blue flamingos

Keep Going

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis/Stargate SG1

Category/Rated: Slash, NC-17

Year/Length: 2009/~7600 words

Pairing: John/Cam

Disclaimer: Not mine, to my eternal disappointment.

Summary: If you're not dead, it can get better.

Series: Tag to Trick of the Light and hence part of the Dysfunction 'verse.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

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John doesn't doze off, can't switch his brain off any better now than he could before, with Jack. Even in his head, he can't go away, and so he lies there, half a breath from falling, until the room goes quiet.

Then he gets up.

It's easy enough to find his clothes, the desk lamp still switched on, everything folded neatly enough to make his CO proud. If he had one. He gets dressed and his hands don't shake at all, though he's cold enough that he should be shivering. He checks he has his wallet, does what he can to smooth his hair without a mirror.

The corridor light is bright enough to make him blink, and he doesn't look back into the room as he eases the door closed. If anyone's watching him, he can't tell, doesn't want to know. The elevator is mirrored, something he can't remember noticing when he rode up in it. He catches a glimpse of himself in it, thinks all dressed up and nowhere to go, thick with irony, and looks down at his boots, the black floor.

The night clerk is bent over a book – a student, probably – when John goes up to the desk. He's not as good as the valet, doesn't quite lock down his expression fast enough when he gets a look at John. John ignores it. He's never coming back here.

"I need a room," he says, and his voice comes out scratchy, hoarse. He really hopes it just sounds tired to the clerk.

The clerk blinks. "I'll see what we have available, sir." His fingers fly over the keyboard. "We have a single available, or there are several –"

"A single's fine." John hands over his credit card. Whatever they're charging, and it's probably a lot, it'll be worth it. He knows there are limits to what hot water and complementary shower gel can do, but the gift shop isn't open this late.

"Can I book you a table for breakfast?" the clerk asks, running John's card.

"No," John says, and shuts his mouth firmly, before he can say anything else, anything revealing or dangerous or stupid.

His room is on the seventh floor, not that it means anything. Same peach corridors, same identical doors. He could be next door, but he tells himself firmly that he's not.

He stands in the shower until he starts to feel like he can't breathe through the steam, skin gone bright pink, wrinkled. He doesn't think of anything, just stares at the tiles in front of his eyes, mind empty. He feels warm, but as soon as he opens the bathroom door, he's shivering again, even wrapped in a bathrobe.

He tosses his underwear, even though he feels uncomfortably exposed without. Limits to what a shower can do, and that's a little way past the limit. He ties his boots, tight enough for a steep hike on rocky ground, and zips his leather jacket closed. None of it helps much, but it helps enough. His hair dries fast, and people will assume what they always have.

He leaves the key card in the room, and if the clerk looks up, he looks down again too fast for John to catch him.

The doorman offers to call John a cab, or get his car brought round, and John says, "No. Thanks. I'm going to walk."

"Bit chilly for it," the doorman says.

John nods. The man must be right, but John can't feel it.

He's been walking for maybe twenty minutes when he realizes he's walking towards the mountain and stops.

And then starts again, because he's in the middle of a street he doesn't recognize, in the middle of the night, and it doesn't matter whether he wants to go there or not: he doesn't have anywhere else on Earth to go right now.

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Cam's looking for Teal'c, who he's ninety per cent sure is still on the planet, when he stumbles across John instead. Almost literally stumbles, because John's standing in the corridor, hands empty, like he just ran out of steam or something. Which Cam kind of gets, because it's 0730 in the morning, which is about an hour earlier than he knows John likes to be at work, given the choice.

"Conference room's that way," he says, pointing over his shoulder, grinning. "But you're going the wrong way if you want coffee."

He expects John to look up, grin back, say something sarcastic or mildly abusive. He doesn't expect John to lift his head and look at him with blank, almost vacant eyes. "What?" John says, sounding distant.

"You okay?" Cam asks. He wants to reach for John's arm, feels like he's watching John drift away even while he's standing right there, but John might as well have a force field round him, he's radiating don't touch me so hard. "You hear something about Atlantis?"

John shakes his head, and when he stops, he seems more alert. More *there*. "No. Everything's fine." There's a split second pause, then he adds, "Didn't sleep well."

It shouldn't mean anything, but Cam's been near John for four years, knows him well enough to know how well he covers anything even a little personal. And even if he didn't, that tiny pause for thought is enough to tell him it does mean something.

What it doesn't tell him is what it means.

