blue flamingos

Two Tags for The Daedalus Variations

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Slash, PG13

Year/Length: 2008/ ~3600 words

Pairing: John/Cameron

Spoilers: The Daedalus Variations

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

Warning: Death of AU characters as seen in the episode. Given the set-up of Atlantis in this one, you could see it as a possible future for my big bang fic; not the future that I'd write if I carried on with that universe, but a possible one anyway.

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

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1. Straight Line Home (the happy one)

John's not surprised, when he climbs out of his 302, to find Cam waiting for them, white-faced and grinning on his crutches. He waits for the rest of the pilots to drift out – as second in command of the fighters, he's the only one who'll have to sit through the debriefing – then ambles over to Cam.

"Does Beckett know you're here?" he asks, even though he knows the answer.

Cam turns in an awkward, hopping circle, and starts towards the control room. "He said I was cleared to be up and around, as long as I stayed on the crutches."

"Up and around..." John prompts expectantly.

Cam sighs. "He didn't stay I had to stay in the infirmary."

"You know who's going to get the blame for this, when he finds out, don't you?" He likes Beckett, mostly, but the man imprinted on Cam when their 302 wing first came to Atlantis a year ago, and he firmly believes that John is the bad influence in their command. It doesn't matter that John was up in space, fighting off the Ixilirans, Beckett will find a way to blame him for Cam being up and about when he should be resting after breaking his leg in a bad landing a few days ago.

"Sorry," Cam says, sounding more worn out than sorry.

John rests a hand on his hip, bringing them both to a stop. There's nothing on this corridor but the transporter, and the rest of the pilots have already gone. "You okay?"

Cam drags up a smile. "I'll be fine. Wouldn't mind getting off my feet, though."

John rolls his eyes – he's spent too much time with McKay since he got to the city, picked up his bad habits. "You have only yourself to blame," he says loftily. "You didn't have to come check on us, you know. We've fought off the Ixilirans before."

More than once; they're the main reason for Cam, John and the others having been brought to Atlantis in the first place, and the 302 wing has gotten very good at fighting them off.

"I wasn't worried about you," Cam says dryly. "I just wanted to know where the Daedalus came from."

"Colonel Sheppard, can we expect you any time soon for the debriefing?" Caldwell's voice asks in his ear.

John makes a face at Cam. "On my way, sir." He taps his radio off. "Great, now you've gotten me into trouble with Caldwell as well."

"Don't sweat it," Cam says easily. "I'm the team-leader, I'll take the blame."

"Very kind of you, sir," John says, using the honorific like he never does except around the other members of the military in the city, and cups the back of Cam's neck for a lightning fast kiss.

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Caldwell, Evan, McKay and Dr Weir are waiting for them in the conference room, Caldwell looking like he's one second from tapping his foot impatiently. Evan catches John's eye, tilts his head at Cam, and shakes his head. John gives a little shrug in return; he and Evan bonded early on in John's stint in the city, training each other on their own ships. John, to Evan's disgust, is better at flying the gateships than he is, despite only having an artificial version of the gene.

"So glad you could join us, Colonel," Caldwell says, gesturing for them all to sit.

"Sorry, sir," John says. "I would have been here faster, but Colonel Mitchell decided to accompany me and he's not very fast."

"Should you be walking around, Colonel?" Caldwell asks.

Cam gives John a betrayed glare across the conference table, then smiles easily at Caldwell. "Dr Beckett said I'm fine to be up and about," he says.

Caldwell doesn't look too convinced, as usual; he's never really taken to Cam and his 302 wing, as much as he seems to like having his guys back on gate teams rather than trying to fight off the Ixilirans in the gateships. It's probably got something to do with the way John's and Cam's ranks make the chain of command look such a mess, even if they do both defer to Caldwell and Evan on everything except the 302s.

"So, Colonel," Dr Weir says, drawing everyone's attention back to her. "Did you manage to make contact with the Daedalus?"

Trust her to skip right over the part where John gets to trumpet his team's efforts in destroying all the Ixiliran fighters and scaring off the main ship. Which, okay, it's not like they didn't have some help when the Daedalus took out the main weapons before the shield failed, but still. It was some nice shooting on his team's part, and they deserve a little praise. As usual, it's going to have to come from John and Cam; Weir's never been anything but welcoming, but, like most of the Atlanteans, she doesn't exactly see their 302 wing as part of the city.

"We did," he says, trying not to fidget. He already knows how this part is going to go.

"And?" McKay prompts. "Did they say where they came from? Or where they went, or how they got back?"

"Not exactly," John says.

"Not exactly?" McKay parrots. "What does that mean?"

"You don't know what 'not exactly' means? I thought you were supposed to be a genius."

"Gentlemen," Weir cuts in. Cam clears his throat like he's trying not to laugh, and Evan looks down at his tablet, just about hiding his grin. "What do you know, Colonel Sheppard?"

"Whoever was flying said it wasn't their Daedalus." John looks at all the expectant faces and can't help shrugging. "We didn't exactly have chance to ask a lot of questions, what with fighting off the Ixilirans and all."

