blue flamingos

Never That Easy

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis/Stargate SG1

Category/Rated: Gen, PG

Year/Length: 2009/ ~3959

Pairing: Sheppard, Mitchell

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: "You've got to be kidding me," Cam said when John looked furtively round the bar they were holed up in, waiting for their current client to show up to exchange goods for money, and brought out a series of photos.

Series: Space Pirates 'verse

Author's Notes: For [info]tielan Prompt used: all three; Teyla, teasing about their piloting skills, action-adventure or drama

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


"You've got to be kidding me," Cam said when John looked furtively round the bar they were holed up in, waiting for their current client to show up to exchange goods for money, and brought out a series of photos. "Do you know how many people guard that thing?"

"Fifty-seven on a day shift, thirty-eight at night," John said, because of course he'd done his homework, and remembered the answers. John had always been good with numbers.

"Three against thirty-eight," Cam said, just to make the point.

"We've gone up against worse odds."

"Not voluntarily."

"Depends on your definition of voluntarily," John said drily.

Cam held up one hand for him to be quiet and turned to the third member of their team, sitting quietly to John's right and looking through the pictures. "Teyla? Care to weigh in as the voice of reason here?"

Teyla took another minute to study at the pictures, before turning to the two of them. She looked as serene as she ever had, since the first time Cam had run into her and John, trying to pull off a job on his own, the same one it turned out Teyla and John had been hired for. He and John had known each other from their Space Force days, so they'd teamed up and pocketed the takings, rather than the paltry three percent the guy who'd hired them had offered. It had ended up being Cam's lucky day – John had deserted the SF three months ago with a ship and his training protégé, Lorne, and teamed up with Teyla. The three of them had been happy to take on one more; Cam had been a pilot without a ship, and a fairly bad thief without a team, none of it a winning combination. He'd jumped at the chance and the four of them hadn't looked back in a year.

"Cameron is right," Teyla said, turning the photographs and shuffling them together. "It will be heavily guarded, even if we were to take on additional help."

John and Cam both shook their heads at that – they worked well as a team, the three of them pulling jobs with Lorne back on Atlantis ready for the daring rescue. Adding more people just meant more complications, more risks that someone would recognise John or Lorne and turn them in to the SF.

Teyla smiled like she'd known how they'd react. She probably had. "Then they are poor odds for something that I fear would be very difficult to sell."

"We wouldn't sell it," John said, sounding horrified.

Cam groaned. John was a great partner, just like he had been when they'd briefly served together in the SF, but part of that came from the way he was willing to take what they needed, rather than taking anything they could get. When he decided he wanted something, it could only mean trouble.

"What would we do with it if we kept it?" he asked, half-rhetorical, half-curious.

John gave him a withering look. "Fly it."

"We already have a perfectly good ship, and only three pilots between us."

John pulled out one of the pictures, held it up so Cam could appreciate the sleek lines and the shiny black paint job, the serial number that confirmed the little craft was one of fifty made across the entire galactic fleet of the SF. "Tell me you're not itching to get your hands on one of these," John said.

He might, Cam conceded in his own head, have a point.


By the time their contact had shown up – late, like most of their contacts – and argued with them about their cut until Teyla gave him the raised eyebrow of doom – which never failed to work; by the time they'd walked most of the way back to where Lorne was waiting on Atlantis, and then run the rest of the way through the back streets, trying to avoid someone they'd upset a couple of months ago, who wouldn't, like most of the people they upset, be deterred by Teyla's diplomacy, Cam's limited ability to charm, or John's boyish grin... By the time they made it back to the ship, and Lorne rolling his eyes with a wry grin, even Teyla was offering up ideas for how they might get past the SF's security.

Lorne took one look at the three of them, and clearly decided not to bother trying to talk them out of it.


The fighter – traveled at twice the speed of sound, the most maneuverable fighter ever built, with a firing system so smooth it was like it read your mind – was based at a planet on the far edge of the next system over.

"What's it doing there?" Cam asked, leaning on the back of the pilot's seat and looking over John's shoulder at the star map up on the screen. Lorne had gone down to his bunk an hour ago, muttering about getting some rest before they had to flee for their lives, again; Teyla was down in the cargo bay, practicing the smooth stick-fighting moves she'd been trying to teach the three of them.

John touched the screen, zooming in on the planet and its three moons. "No-one knows."

"And that doesn't bother you?"

"Maybe they just needed somewhere to store it," John suggested, tapping back to the navigation screen and starting to plot a course.

"Because the SF wouldn't have any use for one of the most high-tech fighters ever built," Cam said drily. "You do realize we're going in the opposite direction to that course, don't you?"

John looked out of the window as though the blackness of space would give him some clue. Cam rolled his eyes, nudged John's shoulder. "Move."

"Atlantis is my ship," John said, not budging.

