Anyone could see John Sheppard's heart wasn't in it. He went through the motions and his SG team produced satisfactory results, but he didn't seem as inspired as the man Cameron Mitchell had read about in all those reports from the Pegasus Galaxy.
Knowing the timing had to seem coincidental, Mitchell glanced at his watch, put down his paperwork and walked towards the control area. His intention was to catch Sheppard on his way out of his mission debriefing. He thought he'd seek out his advice on a staffing matter. It had been rather challenging to integrate off-world teams from Atlantis with the regular SGC staff and he wanted to see how the former Atlantis personnel were doing - that included the former military commander of the base.
Perhaps he could convince the man to stop in the cafeteria for a cup of coffee to talk things over. Maybe exchange some friendly banter about flying or something that didn't have to do with the Ancients taking over Atlantis. While it was likely just his imagination, he suspected Sheppard was avoiding him. Not that he could really blame him, if the roles were reversed and he had gone from leading SG1 to one of Atlantis' secondary teams, he'd be a little bent out of shape himself. For some reason it really bothered him to think that Sheppard disliked him personally, especially for something he had no control over.
Cam rounded the corner just as Sheppard's team was leaving the conference room. "Colonel Sheppard, hold up."
Sheppard nodded to his departing team and waited for Mitchell to catch up. After the integration debriefing in which command had outlined the merging of Atlantis teams with the existing SGC teams, Sheppard decided he wanted to be as far away from bureaucracy as possible. So he had requested a team known to spend a good deal of time off world. Unfortunately, in these first few weeks, missions had gone so well that he was on base more than off world. That irritated him because being on base meant it was more difficult to avoid a certain Lt. Colonel 'Golden Boy' Mitchell.
"I heard your team convinced the Acadians to help gather intelligence on the Lucian Alliance. Nice work." Mitchell said while giving Sheppard's shoulder a friendly slap.
"Well, Meyers is rather convincing." Sheppard stood in the hallway, awkwardly shifting his weight from one foot to the other, looking down the hallway and not meeting Mitchell's gaze. "Something I can do for you Colonel."
Mitchell almost felt sorry for the guy, but the feeling was quickly being replaced with being pissed off. This guy acts like either he can't be bothered or I'm some sort of Ori Prior with leprosy. And it's not just my imagination. "Actually, yes, there is. I wanted to talk with you about some of the former Atlantis personnel. I want to see how you think they're adjusting, if the team placements have all gone well. See if we need to make any adjustments."
"Major Lorne is just as familiar with the personnel as I am, Colonel. I'm sure he'd be more than happy..."
"I'm asking you, Colonel."
Sheppard finally looked Mitchell in the eye. "Fine. Now? Or would you like me to schedule an appointment?"
"I'd just as soon get this over with." So much for this being friendly, Mitchell thought testily.
The two men entered Mitchell's office. It was really more of the size of a closet, but it was situated pretty well between the gym and Sam's lab. There wasn't a lot of space to maneuver and there were stacks of folders and reports strewn all over the place.
"Here, have a seat." Mitchell stepped around Sheppard, who really couldn't have gotten out of the way if he tried, and leaned over to remove a stack of manila folders from a chair. As he did so, he heard Sheppard's quick intake of breath which almost sounded like a hiss. Mitchell stood, his arms full of folders and took a deep breath. That's it. I've had it."Sheppard. What exactly is your problem? Is it me or life in general that has you so pissed off?"
Sheppard, initially caught off guard Mitchell's proximity and now by the man's scrutiny, didn't respond at first. If he were to be honest with himself, he would admit that he momentarily got lost in the other man's eyes. But, he wasn't normally the sort of man who was very honest with himself, so he pushed the thought away. Besides, he wasn't a romantic like that and 'Golden Boy' didn't seem the type.
Feigning disinterest and attempting to be as aloof as possible, Sheppard broke eye contact. "I don't know what you're talking about." Oh, that's original. Like he's going to buy that.
"Don't know what I'm talking about?" Mitchell deposited the folders on top of another pile of folders on his desk and turned back to face Sheppard. "What part? The general attitude problem or the fact that you apparently can't seem to stand being in the same room with me. I'm just trying to figure out what the hell I ever did to you to make you dislike me so much."
Yup, he didn't buy it. Figures. Sheppard placed his hands on his hips, glared at Mitchell and desperately prayed for an unscheduled off-world activation so he could race from the room.
"Not that it matters," Mitchell began back-peddling, becoming a bit uncomfortable with the ridiculousness of the conversation. "I'm just curious is all." Mitchell cleared his throat and turned his gaze to his desk.
