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19 October 2010 @ 01:52 am
Covalence (Chapter 9: Deliberation)  

Title: Covalence


Chapter 9: Deliberation
(PG-13; word count:5,651)



The last (and first) time John was in Atlantis he was handed a lemon by the XO of the base, Major Lorne, and told to it would keep Doctor McKay in line. He and Cam had been wary of the scientist after hearing stories from the rest of the team about his slightly unhealthy and borderline inappropriate thing for Sam (Which got both his and Cam’s overprotective big brother muscle flexing).

“Naw, he’s really okay, he grows on you,” Lorne had said afterwards in reassurance.

“Yes, see,” McKay said defensively.

“Like a fungus,” Lorne added as an afterthought.

So John is a little weary of having him as a major player in his frontline team, but the expedition had survived for three years thanks to him apparently, (and according to more than just Rodney), so John figures he can give him the benefit of the doubt. Besides, he and Ronon had hit it off (literally) the last time and Teyla was kind and approachable, asking him questions about himself while being intuitive enough not to really probe where he so clearly didn’t want.

John has always had an undervalued ability to suppress his emotions and generally compartmentalize issues with which he’d rather not deal. Though the transition from the SGC to Pegasus is unexpectedly easy, the amount of work John has more than doubles over night. The simple act of settling onto an Alien world in a giant city-ship is enough of a distraction for John, throw in his new command position and he’s barely had a moment to contemplate anything other than mission reports and personnel files and trying to remember it’s a left out of his quarters to the mess.

Not to mention the jumpers.

John’s heard of them, sure, even saw the back of one in passing at the SGC one time when the Atlantis crew got kicked out of the city.

But now he gets to fly them.

Mind. Controlled. Spaceships.

Sometimes (read: 24/7) when McKay is being sarcastic and condescending or Lorne’s trying to get him to do paperwork (something John wishes desperately he had Cam around to commiserate with) he just says it over and over in his head like a mantra.

Mind. Controlled. Spaceships.

 

***

John is on MRX-314 the first time the light years between he and the Milky Way seems too great to comprehend, and the first time in a long time he’s felt inescapably alone. John looks out on the terrain, standing on the edge of a cliff.

The star system has two suns, burning bright in the sky, and it casts everything in a reddish tint that should be Hellish and harsh but it isn’t. Instead it catches in the water of the lake beneath them and makes it shimmer like it’s filled with gems. The air is clear and they can see for miles and miles, the mountains far beyond look as though they’re lit on fire, the suns rising above their peaks.

“Wow,” John says, because he’s never been one to really sit back and appreciate a view, but it’s pretty spectacular. Rodney is barely paying attention to anything other than the device in his hand, trying to pin down the energy signature.

“Duuude,” John says, with dawning comprehension, because this place reminds him of something, but he wasn’t sure, like a memory long forgotten. “This looks like Galifrey! You know I always thought the Time Lords were ascended beings. Lording over things, general arrogance and condescension,” John starts, turning towards his team.

It’s not the blank stares that are so unfamiliar, he’s used to that, even from his own—his old team. But what disturbs him is the look that’s missing, that one flicker of a smirk from the one person he could count on to get it (or at least humor him). But there’s no one smiling back and he’s on this crazy train alone.

“Galifrey?” Teyla asks. “I am unfamiliar with that world.”

“Are you talking about Doctor Who?” Rodney asks, and John smiles, because yes. “That travesty should never be brought up in my presence again. Unless you’d like to hear my lecture on the blatant disregard for science, I have a power point,” Rodney tells him, staring at him seriously. John shakes his head.

“Never again McKay,” he promises turning away from the group to take one last look over the landscape.

He wishes he had a camera.

Or a cell phone that could call through time and space.

 

***

P3X-515 and Cam remembers just how much he depends on John to balance out his insanity, because laughing with someone is always more pleasurable than cracking yourself up with no way to explain.

“What the hell is that?” Cam asks, jumping back from the dead thing he and his team just shot up. It attacked as soon as they stepped out of the gate, the malp unforgotten and fairly useless for assessing the hostility of said planet.

“It appears to be some kind of reptile-like thing,” Teal’c finishes.