"You're going the wrong way," Cam said, in case John hadn't gotten the point the first time.

"Being good at navigating doesn't make you a better pilot."

"It makes me less likely to fly us into the SF battalion two planets over."

"How about you do the navigating and I'll do the flying?" John suggested, reaching over to turn the co-pilot's chair. He sounded like he was smiling.

"How about you remember that I spent another three months flying after you left?" Cam asked, taking the seat anyway and calling up the navigation screen, which helpfully informed him that John had turned them into more or less the right direction.

"How about *you* remember that I spent those three months flying this ship?"

"How about you both recall that we will be attacking a heavily guarded Space Force base in fewer than three days, and think about how we might do so without being captured?" Teyla suggested, making Cam jump. She was in her training skirt and bare-foot, which probably explained how she managed to move around the ship so quietly.

"Cam was wondering why the fighter's being kept so far out," John said, half-turning his seat to look at her. Cam reached over and tapped in a new course, hitting enter right before John slapped his hand away. "Who's flying this ship?"

"You, unfortunately," Cam said, grinning at him. John actually huffed a quick laugh, and Teyla, leaning against the back of John's seat, where Cam had been, smiled as well.

"They must be planning something of great importance, to keep such a valuable ship in such a dangerous area of the galaxy," she suggested.

"Dangerous?" Cam asked. John showed no sign of intending to change their course again, so he pulled the navigation screen back up, and started plotting a real course.

"The Wraith presence in that system has been greatly increased of late," Teyla said. "They have had several victories against the SF."

"They have?" The Wraith weren't pirates the way the four of them were; they didn't steal for a living, or for the challenge of it. Instead, they took everything a planet had, leaving its people with nothing, starving.

"So I have been told," Teyla said. "We would do well take care to avoid them if at all possible."

Cam looked over at John, who was staring out into the dark, his face troubled. Apparently, whoever'd sold him on the idea of the fighter hadn't mentioned that. "John?"

"We've got a cloak," John said, sounding more reassured than he looked. "We'll be fine."


The one downside to space piracy, as far as Cam was concerned, was the amount of time spent flying in a dead straight line through empty space. Compared to being a fighter pilot with the galaxy's elite force, it left something to be desired. Compared to being a member of a galactic force that was more interested in controlling than protecting the galaxy's population, it could have been a lot worse.

That didn't change the way that, after two days of flying to get into the right solar system, he was itching to be off the ship and on land, even if it did mean facing off with the Wraith and/or the Space Force.

John, of course, looked like he hadn't a care in the world, sitting in the pilot's seat, feet kicked up on the console.

"If you're going to run the auto-pilot, you might as well let me fly," Cam pointed out, leaning in the doorway and watching John start.

"SF will have ships out here, we need the better pilot at the controls," he said.

"Which is why you should let me take over," Cam said, wandering onto the deck and taking the co-pilot's seat, calling up the map. They were less than a day from the SF base, and Lorne was down in the engine room, fine-tuning everything he could, considering none of them knew much beyond the basics of how Atlantis worked. "So," he said, watching John from the corner of his eye, "What is about this fighter that makes you want to brave the Wraith and the SF to get your hands on it?"

John didn't exactly move, but the relaxed line of his body tensed, until he looked deeply uncomfortable with his feet up on the console. "They shouldn't have it," he said, just when Cam had decided he wasn't going to answer. "It's not a defensive ship, not for them. Even against the Wraith..."

He swung his feet down slowly, almost silent as his boots hit the floor, and he turned the seat slightly, so Cam couldn't see his face any more. He didn't need to, remembered what John's face had looked like when he'd explained how he and Lorne had been arrested for shooting down a fellow SF pilot who'd been smuggling children, how the SF had denied what the other pilot had been doing in favor of punishing the two of them.

"You really think taking this one fighter is going to make that much of a difference?" he asked quietly, and didn't ask why John hadn't said this in the first place, as though any of the three of them would have stood against John's vendetta against the SF, the way he wanted them destroyed before they did any more damage.

"They're not out there to protect the people from the Wraith," John said, dark and certain, and really, Cam couldn't argue with him.


They were lucky, going in: no Wraith ships came up on their radar, and the SF ships that did didn't appear to be equipped with anything that could cut through their cloak.

Hovering over the planet, sensors out for anything coming too close, since their cloak wouldn't do much good if they were hit, the four of them stared out at the black dome-shaped covers of a major SF base, everything hidden from the air the way it only was when the SF had something it really wanted to hide. Whatever they were planning out here, Cam wasn't surprised that they wanted the little fighter for it.

"Which one am I landing by?" Lorne asked. He'd been officially designated the escape pilot a couple of weeks after Cam had joined them, Teyla's idea to put an end to Cam and John's mostly good-natured arguing over who was better at evasive maneuvers.