Sheppard watched as Mitchell fiddled with the edge of a report, apparently trying to decide what to do next. The term 'standoff' came to mind. As did the term 'awkward silence'. Suddenly the door flew open and a very animated Vala Mal Doran burst into the office.
She quickly looked between Mitchell and Sheppard, appraising each in that seductive manner of hers. She cocked her hip against the door frame. "Am I interrupting something, boys?" Even better than an open wormhole, Sheppard thought.
"Vala," Mitchell nodded in her direction, "to what do I owe the displeasure? Jackson kick you out of his lab again?"
Vala took a deep breath and began a tale involving roller skates and internet shopping. She required something called a credit card, and didn't have one. Naturally, she sought out Daniel Jackson's advice and now he was all in an uproar because maybe, perhaps, she had borrowed his while he wasn't looking.
Not feeling particularly proud of himself, Sheppard slipped out of the room while Mitchell was distracted.
Later that day, Mitchell was lamenting his tale of woe to the only one he trusted not to see it as silly. He outlined why he thought Sheppard was behaving strangely, using the Atlantis mission reports and his latest encounter as examples.
Sam Carter was deeply involved with something under a microscope and taking notes at the same time, multitasking in that way she had of making it seem natural. She would throw a "uh huh" and "really" Mitchell's way every now and then to prove she wasn't ignoring him.
Once, about a year ago, Mitchell had doubted her multitasking skills and went off on a wild tangent about alligators in the sewer systems. The next day he had an email outlining the fact that the whole tale was an urban myth, fully cross referenced and with footnotes. He never doubted her ability to multitask again.
When Mitchell finished describing the most recent encounter, Sam put down her pencil and turned to study him for a moment. Then she laughed.
"What?" Mitchell was offended, "It's not funny. The guy really doesn't like me. He's got a chip on his shoulder the size of Montana and somehow thinks I'm responsible for all his trouble."
"Did he say that you were responsible?"
"Well, no. Not exactly."
"Have you heard anyone else mention that he's said you were responsible?"
"So, why do you think he holds you responsible, again?"
"He hates me!"
Sam laughed again.
"And you think it's funny!"
"You know, the last time you were this animated about mission reports was when you were reading all the SG1 files."
"What's your point?"
"You also mentioned his hair."
"I did not."
"Okay, but it kinda sticks up all over the place."
"And during the integration briefing, he couldn't take his eyes off you. Now he's avoiding you. I'm just wondering which one of you has got it worse."
"Got what worse?"
"Colonel Sheppard doesn't hate you, Cam. And you've got a crush on him." Sam smiled at Cam's shocked expression.
Sam smiled and returned her attention back to her microscope. "Do, too. Don't worry, I'm pretty sure it's mutual."
That night, Mitchell lay awake thinking about the implications of what Sam had said. Crush? That's ridiculous. Although he had spent a lot of time recently thinking about the man, more than was technically normal he supposed. He may have been able to rationalize it as simply one team leader being concerned for another, but he didn't usually get so focused on other team leaders the way he had on Sheppard. Did he really have a crush on Sheppard? His first impulse was to vehemently deny it, but if it were untrue then why did he blush? And why was the innocent image of Sheppard leaning casually against a doorway with his arms crossed making him bite his lip?
Realizing he wasn't going to sleep, he threw off the sheet and swung his feet onto the floor. He rested his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands.
Mitchell had noticed other men before – in high school, during basic training and a few times while serving on various bases. He'd never really done anything about it, figuring his interest was mild and, while no one else ever seemed to talk about it, he also figured it was relatively common. Attractive people were attractive. What was strange about that?
OK, so there may have been a couple times when his interest was sufficiently aroused to cause some mild discomfort. He didn't even know if any of them would've been interested in a man anyway, so he stayed silent. He knew a friend or two who had acted on those impulses and things never went smooth. Of course, Jameson hadn't liked women, so it's not like he had any options. But Mitchell did and he got by just fine, thank you. He had never been enticed enough to risk his career. A few sessions with his imagination and his right hand and he could usually get over whatever infatuation engulfed him before he embarrassed himself.
He contemplated that for a moment and decided that was a very good idea. Just work it out. He leaned back and slipped his hand beneath the waistband of his shorts. Besides, maybe it would help him sleep.
Cheyenne Mountain wasn't known for it's amenities, but remained serviceable enough that Sheppard hadn't bothered arranging off base housing. Inside one of the mountain's gray and unfriendly rooms, he tried to sleep. Instead, he tossed and turned while images of a man with a quick smile and strong hands filled his head, overlaid with the sound of a mid-western drawl.
Finally he sat up and looked at the digital clock beside the bed. He decided that oh-five-hundred was reasonable to some military people, so it wouldn't seem like he had insomnia if he hit the showers and headed to the mess hall. Cafeteria. They call it a cafeteria here. Thinking about Atlantis and the differences depressed him, but his alternative was to think about a certain Colonel. He started a mental checklist of pet peeves on his way to the showers.