"Tell me about it," he says, keeping his tone as light as he can manage. "Feel like I'm waiting for the place to collapse on me every time I have to spend the night here." The corner of John's mouth lifts in what might be a really small smile. "Let me take you out for a beer later. Get some fresh air."

John just looks at him for a long moment, long enough to make Cam want to take it back. Then he looks down again, shoulders slumping, and says, "Sure," absolutely flat.

He's walking away before Cam can even ask what the hell he just did wrong.

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"Colonel Sheppard," the Russian IOA member says, and John blinks, looks at him. He doesn't look happy, but then, he doesn't have the kind of face that could ever really do a good job of 'happy.' "Are we keeping you from something more pressing?"

"No, sir," John says. It's the third time this has happened to him today, and the worst part is, he doesn't even know he's doing it until someone prompts him. One moment he's listening to the discussion, the next he's being glared at by the IOA, like the gap in between never happened. "I'm sorry."

"We've moved on to the matter of Mr. Woolsey committing further resources from Atlantis to Pegasus. We'd like you to expand a little more on the circumstances leading up to that."

It takes John a few seconds to figure out what the man's talking about. Yesterday, he had Jack to prompt what he couldn't get fast enough. Today isn't yesterday. Jack hasn't said a word all morning, and if he's giving off hints, John's not looking.

"We were invited to a meeting of a coalition of Pegasus planets," John starts.

"We were involved in that decision," the Chinese member says. "We'd like to know about what happened after that."

"They used a gas through the bars of the room we were in to knock my team out," John says. "We woke up in a cell, and they asked to speak to me. I was told the expedition was accused of crimes against the people of Pegasus, that it was a trial."

"This is what was in your report," the Russian says. John's given up learning the names of the IOA, they change so fast.

"Yes, sir." They all look at John expectantly. "I'm not sure what you're looking for here."

"How it is that three Pegasus natives managed to force your hand to the point that you agreed, after they threatened the lives of your team and Mr. Woolsey, to provide additional resources to their fight?"

"It became clear after a while that the council wasn't planning on giving us a fair trial," John says, still not sure he's telling them what they want to know. He shifts, uncomfortable sitting still all day. "Woolsey suggested that one of the council members came from a plant that was allied with..."

"Colonel Sheppard?" the Russian member prompts again.

"With, er," John says, but the name of the other planet's gone, wiped away. "That one of the..." He can feel it this time, the tug of disconnection. He wants to follow it, badly.

"Are you all right?" The British member is leaning towards him, reaching her hand out.

"I'm fine," John says. He pulls up what he hopes is a convincing smile. "Our intelligence suggested that one of the council members came from a planet that was allied with the Genii," he continues, and doesn't look over at Jack, not once.

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Walter Harriman finds him when the meeting finally breaks up. "General Landry asked me to pass on that the Daedalus is in orbit and ready to beam you back out to Atlantis when you're ready."

John's used to the name of his city giving him a weird jolt of familiarity, but this is different. If he didn't know better, he'd say it was nerves. Whatever it is, he wants to give in to it.

"Thinking of staying here for the night," he says. "How much time can you really spend looking at the San Francisco Bridge from an alien city?"

Harriman's look clearly says 'plenty,' and John wonders what it's like for him, stuck on one side of the gate, never getting to see the plants he's connecting Earth to. Even the gate techs on Atlantis are living on another planet, in another galaxy. "Well, sir, if you change your mind."

It's only when he gets back to his barren quarters in the base of the mountain that John remembers. He agreed to go for a drink with Mitchell. He blinks, and for a split second, he's back in the bar, watching the light bounce off the amber of Jack's whiskey.

He wonders what Mitchell will drink. Wonders if he has a hotel room somewhere, or if he'll take John back to his apartment.

Mitchell and Daniel are friends as well as team-mates.

At least with Mitchell, John doesn't have to worry about looking like what he is. His black uniform shirt could pass for civilian, without the patches, and so could his gray BDUs. It's not the best, most inconspicuous outfit he's ever put together, but he knows Mitchell will like it.

He's hesitating, torn between going to look for Mitchell and waiting for Mitchell to come get him, when someone knocks at the door.

It's Mitchell, of course, casual in faded jeans and a gray t-shirt. He looks John over, head to boot-clad feet, and when he looks back up, John's not surprised at all that he says, "Why don't we just go back to my place, instead of finding a bar?"

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John's first thought, walking into Mitchell's apartment, is that it's nice. Normal: cream walls, mahogany furniture, dark green couch. Bookshelves, stereo, TV, and it's neat, tidy, but still like someone lives there, family photos on the shelves, empty mug on the coffee table. It's almost enough to make him relax, until Mitchell touches his back, moving him out of the way, and John remembers what he's doing here.