Thing, Cam mouths staring at him, wondering if Earth has rubbed off on his vocabulary a bit.

“It has a strange face,” Vala says, “it’s actually rather disturbing it almost looks like an infant!” Vala cringes and steps away.

“These claws are fascinating!” Dr. Ridge says stepping forward and inspecting the creature. “Look at how large they are!”

“I know what it is,” Cam says, trying to suppress a grin. The Doctor looks up at him.

“It’s a Slitheen, we must be on Raxacoricofallapatorius!”

“I have never heard of Raxacorcaptorus,” the Doctor says confused.

“Raxacoricofallapatorius,” Cam corrects.

“Raxa…porta…fall…orca…piss?”

“Never mind.”

 

***

 

The ground is rocky and uneven beneath his feet as Cam stumbles and slides down the rocky incline. Vala goes careening past him, gaining speed as she bumps him accidentally, shouting an apology as she goes.

“Vala!” Daniel’s worried shout and then the doctor is flying past Cam after her. Cam reaches out a hand and latches it in the back of Daniel’s jacket and tries to slow them both down as Daniel swipes at Vala, just missing her tac-vest and wrapping a fist in a pigtail instead, and pulling.

Vala screams and falls back, Daniel curses and flies forward, Cam shouts and falls against Daniel as they all tumble down the hill in a heap.

“I. Hate. All of you,” Vala growls. Daniel tries crawling off of her, progress impeded by Cam collapsed across both of them. Cam rolls away, every muscle protesting greatly, his leg twitching, throbbing hot and painfully.

Cam stares at the sky, rocks and pebbles digging into his back and he pulls himself into a sitting position. Vala yanks twigs and leaves out of her hair as Daniel inspects his glasses. Teal’c stares down at them, his hands clasped behind his back. He looks past them, stepping over them and continuing without a word.

Cam is struck suddenly with deja-vu and he starts coughing painfully and hits Daniel on the arm.

“Hey…hey Shep you remember—“ he stops suddenly and looks over at Daniel. “Jackson…I mean Jackson…” he trails off awkwardly and looks away.

He doesn’t want to catch the look that he and Vala share.

 

***

Cam looks down at his watch, the digital numbers blurry and unfocused; he yawns and rubs at his eyes. 0100. He pushes away from his desk and stands, piling up the mess of papers spread out on his desk into a semi neat stack and sliding them into a manila folder before grabbing his jacket on the hook on the back of his office (liberally defined) door.

It’s late, Cam muses, wondering if it’s worth the trip home and decides against it. He stops by Daniel’s office and sure enough the lights are on and the door open.

“Jackson,” he says, mock reproving, “what are you doing here still?” He asks. Daniel pauses and pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose and looks up.

“Research,” he says simply, staring down at the text open on his bench.

“Anything good? And or life threatening?” Cam asks, leaning over the counter and peering down at the gibberish of Ancient.

“Not really,” Daniel replies, “not for me anyway…” he trails off. That’s it, in the oh-so-Daniel-fashion of failing to properly make any kind of sense or attempt at an explanation lest the subject of his…cryptivity not suffer in confusion and worry for as long as naturally possible.

“For…?” Cam questions.

“Well…I’ve just been going through more texts, found a few references to the uh…device,” he trails off yet again. Cam waits for the punch line that never comes.

“Jackson,” he sighs, thunking his head against his arms folded across the table. There’s no one to share his look of misery and frustration and he pictures Sheppard for a moment making faces behind Jackson’s back.

“He asked me…” Daniel starts, not looking up from the book, as though the words are written across its pages. “Before he left, what time the device deactivated.” Cam tenses and Daniel catches it.

“And?” Cam says, his voice steady.

“I told him.”

“What time was that?”

“I think you know, without my having to tell you,” Daniel says, staring away from him. “I think we both know he did too.”

 “Oh,” Cam says, unsure of what to say.

“But…the thing is…I couldn’t tell if it was good or bad,” Daniel looks at him then, scrutinizing.

“How should I know?” Cam says defensively. He looks away from Daniel’s gaze and focuses instead on an urn stamped with hieroglyphics seated on a shelf on the opposite side of the cluttered office.