"Dome Five," John said, pointing out the front viewscreen.

Lorne half-turned to look at him. "They don't exactly have numbers painted on the roof, sir."

"Number one in the centre, and they spiral out counter-clockwise," Cam told him.

"Right." Lorne turned back to the controls, bringing them slowly in.

"We're heading down to the cargo bay," John said, tapping him on the shoulder. "Get as close as you can, but don't go over the fence."

Lorne nodded.

The problem with having a ship they could cloak came in having to leave the ship: Atlantis was too big to land behind any kind of useful cover, which meant stepping out of thin air into open ground. They were less than fifty feet from the high, solid fence that circled the dome, which was fifty feet further to run than Cam really wanted to be.

"Go, go," John shouted, the three of them pelting across the open grass to the relative safety of the fence.

"So far so good," Cam muttered as they slammed into the solid wall, crouched low. "Teyla?"

"One moment." Knelt between Cam and John, she pressed a small black box against the wall, held it in place until the third of the tiny lights came on. "All right."

Cam reached forward with one hand, watched it disappear through the wall.

"Cool," John murmured, grinning at Teyla, and Cam couldn't contain his own grin. It wasn't often things went this well for them.

"Where are the guards?" Teyla asked, dragging the device free as she slipped into the compound behind the two of them.

Cam looked up, realizing she was right. The entire compound was empty, except for the fighter, right in the middle, apparently unguarded. "Yeah, shouldn't there be fifty-seven of the SF's finest aiming weapons at us right now?"

John shrugged, with an obviously faked casualness. "Maybe our luck's turning."

"Maybe we're about to be jumped on all sides and thrown in prison," Cam corrected.

"Let us hope not," Teyla said. "We should move quickly."

"Yeah, you know how Lorne hates having to come rescue our asses," Cam added, mostly to make John smile.

Going across an empty Space Force compound was worse than going across an empty patch of grass. Cam could feel the cameras that had to be there somewhere, like something crawling across his skin, making him wish for more than the pistol strapped to his thigh, an SF habit that all three of them had retained, and passed on to Teyla.

It didn't surprise him when both he and John went automatically into defensive positions on either side of her as they skidded to a halt under the fighter's left wing, weapons raised in unspoken support. Teyla pulled the black gadget from her pocket again, pressing it to the side of the ship, and Cam made a mental note to ask her exactly where she'd gotten hold of it. When they weren't in the middle of a stupidly dangerous mission that was going unnervingly well.

"All right," she said. Cam glanced back to see the tiny lights flick off as she pulled the device away, the canopy of the fighter sliding soundlessly back –

"Get back, get back!"

"What?" John asked, turning towards him, and three shots rang out, almost in unison, from the far side of the compound. "Fuck!"

Teyla had her gun in her hand, turning towards the position of the shots. She was at the wrong angle, Cam realized, hadn't seen what he'd seen inside the fighter. "It's rigged to explode, we have to go."

He grabbed for John's arm, tried to pull him away as John resisted, another volley of shots whistling over their heads. That'd be the fifty-seven guards who were supposed to be on this thing, though Cam couldn't see any of them, even knowing the angle of the shots. Fucking SF advanced technology, and why the hell had he let John talk them into this?

"We're surrounded, in case you hadn't noticed!" John yelled. "We're safer here."

"We're going to be blown up if we stay here," Cam shouted back, ducking a shot that whistled between the wing and his head. "We have to go."

"Cameron is right," Teyla said. "They are clearly aware of our position, it will not be long before we are shot or captured anyway. We must go."

"Fuck," John muttered. "Go, I'll cover you."

"Like hell." Cam caught Teyla's eye, waited for her nod. "On three, we'll go together. One, two –"

John stumbled the first few steps, Cam dragging him as he resisted, but they were already in the open, too late to go back, too late to worry about cover fire, or anything but getting to the wall, through the wall, and hoping like hell that there weren't more guards out there.

"Teyla, the device," John shouted.

"I have it," Teyla called back, picking up speed, until she was a couple of feet ahead of them. Cam gave the compound another frantic scan, looking for guards, but there was nothing, just the constant zip of fire too close to them.

He tapped on his headset. "Lorne, we're coming in hot, get Atlantis ready to go as soon as we're in."

"Roger that," Lorne said, steady and calm. "There's no sign of anyone out here."

"Great." A bullet hit the floor inches in front of Cam's feet, and he skipped to the side, firing a blind shot in the right direction, not really surprised when it wasn't followed by the sound of impact.

Teyla was already crouched against the wall, one hand on the device, the other holding her weapon up. "Hurry!"

Cam felt more than saw John slow down, preparing to stop and cover them, made a wild grab for him and got his gun hand. He felt John's pulse racing under his fingers, and then the three of them were crashing into the wall, tumbling through it, still running.

