blue flamingos

Go West

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis/Stargate SG1

Category/Rated: Slash, PG

Year/Length: 2010/ ~3667 words

Pairing: John/Cam (one-sided)

Spoilers: SG1 9.12 Collateral Damage

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

Summary: John gets a phone call he's not expecting

Prompt: John's at home, waiting for his buddy, Mitchell, to come back from the war in the Middle East (one-sided slash or friendship)

Author's Notes: Pinch hit for lastinthebox, & the sg_flyboys Thing-A-Thon

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


When the phone starts ringing, John hears it as a vaguely distracting buzz, most of his concentration on the proof he's working his way through, courtesy of his supervisor, who's refused to meet with John again until he finishes the damn thing. It's easily the most difficult thing John's had to read since he started his PhD, like trying to hold three wriggling animals in one hand, except he's doing it with his brain.

The phone stops ringing and, before John has time to really register that, starts again. That's enough to crack his concentration, the lines of the proof skittering off in half a dozen different directions. John rubs his eyes, leaves his pencil against the right line, like that'll do him any good, and stands up, grabs the phone.

He's expecting it to be Nancy, maybe, calling to fix a time to meet her that evening for dinner, or the library to say one of the books he reserved is in. Or a telemarketer, or maybe even Dave, if he's decided to try and be John's brother again this week.

The point is, he's not ready to hear Bryce Ferguson's voice on the other end of the line, saying, "John?"

John takes a sharp breath, fear rattling through him so fast he feels cold all over. "What's happened?" he asks, sounding as breathless and scared as he feels.

"Cam's okay," Fergie says quickly. "Honest to God, John, he's not hurt, he's not missing."

"Okay," John says. He gropes for the wall, sits down on the floor and leans against the wall of their apartment. "Okay."

"There was... an intelligence confusion. A convoy of refuges got bombed, Cam was the one who did it." Fergie hesitates, and John realizes that it's quiet in the background of the call, not the usual murmur of people moving past the phone bank. "He's kind of... I'm not sure how, but someone got permission to send him home for a couple of weeks."

"He didn't tell me," John says, filling in the blanks. They've been sharing an apartment since before they graduated college, he knows far more than he sometimes wants to about life in the air force.

"I know that," Fergie says. He sounds like he's rolling his eyes, amused under it. "Why do you think I'm using my valuable phone card money to call you?"

"Okay," John says.

"Thought you were the smart one," Fergie mutters. "He's not coming back to South Carolina, he's going home."

John stops himself before he can say that he thought South Carolina *was* home, being where he and Cam live. Then he gets a grip and says, "Kansas?"

"Yeah." Fergie sighs. "Yeah. He's not... Yes, Kansas, to see his folks. I guess he wants his dad."

"I guess," John agrees. He can't imagine showing up on his father's doorstep unannounced, expecting to be made to feel better, but then, his family's about as different from Cam's as it's possible to get. "Why are you telling me?"

"Because I can't hop on a plane and go with him," Fergie says, irritation spiking his voice. "His dad lost his legs in an airplane crash, there's some things you can't say to someone like that, even if he's your father. You're his best friend."

"Okay," John says quietly. He's got no idea what he could possibly say to make Cam feel better, or why Cam will want to talk to him, when he's got his parents right there, but he and Fergie have a deal when it comes to Cam, and it's John's turn to uphold his side of it now. "I'll call his folks, see if I can get a flight."

"Good. Just..." Fergie trails off, sighs again. John can imagine him rubbing at his forehead, worried and helpless, Cam on a plane to the wrong continent. "He's pretty messed up over what happened. You gotta take care of him. Don't let him do anything stupid."

Anything stupid. Quit, he means. "I'll do my best," John promises. "Thanks for calling."

"Sure," Fergie says, still sounding tired. "I gotta go."

John hesitates, then says, "Take care out there."

Fergie laughs. "Always do, my friend. See you when we're home."

John waits for the dial tone, then starts looking for the address book, Cam's parents' number written down for him, just in case.


They met at ROTC, John's first day, Cam two years older, just starting POC. That wasn't much more than nodding at each other, but they kept running into each other, the library, the campus coffee shop, the swimming pool, and then Cam invited John to see a movie with him and some of his friends, and they've pretty much been friends ever since. Easy, casual friendship, the first time John felt like he belonged, surrounded by people like him, who just wanted to fly, and if John had a bit of a crush on Cam, well, he was used to that, and good at hiding it.