He thinks to himself, trying not to picture Sheppard, wondering what he must have thought, catching him in his poorly constructed, thinly veiled lie. Daniel is still watching him when he turns back.

Cam gives him a shaky sort of smile and straightens.

“It’s late,” he says and claps his hands together.

“You going home tonight?” Daniel asks, and the question is simple but the way Daniel says it asks a thousand questions in a single short phrase and Cam isn’t sure what to say.

“N-no, just be back in the morning anyway.” Daniel nods. “Why?”

Daniel shrugs his shoulders but it’s anything other than nonchalant. “It’s just rare for you, that’s all.” He thinks about that for a minute and supposes it’s true. He hates his on base quarters, small and concrete, windowless, an airless feeling like he’s trapped in some dusty cellar.

His car keys are heavy in the pocket of his jacket but he doesn’t think he can go home to a quiet house with a made up guest room immaculately clean and empty.

Daniel pushes his glasses up again, which Cam concludes has little to do with eyepiece slippage and all to do with Daniel’s ability to gaze over the edge of lenses, scrutinizing and calculated.

Cam turns around and bids him goodnight.

“You know after my wife died,” Daniel’s voice cuts across the space and stops Cam in his tracks.

“After Sha’re I didn’t think it would be possible for me to be with anyone else. Losing her the way I did…the way no one could truly be capable of understanding.” Daniel pauses.

“One of the hardest parts was just…knowing I could never share that with anyone…the magnitude of that loss…or share myself so completely with anyone else.” Daniel’s voice fades and Cam stares at the nondescript concrete wall across the hall.

“But sometimes I think the opposite of that is even harder.” Cam nods noncommittally once without turning and walks away. He passes the door to Sheppard’s quarters as he makes his way to his own base dungeon. The door closes with a final clunk and he collapses in the bed, curling the pillow beneath him and falling asleep with his BDUs still on, his boots half-kicked off his feet.

 

***

If John had to pick the most surreal moment of his life, the one moment he truly pondered the idea of reality to question if everything around him was not just some kind of dream, it wouldn’t have been the first time he flew, with nothing but blue stretched out around him so far up he could see the way the Earth curved.

It wouldn’t even have been the first time he learned that wormholes weren’t just things of science fiction, or even the first time he saw a goa’uld symbiote slither its way into some guy’s cranium.

No, this right here would make it to slot number one.

“But she’s really quite attractive…I mean…for someone who spends most of their day in a dark lab. She’s no Samantha Carter by any means but…” Rodney laughs and John shoots him a withering look. Rodney clears his throat and stops talking.

“No.” John tells him definitively.

“Well why not?” Rodney whines, “I know for a fact that she likes y—”

“Perhaps this none of our business, if John does not wish to discuss his personal life, we must respect that,” Teyla says, staring pointedly at Rodney.

“But he never goes out with anyone,” Rodney complains, “and I really think you’d both be easier to work with if you both got laid.”

John’s not sure if it’s a universal gesture or too much time spent with Earthlings, but he’s fairly certain Teyla does a facepalm.

“Rodney—“ John warns, even though he thinks Rodney might be right. His own hand, while stress relieving and enjoyable, isn’t exactly the same (which he’s fairly certain Atlantis knows and has been trying to help him out with…which is just…no and also another story entirely).

“Wait,” Ronon says suddenly, dropping his hand away from the bowl of popcorn in Rodney’s lap, Terminator long forgotten on John’s laptop.

Everyone looks at him, letting Ronon work out his question, his brow wrinkled. “Aren’t you already seeing someone?”

Everyone stares.

“Ronon,” Teyla warns.

“What? No…who?” Rodney demands.

“That guy, you know the one John is always talking about. I thought you guys were like…partners…or whatever your people call them?”

“Ronon,” Teyla sighs.

“What?!” Rodney shouts.

John just stares. He knows Teyla and Ronon are aware of the rules against same sex couples, two young marines having been in a not-so-secret relationship for the year the Atlantis expedition was stranded from Earth. They had a few problems with the newbies arriving fresh off the Daedalus, but most of the Veterans just knew and were either used to it enough to ignore it, accepted it, or simply didn’t care.

