Chapter 10: Snythesis
(R; word count:2,613)
John sees Cam’s silhouette in the dusk light, hunched at the top of a gently sloping hill. He climbs softly, footsteps silent as he comes to a stop behind Cam. He clears his throat, and Cam turns his head, there’s a flicker of surprise in his eyes, a momentary flit, before he turns back to look out over the water of the calm spring.
“You don’t seem too surprised to see me,” John says, moving to stand beside Cam.
“No,” Cam says, shaking his head. “You know where I live,” he jokes.
“Yeah,” John says, sitting down beside Cam, leaning on his hands behind him, his legs outstretched in front. “You’re going to regret that position,” John says forced casual, Cam sitting cross-legged in the grass.
“I already am,” Cam groans a bit, with a small smirk. John turns away and looks out over the trees to the dying sun, the sky ablaze in orange at the horizon, gradating to a deep blue, stars twinkling at the edges of the sky already. He got back to Earth two days ago; found out in the first five minutes that Cam took a sudden two weeks of leave. He had debated it, paced around in his on base quarters before booking the first flight out.
“Congratulations, by the way,” Cam says without looking, “on the promotion.”
“Lieutenant Colonel,” John sighs, “if I didn’t have the paperwork I don’t think anyone would believe it…still don’t really,” John says.
“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” Cam tells him.
“Seems to be an epidemic,” John says without mirth. Cam winces beside him.
“Wished you were there,” John tells him, all semblance of subtlety gone, left somewhere back in Pegasus, “at the ceremony.”
“I’m sorry,” Cam says, staring at his sneakers. “I wasn’t sure…I didn’t know if you wanted me there.”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Because I’m an asshole?” Cam asks, and it’s so sincere that John laughs.
“You’re not an asshole,” John says, “well no…you kind of are, but I…I get it. Mostly I get it, I just…” John looks away, towards the water, glinting in the light.
“I’ve dreamt of this place,” John says suddenly, looking around.
“Have you been here before?” Cam asks, looking at him. John shakes his head.
“No, but…I remember,” he looks up, and yeah, there’s the frayed end of a rope swing hanging limply from a large tree curved over the water.
“You used to swim here in the summer, that rope swing…you’d stare up at the sky and pretend you were flying.”
“H-how’d you know that?” Cam asks, staring at him in something of alarm.
“I told you I dreamt it,” John says, looking back at him. “Except I was there, with you, you were…” John shakes his head.
“You used to think the same thing when you went surfing,” Cam says and John turns to him and nods.
“Do you think it was that device?” John asks, looking back down at the grass and plucking a blade.
“God I hope so,” Cam laughs and John smirks.
They sit in silence, while the sun slips below the horizon and the edges of blue to black creep over the curve of the Earth, until the stars are twinkling so bright that John wonders if they’ve left orbit.
“You scare me more than anything I’ve ever faced John,” Cam says suddenly, and John’s eyes widen in surprise and he turns his head to Cam, whose face is shrouded in darkness.
“What?” He asks, unsure of how to respond.
“We were together on the Odyssey,” Cam says simply, like that explains everything, but it only confuses John more.
“Did Teal’c tell you that?” John asks.
“No, not really,” Cam says. “He…he gave me this letter, that the other me gave him to give to me…”
“You wrote yourself a letter?” John asks, “isn’t that like cheating?”
“We were together for thirty years John.” John falls silent, unsure of what to say because, wow.
“What kind of together?” John asks, “I mean…” he says, unsure of how to phrase it, “sex?”
“No. I mean,” he pulls something out of his pocket and places it on John’s knee. John picks it up, rolls it between his fingers, the gold catching in the light of the rising moon.
“This is…this is like…” John tries, staring at the ring in his palm.
“It was in the envelope,” Cam says. “I don’t know what to think John. I mean I wrote it to myself, I know it was supposed to a big ‘see how happy you can be, you will be’ but I can’t help thinking it’s just a big ‘fuck you’ to myself and this impossibly huge expectation that I can’t…are we the same? Us and them? They were happy John…” Cam looks stricken, and John’s hand stutters up to brush against Cam’s cheek, cupping his face in his hand and Cam closes his eyes and lets him.
“They were on an abandoned ship, they had no idea if they were getting home and they were with people that didn’t care, but John we aren’t…we’re not…” Cam says, his voice shaky. John lets hand drop away and he stares at the grass stains on his sneakers.