"Make yourself at home," Mitchell says lightly, tossing his jacket over the back of the couch and heading into the kitchen. "Pretty sure I've still got beer from the last team night," he calls back as John kneels to untie his boots. "Or, ah..." John looks up to find Mitchell standing in the doorway, watching him. "I might have forgotten to go grocery shopping," he says, sounding apologetic. "You want to order something? There's a decent Indian near here that delivers."

John stands up, feeling awkward, then wonders if he should have stayed down. He can't tell what Mitchell's thinking. "I'm not really hungry," he says, hesitating. It's true, but he doesn't know why Mitchell's offering.

Mitchell smiles. "Maybe later. Probably not a good idea for me to send you back to the base drunk."

John smiles back, takes the beer Mitchell offers him. He's a little surprised when Mitchell takes the other end of the couch, space between them, and flicks on the TV. "You miss this?" he asks, channel surfing.

John looks at him, not sure what Mitchell's asking.

"TV," Mitchell clarifies. "Well, stuff you haven't waited a month for the Daedalus to bring."

John shrugs. "I guess," he says, though he doesn't, really. They've got movies for move night, and sports scores come in the data-burst. It's not like he'd have time to watch TV if they did have it.

"Too much else to do, huh," Mitchell says, reading his mind. He finally settles on a documentary about either sharks or scuba diving, it's hard to tell, and leans back. "This okay?"

"Fine," John says. They've missed the beginning and he's not really expecting to see the end, so it's hard to work up much enthusiasm for anything.

Mitchell gives him a weird look, not quite a smile, and leans further back against the arm of the couch, apparently engrossed in the show. John does his best to focus on what's happening on the screen – definitely about sharks, which is almost a disappointment, he'd have preferred scuba diving – but his eyes keep flickering over to Mitchell, waiting. For him to say something, move, slide one arm along the back of the couch like they're teenagers in a movie theatre.

Mitchell just keeps sitting though, drinking his beer, watching the sharks. John tries to do the same, but his stomach's tight with nerves, expectation, and the carbonation makes him feel a little like he might throw up. That's almost enough to make him want to drink it, except for how that makes him feel like a stupid teenager. He wonders what Mitchell would say if he stood up, said he had to leave. Said they needed him back in Atlantis.

He's still not really sure why he didn't go, after he spent the week desperate to be back there. There's been a weird vibe amongst his team since they got to Earth, made even more so by how much more of Teyla they're seeing, Kanaan and Torren back in Pegasus. Not that John begrudges her the time with her family, of course. It's more that, with Rodney and Keller, Ronon and Banks, having Teyla around makes John even more conscious of much they're all moving on, making lives and families outside the team.

On screen, the invisible narrator is talking about shark attacks on boats, research into whether they're attracted to the electricity, and Mitchell shifts, looks at John. "You want another?" he asks, gesturing with his empty bottle, looking like he's set to keep this up indefinitely.

John can't take it any more, just wants to get it over with. He puts his mostly full bottle on the floor and follows the motion of his arm with the rest of his body, until he's on his knees, between Mitchell's legs. "Not really," he says, keeping his voice low, the closest he's going to get to seductive.

Mitchell's frozen, and John doesn't look at him, just reaches for the fly of his faded jeans, rubbing his palm up the length of Mitchell's soft cock then easing the zipper open.

"John," Mitchell says, voice expressionless.

John lifts his face, keeps his eyes down, smiles a little, then ducks back down, rubs his cheek against Mitchell's black boxer briefs. It's an awkward angle, Mitchell sitting too far back on the deep couch, and John regrets it, pulls back a little to adjust.

He's not expecting Mitchell's hand on his shoulder, pushing him back, away. It's better than a hand in his hair, the tug of pain. "What the hell are you doing?" Mitchell asks, soft, expressionless.

John can't look at him, feeling his face flush with humiliation. He should have waited for Mitchell, shouldn't have gotten impatient. Should have at least asked, Jesus.

"I'm sorry," he says, contrite, looking up. "Just – just tell me what you want."

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John's face is pale, making his eyes seem huge and dark, and he's tense under Cam's hand. And the worst part is, Cam recognizes that voice, that fumbling apology, and fuck, he's so completely not equipped to deal with this.

He lifts his hand away from John's shoulder as slowly as he can, because he's ninety per cent sure this is all going to go to hell real badly in the next minute or so, and he can at least do that. He wants to zip his jeans up, but less than he wants not to draw attention to what just tried to happen.