But John just stares.

“So you’re not together?”

“Uhm,” is all John manages, giving Teyla a helpless look.

“But you’ve fucked right?” Ronon says. “I mean…”

“What!?” Rodney says again. “Who are we talking about?”

“That Mitchell guy. He’s a good fighter. I mean if you two are together I fully support it.”

“Mitchell! Colonel Citrus Death!” Rodney shouts.

“What…” John mumbles. “Anyone want any more popcorn!?” He shouts, grabbing the nearly full bowl and wandering away towards the half kitchen at the other end of the small quarters.

He’s staring into the sink, leaning on his hands over the counter when he hears Teyla’s light steps behind him. She places her hand on his shoulder and he turns to look.

“I must confess that Terminator does nothing to hold my interest. I was however, thinking a walk sounds good, would you care to join?”

“Yeah, yes sure,” John nods and he follows her out of his quarters, the sound of Ronon and Rodney arguing cut off as the door closes.

They walk in silence for nearly a quarter of an hour before John leads them out onto one of Atlantis’ many balconies. He leans against the rail and looks down at his sneakers and asks,

“Is it really that obvious?” He sees Teyla’s smirk out of the corner of his eye.

“It is…” Teyla starts, pausing to get her thoughts together. “Not so much how often you speak of him John, but the way you do,” she tells him. John’s confusion must be obvious because she lets out a soft laugh and pats him on the shoulder again.

“No matter who plays a key role in the events of a story John, in all of your stories, Cam somehow, miraculously is the star.” John doesn’t think it’s right for Teyla to be using theater analogy, even if it is completely accurate. Now that he thinks about it, he does talk about Cam a lot. He scowls.

“He is one of your best friends John, I would find it perplexing if you did not speak of him often.”

“But…I mean Ronon only met the guy once and we weren’t even…we hadn’t even…back then. He can really get all that from…stories?”

“Ronon is unusually perceptive when he wants to be,” Teyla comments. John gives her a look and they both laugh.

“Does Colonel Mitchell know?” Teyla asks, turning around and staring up at the two moons hanging high and bright.

“Yeah,” John says softly.

“Then he does not share your feelings?” Teyla asks. John shrugs his shoulders.

“I guess not.”

“It is one of your sayings is it not, that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder?’ Perhaps when you two meet again he’ll have come around.”

“Perhaps.”

 

***

“Why does this always seem to happen to me?” Vala sighs long suffering, leaning against the bars of her cell. “I try to live my life morally righteous,” she says.

“I do not think that means you what you think it means,” Cam drawls, and Vala looks at him in mock outrage.

“I am un upstanding and productive member of society.”

‘I think not!” Quips the little bald monk staring angrily at Vala through her bars.

“Aren’t you supposed to be with the peace and the forgiving?” Cam asks.

“She tries my patience.”

Daniel sighs, nodding his agreement.

“Come, let’s chat, I feel optimistic we can resolve this,” Daniel says, patting the monk on the back and leading him out of the dark dungeon. He shoots a glare over his shoulder.

“What’d you do this time?”

“Pfft,” Vala says, shrugging her shoulders dramatically and shaking her head. “I have absolutely no idea, I can’t even remember ever coming to this planet.”

“Right,” Cam says, clearly not buying the innocent act. Vala turns away and paces her cell.

“Although, now I think about it, I do have a sort of maybe vague memory of…oh something about maybe perhaps impersonating an enlightenment bringer to oh…I don’t know…possibly seek out valuable relics to trade for a Cargo ship.”

Cam just looks at her. Vala smiles, “possibly.”

It turns out, as Cam never would have figured it, possibly was more of a definitely. Although, as it turns out Vala’s skills in recognizing useless knock offs from the real deal weren’t as spectacular as she would have guessed, and the valuables she stole were the replicas, displayed to safe guard against such petty thieves, so all in all, the monks were easily able to talk down from public hanging, to life imprisonment, to a stern talking to and a promise never to return.

“Well I feel a little insulted,” Vala complains on the way back to the gate, “to suggest that my skills aren’t deserving of any kind of real punishment, how dare they.”

