Chapter 3: Nostalgia
(NC-17; word count: 7,028)
“What the hell am I doing?” John asks himself, leaning against the bathroom door, back cushioned by towels and bathrobes hanging haphazardly on hooks screwed into the heavy wood. He pushes himself straight and stares around the small washroom. The floor is a little uneven, tilted at a slight angle, the oak built in cabinets a little wonky, overflowing with old fishing magazines and Home and Garden Catalogues. The tiles on the wall beneath the peeling wallpaper are a faded pale vanilla, several cracked and missing. There’s a metal rooster hung above the toilet.
He doesn’t really have to use the bathroom but he feels self-conscious, like if he doesn’t go Cam’s mother will know he just really wanted to hide for a minute and wow, when did he regress to a fourteen year old girl anyway? So he goes for posterity, washing his hands after with hand soap whittled into what John thinks is either a cat or a cow, and heads back to the kitchen to find Cam.
Instead, he finds Wendy alone, two glasses of milk and a plate of chocolate chip cookies on the table in front of her, and a look on her face that Sheppard’s seen on a variety of mother’s before. That they all just happen to belong to the parent’s of girl’s he’s dated however, slightly concerns and confuses him.
“Come, sit,” Wendy says, gesturing to the kitchen chair on the other side of the table, John obeys, sliding onto the cow patterned cushion spilling stuffing onto the wooden floor beneath the table. “I think Cam is helping Ash tuck Becca in,” Wendy says, pushing the glass of milk towards John, and watching as he takes a tentative sip. She doesn’t wait long before asking,
“How long have you and Cam known each other?” Her arms crossed comfortably on the table in front of her. John takes another sip of milk, curls his hands around the cold glass and shifts, the chair creaking beneath him.
“We’ve been working together for a little over a year now,” John tells her. Ever since Cam came to lead SG-1, back when it was just SG-he; Cam had offered John a spot on what was turning out to be a very small team. “SG-you and me!” Cam’d say with a grin every time SG-1 was called to accompany an away team, not yet large enough to go off on its own, babysitting duty, or ‘Stargate Supplement—take twice daily’ John joked. John never really knew why Cam had picked him, out of every file that came across his desk, why him, because John was pretty sure half his COs had him labeled as ‘not quite worth the effort’ but then John was being pulled from SG-11, trading in a digit on his patch for a spot on the front-line team.
“But uh, we met at the Academy,” John continues with a nod.
“Really? Cam never told me that,” Wendy says, surprised.
“Maybe he forgot,” John shrugs with a shy self-deprecating smile.
“Oh come on now, face like that is hard to forget,” Wendy winks with a smirk, scooping up cookie crumbs into a small pile and standing to sweep them into the trash.
“You’re gonna’ make me blush ma’am,” John smirks, ducking his head a little awkwardly. But it makes him wonder if Cam does remember, they weren’t exactly best friends back then, barely acquaintances really because John found himself falling hard and fast for Cadet Cameron Mitchell’s blue eyes and southern twang. He was bordering dangerous territory back then, and all signs read Keep Out and All Trespassers Will Be Booted Back Home and he found it easier to keep his distance than torture himself. He never really did well being told he couldn’t have the things he wanted.
“Yeah, I was roommates with a friend of his,” John explains, snagging a cookie off the plate.
“I hate being in a car all day, I still can’t feel my butt,” Cam complains, and he brought it up so it’s not John’s fault when he turns to look. Cam is rubbing at his ass with the heel of his hand and John turns away to hide his smirk and swallows down the offer to feel it for him.
“’Kay gramps, you want the bed? I’ll take the cot,” John says, waving a hand to the neatly made bed on the other side of Cameron’s childhood room.
“You’re a guest, you take the bed, I got the cot,” Cam says, all hospitality. John wonders if he’s just afraid of what his mother will do if she finds out he let John take the cot. John stares around the room in mild fascination, like everything else in the Mitchell household Cam’s room is…quaint. The bedspread is a flannel pattern, an old army blanket folded at the foot, there’s an oak chest at the end of Cam’s bed that looks like a family heirloom.
“I bet if we lift up your mattress we won’t even find any porn mags,” John remarks, collapsing onto the cot and grinning teasingly up at Cam rifling through his duffel on the other side of the small room.
“Nope,” Cam says, “they’re in my old tree house.” He nods out the open window and John turns to look, can see the edge of one wooden wall on the far side of the yard.
