blue flamingos

That Which I Should Never Say

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis/Stargate SG1

Category/Rated: Slash, PG-13

Year/Length: 2007/ ~2588 words

Pairing: John/Cam

Spoilers: post SGA 402 Lifeline, with spoilers for this and 401 Adrift

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

Warning: off-screen violence

Summary: Sometimes a hallucination is just a hallucination. Sometimes...not so much

Series: The Return 'verse

Author's Notes: Written for [info]out_stargate for Coming Out Day. Which should give you a hint as to some of the plot.

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

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It's dark.

It's dark, and it's cold, and the floor John's lying on is hard and sharp and he doesn't know where he is. Every single muscle in his body aches, his head feels like he's coming off three days of hard drinking, but without the benefits of having been drunk first, and he's fairly sure the dampness his left hand is lying in is blood. His blood.

He knows he's alone, because he remembers being pushed into the tiny cell, the light in the corridor illuminating the stone walls and the emptiness of the cell before the door swung closed behind him with a final sounding thud.

He's pretty sure that wasn't so long ago, that he hasn't been lying on the floor in a heap like something that's been broken for very long, but there's no light in the cell and his sense of time is completely screwed up. Not that it matters; he hurts too much to get up, and even if he could, there's no way he's going to make it out of there.

He can wait. His team will come for him. Unless he bleeds to death first; the guards, or jailers, or whatever they're calling themselves, he wasn't listening that closely, didn't seem interested in first aid, once they'd finished tossing him around their interrogation room, asking questions in a language that sounded like it could have been English, but wasn't.

He doesn't do this, doesn't lie around waiting for rescue. He's always got a plan, always, even if it's stupid, even if it gets him tossed right back to where he was, usually with a few more bruises to show for it. It's just... it's just that he's so tired, and he knows it's not going to work, and that when it doesn't work, it's going to hurt – the guards have blasters that look like Ronon's, but shoot some kind of current that hurts more than a Wraith stunner – and there's only him in here – he's sure he saw the rest of his team beating a retreat under Teyla's instruction. He doesn't have to worry about anyone else being hurt because of him, and it's not like Lorne and Carter aren't perfectly capable of running Atlantis without him. Teyla will help, Teyla's a good leader, and people like her, and it's a good time for him to be lost, really, when everyone's still reeling from losing Elizabeth; two shocks for the price of one, he thinks and when he coughs, something grates in his chest and he wonders if he really tastes blood or if he's imagining it.

Maybe he is. Maybe he's imagining all of this, being captured by men with guns and chain metal armor, barely fifty feet from the stargate, before they'd even had chance to do anything wrong, being carried away, barely conscious from the blast, hours ago, days ago, fucking weeks for all he can tell, beatings blurring together in a haze of words he doesn't understand, asking for something he's so close to wanting to give, if he just knew...

Maybe it's all a bad dream. It wouldn't be the first time. Maybe he's so cold because he kicked the covers off in his sleep, and Atlantis' environmental controls are playing up again, still adjusting to their new planet.

He curls in tighter on himself, drawing his legs up as far as he can before the pain rockets up his spine in a scream that he barely chokes down. He closes his eyes, not that it will matter if he's already asleep, and thinks of Atlantis, of the mess hall and the control room, sparring with Teyla, running with Ronon, meetings with Lorne endlessly patient and McKay endlessly not, Elizabeth at the head of the table –

The image fractures when he tries to put Elizabeth there, and he can't make the jump to fill her space with Carter instead. It hasn't been long enough yet.

He's still cold and the room feels like it's spinning under him, tilting crazily. He'd hold on, but there's nothing to hold onto, and he's not sure he can feel his fingers any longer. He's not sure he wants to find out.

Dream, he reminds himself firmly. It's a dream, and if he can't wake up, he can go someplace else, someplace warm and safe, where he's not bleeding out on an unknown planet, waiting for a rescue, or the next round of torture.

