in surgery." John blinks slowly, like he's trying to bring the world into focus, and Cam thinks it's a mark of how tired he is that he's slipped so quickly from high alert to half-awake. "What are you doing here?"

"Landry's in D.C., so your message went to Sam, and since she's a little busy running the SGC--and since McKay's off-world with SG-6--she sent me." It's all a line, of course. A way of reassuring them both that their tracks are covered; that no one's going to question why Cam's the one who rushed to John's side after John's brother was shot. Just another day in the Air Force. He probably ought to be grateful that he was able to come out at all. And he is, really, because if Landry had been at the SGC when the call came in, it would probably be Sam sitting here now.

"What did she say?"

"That I should come out," Cam says. When John frowns at him, he adds, "We don't talk about it." It's one of the things he treasures most about his friendship with Sam, the way they can know things about each other and not talk about them. Cam suspects that's why she and John get along too; John's all about the unspoken in relationships, and Sam is good at picking up on the things people don't say.

They sit in silence for a moment, staring at sterile white tiles and mint green walls that remind Cam a little too much of another hospital, and Cam wishes he knew what to say. He's usually pretty good at comforting people--he's had enough practice at it--but John's never been good at accepting comfort, especially when it has to come in the form of words instead of something more physical. And honestly, if their positions were reversed and Cam was sitting here waiting for word on his brother, he's not sure that anyone besides the surgeon would be able to say anything that would make him feel better.

He remembers something else then and reaches down for the bag he brought with him, holding it up for John to see.

"Thought you might want a change of clothing," he says finally when John makes no move to take it.

John looks down as his hospital scrubs with an air of surprise--Cam assumes his clothing has already been claimed by the local police as evidence--and then nods. "Yeah." But he still doesn't reach for the bag, and after a moment Cam sets it down again.

"How are you doing?" he asks quietly. He's not really expecting an answer--not an honest one, not here--but the question seems to trigger something in John and suddenly he's alert again. But maybe not quite here.

"They came out of fucking nowhere," he says, low and fast and furious, and Cam's a little worried by the quiet intensity of it, because an angry John is usually a loud John. "We were standing on the fucking street getting ready to go into the restaurant. Middle of the fucking street in broad daylight and this black SUV comes tearing around the corner and starts shooting." He's staring at the floor as he speaks, hands folded in front of him. "I pulled him down, but I wasn't fast enough. Middle of fucking Market Street."

And the unspoken refrain beneath all of it: this sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen on Earth. Earth was home. Earth was supposed to be safe. Fucking San Francisco was supposed to be safe.

"It wasn't your fault," Cam says.

John turns to look at him, eyes dark, ready to deny it. To lay claim to the guilt that Cam knows is gnawing at him.

"I mean it," Cam insists, a little too loudly, and people turn to stare. He waits until they all return to their magazines and tablets and then continues more quietly. "The police have already picked up a suspect." Because he knows what's really eating at John is not his failure to pull his brother out of the line of fire; it's the assumption that his brother was only in the line of fire because of him. "The guy claims to have been hired by someone named Michael Emerson. Emerson was apparently hoping to do a deal with your brother's company until your brother went ahead and picked someone else instead." None of this is information he's supposed to have, of course, but Sam had called O'Neill and O'Neill had put in his own calls and Cam had gotten an update just as he was walking into the hospital.

John shakes his head. "Dave dying would just mean the board of directors would pick a new CEO."

"I think the police are looking into your brother's likely successors."

"They think someone in the company was involved?" John sounds shocked, and Cam kind of wants to laugh at how they can spend their days surrounded by violence--taking it and dishing it out--and still be surprised by the violence of others. It's the Earth thing again, he knows. You forget sometimes, when all your enemies are aliens, how dangerous your own people can be. Even suit-clad business executives in fancy board rooms.

John slumps down in his chair. "With my luck, one of them will turn out to be a Goa'uld."

Cam barks a laugh because yeah, that was the way their lives tended to run. "Still wouldn't be your fault," he says. And then, because he thinks John needs to think about something else, he asks, "Do you ever regret it?"

"Regret what?"

"Giving up that life. Working for the company. White picket fence. Money."

"I have money," John says. "It sits in a bank account and accumulates interest."

"You could have more," Cam says. "Enough to by some really cool things, if you lived here."

"Nothing as cool as the things I get to play with now."

"You might have trouble finding someone willing to sell you a 302," Cam agrees. He's hoping to at least draw out a smile, but John's attention has shifted to the door, where a figure in surgical scrubs is scanning the room. John gets awkwardly to his feet, limping a little, and Cam gets up to help him, making a mental note to find out later what happened, because John hadn't mentioned anything about being injured when he called.

The surgeon nods a greeting, acknowledging Cam and then dismissing him to focus on John. "Mr. Sheppard came through surgery nicely," she says. She goes through the prognosis (good), the expected recovery time (not as long as Cam had feared), and tells John he can see his brother--very briefly--in a couple of hours.

Cam turns to head back to their seats, but John catches his arm.

"You said you brought me a change of clothes?"

Cam nods. "Brought some of my stuff." John makes a face, but the alternative would have been to stop by John's quarters on Atlantis, and Cam hadn't wanted to answer the questions that would invariably arise from that.

They leave the green-and-white room in search of a restroom. There's one just down the hall, but John shakes his head and urges Cam onward. He's leaning on Cam for support--which by itself is a sign of how much pain he's in--and Cam's about ready to tell him to just change in the damn hall when John pulls him into what turns out to be a single-occupancy restroom. When the door closes behind them, John leans against the wall, eyes closed, trembling.

"I thought he was dead."

This time Cam can hug him, and he does, crossing the floor in two steps and wrapping his arms around John. For a long moment John is stiff against him, and then all at once he relaxes until Cam's nearly holding him up. Cam waits to see if there's more--words or tears or anger or fear--but John just leans, head buried in Cam's shoulder, the only noise their breathing. Finally, John straightens up and pulls way, dry-eyed but no longer looking quite as bad as he had. Wordlessly he reaches for the bag on the floor and begins stripping off his hospital-supplied clothing.

Cam frowns when he catches sight of John's leg.

"Just a graze," John says a bit defensively.

The neat bandages suggest more than a graze, but they also suggest that he got some medical attention. Cam figures if it was really serious, they'd have had him somewhere besides a waiting room, and Lord knows he understands not wanting to be an invalid, so he lets it slide and reminds himself to check later and see if they prescribed John anything.

"How long did Carter tell you to stay?" John asks as he pulls on one of Cam's old Air Force t-shirts.

"As long as you need," Cam says easily. "And I've got some leave coming if they decide they want me back before that."

"You don't have to do that."

"It's not really for you," Cam says. "I just like California."

"Right," John says dryly. "You’ve just been waiting for an opportunity to take a vacation in San Francisco."

Cam shrugs. "There are worse places. Beaches, surfing, ESPN...what more can you ask for?"


"I was thinking we could get a hotel room," he says. So that he could keep an eye on John. So that no one would notice they're sharing the same room. "So that you can be closer to Dave."

"Sure," John says. He pulls on a jacket. "I should probably...the police said they'd be in touch."

"Probably better not to tell them to come visit you on the alien city floating in the bay," Cam agrees. He reaches for the door, but John touches his hand to stop him, and then steps around him and leans in to kiss him.

"Thanks," he says, pulling back. "I was...thanks."

He opens the door before Cam can reply and slips out into the hall. Cam follows and begins plotting what exactly he's going to tell General Landry.