“Tree house, huh?” John remarks. “Always wanted a tree house when I was a kid, my brother and I used to make forts in the basement with every cushion, pillow, and blanket in the house. Used to piss the maids off.” John smirks, leaning back against the edge of Cam’s bed. Cam steps over to him, his fist cradled in his open palm and looks down at John expectantly. John mirrors the position and they both shake their fists three times.
“Rock,” Cam grins, his hand still curled into a fist, staring down at John’s scissored fingers. “You get the bed.” John shrugs lazily and stands up. “There are extra toothbrushes in the bottom left drawer in the bathroom.” Cam tells him as John heads out into the darkened hallway.
When John gets back to the room, his teeth freshly brushed and clad in nothing but low slung pajama bottoms, Cam is already in his cot. The light in the room is dim, falling over Cam’s eyes, presumably why, John thinks, he has a pillow thrown over his face, one arm stretched across it, the other flung over the side of the cot. He’s bare-chested, faded blue sheets falling just over his hips, clinging to the bulge nestled by Cam’s groin. John stops, shoves his folded clothes into his duffel, his eyes trailing down Cam’s body, attention focused on the wrinkle of fabric over his crotch. It’s the sheets, and his pants, you can’t distinguish anything, John tells himself, but his dick isn’t really cooperating because he’s hard, and flushed, and trying to ignore his own need, pushing at his dick with the heel of his hand.
When he glances back over, he can see the soft swell of Cam’s cock as it jerks beneath the covers, and John is pretty certain that Cam is in fact, not wearing pants. Cam’s hips stutter slightly, seeking friction of their own accord and John is torn between watching Cam get hard and fearing getting caught being there himself and he flips the light switch, casting the room into darkness and moves to the bed.
“Sleep tight Mitchell,” John says, trying for nonchalance. Cam grunts in response and, that is so not helping, John thinks, climbing into the small bed and staring up at the dark ceiling, resisting the urge to get off; his fingers practically twitching with the desire to wrap around his throbbing dick. He wonders if Cam is feeling the same, wonders if Cam is feeling the same because he is. If Cam wouldn’t be hard right now if John hadn’t been staring openly.
John tilts his head, and from his vantage point, with the moonlight streaming in the open window he can see Cam’s hand fluttering softly over his cock through the sheets. The movement can’t be doing much more than teasing him, and John’s own cock jumps in his sweats as he watches. Cam hisses softly, practically inaudible, voice muffled into the pillow he still has over his face and his movements grow more deliberate.
John’s arousal grows with every press and stroke of Cam’s fingers over the sheets and he thinks that as Cam grows more and more desperate he gets more and more turned on, but he realizes with a jolt it’s the other way around. John recalls every masturbatory fantasy he’s ever had, plays them on repeat in his mind until he feels like he’s going to give himself blue balls, but Cam’s breath is stuttered, and he’s panting as quietly as he can into the pillow over his face.
Going down on Brady Donavan in the archives at the school library, junior year; the way Randy Markus groaned around John’s cock as he was deep throated for the first time; Captain Anders’ teeth on the back of his throat and his fingers in John’s ass…
John watches Cam’s hand slide beneath the covers, finally, the shape of his hand curling around his cock and tugging, hard and fast until he comes with a stuttered grunt, and John closes his eyes, his own hand finding its way beneath the waistband of his boxers, it only takes him three hard strokes before he jerks, spilling into his own hand, biting at his lip, silently.
In the early hours of the morning John dreams of his fingers clasping around Cam’s, dripping wet. He tugs to pull the boy up onto shore but Cam is grinning, wicked, and pulls him off balance until John is falling forward into the cool clear water. Cameron’s arms wrap around John’s midriff to steady him on the slippery wet rocks beneath his feet.
Cam makes sure he’s alright before he jumps on his back, pushing John beneath the water. John grabs at Cam’s bare stomach and Cam jerks away. John surfaces; his hair falling in damp clumps around his face as he grins at Cam, trying to look irritated and failing miserably.
When John wakes up, the sun is streaming in through the open window, across his face. He yawns, and stretches his arms above his head, smacking his hands against a wall he forgets is there. He rolls over and sees that the cot is empty, the sheets rumpled, and the pillow dented from Cam’s head. His bladder is full and his cock half hard, and John throws the covers off him and slides out of bed before either one of them turns into something more than just an inconvenience. He pads softly through the hallway to the small bathroom, the door opens just as he reaches out a hand to knock.