On the top of his list was how he didn't really have to bother hiding his sexual orientation on Atlantis. Well, okay, that's not entirely true. Only one person knew, so he supposed technically he was still hiding. Although he'd been in state of self-imposed celibacy so long that he really didn't have anything to hide.
Rodney had called him out on it one night after that whole affair where Sheppard had almost turned into a bug. It was the third or forth time he had noticed Sheppard decline the advances of attractive expedition members that Rodney had asked him why he wasn't 'hooking up'. After several attempts at verbal evasions, Sheppard finally spilled the beans, that he wasn't attracted to women. Surprisingly, Rodney was actually quiet for several moments before he went on to name at least four scientists who were gay. Sheppard quickly swore him to secrecy and declined to be set up with any of them, even discreetly.
"You're not attracted to me, are you?"
"No, Rodney. Now get out of here and go get some sleep."
The next morning, Rodney wanted to know why Sheppard wasn't attracted to him and Sheppard regretted telling him anything. Thankfully, Teyla arrived and changed the topic of conversation to something one of the Athosians had found.
Sheppard was fondly lost in memories of Atlantis and the camaraderie of his team when he checked the duty roster. Discovering his team was scheduled for a routine training exercise that day and not going off world, he decided to call Rodney and see if he wanted to meet for dinner. Maybe Elizabeth and Carson could join them.
Mitchell hadn't run into Sheppard all day. He was partially relieved and partially disappointed. He entered the elevator, preparing to go home for the evening. Just as the elevator doors were closing, an arm shot in between the doors prying them open and Sheppard entered. He was wearing civilian clothes, blue jeans and a black fleece pullover. Mitchell noticed that his hair was damp and not all that spiky yet. Sheppard nodded to him and Mitchell decided he'd take the casual approach.
"I didn't think you ever left the base?"
"I'm meeting Elizabeth, Beckett and McKay."
Mitchell shoved his hands into the pockets of his brown leather coat. "You need a lift?"
Sheppard dangled a set of keys. "They issued me a car. If it starts this time, I'll be good."
The elevator doors opened and they strolled over to the guard station. They showed ID and signed out. Without having to check his name tag, Mitchell asked, "Gibson. Is anyone in the motor pool tonight?"
"No, sir. Corporal Kane is on call if you need something, sir."
Mitchell waved off the offer. "That's all right. Good night." He turned to Sheppard, "I'll just make sure it starts."
"You really are a god damned boy scout, aren't you?" Sheppard turned and began walking up a row of identical looking vehicles. "I think it's this way."
"How did you ever pass navigation?" Mitchell shook his head and walked in the opposite direction.
They eventually found the car and Sheppard turned the engine on. It started, but it didn't sound too healthy.
"Pop the hood." Mitchell looked at the flickering street light above him and added, "And pop the trunk. There's supposed to be a flashlight in there."
Sheppard climbed out of the car and retrieved the flashlight. When he walked up to the front of the car, Mitchell already had the hood up and was rolling up his sleeves. Sheppard pointed the flashlight beam on the engine. Mitchell began fiddling with things while Sheppard stared at his forearms and watched the movement of his hands, not realizing the beam was drifting along with his gaze.
"I know what my hands look like, Sheppard." Mitchell pointed into the engine at space below the battery. "There."
Thankful that it was dark outside, Sheppard hoped Mitchell hadn't noticed the blood rush to his face. He stood still and refused to even glance at Mitchell's hands again but then, of course, he was distracted by the rest of Mitchell. He noticed how well Mitchell filled out his blue jeans and decided that he really did look good leaned over like that. He let his eyes roam for a few moments and bit his lip. This isn't helping. If there was a chance in hell Mitchell would be interested in a man, Sheppard would forget all about this self-imposed celibacy crap. He had a brief image of throwing himself against him right here but figured it'd been so long and Mitchell looked so good that he'd just come in his pants like a randy teenager.
"OK," Mitchell stood up, "try it again."
Sheppard handed the flashlight to Mitchell before he climbed into the driver's seat. Mitchell shone the light under the hood. After the bombshell that was yesterday's revelation, he supposed he shouldn't be too surprised that he caught Sheppard staring. He was surprised, however, at how being stared at like that had made his pulse race. He wasn't necessarily a vain man, but if it had taken him a few more moments than necessary to reattach the leads from the battery, could you blame him? It was rather nice to be looked at like that and Sheppard didn't appear to notice the delay.