John's still on his knees, looking up at Cam, and Cam says, "What happened?" soft, quiet. He really doesn't want John to run.

John's looking right at him, which means Cam can watch the confusion, the doubt, chase across John's face. Can see the exact moment that John gets it, all of it, what Cam's asking, what Cam knows. What Cam meant when he invited John over for a drink, and then John looks down, away, head dropping. Cam thinks it's probably just a need to hide, but it looks submissive, and that's a bad vibe for this conversation. He slides down onto the floor, close enough to touch John, but far enough away that he's not.

None of the questions he has, the things he has to say, are right for this, but he can't let the silence keep going. "It's okay," he says. "You can tell me. What happened?"

John looks up then, still silent, and when he blinks, his eyes are bright enough to break Cam's heart.

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"I'm sorry," Mitchell says. He's so quiet, so fucking gentle, and John can feel it, somewhere in his chest, deep, aching pain like he hasn't felt in so long. "I didn't mean to make you think –"

That I was asking you back here for sex, John fills in, silently. That I wanted you for that.

"John," Mitchell says, and his fingers brush John's bare arm, hardly there touch of skin on skin. It burns, red hot like John should be able to smell scorched flesh, and it's too much, God, way past too much.

John doesn't realize he's pushing away until he's stumbling into something, feet tangling, banging his wrist against something solid.

Mitchell moves, half-starts towards John, and John can't do this, can't stay here, waiting for his secrets to spill out, for Mitchell to lull him into saying things he doesn't want to say to anyone.

"Don't go," Mitchell says. He sounds desperate, frightened, and when John looks at him, he's moved away, back against the couch, barely looking at John. "Don't go, please. You're not even wearing your shoes."

John looks down at his feet, confused. He's wearing black dress socks, left over from his uniform. It's so normal, in the middle of everything else, that he can't contain the laugh bubbling up in his throat. He wishes he'd tried harder though, because it comes out as a hysterical giggle, and once he's started, he can't seem to make it stop.

Not until his breath catches, way too close to a sob, and he sinks down to the floor again, knees drawn up, pressing his face down. He'd give everything he has in the world for Cam to come and hug him.

"I thought he wanted to sleep with me," he says, not sure the words are even audible. He knows he can't look at Cam while he says this, isn't even sure he wants to, but his mouth's going on autopilot, and he's not sure he wants to stop it. "But they just wanted someone to stand in for what they won't do."

He hears Cam take a breath, like he's going to ask, and then close his mouth with an audible click. He's always known Cam's smart, good at figuring things out, and then Cam says, "O'Neill," not a question at all.

"And Jackson," John adds. It feels okay, someone knowing, as long as he doesn't have to look at Cam. He's not sure he can lift his head up anyway, it feels like a lead weight. His whole body does, and he thinks that if he sits like this, dark and quiet with his eyes closed, for much longer, he'll just fall asleep. "Tired," he says, and that's much harder than the other stuff was. It's hard to remember a time when it wasn't true. Before Atlantis. Maybe even before Antarctica.

"I know," Cam says, still soft. John can hear the thread of anger under it, but he knows it's not directed at him. He should say something, tell Cam not to get involved, but Cam's a smart guy, he'll figure it out. "Do you want to sleep here? Just sleep, I'll leave you alone."

John remembers, vague and distant, but he remembers, how good it feels to sleep – just sleep – with someone else there. As much as he wanted what he thought Jack was offering him, as much as he wanted Cam to hug him, he thinks he wants that more, warmth and skin and someone else's heart beat against his. "You don't have to," he says.

There's a long pause, then he hears Cam move, feels him come closer. The hand on his shirt-covered shoulder isn't enough to make him startle, and Cam says, "Okay. Let's go to bed."

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Cam's not really asleep, because it's only nine thirty, too early to be sleeping, but he's not really awake either, because John's curled against him, warm and pliant in sweatpants and a long-sleeved t-shirt, and Cam feels like John's ebbing panic is stealing his own energy as well. He doesn't know what to think about this, because they know each other, but they're not really friends, and even if they were, this is way past friends and into the realm of something he shouldn't be thinking about when John's this vulnerable.

The sudden shrill of a cell phone yanks him awake fast enough that he's fumbling for his own on the night stand before he realizes the sound's too far away, muffled. John stirs a little, not quite waking up but getting there, and it rings again. Cam stifles the urge to groan, slides carefully out from John's body, and pads over to the chair to fumble through the pockets of John's uniform pants.

