blue flamingos

Spaces in the Light

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis/Stargate SG1

Category/Rated: Slash, R

Year/Length:2008/ words

Pairing: John/Cam

Spoilers: major spoilers for SG1 9.12 Collateral Damage,minor spoilers for all of season 9

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

Summary: John says he never sees it coming; what he means is that sometimes he sees it coming but closes his eyes, hoping it won't see him

Series: The Shadows 'verse

Author's Notes: For [info]14valentines Day 8: Domestic Violence

Beta: by [info]domtheknight

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


John was expecting a bit of weirdness afterwards, so he's not surprised when he gets it – occasional flashes of memory at inappropriate moments, mutual hesitancy for him to stay at Mitchell's after team nights, even a handful of dreams that leave him sweaty and breathless when he wakes up. He's used to it though, and he knows it'll go away after a while. It's nothing he can't handle.

It's the other stuff that he finds it harder to get his head around. He's had friends he's close to before, but even then it's never been the way things with Mitchell are. He starts trying to avoid standing too near to Mitchell, because the electric feel of his skin against John's makes him shiver, but even that would be bearable. A bit outside the norm, but not so far that he couldn't explain it as the effects of sleeping with someone he knows well.

What he can't explain away is how he barely sleeps while Mitchell's missing-presumed-dead with the Sodan, or how he has to choke down an almost hysterical laugh of relief when they find him again.

He can't explain the way he sometimes aches to touch, at the end of a long day, or a really bad day... or rather, he can, but he doesn't want to, because this is the *last* thing he needs right now.

Unfortunately, wanting it gone and having it gone are two very different things, which is why he's standing with the rest of SG-1 at a reception for which they're all under-dressed, and trying not to send death glares at Dr Varrick, who seems like a perfectly nice woman, except for the way she keeps *smiling* at Mitchell. Who keeps smiling back at her, and is hoping for dancing, for fuck's sake.

The rest of the team think it's funny, John knows, and he's sure he'd find it funny as well, even with everything that hasn't gone away yet; it's not like he's got any claim to Mitchell, after all.

Except that he catches Mitchell looking at him sometimes, when he thinks John isn't looking back, has ever since they slept together that night months ago, and he knows that look; it's the look he feels on his own face sometimes, when he thinks Mitchell isn't looking back, the look that makes something deep inside him hurt.

It's a claim that he's not ready to give up yet, not for some scientist on another planet, even if she is working on one of the planet's most top secret projects. The memory implant technology makes John's skin crawl anyway, the thought of not knowing whether his memories are his or not, no matter what the emissary says about people agreeing to it and knowing that they're getting. He knows what governments can be like when they have something they think will help their people, especially if they're talking about soldiers.

Mitchell finally focuses on the team when Dr Varrick leaves him alone, though his gaze slides across John like he's barely there, and John's not so far gone that he's hurt Mitchell isn't giving him the same amount of attention he usually does, he's not.

"I don't think diplomacy's my strong suit," Mitchell says then, answering a question of Carter's that John wasn't listening to; it's all he can do not to laugh, because he's pretty sure Dr Varrick would give Mitchell anything he asked for right now.

"Oh, is that what you were doing?" Jackson asks. John's only looking at him because he doesn't want to look at Mitchell right now, but he wishes he weren't, because Jackson's gaze, as he speaks, flickers across to John for a second, and John thinks, he knows. He knows, and he's trying, God, to protect John's *feelings* or something, and he needs Jackson to be worrying about him even less than he needs to be nursing this dumb *thing* for Mitchell.

Especially when he was perfectly happy believing that Jackson just doesn't like him, the way he doesn't seem to like Mitchell much either.

Not that it matters, because Mitchell's clearly oblivious. When he goes after Dr Varrick, though, John figures that's as good an excuse as any for him to leave.

It has nothing to do with not wanting to hear what the rest of the team might say, now they've got John alone. He doesn't want to be pitied.


"John." There's a hand on his shoulder, shaking him awake, and he knows it has to be Carter; she's the only one who calls him by his first name, has done since the beginning when he was resolutely calling her Colonel and ma'am. "John, wake up."

"I'm awake," he says, forcing his eyes open, though he doesn't feel it. He remembers hearing the rest of them come into the suite they've been given, and lying awake for a long time afterwards, listening for Mitchell coming back. He doesn't remember hearing him. "What's going on?"