“I dated this guy in high school,” he starts, not looking at Cam, his voice soft and steady. “His name was Todd…just don’t tell anyone that because there was this wraith…” Cam looks up at him, confused, and John shakes his head with a laugh, “never mind.”
Cam still looks confused and John looks back up at him.
“So Todd, he was…he was a brilliant pianist, I mean like…really amazing. He got accepted to Julliard and that’s all he ever wanted and he wasn’t going to let anything stop him from getting there. But his parents were conservative Christians, he was brought up with the fear of God, blah blah whatever.”
“Is this story real?” Cam asks, skeptical. “Because I’m really done with analogies.”
“Just shut up Mitchell,” John sighs, flushing, because he thought about this on the plane ride down and it feels important, even if it feels a little stupid saying it all out loud.
“I used to make fun of him, to myself. He was just…so afraid of his parents finding out he was gay. There was this one time, his parents were out, and we were fucking in his room, and he heard a noise and he got so freaked out he panicked and jumped half naked into his closet, leaving me on the bed stark fucking naked with a raging hard on,”
“raging hard on?” Cam teases.
“And it turns out it was just his damn dog walking down the hallway. I mean I wasn’t in love with the guy or anything, we only dated until school ended, then he went off to Julliard. I was never afraid like that, I mean, I brought guys back to my house in high school hoping to get caught. Dave always knew but he never said anything, but my dad was never around enough to figure it out, and all the help tried to protect me by covering up for us. But I just…I wanted my dad to know, because he wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it. He was always so fucking concerned with appearances he couldn’t have kicked me out, how shit would that have looked for him. And I just…I wanted… I don’t know what I wanted.”
“Wanted that big fuck you?” Cam says and John nods and continues.
“Cos it was like…there was never anything for me, I always saw myself on this path. This one, narrow, straight path with barbed wire fences and brick fortified walls on either side and there was no leeway, no chance to escape, I was doing what my dad wanted.”
“Then the Air Force came along, and it was like…metaphorical C4 blasting apart this shit box of my life and I finally had something I actually cared about and…and I turned into Todd.”
“You,” Cam says, in disbelief.
“I did though…I mean I hated Todd for pretending to be this person to please others and I did it.” Cam scoffs again.
“I liked you Cameron,” John tells him. “Back at the Academy, wanted to be with you.”
“Yeah,” Cam says, “me too.” John looks up at him and laughs.
“Wrong place wrong time.”
“Only good place seems to be a paradoxically doomed 304.”
“I gave up part of myself to be in the Air Force. And I mean…I’m okay with that. Because it’s what I wanted, still do, I mean I’ve never been in love with anything more than I was with flying.” John pauses.
“Was?” Cam asks.
“What?” John questions.
“You’ve never been more in love with anything than you were with flying?”
“Oh, no I just meant…I mean…”
“I…I think I’d give it up, I mean…”
“Say it,” Cam says, staring at him.
“Why?” John asks, his eyes narrowing and he shakes his head, his body tensed. “Why do I have to, because I said it before and you just fucking threw it away Cam,” he catches Cam’s gaze and stares him down, “and please don’t make me do it again if all it’s going to get me is nothing,”
“I am so good at excuses John, and I had a thousand of them ready for you, and you know that. And truthfully…I don’t know what to say to you, or how I even feel. But being with you scares me.”
“Because I don’t know how to be what you want.”
“I want you,” John says, “You don’t know how to be you?” He asks in disbelief.
“I don’t know how to be me with other people. I’m a bad boyfriend John. This letter pretty much says the same thing, it took them…us…twenty years to get through the bull shit.”
“Cam you’re one of the most decent people I’ve ever met…” John starts and Cam shakes his head.
“No, I’m really not. I hurt people, everyone I’ve ever been with. And you know what the worst part is?”
John shakes his head.
“They forgive me, they’re all…understanding and compassionate and tell me they get it, and it’s not my fault and it’s fucked up. I know I’m going to screw you over John, it’s what I do and I don’t deserve you.”
“I hate being this way. But it’s the same over and over again. I know how to date, I’m a-a-a damn pro dater,” Cam says and John ducks his head to hide the smirk because Cam just sounds so…ridiculous. “shut up John, I’m trying to have a moment here.”