He flips the phone open as he's slipping out into the corridor, pulling the door closed behind him. "Hello?"

"Sh – wait, who's this?" Cam recognizes the voice and fights down another groan, because Rodney McKay is so far from being who Cam wants to deal with right now.

"This is Cameron Mitchell, can I help you?"

"Yes, you can help me, you can give Sheppard his phone so I can speak to him."

"No can do, Doctor, sorry, he's sleeping."

"Why is he sleeping?" McKay asks, voice sliding into suspicion. "Tell me you haven't let him get himself injured off-world, I knew we shouldn't have let him go off to the SGC without one of us there to keep an eye on him."

Cam's stunned silent for a minute, caught between near outrage at the unfairness of McKay's remarks about both him and John, and the slow burn of his own anger, because, seriously, why is he the one dealing with John's breakdown, when John's got three team-mates back on Atlantis who are supposed to be his best friends and his family, supposed to take care of him? "He's tired," he says, keeping his voice as level and polite as possible.

"Tired," McKay parrots. "He's supposed to be back in Atlantis tonight."

"He won't be coming," Cam says firmly. Won't be going anywhere, all weekend, if Cam has his way, which he probably will, because O'Neill has a lot of sway around the SGC and O'Neill owes John a fucking truckload more than a weekend off.

"Because he's sleeping," McKay says doubtfully. "Look, has something happened to him? Because if it has, we ought to know."

"Why?" Cam asks. He checks the door again, hopes John's still sleeping. Hopes John stays asleep until Cam's back, doesn't wake up and think Cam's abandoned him.

"Why should we know? We're his friends."

"Then you need to start doing a better job of it," Cam says. He shouldn't be doing this, knows it, but he can't shout at the people he wants to be shouting at, and anyway, he's pretty damn keen to shout at John's team right now. "Where the hell have you been for the last few months?"

"I don't – what's that supposed to mean?"

"It's supposed to mean that John's exhausted and stressed and depressed, and I can't figure out how none of you noticed." He sounds angrier than he feels, he thinks, or maybe sadder, though he feels pretty angry and pretty sad right now, so it's hard to tell. He's probably going to really regret this in the morning, but right now, it feels good.

"In case you hadn't noticed, he's the military commander of Atlantis. Everyone out here's exhausted and stressed and depressed, it doesn't make him special."

"Everyone's not getting into fucked up, out of control situations because of it," Cam says. He doesn't add that John's doing it because he wants to feel like someone cares about him; exhausted and stressed and depressed is enough for now.

"What's that supposed to mean?" McKay asks again, but he sounds different now, quiet, subdued. "Is he okay?"

"Not really," Cam says, and sighs. "Look, he's – I don't think he's coming back to Atlantis this weekend." It's not his place to say that he doesn't think John wants to, not yet. That maybe John feels better at the SGC, where he doesn't expect anyone to be looking out for him, than in Atlantis where he does and they're not. "I know you don't want to listen to me."

"I want to talk to Sheppard," McKay says, flipped right back to stubborn in the space of three sentences.

"You can't," Cam says. "I'm not waking him up. I know you don't like me, but trust me when I tell you that I know what I'm talking about. He needs this."

"Needs what?" McKay asks.

"A break," Cam says, and snaps the phone shut again. He switches it to silent, just in case, but McKay doesn't call back.

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Cam calls the SGC at 0700 on Saturday morning, John still dead asleep in Cam's bed, and asks for General O'Neill, hands shaking from being clenched so tight on the handset.

"What's up, Mitchell?" O'Neill says, around about the time the hold music was making Cam want to scream.

"Can you arrange for Colonel Sheppard to have this weekend off?" Cam asks, so polite it's making his teeth hurt. It's not like O'Neill won't know, or at least take a damn good guess, but Cam's not going to say it. He can't fix whatever O'Neill and Jackson broke in John, but he can sure as hell keep it from cracking any further. "And me," he adds as an afterthought, though the team's on stand-down right now, so he doesn't really need it.

There's a pause, then O'Neill says, "Sure," all the cheer gone from his voice.

"Thank you," Cam says, closing his mouth before he can add the near-automatic sir.

John stirs a little when Cam climbs back into bed with him, but doesn't even get close to waking up. It makes Cam's throat ache, a little, that John needs the comfort so badly it can over-ride his military trained body clock. He's got no idea what he's going to do come Monday morning, but that's two days away, long enough not to worry over it yet.