Carter straightens up, her face worried, still dressed in the clothes she sleeps in, off-world. That in itself is enough to have John reaching for his weapon. "Cam's been arrested," she says.


They're taken to see Mitchell after less than five minutes of Jackson and Carter's collective brow-beating of the emissary, and the first thing John notices is how much like an Earth cell the place is. Not that he's spent a lot of time behind bars, but he's bailed out a few stupid young airmen in his time, and the single concrete bench, the bars in place of a fourth wall, are just like every other cell he's looked into.

The person on the other side is not.

Mitchell's sitting on a bench in the middle of the cell, his hands clenched and his head down. He looks up when they're shown in, then drops his head again before any of them – before John – can make eye contact. The brief glimpse is enough for John to see that Mitchell looks like a man who believes, on some level, that he's killed someone, and he grips the bars so hard his fingers ache, trying to will away the urge to offer comfort that he can't give.

Mitchell sounds broken, recounting the story of how he killed Dr Varrick, and John's not sure if he's grateful or not that Mitchell doesn't look at him once, not even when they're being escorted to the emissary's office. Mitchell walks with Carter, Teal'c and Jackson behind them; John wonders if anyone even remembers that he's there.

Given their surprise, when Carter says, "We'll go back to the SGC and let Landry know what's happening," and John says, "I'll stay with Mitchell," he kind of thinks not.

Now that Mitchell's technically not a prisoner any more, they're allowed to sit in a small, empty room down the hall from the emissary's office, though John's pretty sure their two escorts are standing right outside the door, ready to stop them if they decide to leave, despite being theoretically free to do so.

Sitting opposite Mitchell, who still isn't looking at him, John doesn't know why he offered to stay. Some half-formed paranoia about what they might do to Mitchell in SG-1's absence, maybe, or simply not wanting to leave him alone on the same planet as the person who murdered Dr Varrick and implanted the memory in Mitchell's head.

"I had blood on my hands," Mitchell says abruptly. He's staring down at his hands, clenched tight together again. "I didn't even – it's like the memory wasn't there until I saw her."

John doesn't know why he wasn't expecting that, but it's a shock to hear that they showed Mitchell her body, that he has that memory of someone he liked stuck in his head even if they remove the memory of the murder. He already knows that Mitchell won't agree to having that taken away. "God," he says, because there's nothing else to say. I'm sorry just isn't going to cut it here, and it'll be all right is so far past inappropriate that he can barely even think it.

"I just keep –" Mitchell's eyes flicker, looking at John across the table for a moment before dropping again. "I keep seeing her. And I still feel like... I can still feel it, how angry I – he – was." He takes a tight breath. "Maybe it really was me," he says, and John's heart clenches, because he sounds like he believes it.

"Of course it wasn't," he says quickly. "Remember what Jackson said, they can implant memories, someone must have –"

"Have what? Decided last night was the perfect night to *kill her*, when I was there? She lives – lived – by herself, why would someone want to kill her when there was a witness right there –"

"So they could frame you?" John's not yelling, but he's getting close. He can't help it – he wants to shake Mitchell, force him to see reason, because Mitchell's just offered to risk the death penalty for this and he can't –

"You heard the emissary, hardly anyone can operate that machine, and none of them would have a motive to kill her." Mitchell's glaring at him now, twisted round to face him, angry and hurt.

"And you would?" John demands, well aware that he shouldn't really be yelling like this, but he can handle anger, far better than he can handle Mitchell's blank, broken expression. "You went home with her and what, got into an argument and –"

"I don't know!" Mitchell yells. "I *remember* it, Sheppard, fuck, what would you think if you were me?"

That I'd killed her, John thinks, but that's the last thing Mitchell needs to hear, even if he doesn't think for one second that Mitchell did it. "It wasn't you," he says instead. "You know it wasn't you."

Mitchell lets his breath out in a harsh sigh, and slumps over the table, his head resting on his hands. John decides he's going to take this as a slight improvement. "We're SG-1, we saved the world from a Prior plague," – well, sorta, depending on your point of view – "It'd just be embarrassing to be defeated by a memory implant machine."

It's a stupid thing to say, not based even a little bit in reality, not really, but it makes Mitchell laugh, kind of, and the laugh's enough to give John the courage to reach out and put his hand on Mitchell's elbow, feel the tension under his skin. After a couple of seconds, Mitchell drops his other hand to wrap round John's wrist, and they sit like that, halfway to holding hands, until one of their escorts/guards opens the door to tell them the rest of SG-1 are back and they can start the testing process.