“Whoa, hey Shep,” Cam says, jumping a little, startled. John rubs at the back of his head sheepishly and apologizes. He figures this can go down one of two ways, awkward avoidance of eye contact which would pretty much be like saying, ‘hey I know what you sound like when you come,’ or he could act completely normal and hope it convinces Cam he’s in the clear.
“I have to pee.” John says, and Cam nods.
“All yours,” he says, moving to the side, and John doesn’t even flinch when Cam brushes past him, doesn’t so much as twitch at the smell of soap scrubbed clean skin, or Cam’s damp hair, or the drop of water running down the side of Cam’s neck he wants to lick away. Nope, he plays it totally cool.
When John makes it down stairs after he showers and pulls on a clean t-shirt and jeans, there are ten people in the kitchen, besides Wendy and Cameron he knows none of them. Cam waves him over from the stairs and John smiles politely at everyone, sitting in the chair Cam is waving him towards.
“Okay, introductions!” Cam is grinning and he goes around the table, older couple across from him, “Aunt Jenna and Uncle Patrick,” teenage boy with blonde hair and braces, “my cousin Adam,” skinny pair of twins in their mid twenties, “cousins Alicia and Rachel,” and Cam continues around the table.
“I’m probably never going to remember half of you,” John apologizes with a grin.
“Don’t worry John, I don’t know half of them either and I hear I’m related to them.” John turns to the voice, it belongs to a woman with strawberry colored hair curled around her face. She’s pretty, John thinks, and can see a little of Cam in the bow of her lips and the angle of her teeth when she smiles at him.
“It is very unfortunate we share genes, yes,” Cam says, slinging an arm around her shoulder, “this is my baby cousin Kara,” Cam introduces. Kara rolls her eyes and throws his arm away.
“I’m his oldest cousin and he still won’t stop calling me that,” she mock sighs but she’s smiling fondly at Cam.
“I used to walk you home from school every day Kara, you’ll always be a baby to me.” She sticks her tongue out at Cam and pulls a face, grabbing a muffin out of the basket on the table before she waves at John and heads out into the yard. Cam is completely at ease, John notes, maybe slightly too at ease around him, too friendly, all smiles and shoulder pats like he’s overcompensating John thinks. He catches Cam glancing at him when he thinks John isn’t looking, expression on his face similar to Teal’c’s when he’s working on a particularly difficult Sudoku puzzle. It’s unnerving.
When Cam isn’t sneaking glances at him, or introducing him to family, or shuffling him in between cousins and aunts, he’s touching. John watches him. Watches as Cam picks up Becca and tosses her screaming into the air, catching her in his arms and wrapping himself around her, tickling beneath her ribs until she cries uncle. He watches him chase his cousins through the yard with a super soaker, coming into the house dripping wet for a towel. He watches Cam throw a Frisbee with his dog, and hug his mother from behind distracting her as he sneaks a spoonful of the chili she has cooking on the stovetop, and he watches as Cam ducks the oven mit she throws at his head, chasing him from the kitchen.
He watches Cam hug his uncles, get smothered in kisses by aunts, pat his cousins on the back, and throw his arms lazily around friends. After dinner, an event more boisterous and festive than any celebration John Sheppard has ever been to, the Mitchell’s mill around the house with coffee mugs and reminisce. John has enjoyed himself more than he’d ever admit to, and he likes Cam’s family, but the differences in his own now stand so stark against this backdrop of love that it makes John shift uncomfortably against the cold countertop he’s leaning against, and he takes the mug in his hands (cow printed, John notices) and retreats to the quiet of the front porch.
He sits on the top step and curls his hands around the warm mug, staring out into the fading light. The darkness is creeping over the edge of the trees in the distance, the sky a deep cerulean, the porch light bright enough to start attracting moths as they pelt towards the bulb. There are fireflies flickering in the distance. John doesn’t turn when he hears the screen door open and close softly behind him. The footsteps on the creaking porch tell him his intruder is female, and the delicate hand falling gently on his shoulder confirms it.
“Hey John.” The girl sits beside him, her bare feet flat on the step below, sun dress falling over her knees and across her thighs.