“M’sorry,” he says, not really meaning it. “You’re a pro dater?”
“Fuck you,” he says, without really meaning it. “God. All they see is this…charming southern boy who likes to dote, and I do, I like to dote, John, I’m great at spoiling the girls I go out with, with flowers and movies, and fancy dinners and holding the door open without being a chauvinist about it, because I’ve been beaten up by way too many women to be all misogynistic about girls, and you know what I’m talking about. But me…I’m shit at relationships.”
“Cam, I’m a 37 year old divorcee who’s not entirely certain about his sexual orientation.”
“We should do the world a favor and get gay married, we shouldn’t unleash this level of fucked up on an unsuspecting population.”
“Yeah,” John sighs, falling back and sprawling out on the grass.
“Teal’c pretty much told me that,” Cam says, sprawling out beside him.
“Does that surprise you?”
“I suck at relationships John. I’m closed off and unresponsive when I get depressed. I make a million excuses for why I can’t talk about things, and usually it’s ‘sorry, darlin’ classified’ but you…I can’t make those excuses anymore and maybe that scares me. Because you…get it.”
“I get it, get you, sort of negates the need for verbal communication don’t you think?” John asks with a small smirk.
“Hmm. Girls are all about talking through their issues, I suppose fucking it out has its merits.”
“Umm…I think you’re doing it wrong,” Cam says. John closes his eyes and huffs out a laugh. They fall into a comfortable silence, with nothing but the sound of crickets chirping around them and fireflies blinking above them like shooting stars. Cam’s hand nudges John’s, until John wraps a pinky around Cam’s feeling kind of ridiculous about it, but it’s dark so it feels like a secret that’s maybe okay.
“Hey Cam,” John says softly.
“I think…” John starts, pausing dramatically. “I want to go skinny dipping.”
“I lo—wait,” Cam says, catching up. John rolls to the side and springs up, tearing his t-shirt off on the way up. John catches Cam pulling himself into a sitting position as his head disappears into the thin cotton. Cam is watching John with interest as he unbuckles his belt, releases the button, and unzips his jeans, pushing them down with his boxers and any modesty he might have had left.
His bottoms wrap around his sneakers and he stumbles to the side and falls back towards the edge of the hill and the water below, Cam rushes forward to catch him, wrapping him up from behind with an arm around his chest and hand a gripping John’s elbow.
“You’re an idiot,” Cam laughs, trying to hold him up, as John kicks off his shoes. Cam backs up, his feet sliding in the grass behind him, and he slips.
“Ohfu—“he manages before his feet are out from underneath him and he lands hard on his tailbone, John slipping from his grasp to thunk hard on the ground, his head in Cam’s lap.
“Oh my God, I hate you,” Cam groans. John laughs and tilts his head up to look at him, Cam sloping over the hill John sees his ribcage outlined beneath his t-shirt and nothing else.
“Liar. You love me,” John teases, and he can feel Cam’s sigh beneath him.
“Yeah, yeah I kinda do.” John slithers onto his stomach and Cam picks his head up to grin down at him.
“So how about that—“
“Cameron? John?” The sound of Wendy’s concerned voice cuts across the night, the light from a flashlight landing a few feet from them.
John’s eyes widen in horror and he launches himself forward onto all fours, attempting to pull his jeans up from around his ankles. Cam doesn’t look too concerned, just starts laughing at him, his chest heaving. John shoves him down in irritation and dives over the slope of the hill, rolling into the water with a loud splash.
“Cameron? Are you alright! What was that?”
“We’re fine mom, it was nothing,” Cam laughs.
“Where’s the Major? What was that?”
“Nothing, we’ll be up at the house in a minute.” John watches from the water as the light turns in the opposite direction and fades.
“Sheppard?” Cam asks, and John stands up, Cam bursts out laughing immediately, doubling over and clutching at his side. “I just wish,” he heaves, trying to catch his breath, “that Tea—“ more hysterics, and John climbs out of the water, annoyed.
“—that Teal’c,” and he shakes his head and can’t go on. John pulls his pants off and rings them out over Cam’s head on his way up the hill, Cam slapping his ass as he goes.
“I’ll give you an 8.5 for ingenuity, a 10 for the view, but only a 4 for form.”
“Bite me Mitchell.”
“With pleasure Sheppard,” and he leers.
Ch 9: Deliberation | Epilogue