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John wakes up to warmth and daylight and the sound of someone else breathing next to him, and lies very still, waiting for whatever happened to come back to him. He tries not to stay over with his occasional one-night stands, really tries never to stay long enough to be sneaking out in daylight, and then his brain switches back on and he remembers. He's in Cameron Mitchell's bed, because he didn't want to go back to Atlantis, and because Cam didn't want to sleep with him.

"You awake?" Cam asks softly.

John opens his eyes, then tips his head enough to look at Cam's face, rather than his shoulder, which John apparently wound up using as a pillow at some point in the night. He's too worn down to care. "You could have got up," he says.

"Yeah, but then I'd have felt like I should be cleaning the apartment or dealing with three weeks' worth of bills." Cam smiles a little, almost wary, and John smiles back. It feels good, and so does Cam's leg pressed against his, even through the borrowed sweatpants he's wearing.

"That's what you do for fun on a Saturday morning?" he asks, shifting so his hand's resting on Cam's shoulder over his t-shirt.

Cam hesitates, then makes a rueful face. "It's probably a bad thing if I say that actually sounds like more fun than most of my Saturday mornings, isn't it?"

"Yeah," John says, and tilts his head a little more, until he can kiss Cam, morning breath and dry lips and none of it matters because this is what he wants.

So of course Cam nudges him gently away, face dark and serious. "I don't think this is a good idea."

"It is." John doesn't have the words to explain how this is different from Jack and Daniel, that while he thought he was going to get what he needed from Jack, he *knows* he'll get it from Cam. "It's not – I'm not that fucked up."

"John," Cam says, worry and reprimand all rolled into one. He sighs, and John feels his chest move with it, they're still that close. "I don't want to make things worse."

"You won't," John promises. He's not all that sure things can actually get worse, but even if they can, this won't do it.

Cam just looks at him, long and hard enough that John wants to look away. He doesn't, because he's sure that if he does, Cam will say no. "Choose a word," Cam says finally, just about the last thing John was expecting him to say.

"A –" John starts, and then he gets it, remembers wanting to be able to say stop without needing to say the actual word. He doesn't want to ask how Cam gets it as well. He says the first thing that comes into his head: "Whisky."

Cam blinks, but doesn't comment. "Whenever you want to," he says instead, earnestly. "Whenever you need."

John nods, feels his face start to flush, and leans in, kisses Cam. Cam's careful as he kisses back, and John still shudders. He can't remember the last time he kissed someone he cared about, which is something he'd really prefer not to think about. He runs his hand up the side of Cam's neck instead, strokes his thumb across the edge of Cam's jaw. There's a part of him that wants to take Cam's t-shirt off, but his arm still burns from Cam touching his bare skin and his wrist is starting to bruise from his freak out. He thinks Cam without a shirt on might be more than he could take, and then Cam slides one hand, open and gentle, into his hair and John has to close his eyes against the memory.

They kiss for so long that John starts to wonder if it's going to go any further, even when his touch-starved body is drinking in the sensation in, all of it going straight to his cock. He shifts his weight, slides one leg between Cam's and can't quite curb his smile, because Cam might be going slow, but the important parts aren't, so much.

Even less so when John rubs his thigh against Cam's cock a little and Cam groans. Maybe John's not the only one starting to forget what sex feels like. It's been a while since John had the kind of sex that feels like this.

"I could blow you," he offers, lifting his head a little to look at Cam's mouth, red from kissing. "Or you could fuck me." He can already imagine it, so slow to be nearly torturous, enough for him not to care that he can still feel the phantom ache of Daniel's cock in him.

"Too much effort," Cam says, sounding like he's laughing a little. He thrusts up a little, rubbing his erection against John's thigh. "Like this."

John wonders if he should offer to take his sweatpants off, help Cam get rid of his boxers, but Cam's rocking into him, and it's easier just to go with it, slide his leg in counterpoint, still kissing as Cam's arms tighten around him, pressing him down and close. He's warm all along the length of John's body, warm and close, and *Cam*, so fucking safe it hurts, rubbing off against John's leg because he maybe knows that's about as much as John can handle right now.

And so goddamn polite, so that he doesn't even complain when he comes in his underwear with a low moan that makes John's cock twitch. He's always had a thing for listening to his partner's come, their low, broken moans and high gasps.

He's trembling a little with it when Cam rolls him onto his back, runs a hand down John's stomach to rest at the waistband of his pants. "Please," John says, even though it makes him shiver harder. "Cam, please."