“Hi Kara,” John says and he watches as she leans back, her weight on her palms flat on the porch behind her, her legs parting slightly, and her dress creeps up a few inches past decent and the strap of her dress slips down her shoulder. John eyes her appreciatively, slender legs, hour-glass figure, swell of her breasts, and pink lips, eyes bright and blue. John lets his gaze stay fixed on her eyes and she smirks.
“So, Cameron asked me to come check up on you,” Kara explains.
“He did?” John asks, watching her. She nods.
“He had this look on his face,” she starts, “the same look he gave me when he was trying to fix me up with this guy for prom.”
“Oh really?” John asks.
“Yeah, seems to think we’d ‘really hit it off’,” Kara tells him, voice dropping an octave in a poor imitation of Cam. John turns away.
“Sorry, the uh…girlfriend position’s been sort of terminated,” John says, hunching over, looking into his mug. He flicks a gaze over at Kara, who smirks at him, sitting up and smoothing her dress out.
“Hmm. I sort of maybe figured,” Kara says. She’s looking at John, with eyes the same color as Cameron’s and lips twisted up into a conspiratorially smirk, the same one he’s seen on Cam countless times just before they do something heroically stupid, usually involving C4.
“I can be a really excellent hag though,” Kara is telling him, hanging off his arm and smiling. The rational voice in John’s head says to shut up but Kara is looking at him with open, kind eyes, and John wonders if this sympathetic listener thing is genetic, because John isn’t sure why he says it but he tells her,
“Well, it’s your lucky day then…I’m still screening auditions for that part.” John can feel the heat rushing to his face, can feel it in the tips of his ears, but it’s out there.
“Why are you outside, John?” Kara asks, and it throws John for a second because that wasn’t exactly what he was expecting after thrusting open the proverbial doors to his quiet little closet hideaway.
“I uh…needed air. For thinking.”
“About what?” Kara asks, and John realizes she’s still hanging off his arm, her left hand rubbing up and down softly, almost absently.
“That,” John admits, staring down at where their bodies are pressed together.
“Oh,” Kara says, sheepishly, ducking away from John.
“Your family is really…affectionate,” John explains. Kara looks at him thoughtfully. “I don’t…mind it.”
“We are a touchy bunch us Mitchells, but actually…” Kara smirks, and tucks her hair behind her ear. “I’m cold and you’re really unnaturally warm John Sheppard,” she flutters her eye lashes up at him and John smirks. He sets his mug down between his feet and pulls the long sleeve plaid shirt he’s wearing off and helps Kara into it, her arms and legs he sees, now, covered in goose bumps. “Such a gentleman.”
“That’s me,” John says softly.
“You’re not from a large family?” Kara asks, resuming her position leaning comfortably against John. John slings an arm around her and shakes his head.
“No. My dad has money, he worked really hard when I was growing up, so he wasn’t really home much. My brother and I were raised by nannies.” John says, swirling his coffee in his mug, watching it slosh up the sides.
“Your mom not around?” Kara asks softly. John tenses and Kara’s fingers start brushing up and down his forearm.
“She died when I was a kid.”
“I’m so sorry John,” Kara says, squeezing his bicep and she sounds it, more sincere then John’s used to, no pity laced beneath the surface of her words. “My mom passed away when I was fifteen, cancer. That’s when Cam and I grew really close, I came to live with them for awhile.” Kara’s voice hitches and John squeezes her shoulder.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of family bonding in the Sheppard house,” John tells her. He remembers meals at his house, eating dinner in the big dining room, the expansive mahogany table stretching endlessly. He and Dave would eat alone, sitting across from one another at one end of the table, the maid and the nanny standing and watching and waiting to tend to their every need and whim. Dave would ramble about school, the dog he walks by every day on the way home, the box of crayons he spilled upstairs, how many times he went to the bathroom that day; he wouldn’t ever shut up. But the silence was worse, so John listened and nodded and smiled when Dave would look up at him. John would glance down at the chair at the head of the table, the empty plate and shining untouched silverware set out in front of it. Dad never made it home for dinner.
“We used to host Christmas at our house, family and dad’s corporate clients, it was awful,” John confides. He thinks of the suits, the ties that were always too tight and uncomfortable, Dave getting reprimanded for making faces at him across the table. It was always prim and proper, best behavior. He thinks of Cam’s family, food spilling literally and figuratively off an eclectic mismatch of dishes, of Cam’s family screaming trying to be heard over their neighbor, and Cam’s little old grandfather practically deaf, throwing a dinner roll at one of the kids for teasing him about his dentures.