When John mentioned that he wanted to move out of campus housing at the end of his first semester, a couple of days before one of Cam's room-mates announced that he was taking the next semester off to go look after his dying father, it was good timing.

They moved a couple times after that, but somehow they never moved apart, and then John was a year into his PhD and Cam was an air force captain and they were living in an apartment together, just the two of them.

Not that it was quite that simple, of course.


"Oh, John," Mrs. Mitchell says when she picks up the phone. "I thought it might be you."

John hesitates, not sure if he should mention that Cam's not the one who called him, since she probably won't take that as a good sign. "Yes, ma'am," he says, undecided.

"Yes, ma'am," she echoes softly. "Who called you?"

She was a military wife, John reminds himself. And he's not in any way a military boyfriend, but in some ways, he's not that different. "One of Cam's friends out there," he says.

"I thought so," Mrs. Mitchell says. She sounds tired. John can't really imagine what it must be like for her, waving her son off to the Air Force that took her husband's legs. "I take it I should make up the spare room some time soon?"

"Um," John says. He knows Cam's parents like him well enough, and he doesn't dislike them. He just feels incredibly awkward with the way they treat him like he belongs to them somehow, no matter how well he knows they do it to all of Cam's friends. "I don't want to impose."

"John," Mrs. Mitchell says, her tone conveying the way she'd be calling him by his middle name as well if she just knew what it was – John's heard her use it on Cam more than once. "You know you're always welcome here. And I'm sure Cameron will want to see you. He lands this evening."

John's not. If Cam wanted to see him, Cam would have called him. John's the one who sucks at that stuff, not Cam.

Trouble is, he wants to see Cam, make sure he's going to be okay. "Thank you," he says. "I don't know when I'll be able to get a flight."

"Let me know your arrival time when you know it," Mrs. Mitchell says, no argument. "We'll pick you up."

"Yes ma'am," John says obediently.


By his sophomore year, John's best friend was Cam. That was the easy part. The difficult part was, one of John's other friends was thrown out of ROTC in disgrace when someone found out she was a lesbian, and suddenly it didn't look as easy as he'd thought it would be. He lay awake some nights, bargaining it out in his head over and over: stay in the closet, be careful, always be frightened; or ignore the part of him that wanted men for the part of him that wanted women, be safe, but... But what if it wasn't enough? What if flying wasn't enough to make up for the rest of it? He still remembered before his mom got sick, how it felt to be a little kid curled up between his parents, how safe he felt with them. And when he was older, how much he wanted to have what they had. He'd left home so he could stop disappointing his dad, stop trying to be something he wasn't, not wanting to live with the regrets he'd have had if he'd stayed. He didn't want to have the regrets and the fear, didn't want to be thrown out in disgrace.

He didn't cry when he went to withdraw from the program. He came a lot closer when Cam drifted into his room that evening, sat at the foot of John's bed and said, "What happened?" all soft, careful worry.

"I quit," John said, looking away from him.

"Why?" Cam asked, and if he was surprised, he was hiding it damn well.

"I'm gay," John said, not sure he was even talking loudly enough for Cam to hear him. "Mostly." He risked a quick glance up at Cam, without lifting his head. Cam still looked worried, sympathetic, a little sad. He didn't look like he was about to make any of the declarations John had occasionally fantasized about, but he didn't look like he was going to storm out in disgust either.

John could live with that.


The next flight out is tomorrow afternoon, and once he adds in the change of planes and the two hour drive from Salina to Auburn at the other end, he'd get there sooner if he drove, not to mention for a lot less than the flight will cost, and at much less inconvenience to Cam's family.

It's a pretty easy drive, and John's done it once before with Cam anyway, so he probably won't get lost. He can drive until he's too tired, catch a couple hours sleep in the car, be at the farm mid-morning tomorrow.

He's dragging out his duffel, getting ready to start packing, before he remembers Mrs. Mitchell saying that Cam's flight lands today. He'll only have the evening with his parents before John's there, and maybe he wants more time. He's going to Kansas, after all, not their apartment. John twists his hands in the strap of his bag, undecided. He wishes he knew what Cam wants, instead of just what everyone else thinks Cam wants.