Up ahead, Atlantis shimmered into visibility, the cargo bay door opening. Cam put on another burst of speed, nearly falling over Teyla as she closed up on him, pushing him on, and then their boots were clanging against Atlantis' metal floors, the door sliding closed behind them.

"We're in, go," Cam yelled into his headset. Atlantis lurched immediately, Lorne pushing her too hard to get airborne, and the three of them stumbled into each other, went down in a tangled heap of limbs and weapons. Cam lay still, John's hand still in his, straining to hear the sound of weapons fire against the ship over their combined harsh breathing.

Nothing, nothing, and he gulped in another deep breath, let it out in a sigh of relief, and rolled away from the others.

"Is everyone okay?" Lorne's voices asked over his headset, and Cam reached up with his right hand to tap it on and confirm.

His hand was red, smeared with blood. "What the hell?"

He scrambled to his feet, heart racing all over again, because there was no way he'd been shot and not noticed, no way, and Teyla had been –

John groaned, falling more than rolling onto his back without Cam behind him. "You didn't have to push me so hard, guys," he muttered.

"We did not..." Teyla's voice faded away as she pulled herself upright, and saw what Cam was just seeing. "John, you are bleeding."

"What?" John asked, already sounding groggy, and oh, fuck, not good, not good. "Where?"

Cam grabbed for the bandage in his pants pocket, crashing onto his knees next to John and pressing it into place over the bleeding tear in the thigh of John's cargo pants. John groaned, tried to push Cam's hand away. "Teyla –" Cam started.

"Yes," Teyla said, quiet and calm. "John, be still for one moment, this will take away the pain."

"I don't want it," John said weakly, his hand coming up to flail at Cam again, like he was the one shooting John up with sedative and pain killer. "I don't..." His voice faded out, his hand sliding away, and Cam caught it on automatic pilot, before it could hit the floor, squeezed it in reassurance he was sure John wasn't aware of.

A moment later, John's entire body went limp, the drugs taking effect.

"We're clear," Lorne's voice said in Cam's ear. "Someone tell me what's going on."


John woke up twelve hours later, when they were well on their way out of that system, heading nowhere other than out.

"Stay still," Cam said, one hand on John's shoulder, the other against the side of his head, waiting for John to focus on him. "Don't move, you'll just make your leg hurt more."

"What..." John blinked twice, then turned his head slowly. "Not the cargo bay."

"No, not the cargo bay. Teyla said it wasn't sanitary enough down there for bullet removal on a bleeding man." Teyla had done most of the work, down in the tiny room they'd designated an infirmary, more because it had enough cupboards to hold all their bandages, and wasn't big enough to be anything else. Cam had hovered for five minutes, then made an excuse about checking on Lorne and their escape, and fled to the bridge, feeling slightly nauseous the way he always did when it was one of his team bleeding.

John laughed weakly. "Your turn to clean it."

"Too busy helping you plan this ridiculous mission," Cam offered, sitting carefully on the edge of the wide bed and removing his hands from John. "Which we all survived intact, apart from you."

"No ships followed us?"

Cam shook his head. "Teyla thinks the guns might have been an automated system, not actual people, maybe rigged to take out any Wraith who came calling. Which would explain why we couldn't see anyone to shoot at."

"Teyla?" John asked, worry creasing his forehead. Cam took a careful look at his eyes, still drug-bright, and patiently repeated what he'd just said.

"We're all fine. You've got a bullet wound in your left thigh, but you'll be fine. No-one followed us, no-one is shooting at us. Teyla's up on the bridge with Lorne, trying to persuade someone to take us in while you recover."

John nodded slowly, and Cam grinned, practically able to watch as the information sank in.

"The ships in orbit didn't get a message from the dome?"

"No-one's shooting at us now," Cam amended. John didn't need to know about the evasive flying Lorne had done to avoid being shot by SF pilots who knew they were in the sky, just couldn't see them to shoot at.

"Okay," John said. His eyes slid shut, then opened again. "Who's flying?"

"Lorne," Cam said patiently, fighting down the affectionate smile he could feel on his face. They'd definitely given John too much of something – he didn't usually get this goofy, even on painkillers.

"Right." John grinned. "S'why it's such a smooth flight."

"I'll tell him you said that," Cam promised, ignoring the implied crack about his own flying in favor of imagining the embarrassed, pleased smile Lorne would get at the compliment.

"Okay," John said again. "You need me?"

"Not at all," Cam said quietly, watching John's eyes slide closed again. "Get some more sleep. We'll plan out next attack on the SF when you're mobile again."

"Promise?" John slurred, obviously too close to slipping away to work up any anger at their failed mission. Cam figured that would come later.

"Promise," he said, and stayed where he was, just watching John sleep.

Next: Recruitment Drive

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