John's never been more grateful that he doesn't get to play with any of the toys off-world than he is standing with Carter and watching two scientists poke through Mitchell's *head*. As if the memory implanting isn't creepy enough to begin with, these people can make you see any memory they like, and John can't stop thinking about all the things he doesn't want anyone to ever know about. He thinks Mitchell's probably a much better person than he is, to let them do this for someone he barely knows, who won't even be helped by it, not really.

It's still better than being beaten up, he tells himself firmly, or sentenced to death, or shot at, all of which happen to them with enough frequency that he feels fairly confident in making the comparison, even as it becomes increasingly obvious that it's not working.

Carter leaves after a while to take Dr Lam's report to the emissary – John's apparently been nominated as Mitchell's guardian for the duration, and can't help thinking about kids who need official guardians when they're in police cells. Dr Amuro unhooks the leads from Mitchell's head and goes back to his machine, muttering with Dr Marell, which John takes to mean they're being given as much privacy as is possible in an open lab. He waits for Mitchell to swing his legs round and sit up, then sits next to him on the chair, carefully keeping a few millimeters of space between the two of them.

"You doing okay?" he asks quietly and Mitchell huffs something that might be a laugh.

"This is not what I had in mind when we were invited back for the reception," he says.

"No," John agrees, biting down on the urge to make a joke about alien customs.

"Maybe I should just let them take the memory away," Mitchell says eventually.

John nudges him gently. "You're doing the right thing," he says, and Mitchell nods, determination sliding back over his face.

When Dr Marell asks if Mitchell makes a habit of murdering innocent people, and Mitchell says, "I may have what you need," John wishes he'd just agreed with Mitchell about removing the memory and gotten them the hell off this planet.

He turns away from the chair when Mitchell clenches his hands into fists, his eyes screwed shut and his face twisted in anguish. Whatever Mitchell's reliving, it doesn't seem right that they should be watching him going through it again, even if he has given tacit permission by not asking them to leave.

It has nothing to do with the way John wants to touch him, to tell him it's okay and whatever he's remembering is over, or the knowledge that, in front of the rest of SG-1 and two alien scientists, he has to stop himself.

He manages it, right until Mitchell gasps, the chair creaking as he rockets up, and then John's right next to him, taking his other arm as Carter helps him out of the chair, to sit on the step leading down to the machines. He can feel Mitchell shaking where his hand is still on Mitchell's arm, and he can't make himself let go.

"Please tell me you got what you need," Mitchell says, his voice muffled by the hand covering his face, and when he looks up in response to Dr Marell's, "It worked," his face is wet, and John thinks savagely that if they can implant memories of murders someone didn't commit, they ought to be able to remove memories that make someone look like that.


John's been ready to leave this planet since they first mentioned the memory device, and he's far past ready by now, restless and twitchy with the need to get away from these people with their Asgard protection and freaky technology, and back to Earth, where at least false accusations don't come with false memories.

Of course, he's not in charge of this team, and Cameron Mitchell has an honorable streak a mile wide, no matter how much it's hurting him.

None of which means that John has to stay in that room, watching him remember Dr Varrick's murder over and over in the faint hope of seeing who really killed her, which is why he's trying to pretend he's not pacing the empty corridor in a move eerily reminiscent of an expectant father, when Carter finds him. "There you are," she says, and sighs.

"How's it going?" John asks. He's not going to feel guilty about leaving Carter by herself with Mitchell and the scientists. There are two other people on this team besides the three of them, and he's not responsible for Mitchell.

"It's done," Carter says. "Dr Marell killed her, and removed the memory from his own head so he wouldn't have to feel guilty for what he'd done."

John knows he's staring at her like an idiot, but he can't help it. After everything that's happened over the past few days, he wouldn't have thought anything about this planet and its people could make him more uncomfortable, but apparently he was wrong, because that sends a shudder of pure revulsion down his spine.

"Yeah," Carter says. "That's pretty much how I felt."

"So we can leave?" John asks, trying to change the subject. He doesn't even want to think about this any more if he doesn't have to.

"Dr Amuro's going to remove the memory of the murder from Cam's head, then, yes, we can go." Carter looks the length of the corridor, then back to John. "I'm going with Daniel and Teal'c to talk to the emissary, can you stay with Cam again?"