Except Cam writes him every week, tries to call – Cam's his best friend, and he's Cam's, and maybe John doesn't know best for sure, but he knows as well as the people telling him to get his ass out there, well enough to guess.

And he wants to see Cam, wants to be sure he's okay.

John tosses his duffel on the bed and opens his closet, decision made.

In the end, he doesn't quite have the courage of his convictions, calls Mrs. Mitchell back and tells her he can get a flight that lands tomorrow morning, fudging the times and insisting he'll hire a car, not totally sure why he isn't telling her he's going to drive. She sounds pleased enough for John to actually get in his car, map book open on the passenger seat just in case; thesis notes, the proof he hates and a couple of text books in his bag, for a different ‘just in case.'

So now he's heading west on I-20, radio tuned to the same kind of rock station he's been listening to since Cam and the others left for the Middle East. Like some of the left behind girlfriends and wives he knows through Cam, trying to stay close to someone who's gone. John has a slightly complicated relationship with the wives and girlfriends as a group, between doing his best to make sure no-one starts to wonder if he really is like them and actually not being like them, not being left behind the way they are. It generally translates into a lot of jokes about being able to play his music as loud as he wants, and bring dates back, a little semi-intentional sliding around who the dates might be.

All these years they've been friends, more than long enough for his place on the edges of where he wanted to be to stop being painful, and John still has no idea if anyone other than Cam and Ferguson know he's into men. He thinks the irony would choke him, if he wasn't quite so invested in his private life being private – not risky, not scary, but not something to wear on his sleeve or his lapel. He likes being able to live quietly; he's glad he doesn't have to live in secret to go with it.


They didn't talk about Cam's commissioning ceremony, so John was more than a little surprised when Cam asked if he'd go. "Um," John said intelligently, thinking that he was pretty sure the last place he wanted to be was in the audience watching Cam go where John wasn't going to. Except that Cam was watching him, all earnest and hopeful, and John still hadn't, after eighteen months of living together, developed any kind of defense against that look.

It was almost worth it, to see how happy it made Cam when his dad pinned his bars to his uniform. Almost wasn't quite enough though; John was halfway to drunk when Cam finally made it to his own party after dropping his parents back at their hotel.

He did his best to avoid Cam, not wanting to inflict his issues on Cam on his big day, but Cam was nothing if not persistent, which was how John ended up sitting next to him on the dark porch. "Congratulations," he said, just to fill in the silence.

"Thanks," Cam said softly. Some of his happiness had faded, or maybe just his excitement. "It doesn't feel real yet."

"I guess," John agreed. He should have left ages ago. Back when he dropped out of ROTC, long enough to let the friendship fade before Cam went off and did this. Except he hadn't wanted to, still didn't.

"I wish..." When he didn't say anything else, John turned to look at him, found Cam looking at him, very close. It was enough of a cliché that he didn't know why he was surprised when Cam cupped his cheek and kissed him, but he was.

When Cam leaned back, John's hands were shaking. "Why did you do that?" he asked, not sure if he meant to sound shocked or curious or angry or none of them.

"I'm sorry," Cam said, not looking away. Too much honor to not look John in the eye. "That was a mistake. I'm sorry. I'm drunk."

John didn't want to think about what it might really mean – I like you, I want you, you wouldn't have been alone, we could have hidden together. "Sure," he said. "Me too."

They didn't talk about it again, at all, and eventually it felt more like something John had dreamed than anything real, except for sometimes, when Cam touched him the same way he'd put his hand to John's face, like he might break, and then it felt horribly real. Fortunately, that didn't happen much.


He pulls into a diner parking lot just after eight, and it's only when he sees the payphone that he remembers he's supposed to be having dinner with Nancy, and she'll be either worried or pissed, possibly both.

More worried than pissed, it turns out, when she picks up the phone and he says his name. "Where are you?" she demands. "I was about to start ringing hospitals, I went round your place and there was no sign of you, your car's missing..."

"I thought we agreed you'd stop telling the super you're my fiancé just so he'll let you in," John says mildly.

"Yeah, but it works," Nancy says, unrelenting, and John can hear the smile in her voice. "Are you okay? Where are you? Also, before I forget, Charlie says you suck, and not in the good way, and next time you come for dinner, you're getting bean sprouts."