The sun is shining bright on Cam’s face, the smell of salt filling his nostrils as water crashes over and around him. His body sinks into the wet sand beneath him. His skin is cold exposed to the air and the wind as the waves wash out to sea.
John turns to look at him, his face scrunched, one eye screw shut tight against the light, his open green eye bright. He’s smiling at Cam. He has sand in his hair and along his face like stubble. Cam reaches a hand out to brush it away and
“Cameron hon.” Someone is whispering above him. He opens his eyes and stares up at his mother, hovering over his cot.
“Yeah?” He asks, voice raspy.
“Shh, John is still sleeping.” Cam turns and looks up at the bed beside him, and John’s lumpy form beneath the blankets, his hair in messy spikes splayed out on his borrowed pillow.
“I’ll be right down,” Cam whispers. His mother nods and makes her way quietly across the room, closing the door silently behind her. Cam throws the covers off and climbs out of the cot, its metal legs squeaking noisily, but Sheppard doesn’t move. He doesn’t know how it doesn’t wake him up, can’t fathom how he managed to stub his toe the morning before, hopping around the room cursing and practically knocking over most of his furniture without so much as rousing a sleepy grunt from the Major.
He muses on John’s eccentricities as he dresses. On away missions the man will wake, alert and oriented at the slightest ruffle of fabric, the softest whisper, or the distant sound of a snapping twig. Curled up in Cam’s bed, however, (and now that he thinks back to the few times he’s crashed on John’s couch) the man can sleep. Cam’s witnessed John’s unique ability to snooze, crash on anything or anyone (to which Vala can attest). Cam gets it, those are his people too, his team, and John is fiercely loyal and maybe a little overprotective sometimes.
“Team leader,” Cam has to remind John sometimes with a wave his hand at himself, which usually earns him an irritated scowl and a look that says clearly that John couldn’t care less if they crowned him King he still doesn’t like whatever terrible idea they’ve concocted to put Cam’s life in jeopardy over John’s. Self-sacrificing gnat is a pain in the ass sometimes, Cam thinks, staring at the back of John’s head.
He remembers when everyone told him that, back when he flipped Sheppard’s file open and ran his fingers across the name, because he hadn’t thought of John Sheppard in years, and everyone gave him looks like he was crazy, questioning him. “You know what Sheppard did right?” “You know how Sheppard ended up here, right?” “Shouldn’t have given that kind of disobedience a second chance.” “Shoulda been court martialed.”
Cam remembered John Sheppard at twenty with the slouch, and the smirk, and the hair and then John was standing in front of Cam in an SG-1 uniform, his hip canted and arms crossed and a grin on his face like ‘where do I sign?’ and his hair in messy spikes across his forehead.
Before Teal’c and Daniel and Sam rejoined SG-1, John and Cam kind of got into a habit of saving each other’s asses. They never really felt like outsiders, not on purpose anyway, but old SG-1 had nearly nine years to form that bond between them, and Vala, well she’s sort of like a puppy, Cam thinks, bouncing back and forth between everyone like she’s starved for attention. There are the inevitable inside jokes, references to missions that Cam’s read, which Cam gets and explains to John but it isn’t the same, not really. And they share mannerisms, words, phrases that have them nearly in tears, and Vala laughs along like she knows exactly what’s going on and Cam and John watch fondly amused but unable to participate. But he and John have their own language in sports and flying; their own jokes in bad sci-fi and movie nights with exploding microwaves when accidentally nuking tin foil; and their own missions for reminiscing. It’s easy to get close to someone when they’d die for you and you for them.
Cam thinks that’s why they’re always pushed together; and he’s back to John’s sleeping form because no matter the mission John and Cam always share quarters, or are lumped together in a tent. It makes sense, Cam guesses. Sam and Vala usually skip off holding hands to talk about cucumber masks and lingerie or something, that is, when Vala hasn’t managed to snag Daniel’s hand to pull him off to discuss catalogs and the culturally correct use of someone else’s credit card, respectively. Which usually leaves four, staring at each other wondering who should pair off with whom. It is usually at this point that Teal’c stares at Cam and John with a look on his face Cam once saw on a grizzly bear that plainly dares either of them to suggest his company.