"He's got a point, actually," McKay says. He taps his remote, and a two-line graph appears on the screen behind Weir's head. "The energy reading we saw when the ship disappeared the first time? We read the same thing a couple of minutes after they fought off the Ixilirans. The ship was gone before Colonel Sheppard and the 302s got back to the city."

"Gone?" Evan asks.

"Yes, gone," McKay says impatiently. "Gone, as in – as in gone."

"Could they have opened a hyper-space window?" Caldwell asks.

"Yes, clearly that's exactly what I meant when I told you it was a mysterious energy reading the first three times. Was 'we don't know what it is' not clear enough for you?"

"Rodney," Weir says soothingly, and he just about subsides. John hides his own grin behind a hastily raised hand; he knows McKay annoys a lot of people, but John kind of likes him.

Since they really don't know much, the debriefing breaks up not long after that, Caldwell and Weir retreating to her office to go over the list of repairs needed after the Ixiliran beam broke through their shield for a few seconds, hitting the north-east pier.

John and Evan tag team Cam, walking one on either side of him, since he looks like he really might keel over. "You need to go back to the infirmary," John tells him.

"You're worse than Keller," Cam grumbles, which John takes as a compliment. The 302 team doctor, back on Earth with the other fighters, is tougher than anyone he knows when it comes to her patients, with the possible exception of Beckett.

"Hey, if you want to explain to Beckett how you came to break your other leg by passing out and falling down a flight of stairs, be my guest," John says lightly. He's totally prepared to enlist Evan to carry Cam to the infirmary if necessary, visions of him exacerbating his injury from Antarctica dancing in John's head.

Cam rolls his eyes, but McKay comes up behind them before he can say anything.

"You," he says, poking John in the shoulder as he shuffles past the three of them in the corridor, "Are completely lacking in intellectual curiosity."

"If you say so," John agrees.

"I do. Seriously, I know you didn't have long to chat, but aren't you curious to know where the Daedalus showed up from, out of the blue like that? Or how it came back? You didn't even find out who was flying it."

"I was a little busy trying not to get me or it blown up," John protests.

McKay stares at him in disgust for a moment, then turns and hurries off, muttering something about the American military and people wasting their brains. John's not sure if he should be flattered or insulted. Maybe both, knowing McKay.

When they finally make it to the infirmary, Teyla's already occupying one of the beds, Torrin cradled in her arms as Dr Cole checks him over. She smiles at the three of them. "I am glad to see you returned in one piece, Colonel Sheppard."

"Glad to be in one piece," John tells her. He likes Teyla, a lot, even if she does kick his ass at her stick-fighting thing. At least he's better at it than Lieutenant Ford, who's both her team leader and a marine.

John glares at Cam till he eases himself onto a second bed with John and Evan's help, groaning in relief when he sits back.

"Are you well, Colonel Mitchell?" Teyla asks.

Cam opens his eyes. "I'm fine. Pushed it too hard."

John resists the urge to throw up his hands in a McKay-like gesture and settles on, "I said you shouldn't have left the infirmary."

Of course, Beckett doesn't come bustling in until he's finished the sentence. He takes one look at Cam and rounds on John with a glare. "And what have you been doing with my patient?"

Behind him, Evan chokes somewhat overly dramatically, and John resists the urge to kick him. He should have known better than to listen when Evan said the Athosian hooch wasn't very alcoholic, and, no matter how drunk he was, he definitely should have kept his mouth shut about falling into bed with Cam six weeks after the two of them got tagged to lead the 302 team that would hopefully be coming to Atlantis, even if it did take the better part of a year for that to actually happen. At least Evan knows how to be discreet, most of the time.

"Are you all right, Major?" Dr Cole asks, looking over from Torrin.

John solicitiously pounds him on the back, until Beckett looks up from settling Cam to glare at both of them. "If you've nothing better to do than disturb my infirmary, Ronon's down in the gym looking for someone to spar with," he says. "The two of you could burn off some excess energy."

This time, it's Cam who half-chokes on a laugh, though he recovers fast. "Go on, get out of here," he says, waving them away. He catches John's eye, right before John turns to leave. "See you later?"

"If Dr Beckett says it's okay," John says, mock-obedient.

"Aye," Beckett says, not looking up from his patient. "You can take him home and put him to bed."

John's not sure whether to be worried or pleased when Teyla cracks up at that.

2. Slow Road to Nowhere (the sad one)

Cam's in the conference room with Lorne, Zelenka, Keller and Caldwell when Chuck knocks very politely and steps inside to say, "I thought you might like to know, sir, the Daedalus just appeared on our sensors."

Cam opens his mouth to respond, but nothing comes out. He's pretty sure he's still in shock from the first time it appeared, nearly a week ago; he's definitely not ready for the head-spinning moment of déjà vu that comes with Chuck's announcement.

"I assume you don't mean my Daedalus," Caldwell says, on his feet and covering for Cam.

"No, sir," Chuck agrees.