“Va—“ Daniel starts before sighing, shaking his head and quickening his pace to catch up with Teal’c, leaving Vala and Cam behind.

“You think my skills are unsurpassed by any and all, don’t you Cameron?” Vala asks, wrapping her hands around Cam’s bicep and looking up at him earnestly.

Cam looks down at her for a moment before looking away. “Don’t you think this is just a reminder of everything you’ve left behind? Don’t get me wrong, you’re a damn good thief princess but you have plenty of other marketable skills, you don’t need to use them for evil.”

“You’re calling me evil?” Vala asks, looking slightly put out.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Cam says. Vala straightens and drops her arms away from Cam.

“No, it’s alright, I haven’t exactly been a shining paradigm of goodness, obviously,” Vala says, motioning around them.

“Shit,” Cam sighs as Vala quickens her pace. “Hey,” he says, reaching out and grabbing her bicep and pulling her back.

“Vala, that is not what I meant.” She raises an eyebrow defiantly at him. “All I meant was, yeah so you’ve made some mistakes in the past. But you’ve learned from them, that much is obvious. And you are not the same person you were, you wanted to change and you did.”

Vala nods. “So you’re saying…no matter who we were in the past, no matter what we’ve done, or who we’ve hurt, it’s who we are now that matters. It is our intentions and how we’ve learned to fulfill them that are important.”

Cam stares at her, scrutinizing, because he has a sneaking suspicion he’s just been played.

“Yeah…” he agrees. She smiles at him, pats him on the arm and says

“I whole heartedly agree Cameron Mitchell!” And she bounds off toward Daniel and Teal’c.

“What the…frak?”

 

***

New Lantean weather is fairly mild; add the fact that different planets and star systems have vastly different weather from one mission to the next, the seasons and months all start to blur together for John. They keep track of Earth months and days in coordination with the SGC, but John can hardly believe it when he realizes eleven months have passed.

Eleven months. Nearly a year, John marvels, staring out over the ocean through his small office window. Which means in just a month he’ll be heading back to the SGC for two weeks of leave and various debriefings with the IOA and a series of personnel changes to be announced and John’s done a better job at being the XO of an entire base than he thinks anyone would have expected but he still has a few trepidations. Atlantis has become his home. Home doesn’t even describe it; because if this is what home feels like, John’s not sure he’s ever really had one.

He doesn’t want to lose it.

“You alright John?” John looks up to find Teyla in his office doorway, watching him with concern. John smiles reassuringly and nods.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just thinking,” he tells her with a nod.

“Do you…wish to share your thoughts?” She asks softly, stepping over the threshold. John rubs at his forehead and shakes his head.

“No, no I’m fine, just…mission reports,” he lies. Teyla nods, the question in her eyes telling him nice try, but she doesn’t contradict him, merely steps back out the door.

“I was just on my way to my quarters for the night, you are off duty in a few minutes; would you like me to walk with you?” She asks. John checks his watch to find to his surprise that she’s right, but he shakes his head.

“No, thanks but I’m just going to finish up some stuff here first, don’t know how long I’ll be,” he tells her and she smiles softly and bids him a good night before turning and disappearing down the hall.

John waits a few moments before closing the file on his laptop and powering it down. He stands, the lights in the small room dimming to black as he walks through the door.

In his quarters John pulls off his BDUs, tangling the bottoms around his boots because he always tries to take his pants off first; Cam never ceases to make fun of him for it, especially when it ends with John crashing into a locker in the men’s locker room after a mission.

There’s a pang in his chest when he thinks of Cam’s bellowing laugh, the ghost of his touch wrapping around his bicep to steady him before he hits the bed to unlace the boots. Twenty-eight days and he’ll be walking through the Stargate to an unknown certainty about his job and frankly it scares him, but he can’t wrap his head around anything other than Cam.

The past eleven months have been…cordial; awkwardly formal. They’ve never talked about what happened, never even mentioned it, both silently agreed to just pretend like the device never happened, that it was some strange mission report from some alternate reality that just…fell across their desks. But things have been stilted and weird, they talk about all the same stuff they had before but it’s been getting harder and harder to see around the elephant in the room.