His mind throws out a beach, soft white sand and clear blue water, like something out of a travel guide or off a postcard, and for a minute he thinks that's what it is, something flat and lifeless, and he wants to laugh, because *that's* the best he can come up with, after Atlantis? Except he can smell the salt in the air, now he's concentrating, masking the dank air of the cell, almost enough to obscure the taste of blood on his tongue. He can feel a warm breeze coming in off the ocean, ruffling his hair where it's still damp from surfing, and if he turns his head, there are other people, families and couples, and a woman walking a dog along the tide line, familiar and normal and a million miles away, literally, from where he knows he really is.

He doesn't trust his body to try and stand, even in the fantasy, the dream, so he tilts his head instead, pressing back into the sand through the towel he's lying on, looking for the person he knows is there, somewhere. It takes him a minute, looking upside down, but he spots his companion, making his way down the beach towards John's spot with bottles of water in one hand, barefoot in jeans and a faded gray t-shirt, because he's heard enough jokes about how he ends up without his pants, sunglasses covering his eyes, his hair drying in strange tufts, and this isn't a dream or a fantasy, this is John's memory, one moment of peace during those six God-awful weeks on Earth.

"Hey," Cam says, dropping into the sand next to John and handing over one of the bottles. John risks pushing himself up onto his elbows to drink, and it's the best thing he's even tasted, ice cold and perfect.

"Hey," he says back, watching Cam's throat work as he swallows. This was Cam's idea, when John banged into his apartment after three days of non-stop rain and said, "Doesn't it ever stop raining on this planet?" It was Cam's idea and it was a good one, a great one, made even better by the fact that, when they got back to Colorado Springs, the rain had stopped, finally.

"You doing okay?" Cam asks, squinting down at him. He's taken his sunglasses off, and John can see the worry skating round his eyes, half-disguised by his relaxed smile. John wants to kiss him, but they're in public and they can't, even this far from the Mountain. They've both served all over the world, there's nowhere they can be anything less than careful, nowhere that there might not be someone who knows one of them. He rests the back of his hand against Cam's wrist instead, sun warm skin against his, and Cam shivers. "You all right?" he asks again, concern more open this time. "The water wasn't that cold."

"You're just hot," John says with his best seductive smile, the one that's never worked on Cam before and predictably doesn't now. "Bottle's cold," he offers, pressing it to the back of Cam's neck, just within reach from where he's lying, and Cam gives a gratifying squeak and shoves John down to wrestle the bottle away, or maybe just to touch, because they're too old for this, but it's safe. John touches every patch of skin he can, half pushing Cam off and half pulling him closer, laughing.

In the distance, something explodes, and he pulls away from Cam, looking around.

"What?" Cam asks, swiping John's water bottle.

"Are there... fireworks?" John asks, except it's the middle of the day still, sun high and bright in the sky, and who would be setting off fireworks now?

"What?" Cam asks again, frowning. John doesn't answer. He's freezing, suddenly, shaking with cold, and the sand under his body isn't sand at all, it's something harder, more solid, and the hands on him, gently lifting him away, aren't Cam's any more.

"It's all right, Colonel, you're safe." The voice is familiar, worried like Cam's, but not the same, and John doesn't know where he is. "There's a puddlejumper right outside, you'll be back in Atlantis before you know it."

John's being carried somewhere, somewhere safe, he knows this, so he doesn't bother opening his eyes, not even when he registers the change from dark to light behind his eyelids. The world's tilting again, in ways it definitely shouldn't be, and John feels very far away from it all. For a moment, he wants to slide back into the dream again, and he hears his own voice, very clearly, say, "Cameron," with something he thinks might be longing.

A hand pats his shoulder gently, but still hard enough to hurt, and right before he slips away, the familiar worried voice says, "Don't try to talk. Don't say anything," and John wonders what Rodney's got to be afraid of.

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He wakes up in the infirmary, and he doesn't even need to open his eyes to know that's where he is, the smell of antiseptic and the quality of the light plenty of clues, even without the familiar prick of the IV in the back of his hand and the distant, fuzzy pain. He wonders how many times he's done this since he came to Atlantis, whether it's more or less than on Earth, and that's all it takes for reality to rush back in.

When he opens his eyes, Rodney is looking right back at him. "Oh. You are awake. I thought so, but I didn't want to disturb you if you weren't. Are you in pain? Thirsty? Here." He presses the call button by the side of John's bed, then helps him sit up so he can suck up warm water through a straw. "Do you know where you are?"