"Yum," John says dryly. "Sorry. I forgot. I'm on my way to Kansas."

"Kan –" Nancy says, then cuts herself off. "Is he okay?"

"Yeah," John says. He leans his forehead against the wall, worn out. It feels like this day's gone on forever already, and it's not that close to over. "Or, not really, but physically yes."

There's a pause, and John listens to Nancy breathe. "Are you okay?" she asks.

"Yeah," John says again. He knows he could tell Nancy, who's the only person he's ever told about how he feels about Cam, but he doesn't know where to start, what the words are. "Ferguson called, told me I should go."

"If," Nancy says, then pauses. "If I was Cameron and I was coming home, I'd want to see you," she finishes eventually.

"Thanks," John says quietly. He doesn't want to hang up, but he doesn't have anything else to say. "Come over for dinner when I'm back, the two of you?"

"Sure," Nancy says. "I'll get Charlie to make dessert."

"No bean sprouts," John says firmly, and hangs up to the sound of her laughter.


John and Nancy met in their sophomore year, at a bar when they both got stood up by their dates and ended up getting very drunk together.

She was exactly the kind of girl his father would have loved for him to marry – smart, funny, pretty, planning to apply to law school, family background like their's. It worked the other way as well, probably would have done even more so once John finished his doctorate.

The only problem, for both their parents, was that they met in a low-key gay bar, and Nancy started dating the woman tending bar, Charlie.


John means to nap in his car, but he's in the middle of dark, empty fields, the radio fuzzing out and he feels weirdly vulnerable out there alone. Instead, he pulls off at a sign for a motel and gets a room from a tired looking young woman on the desk.

It's dark out, more than late enough for John to sleep, and his eyes are gritty with it, but when he lies down, curls under the blankets, he feels wide awake. He's close enough to the interstate to hear every vehicle that goes by, not quite frequently enough for them to settle into a rhythm, and a security light keeps flicking on and off, visible even through the curtains.

He turns over again, presses his face into the pillows. He watches the news, he's seen film of what it's like on the ground where Cam and the others are. He hates thinking about them in that, first time they've been deployed into a war zone, but he can't stop watching, trying to catch sight of them. He never does; he thinks he's starting to forget what Cam looks like anyway.

Cam's traumatized, badly, or he wouldn't be coming home, John knows that much about the Air Force.

John sighs, shoves the blankets back and gets up. He's only a few hours away from Cam, after being impossibly far away for months, and he just wants to get there. He takes a quick shower, changes his clothes, gets back into his car after a weird look from the desk clerk, presumably wondering why he bothered checking in.

When he gets back on the interstate, the sun's just starting to come up. John turns the radio off, drives in silence with the windows open, the dawn air cool enough to keep him awake. It's kind of calming, mostly empty roads and the sun rising behind him. He can see why Cam feels better here, safer. Why'd he'd want the space, when his worst day happened while he was trapped in the cockpit of a fighter jet, stuck.

It's properly daylight, but still early, when John turns onto smaller country roads, but Cam's a disgustingly morning person, and John knows he gets it from his parents, that everyone will be awake. It doesn't help the urge he has to pull over at the end of the road down to their place, walk up so he doesn't disturb anyone.

He tells himself firmly that he's being an idiot, and keeps going, ignoring the nerves fluttering in his stomach. This is Cam, his best friend, and the fact that this is the longest they've gone without seeing each other since they met is irrelevant.

There's a man sitting on the front porch, alone and hunched over, and John would know it was Cam even if he didn't know it couldn't be his dad. Cam doesn't look up as John coasts to a stop, kills the engine. He's got his hands wrapped around a coffee mug, looks cold. He probably is, after months in the desert.

John takes a deep breath. He can always leave if this all goes to hell, if Cam doesn't want to see him. Nice thing about being in his car.

Then he gets out.

Cam looks up then, no surprise on his face. No anything really, and yeah, he looks like he's been through something rough. He looks damaged, in ways that John can't fix. Probably no-one can, really, but he's got what he needs, a break and some time.

"Hey," John calls.

Cam sets his coffee down, stands up slowly. He doesn't move towards John, the way he usually would, but he doesn't look away either. He wraps his arms around himself, still looking cold, and his teeth scrape over his lower lip.

"Hey," he says, quiet, and steps a little to the side, making room for John to join him.

John does.

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