"Sure," John agrees. She gives him a tired nod and walks off, and John has no idea what makes him open his mouth, but he hears himself anyway, calling, "Um, Colonel?"

She stops and takes a couple of steps back towards him. "Yes?"

He's regretting calling her now, but it's too late to back out, and John's good with challenges, most of the time. "I just wondered if – the memory, do you know what it was?"

Carter pins him with a look, and he remembers, which he shouldn't have forgotten, that although Carter isn't usually especially perceptive when it comes to people, she's usually spot on when she does manage it, and she's not the kind of person not to try for a question like he's just asked. "Why?" she asks finally.

John shrugs. "I just thought, you know, you worked together before, and maybe..."

Carter shakes her head. "No, I'm sorry. I've no idea what he was thinking of." She frowns at him for a moment longer, then gestures to the door. "You'll stay with Cam?"

"Sure," John says again, not sure if she's telling the truth or not, and heads back in.

Mitchell's sitting on the edge of the chair again, both scientists gone for the moment, looking down at the floor. He shifts when John gets close, moving to let John sit next to him again, and John figures they've got the place to themselves, and Mitchell's clearly a man in need of comfort, so he risks it, resting his hand on the back of Mitchell's. After a moment, Mitchell turns his hand in John's and squeezes, hard.

"You okay?" John asks, very quietly, and Mitchell sighs, still holding on, and says, "I just want to go home."


John's not ashamed to admit that he hides in his quarters when the debrief is over. Well, maybe he is, a little bit, but there's no-one to hear besides him, so it doesn't really matter.

He's not avoiding Mitchell, anyway, so it's not really hiding. More like a strategic retreat, or a pre-emptive non-strike, and the fact that he's putting this much effort into thinking up the right term for what he's doing ought to be more than enough to tell him that he is hiding, and he is ashamed of it.

Of course, his luck being what it is, this turns out not to matter at all, because someone knocks at his door just as he's starting to think everyone must have gone, and he's not at all surprised when he opens his door and finds Mitchell on the other side, dressed in street clothes and looking exactly the way John imagines he must feel.

"Come and have a drink with me," Mitchell says before John's fully finished opening the door.

John blinks and says, "I need to change," which isn't any less of a stupid response for being true. Considering he's been half-expecting this since they stepped back through the gate, he really ought to have had a better response – something more likely to make Mitchell go away.

"I'll wait," Mitchell says, and John nods, and closes the door so he can change, because, really, he's just been waiting for this to happen again, and sometimes resistance really is futile.


Mitchell, unsurprisingly, isn't his usual cheerful self at the bar, instead staring down at the table like he's a million miles away. All John can think about is one night, seven months ago, already going hazy with memory, feeling safe for the first time in years, and he wants to give it back, return the favor, but he doesn't know how.

Even so, he's pretty sure letting Mitchell get drunk won't help, so he cuts him off after two beers, and says, "Give me your car keys."

"I'm not drunk," Mitchell says, finally looking at him with clear eyes, and no, he's not, he's stone cold sober. "I can drive myself home."

"Give me your keys anyway," John says, trying to project because I don't want you to have an accident, and because I want to come back with you into Mitchell's head. He's not sure if it works, but Mitchell sighs like John's asking for a major organ and digs his keys out of his pocket.

John knows Mitchell's car by now, has driven it a number of times when Mitchell's been too tired, or too beaten up to drive it himself, and a couple of times when Mitchell's just handed over the keys and said, "Wherever you want to go. I'm in no hurry to get home," letting John send them speeding down empty roads until the itchy, trapped feeling under his skin has faded. Sometimes, he doesn't even follow it with a comment about how John *really* needs to move out of the Mountain.

The radio comes on when John turns the key, and he leaves it on, something unexpectedly classical, when he would have pegged Mitchell for more of a classic rock kind of guy. Whatever, it's soothing, with enough of a rhythm that he can still follow it with the volume turned right down.

Mitchell leans his head against the side window and closes his eyes, and John's grateful, because they both know Mitchell's still awake but this way he can pretend, just for a few minutes, that he isn't desperately trying to find something to say, and failing, like always.

He doesn't give Mitchell time to object when he pulls up outside the apartment block, just palms the keys – Mitchell keeps all his keys on one ring, after too many mornings when he's come out without one that he needed – and waits for Mitchell to follow him into the building and up in the elevator.