Rodney's gaze flickers from John to Keller's office at the far end of the room, and back, a worried line appearing between his eyes. John recognizes this panic, the I've-just-said-something-I'll-really-regret panic that only really shows up when Rodney thinks he's gone too far with one of the three of them; he's never seen it when it applies to something *he's* said.

"Atlantis," he says. He's got questions, but none of them are urgent. They've done this enough times that he can probably answer most of the generalities himself, and the details he'll end up getting from someone who isn't Rodney anyway.

"Where's Keller?" Rodney demands abruptly. "Honestly, I know she's always complaining about how busy she is, but you did nearly bleed to death two days ago, would it be too much to ask for her to stop doing her hair and come take a look at her own patient?"

"What can I say, Dr McKay, I like to look good for my patients. Especially the ones who've had near death experiences." She grins at John while Rodney rolls his eyes, then proceeds to launch into a worryingly lengthy list of the many things that are currently wrong with him, including a broken ankle and three cracked ribs, not to mention a serious head wound, because it wouldn't be an off-world capture if it didn't include a head injury. The list is accompanied by a number of medical tests that John barely notices, and honestly, what does it say about his life that this is basically routine. She leaves eventually, with a promise of jello if he's good, and he's right back where he was, with Rodney staring at him, worried and guilty and something John vaguely recognizes as nervous.

Apparently they are going to talk about this after all.

"So. Who else heard?" He doesn't remember much about the puddlejumper ride back to Atlantis, sliding in and out of consciousness, but he remembers catching snatches of the beach and the ocean, and he's sure he said other things he shouldn't have done. On the one hand, he's kind of impressed that it's been three years and Rodney, at least, is surprised by this; on the other, it's the worst possible time for this, if someone decides to make something of it, with Elizabeth gone. He's sure Carter will fight for him, if only because she's known Cam longer than he has, but Atlantis doesn't need this now.

"Heard what?" Rodney asks, then caves when John gives him the best stink eye he can manage, flat on his back with the left side of his head shaved and stitched. "Teyla and Ronon. And Major Lorne. But, actually, he said he was concentrating on flying the jumper, not you, so..."

So he heard and he knows but he's not going to say anything. John resigns himself to the prospect of an awkward conversation that he's sure neither of them want to have and figures it could be worse. Lorne's a good guy.

"Carter only sent four people to rescue me?" he asks, belatedly. It's nice that she has such confidence in his people, but four seems kind of stingy.

"Stackhouse had the rest of your rescue team in the other jumper," Rodney says, "And don't try to change the subject."

John closes his eyes for a second. His head aches, he just accidentally outed himself to his team and his XO, and he doesn't want to deal with Rodney's wounded best friend shit till he's vertical and not on drugs.

A hand closes round his right wrist, just about the only part of him that doesn't hurt right now, and John risks opening his eyes. Rodney looks uncomfortable, but John can deal with uncomfortable. Maybe. If he has to. "I'm not – I won't tell anyone," Rodney says softly. "Teyla and Ronon either. I mean – you can trust us. You could have trusted us."

"I know," John says, swallowing around the weird, tight feeling in his throat. He does know, has known for years, but some habits are hard to break, and he's never actually said the words to anyone before. He's not sure he knows how, even if he wanted to.

"You're an idiot," Rodney says, shaking his wrist very gently. "Also, I'm not sure I think much of your taste in men. It may actually be worse than your taste in women."

John laughs, even though it hurts, and thinks about telling the next alien woman who wants him for his body, 'sorry, I'm taken, and he's a damn good shot.'

"Don't do that!" Rodney says, waving an alarmed hand in the direction of John's head. "Just because I know now – finally – that's no reason to start getting that dreamy-eyed look at the drop of a hat."

"I do not have a dreamy-eyed look," John says, but he thinks about the beach, about Cam warm and solid next to him, and admits, just in his own head, that he probably does, and that, for the first time since he joined the Air Force, he actually feels safe enough to let the look stick around. For a little while, anyway; the look on Rodney's face is totally worth it.

 

Next: Speak of This


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