Cam can pin point the exact moment Teal’c lost what little patience he had for the ‘intellectually underdeveloped men of the Tau’ri’. It wasn’t even a mission, really, but a mandatory meeting with the IOA in Washington D.C. Two rooms between the six of them and Vala, Sam and Daniel were in one room, Teal’c, John, and Cam in the room next door. The evening started with John dumping his suitcase on one bed, and Cam, his on the other, and Teal’c staring him down until Cam picked his suitcase up and dumped it next to John’s. The evening ended with a heated discussion of the 69’ Mustang versus the ’65 Firebird, with John and Cam crammed into the queen sized bed together, gesticulating wildly and whispering in not so hushed tones to the point of wearing their voices raw with the hissing match.
“What is that?” John had asked suddenly, “it sounds like a dog…” he pushed a hand into Cam’s face to stop his talking and Cam licked at his fingers until John disgustedly removed them, flicking Cam in the forehead for good measure.
“Yeah…what is that?” Cam had said, hearing the low throaty, nasally growl that John had heard. Cam clapped twice and the lights flickered on. Both men screamed and jumped a foot, bumping into each other. Teal’c stared down at them from beside the bed, a look of homicidal rage etched into his features. No one said anything as Teal’c turned and grabbed a pillow, pulled his blanket off the bed and walked out the door, closing it softly behind him.
He never returned.
Cam makes his way down the stairs, grinning.
“What is it?” His mother asks, her own lips twitching up at the grin on her son’s face. Cam shakes his head trying to get John’s petrified look and the feel of his hand clutched around Cam’s bicep out of his mind.
“Nothing Ma,” Cam says, stifling his laugh, “did you need me for something?” He asks, snagging a strip of bacon off the plate on the table.
“Yeah hon, I need you to pick a few things up from the grocery this morning before the hoard of hungry Mitchells come stampeding for breakfast.” Cam nods.
“Sure,” he says, before he remembers. The tattoo on his wrist twinges a bit and he looks down at it peeking out from the sleeve of his shirt: blue.
“I can’t ma,” Cam says, fishing for an explanation.
“And why not Cameron?” She asks, one hand on her hip and staring up at him in disapproval. He ducks his head.
“I need…well Sheppard he…” Cam stutters, wow how has he managed not to get himself killed off world before now? ‘I’m ready to be conveniently beamed up Odyssey’ he thinks staring at his mother.
“Oh, stop Cameron, John is a grown man he’ll be fine the whole half hour it’ll take for you to pick a few things up from the store! He’s not even awake yet!” His mother reprimands, pointing to the door.
“But…I really—classified,” he tries, as his mother shoos him out of the kitchen.
Which is how Cam finds himself in his Mustang, with a grocery list clutched in his hand, staring up at his bedroom window uncertainly. It is only a few things…he is asleep. He remembers when Vala and Daniel were bonded by the Goa’uld bracelets; it took about forty-five minutes before it affected either of them. His mother’s face appears at the kitchen window to glare at him. He starts the car and vows to drive fast.
Twenty minutes later he’s tapping his foot impatiently behind Mrs. Johnson, his now eighty-year old first grade teacher as she unloads her shopping cart one item at a time. He keeps checking his wrist, hoping no one notices the lack of a watch, staring instead at the tattoo, slowly growing darker and darker: grey (anxious). Mrs. Johnson finishes unloading her cart, the bagger reloading as she struggles to get out her check book. Another glance: darker grey, darker, darker, black (very anxious, stressed, tense).
As he pays for his few items he starts to feel it now, pressure building up in his head, nervousness in his stomach, growing light headed. His phone vibrates in his pocket and he slides it out, flips it open as he grabs the two bags.
“Ma?” He asks, fearing the worst.
“Cameron? Hon, you need to come home,” his mother’s voice is a little urgent, the worry in it obvious.
“Sheppard, what’s wrong?” Cam asks, already heading out the door.
“How’d…he’s sick, I asked him if he needed me to call Doctor Harris but he said no, he—“
“I’m on my way, tell him I’ll be right there.” Cameron hangs up before his mother can finish her sentence, tossing the groceries into the passenger’s seat and pulling out of the parking lot before he even has a chance to buckle his seatbelt.
When he gets home, his mother grabs his arms.
“He came down stairs a little while ago looking like death Cameron, he asked where you were. I told him you went to run an errand for me,” his mother is looking at him guilty. “What’s wrong with him?”