Cam's hand wrapping round his aching cock is no less intense than Cam's hand on his arm, not that John ever expected it would be, but it's a level of intense that he can deal with. He drops his head back onto the pillows, closes his eyes, lets Cam drop kisses over his face, his eyelids, his nose, his cheek, and jerk him off, firm and steady, thumb rubbing over the head of his cock.

"I've got you," Cam says, right in his ear, followed by a kiss to the tip of his ear, the corner of his eye. "You're safe, I've got you."

And goddamn Cam Mitchell for knowing exactly what John needs to hear, because that, more than anything else, is enough to crack something inside him, enough so he can let go and come over Cam's hand and his own thighs, feeling Cam's feather soft kisses freckle over his skin.

He knows the exact moment he's come down too far from the endorphin high of orgasm, because he goes from warm and drowsy against Cam to hyper-conscious of his own drying come, the damp patch on the pants he's wearing.

"I need a shower," he says, voice too loud in the mid-morning quiet, and feels Cam tense against him.

"Clean towels in the bathroom," he says. "I'll find something else you can wear."

John stands in the shower for a long time. Even Cam's endless hot water isn't enough to wash the sense memories away.

hr

John goes back to sleep after his shower, hair still damp on Cam's pillow, and when Cam finally decides enough's enough and wakes him up for food – hard to tell what meal it is, scrambled eggs and bacon and toast, except it's early afternoon – it's like none of it happened, the sex or John's odd reaction after. Or maybe it's just that John's not awake enough to have any kind of real reaction to it; he eats leaning his head on one hand, half a breath from falling asleep, and Cam doesn't want to ask.

Doesn't get the chance, because John drifts away back to bed as soon as he's finished his orange juice.

He curls up against Cam again when Cam finally goes to bed that evening, though, and Cam tells himself that means he hasn't fucked this up beyond all repair.

He's still guiltily glad to get a call from Sam, asking him to go in to the mountain, late Sunday morning. John's still sleeping, though he's getting restless, waking up enough to talk a little, fidget, before falling asleep again. Cam's not quite ready to start worrying yet, not when he's read the Atlantis reports, can imagine how little sleep John's been getting, but he thinks worrying is probably right around the corner, because even awake, John doesn't seem *there*.

He showers, gets dressed, then sits on the edge of the bed to shake John gently awake. John blinks at him silently, hair a dark mess against Cam's pillow. He smells of sleep, and Cam wants to kiss him, isn't sure it would be welcome. He doesn't think they can avoid talking about it at all – doesn't entirely want to, because he won't push for more with John right now, but he can't help thinking, maybe, maybe.

"I have to go in to work for a while," he says. "I'll be back this evening. There's food in the kitchen when you get hungry." If, he amends silently.

"I'm good," John says, slow and sleepy, eyelids already drooping.

"Not really," Cam tells him.

hr

John wakes up, no idea what time it is, to an empty apartment. There's a piece of paper on the nightstand with his name on it.

Gone into the SGC for a few hours, it says. Wasn't sure you'd remember me telling you. Chinese when I get home, you don't need to lose any more weight. CM.

John smiles, lets his head fall back down into the pillows again, and drifts away.

hr

Sam wants Cam to go into a bit more detail about the people of M3Z 781, who were perfectly nice when SG1 met them a couple of months after Sam went to Atlantis, but just chased SG10 off the planet at arrow point. She apologizes three times for dragging him in on a Sunday, his day off, and Cam can't quite do a good enough job of convincing her it's not a problem.

They're sitting in his office, laptop open on the desk when someone walks by the open door, stops, and walks back into the office.

"Didn't know you were in, Mitchell," Daniel says.

Cam looks up without quite looking at him. Either Daniel's a much better actor than Cam ever gave him credit for, or O'Neill hasn't said anything to him. Cam's not sure which he hopes for. "Sam called me," he says, fighting to keep his voice even. There's a big part of him that wants to haul off and punch Daniel, and he hates the tiny part of him that still hasn't let go of the oh my God, that's Daniel Jackson hero worship after four years.

"Trouble with the people of M3Z 781," Sam says too brightly, picking up Cam's unease the way she always has.

"M3Z," Daniel says, taking another step into the office. Cam kind of wishes he'd been a little stricter about who could come in, back in the early days. "Weren't they the ones who took offence at Vala's pigtails?"

Sam laughs a little.

"I was just getting to that part," Cam says, ice cold polite like his momma with people she dislikes but has to put up with. "We've got your report here, Doctor."

There's a very uncomfortable pause, then Daniel nods his head, sharp movement on the edge of Cam's vision. "I guess I'll leave you to it."