He wonders vaguely if he should have pushed Cam harder, back when things maybe could have been saved, but he wonders if he would have just pushed him away completely, and if maybe that wasn’t what he might have really wanted in the first place.

“Hey…Earth to John,” Rodney’s voice drifts into his consciousness and John’s head snaps up. He’s sitting at a table in the cafeteria with a spoon in his hand and he wonders, what the hell, and if maybe he’s time hopped or something, before the images of him waking and showering and dressing flitter into his mind and he sighs.

Everything blurs together.

“I’m fine McKay,” he says, not meaning it, not even sounding like it.

“Right, well…no you’re really not and as you’re responsible for my well-being I’d prefer it if you were in fact, fine.”

John sighs.

 

The crumpled photograph in the top drawer of his desk is torn at the edges and there’s some kind of stain on the dog-eared corner on the left hand side, he thinks it might be coffee, but he doesn’t really know. Cam isn’t even in the picture, not really, the photograph a little blurred and out of focus, the pink of the photographer’s finger in the edge of the frame. Cam is in the background, he’s nineteen or twenty, John can’t remember, but he’s smiling, candid and real.

 

John is standing on the balcony outside the gate room a week before his scheduled trip ho—to Earth, when Sam sidles up beside him, leaning over the rail and breathing in the smell of salt.

“Your team is worried about you,” she says, without looking at him.

“That right?” John asks, noncommittally.

“Mhm. Says you’re withdrawn…more than usual,” she adds with a teasing lilt to her tone. John laughs softly and looks down at his hands clasped, hanging over the rail.

“Had a lot to think about,” he says simply.

“About what?” She asks. John glances at her for a long moment before looking away. “As your friend John, and nothing else.”

“You know,” he says, not looking at her. She doesn’t say anything but he can see her nod out of the corner of his eye.

“It’s been a year,” she says. “That’s a lot of time to think.”

“Good and bad,” he reasons.

“I suppose,” Sam tells him. “You know I talk to him right?” She asks. John looks over at her with a curious nod.

“Yeah,” he says, confused.

“He’s only marginally better at feelings…sometimes,” Sam says, with a small private smirk. “But John he’s still a guy and you’re still both so…dumb.” She says simply. John looks at her,

“Should I be insulted?” He asks.

“Look John, do you know how you feel?” John just stares at her. She raises her eyebrows.

“No…yes? Maybe…I don’t know; why are you asking me this?” He says, feeling like a child under the critical stare of a teacher.

Sam sighs, “before you left, did you tell him how you felt?”

John shrugs, and then thinks, and says, “yeah.” But Sam is staring at him.

“No I guess not…not in so many words…”

“In how many words?” Sam asks.

“Well…none…but it was obvious,” he says, frustrated. Sam sighs and shakes her head.

“You two are like children sometimes. You wanted Cam to shut up and stop making excuses and when he didn’t, you got upset and walked away. But you didn’t do it either. You could have. You could have told him how you felt.”

“He knew,” John says, his voice cracking, “and I shouldn’t have had to!”

“That’s not the point,” Sam says. “You were being passive aggressive. You never asked him how he felt, did you?” She asks.

“Passive aggressive!” John snorts, and “no. Not really, I mean he was the one—“

“So you just let him go, because you could have just grabbed him by the collar and demanded he tell you how he felt,” Sam says, eyes wide. “But instead you just let him go.”

“He was the one continuously deceiving me, and I’m in the wrong for wanting him to finally tell the truth without having to push him to do it!”

“Why did you stay and keep trying even after all his bull?” Sam asks, quieter this time. John doesn’t skip a beat, he doesn’t pause or think because he’s all riled up and he just says,

“Because I love him.”

“And if he had said ‘I love you John. I don’t want you to go,’ would you have stayed?”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe he was doing that for you.”

“Oh fuck that, he was just too afraid to actually have feelings for someone.”

Sam laughs, “and you’re not?”

“What?”

“John you came to a galaxy a million light years away to avoid having a discussion about your feelings!”

“I told him I loved him, it just wasn’t enough.”

“Maybe it was too much.”

“Right,” John sighs.