He's probably being presumptuous, but no more than he has been all evening, when he turns to lock the door with them both on the inside, the room still in darkness; except he's doing the right thing, apparently, finally, because when he turns back into the room, Mitchell's right there in front of him, pushing him back against the door, narrowly avoiding hitting John's head against the empty coat hook, and kissing him, so hard it's on the wrong side of painful, noses pressed awkwardly together, and Mitchell's hands tight, tight on John's arms.

"Stop," John says, pulling back as far as he can when he's already up against a solid surface. "Mitchell, wait." Mitchell shakes his head, a single jerky gesture, before pressing back in to kiss John again. John's always thought of the two of them as pretty evenly matched, strength-wise, but he's revising that estimate now, forcing Mitchell back a step with a firm push to his chest. "Not here," he says, holding Mitchell back, or holding him up, he's not sure. This is not how he was intending this to go, and he's not at all confident in his own ability to get through to Mitchell like this. "Are you listening? Not like this. Let's go in your bedroom."

Mitchell shakes his head again, but he goes anyway, John half-leading, half-dragging him behind. He gets his hands back on John the moment the bedroom door closes behind them, shoving him onto the bed and stripping him ruthlessly, efficiently, between harsh kisses, pushing John's hands away every time he tries to touch back, to slow this down or reach Mitchell, just once. It's kind of scary, and more than a little sad, and still incredibly hot, more so when he doesn't have to look at Mitchell's face, like the uneven rasp of his breathing isn't telling John enough, and when Mitchell grinds out, "Let me do this," John's pretty much powerless to do anything but nod and say, "Okay, all right, yes," grateful for the hand he manages to get on Mitchell's hip, for that single touch that isn't burning up with anger and grief.

He's a little worried that Mitchell wants to fuck him – not because he minds if things get a bit rough, or come with a bit of pain, but because he knows that Mitchell's not in any place where he can deal with that, and John's not that good an actor. It's only a moment's worry though, Mitchell too far gone for that. He holds John down instead, hands tight enough on John's biceps that he knows he'll feel half-formed bruises in the morning, and shoves his cock hard against John's, over and over, slick with sweat and pre-come, his muscles trembling when John finally gets a hand up to his back, his neck. He wants to pull Mitchell in, to kiss him, but Mitchell's locked in place and John really doesn't want to hurt him.

"Let go," he says, quiet under the words Mitchell's panting out, too muffled for John to understand them. "Come on, let go. Make us both feel good."

And the sound Mitchell makes when he comes, like something inside him is breaking apart, shouldn't be the thing that sends him over as well, but John's never said he wasn't messed up, and he comes hard as Mitchell's arms give out and he collapses against John, still shaking. John tells himself firmly that Mitchell's just trying to catch his breath, that the dampness against his shoulder is sweat, but he knows he's lying when he wraps his arms tight round Mitchell and kisses the tip of his left ear, the only part of him John can reach.


John dozes, listening to Mitchell's breathing even out as he slides into exhausted sleep, adding this sudden, weird, but not entirely unpleasant urge to protect onto his growing list of things about Mitchell that make him something different from every one night stand John's ever had. Here and now, it doesn't feel like so much of a bad thing as it does the rest of the time.

He comes fully awake, finally, to find Mitchell still in his arms, still resting his head on John's shoulder, but awake and watching him. "You okay?" John asks quietly, studying his face. He still looks bruised, and like he could use about a week of sleep, but something's cleared, and he looks familiar again.

"Better," Mitchell says, his voice raspy in the late night silence. "Thanks."

"No problem," John says. He strokes one hand down Mitchell's spine and back up, then does it again, trying to bleed reassurance through his skin.

Mitchell sighs easily, and closes his eyes again, so John keeps going, soothing both of them. It's been a rough few days.

"You know," Mitchell says, just as John's about to slip back into sleep again. "We're a lot less likely to get caught doing this if you get a real place to live."

It takes John a second to realize what Mitchell means, that he's being offered something, like it's so easy, like they can just have this, as part of their lives.

"Or you could just come live here," Mitchell adds, sounding half-asleep already, but still with a sly undertone. "I've got a spare room."

Just like that, as though everything could possibly be that simple.

It's kind of an addictive thought.

"Ask me again in the morning," John says, and lets himself fall.

Next: Home Fires

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