“I uh…where is he?” Cam asks, putting the grocery bags on the table. She points up the stairs. Cam nods and heads for the stairs, taking them two at a time.
“Sheppard?” Cam shouts, bursting into his bedroom. John is sitting hunched over on the cot, clutching his head. Cam crosses the room and drops to his knees beside him, grabbing at his hands and replacing them with his own. “Shit, Sheppard. I’m sorry.”
“S’alright, m’fine,” John says shaking his head, but he stops quickly, paling further. “Fuck,” he hisses pushing Cam away and trying to stand, collapsing instead on to all fours snatching the wastebasket by Cam’s desk just in time to retch into it.
“C’mere,” Cam says softly, when John seems to be done for the moment, his face red and blotchy, his hair clinging to his sweat slicked face. He helps John to his feet, throws an arm around his shoulder, the other clutching his waist, John clings to him, falling against him as Cam helps him down the hall and into the bathroom. He positions John in front of the toilet and rubs at his back a little awkwardly when John gets sick again.
John doesn’t look at him when he pulls back away from the toilet, stares down at his trembling hands instead. Cam grabs a paper towel off of the sink and hands it to him, John wipes at his mouth and flushes the toilet, standing on shaky legs.
“Here,” Cam says, reaching for a bottle of mouth wash and pouring a small amount into a Dixie cup. John swirls it around his mouth and spits it into the sink, washing the green liquid away down the drain and splashing water onto his flushed face. Cam doesn’t need empathic abilities to read the humiliation John’s feeling.
“I hate puking.” Cam says, “I always feel like it should be followed by crying and screaming for my mama,” Cam confesses, truthfully. John’s lip quirks up in a smirk and he allows Cam to lead him back to his bedroom. “You need to lie down.” John, for the first time in history doesn’t argue with Cam, just lets Cam push him back against his bed.
Cam grabs the wastebasket and brings it into the bathroom to clean out. When he comes back he has a cold wet wash cloth in his hand and he places it gently over John’s forehead. Then he moves the fan in the corner of his room closer, turns it on low, and positions it so it’s blowing gently across John’s hot skin. John doesn’t say anything as Cam does this, keeps his eyes closed and his whole body still, lying on his back. Cam pulls the shades down on his window in case John’s photosensitive.
“Take this,” Cam says, pushing a glass of water into John’s hand and John sits up enough to take the two pills Cam hands him. “Doctor Lam gave it to me to give to you in case one of us did something stupid. It’s vicodin,” Cam says watching John swallow the pain medication.
Cam feels like shit. He hovers at the edge of the bed and wonders if he should just leave John be and go down stairs to try and make up some excuse for this. But instead he walks toward the bed, kicks off his shoes and sits down beside John.
“You don’t have to stay you know, I think I’ll be fine.” John says.
“I am so sorry Sheppard. My ma…she was all…and I’m a really terrible liar.” Cam explains; John smirks, like he agrees and Cam smiles.
“I’ll be fine, Cam,” John tries to reassure him but Cam shakes his head, even though John can’t see it.
“Maybe the proximity will make you get better faster.”
“Maybe,” John sighs like he’s too tired to argue. Cam settles in beside him. The bed is way too small for two grown men and Cam can either hang off one edge, or scoot closer to John. John is still, his arms dropped by his sides on the mattress beneath them. Cam moves experimentally closer, sliding in the smallest of increments, giving John time to protest, or his body language to tell Cam ‘okay there’s good’. But John doesn’t move, so Cam edges close until their bodies are barely grazing, Cam’s thigh by John’s side, and his hip by John’s head; John feels hot.
Cam looks down at his wrist in the meager light, watching as the symbol starts fading to a pale yellow. Cam slides the small card out of his pocket, where it’s been tucked since he first found it. His eyes skim down to the little label: unsettled, mixed emotions.
Cam folds his arms across his chest and closes his eyes, intending to sit still and quiet until John feels well enough to venture down stairs.
Cam’s eyes flutter open, he looks up from the bed, but there’s nothing there, the room is empty, the door ajar. He yawns, his eyes falling shut, his head gently collapsing back against the pillow before he takes in his surroundings. The fan is blowing cool air across his shoulder, and he cuddles closer to the warmth in front of him instinctually, his arms tucked in front of him. He opens his eyes again, realization hitting him. He’s pressed against John’s back, one of his legs tangled between John’s, his face practically buried in the back of John’s hair.