“You can take the moral high ground all you want John, and I’m not saying you don’t deserve it because Cam is a jerk, no doubt. But…look where it’s gotten you.”

“Yeah, could say the same to you. How long have you had a thing for—“ John stops when he sees Sam’s raised eyebrows. “—chocolate?”

“Exactly,” she sighs.

 

***

“Thanks Cam,” Daniel says, patting Cam on the back at the door of his apartment.

“Cameron!” Vala grins hugging him tightly, “thank you muchly for your kind hospitality!”

“No problem Vala,” Cam laughs over her head at the exasperated look on Daniel’s face.

“See you tomorrow, Cam,” Daniel says as he pulls Vala out into the deserted hallway.

Cam waves goodbye and closes the door behind them, turning and collecting the dishes from the living room and carrying them to the kitchen.

“Teal’c,” Cam says, stopping short in the doorway, “I thought you’d left,” he says, surprised.

“I did not.” Teal’c replies and Cam laughs and nods in agreement.

“Thanks,” Cam nods to him as Teal’c starts loading the small dishwasher with the plates from their Team dinner.

“I wished to speak with you privately.”

Cam’s hand stutters to a stop on the way to a glass at the edge of the sink, staring at Teal’c the way he expects one would stare down a rattlesnake, or a crocodile.

“About…?” Cam asks, suspicious.

“Major John Sheppard.” Cam closes his eyes with a sigh.

“You too? Sure why not,” Cam says, exasperated.

Teal’c stares, undeterred.

“You are counting down the days to his arrival are you not?”

“What makes you say that?” Cam asks, a little defensive. Teal’c shoots a glance to the calendar on the fridge, red Xs crossing the days off, John’s Monday arrival circled in bright green.

Cam shrugs.

“May I offer you a piece of unsolicited advice?” Teal’c asks. Cam stares, but nods.

“Be less stupid.”

Cam snorts in equal parts amusement and disbelief. “Stupid?” He asks.

“You have found a person willing to put up with your egregious and plenty character flaws and yet you pushed him away.”

“wh—…”

“That is stupid.”

“Character flaws?”

“Of which you two were equally matched,” Teal’c says, in what Cam thinks might be his attempt at reassurance.

“Wha…” Cam balks, and sighs.

“Why?” Teal’c questions.

“Why what?”

“Why did you allow him to leave?”

Cam simply stares.

“I--“ Teal’c starts.

“Is this the part where you delve into your own personal history about how guilty you feel over your wife and how terrible you were in the past and how it can all be a big analogy for the soul rape that is life?” Cam asks, frustrated.

Teal’c looks a little murderous at the interruption and Cam steps back a pace and holds up his hands, “sorry.”

“As I was saying,” Teal’c reprimands, “I was entrusted with this,” and he pulls, from inside his jean’s pocket, a small folded envelope.

“What is it?” Cam asks, his heart skipping a beat, he sees his name written across the front in a messy scrawl.

“Is it from John?” Cam asks, before he notices the hand writing he recognized as John’s is actually his own.

“Where did you get this?” Cam asks, concerned by how shaky his voice is. He stares at the envelope, the clean white glaring back at him like a long forgotten memory, a name on the tip of his tongue.

“You gave this to me,” Teal’c explains. “On the Odyssey, just before Sam enacted her plan to reverse time, at the end of the 50 years that never happened.”

“But they did,” Cam says, “you’re proof. That,” he says pointing, “is proof.”

“Indeed.”

“Proof of what?” Cam asks, mostly to himself, staring at the envelope as though afraid.

“That all that stands between you and happiness is your own irrationality,” Teal’c says.

Cam just stares at him.

“Your words, Cameron Mitchell.” Teal’c offers Cam the envelope.

Cam barely notices Teal’c leave, the door to his apartment closing with a snap. Cam closes the dishwasher, he can’t remember if he added soap but he hits the start button anyway before moving like a zombie into the living room, collapsing into the armchair by the window, overlooking the street.

He opens the envelope messily, and pulls out the folded sheet of paper inside. He unfolds it carefully in his hands and reads.

 
Ch 8: Entropy   |   Chapter 10: Synthesis
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