The engine came back to life sounding a bit healthier. Mitchell gave a satisfied nod and dropped the hood. Sheppard got out of the car, took the flashlight back from Mitchell and returned it to the trunk. Mitchell figured turn about was fair play and took a few moments to stare at the other man. He admired how the man was lean without being skinny, how his shoulder moved and his damned messy hair. He suddenly wanted to know how pressing up against him would feel. Would it feel anything like he'd imagined a man would feel? His hands practically twitched with the want to touch.
Sheppard closed the trunk and turned just in time to see Mitchell's hungry gaze. Mitchell quickly masked it and turned away, focusing his attention on the car.
"You should tell them about that alternator."
Sheppard said nothing for several moments. He just stood and stared at Mitchell with an intense expression on his face.
Mitchell swallowed. "Well, have a good night."
"Aren't you on the other lot? I'll drive you." Sheppard moved towards the driver's door, which Mitchell was standing in front of, not having moved from handing over the flashlight.
"I don't think that's such a good idea."
"It's dark. It's late. And I have to go that way to get off base anyway."
Mitchell didn't move. They stood there for several moments, not speaking. Both of them were sizing up the situation without words, testing the waters without diving in.
OK, this is really happening. Is something going to happen? Should I leave? Should I reach out? I should not be doing this. I should've done this before. I want to do this. Do I say something? I shouldn't do this. Mitchell's thoughts flew around as fast and furious as a 302 in a dogfight.
I should kiss him. I should walk away. This is just going to end badly. But he wants to touch me just as much as I want to touch him. Sheppard's thoughts were more methodical, but just as conflicting.
Their silent negotiating continued until suddenly the flickering street light above them went out, plunging them into shadows.
They both moved at once, their bodies slammed into one another and their mouths collided. Sheppard reached down, grabbing the jeans he had admired earlier and pulled Mitchell hard up against him. Thrown off balance, the pair stumbled until Mitchell eventually felt the car's frame against his back and hands tugging his t-shirt from his pants.
Mitchell's hands were everywhere, wanting to touch everything all at once. Definitely not regulation, Mitchell thought, able to concentrate long enough to grab a fistful of unruly hair and pull Sheppard's head back. He trailed his mouth down his exposed neck, reveling in the panting sounds the other man was making. He was lost in the feel of muscles rippling under his touch and of hands undoing his jeans. Frantically, he searched for skin.
Sheppard couldn't think straight with strong hands groping him and his neck being treated like that. It had been entirely too long since he had felt this. Any of this. Cold air and a hard body, open mouths and frantic groping. Yup, that whole coming in pants thing was certainly a possibility. He moaned when Mitchell finally got his jeans unzipped.
When Mitchell felt firm, sure hands on him that weren't his own, he groaned and pushed his hips forward. Before he was aware of it happening, he realized he had another man's cock in his right hand. In a brief moment of panic, Mitchell wondered what in the world he was supposed to do. He quickly recovered, however, and matched Sheppard's rhythm, his forehead resting against Sheppard's shoulder and his other arm holding Sheppard steady so he wouldn't fall.
As it turns out, Sheppard's prediction about coming in his pants wasn't really all that unreasonable. Still, neither one of them could've predicted a quick hand job in the parking lot was going to be that quick.
They parted awkwardly. Sheppard fastened his pants and watched Mitchell who was carefully tucking in his slightly damp t-shirt, apparently at a loss as to how to hide the mess which had seemed to have mostly ended up on him. Mitchell looked across the lot, back at the car and finally glanced at Sheppard.
"Well, I guess you should get going. You're probably already late."
Sheppard shrugged as if it were of little consequence. "I'll drop you off at your car."
"That's not necessary."
Sheppard laughed. "Seriously? Just get in the car, Mitchell."
The engine started without too much protest and Mitchell directed him towards the other lot to a vintage black Mustang fastback.
"Thanks." Mitchell reached to open his door and paused, "I guess I'll...uh..."
"What? See me around?"
"That wasn't what I was going to say."
"OK. Then what were you going to say?"
"Look, I.... never mind."
"You're not very good at this, are you, Mitchell?"
"Well, if you weren't such and asshole maybe it wouldn't be so hard." Mitchell realized too late how that sounded. Rather than be embarrassed, he grinned as he opened the door.
"Is that what you like about me?" Sheppard called to a retreating Mitchell.
Mitchell just waved and climbed into his Mustang.
Twenty minutes later, Sheppard arrived at the restaurant and greeted his friends. "Sorry I'm late. I got a little hung up on base."
Elizabeth looked at Sheppard quizzically. "Is it my imagination or is your hair getting even messier?"
Sheppard smiled, opened a menu and kicked Rodney under the table before he said anything. Maybe life at Cheyenne Mountain wasn't going to be so bad after all.