Cam waits for Daniel's footsteps to fade away, and isn't surprised to find Sam giving him an appraising look. "Did you two have a fight?" she asks.

"Nope," Cam says.

"O-kay," Sam says slowly. "You just couldn't bear to share me today?" She's smiling, and Cam has no excuse for saying, "Sharing's the problem."

Sam's smile falls away. "What?" she asks, sounding too suspicious.

"John's asleep at my apartment," Cam says. He shouldn't be telling her this, suspects John would be mortified to find out he has, which, more than anything, will be enough to make him get his professional, normal mask in place before John comes back into the SGC. "He's not –" And there are things he can't – shouldn't – say to Sam, who's wanted Jack O'Neill for a long time. "The General took him back to his hotel room. I'm pretty sure he didn't mention he'd invited Daniel along for the ride."

Sam's face is ice cold, jaw locked. "Sam, baby," Cam says, the endearment slipping out unintentionally.

Sam shakes her head, her eyes gone dark with anger, or maybe betrayal. Cam really hopes he hasn't just told her something she didn't know about Jack O'Neill, about her chances with him. "They promised," she says, voice tight with the same mix of emotion. "They promised me they wouldn't-." She stops, but it's enough. John's not the only one they've played with, fucked around with. "How far did it go?" she asks, meeting his eyes. The anger, the betrayal, are already sliding back, half-covered by Sam's fierce, hard strength. Cam doesn't find it difficult at all to imagine her turning that on O'Neill if he tried to do to her what he's done to John.

"Too far," he says.

Sam nods, stands up. "Excuse me," she says. "I have to go speak to some people."

"Sure," Cam says. It's not right to smile about this, but, God, he would not want to be O'Neill or Daniel right now. He wonders if he should clear the building, before the inevitable explosion.

He waits around for Sam to come back, but she doesn't. In the end, he leaves her a page of additional notes, everything he can think of, and a scribble at the bottom inviting her to call him, even though he knows she probably won't.

hr

He and John have sex again that night, and Cam doesn't say anything when John insists they both wear condoms, even though there's no exchange of bodily fluids. It seems to work, because John dozes off afterwards, pliant against Cam.

hr

Cam wakes up to John sitting on the edge of the bed, hands clutching his cell phone in his lap. He looks over when Cam says good morning, and his face is shuttered up again, so much that Cam almost looks over to the other side of the bed for the John Sheppard who's spent two days in there, vulnerable and asleep.

"They're sending me back to Atlantis in a couple of hours. The IOA have asked for Lorne to come and do the rest of the debriefing. I guess they want to talk about some stuff I wasn't involved with."

"The IOA?" Cam parrots, and John looks down, turns his cell phone in his hands.

"O'Neill," he says, so quiet Cam can hardly hear him. "I think he's trying to help."

Cam thinks it's far more likely he's trying to keep John away from the SGC in case someone guesses; that if Sam did catch up to him, did yell, Cam's probably to blame for this, at least in part.

"You could stay here," he says. "Ask for some leave, you've got to be owed it."

John's already shaking his head. "We can't both be away," he says. "Woolsey would never agree to it."

"What, in case there's an attack on a city no-one even knows is there?"

"Cam," John says, sounding like he's breaking all over again, and leans in to kiss Cam, bitter and sharp against him.

hr

Cam's at the SGC when the Daedalus beams John back to Atlantis. He doesn't want to be, not really, not ready to watch John leave, not ready to deal with O'Neill and Daniel, but he has to go, in the end. He still wishes he hadn't, because John, standing in the gate room in uniform, duffel bag over one shoulder, looks drawn and tired, exactly like he looked when Cam invited him out for a drink, and Cam thinks that the last two days haven't done a damn thing to make anything better.

Have, in fact, probably made it worse, because long distance relationships are hard enough as it is, without a few thousand light years between them, without neither of them knowing if they actually just started something that can survive. And that, he has no idea how to even start trying to mend.

hr

Back in Pegasus a couple of weeks later, John wakes up every day and wonders if he made the right decision, saying no when Cam offered. The trouble is, he knows himself just about well enough to know that a week, two, wouldn't have been enough. Would have been too much, more than he'd have been able to give up, when it came down to it.

Because he can want all he likes, but his place is in Pegasus. He stands in the shower and thinks of Ronon - I can't leave this galaxy until every last Wraith is dead - and thinks, maybe. Maybe just having an end in sight will be enough. At least for today. He'll worry about tomorrow if he's still around to see it.


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