He tenses, doesn’t move, trying not to stir John awake. He’s fairly certain John was privy to his jerk off session, the last thing he needs is for John to wake up with his ass fit snug against Cam’s crotch. Cam starts to back away, sliding his leg out carefully when John stirs.
“Hey Sheppard, how’re you feelin’?” Cam asks, a little enthusiastically.
“Are you spooning me?” John asks uncertain, freezing.
“Uhm,” says Cam. “Not on purpose.” He expects John to get up, or maybe move away or push him off or something. Instead he flips over onto his stomach and buries his face into his pillow, his arms reaching beneath it to hug it to his face and chest. Cam rolls onto his back and stares up at the ceiling. He feels…content. More than that, he feels…like his stomach has turned into cotton candy. He stares at the back of John’s head. Does John’s stomach feel like cotton candy? Does he feel…light…and happy? Cam is overcome with the desire to reach out and touch. He curls his hand into a fist and presses it into his side.
“I love vicodin,” John says, and Cam is pretty sure his voice just went up a little at the end on a giggle. He relaxes back into the sheets. Drugs. Right.
“Feelin’ pretty good over there buddy?”
“I dreamt I was almost eaten by a whale,” John explains.
“Ate the clown instead,” and John is definitely laughing now, into Cam’s pillow.
“You are fucked up Sheppard,” Cam tells him, in all seriousness, punching him lightly on the back with his knuckles, leaving his arm draped there.
“So they tell me,” John sighs, his head turning on the pillow, and now he’s staring at Cam, peeking through the curtain of his hair splayed across his forehead, out from underneath his lashes, and above the ridge of his arm.
“Do you remember when we were at the Academy together?” John asks. Cam stares at him, pausing, before he nods. John doesn’t say anything else.
“What about it?” Cam asks, prompting him to continue.
“What? Oh…nothing. I just wanted to know if you remembered,” John says with a shrug.
“You thought I’d forget?” Cam smirks, and John shrugs. “You’re pretty memorable Sheppard.”
“S’what your mom said.” Cam rolls his eyes and John laughs. They fall silent then, Cam with his hand across John’s back, absently stroking along Sheppard’s spine with his knuckles. John’s eyes fall shut, his breath evening out until Cam thinks he’s asleep.
“Why’d you ask me to join SG-1?” It takes a minute for Cam to process the mumbled words muffled by Sheppard’s arm and longer to process the answer. An answer he doesn’t really have because truthfully?
“I don’t know.” Cam tells him, letting his hand fall still against the warmth seeping through the thin t-shirt on John’s back.
“But everyone told you right?” John asks, and he doesn’t need to explain any further but he says, quietly, “’bout Afghanistan.” Cam turns on his side to face John, his arm bent at an awkward angle now so he slides it across John’s back, down his side to tuck it into himself.
“So why?” John asks. “Why’d you choose me, after what I did?” Cam cocks his head and stares at John.
“Because of what you did.”
“John.” John falls silent. “You didn’t leave your men behind.” Cam’s tone is clipped.
“Might as well have, for all the good—“
“When I crashed,” Cam interrupts, clearing his throat. “I remember thinking, this is it. I remember remembering everything I’ve never wanted to forget. My mom’s cooking, my dad teaching me how to drive the summer I turned fourteen, my dog, learning about the Stargate Program, flying for the first time…” Cam trails off staring at a spot somewhere to John’s right.
“I know what it feels like…wondering who’s coming for you.” Cam’s fingers are toying with the edge of John’s t-shirt, and he can see a strip of pale skin above the waistband of his jeans. He’s staring at it, avoiding John’s penetrating gaze, and his cock is stirring in his jeans and his hand is moving forward, to stroke the sleep warm skin of Sheppard’s stomach.
“John,” he whispers. But John is rolling over away from him, standing up quickly, tripping over the cot by the bed, and dodging out the door, mumbling incoherently about feeling better. Cam turns on his back, clamps a hand over his eyes and slams a fist into the mattress beneath him. He curls one leg up on the bed, his foot flat against the mattress, one hand moving to press against the hardness against his thigh.
“Fuck. What the fuck.” He rolls over on his stomach, shouting into his pillow.
Ch 2: Chromophobia | Chapter 4: Repulsion