Zelenka nudges him out of the way and starts tapping at one of the consoles, Lorne peering over his shoulder. Keller doesn't say anything, just stays very close to Cam. She's worried about him, he knows; has worried about him ever since he turned up to take over after Dr Weir was captured by the Replicators, when she got a good look at all the old injuries in his file. This week, she's spent more time worrying about his mental health than his physical. They both know he isn't taking the sleeping tablets she's given him, and Cam thinks she's just waiting for him to collapse.

"It is the same energy reading as when the ship first appeared," Zelenka says. He looks up, wide-eyed and hopeful. Cam tries to match it, but for once, he's a couple of steps ahead of Zelenka.

"Is there any response on the radio?" he asks Chuck, who shakes his head, not meeting Cam's eyes. "Dr Zelenka, are you reading any life signs?"

Zelenka looks down at his computer, but it's Lorne who says, "No, sir."

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Zelenka and the science team haven't figured out, yet, where the ship came from, the first time it showed up, or where it went when it vanished again, taking Atlantis' premier team, a chunk of its command, and Cam's... whatever John was... with it. It's Caldwell who says that they should wait, in case it vanishes again. They can't afford to lose more people, and Cam knows it, but he says yes because Caldwell, since he showed up in their Daedalus three days ago, is probably the only person holding Atlantis together right now. Cam knows for damn sure that he isn't doing it.

Zelenka goes to round up a science team to take up to the ship, assuming it's still there past the length of time it took to disappear the first time, and Lorne goes off to get his team geared up. Caldwell heads back to the Daedalus, which is going to park itself in beaming range so they can get their people out if the energy signature starts spiking again, and Cam retreats to his office, closing the doors.

He knows better than to hope, he really does. No life signs, no response to their calls, it can only really mean one thing. The trouble is, he's used to the SGC, where people come back from the dead, to Atlantis, where they come back from a whole different time period, where they're kept in stasis and don't show up on any detectors, and he doesn't know how to not have hope.

Even though, every time he closes his eyes, he sees the Daedalus disappearing from the sensors, taking John and his team with it.

He's not really surprised when the knock to the door reveals Kanaan, Tagan held carefully in his arms. "Is it true that the ship has returned?" he asks, looking at Cam with such naked hope that Cam's chest tightens. Not for the first time, he regrets taking this post.

"Yes, it's back."

Kanaan's arms tighten round his daughter as he murmurs a phrase Cam recognizes as thanks to the Ancestors. "And Teyla –"

"We don't know yet. We're sending a team up, as soon as we're sure the ship's not going to disappear again." Cam's never been one for hiding things, not really, but he's unspeakably grateful, in that moment, that Kanaan doesn't understand most of the technology in Atlantis, that he doesn't know that they can trace life signs to the ship. "Go wait with your people. We'll tell you as soon as we know anything."

Kanaan leaves willingly enough, replaced after a moment by Zelenka, wearing a vest and carrying a tablet. "We've downloaded some information from the ship," he says. "It was being broadcast on an encrypted frequency."

"By who?" Cam asks. He forces himself to sit up straighter and pay attention to what Zelenka is saying, instead of watching the time tick away until either the ship disappears or they can get up there and find their people.

Zelenka frowns. "I believe it must be Rodney, though I am not sure how he set it up." He waves the mystery away. "According to his notes, the ship has been jumping between different realities, until they managed to reverse it. It's actually very ingenious –"

"Zelenka," Cam says, hoping he doesn't sound as weary as he feels. He's just not in the mood for a science lesson right now. "So what he sent you is like the last entry in a ship's log?"

"If you like," Zelenka agrees, tilting his head in a gesture that says Cam's not really right. "But with much more raw data as well. Actually, I do not believe he thought the drive would allow the ship to come this far. Only a few jumps, which, given the time the ship spent in our reality, should have stalled it long before it returned to us."

"Any idea why that didn't happen?" Cam asks, because it's obvious that Zelenka wants to tell him.

"It's difficult to say, without being able to access all the data from the ship, but it seems that some sort of – of failsafe kicked in, when the drive was close to burning out, allowing it to buffer some of the power drain so that it could make further jumps."

"So it's going to jump again?"

"I do not believe so," Zelenka says. "By now, we should have seen the energy signature begin to grow, and we have not. It may be that the drive has truly burnt out now."

"Great," Cam says tiredly, and that's when Major Lorne steps in to say that the time's run through, the ship is still there, and they're going up, if Cam wants to join them.

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Lorne flies the jumper, Cam in the co-pilot seat, Zelenka and Simpson behind them, and Lorne's team in back of the little ship. It's strange, watching two copies of the Daedalus grow larger in the view screen, and Cam keeps wanting to rub his eyes, convinced he's seeing double.

They'll have to get someone to land the reality-hopping Daedalus; he's not sure if it's in a stable orbit or not, but it can't stay up there. Zelenka and his team will want the information from the data banks, and to get a look at whatever's allowing the ship to jump between realities, and then the SGC will want it brought back to Earth. For parts, probably, since, the closer they get, the more obvious it is that it's been through the wars.

"Scorch marks," Lorne says quietly. "And – it looks like it's taken fire."

"The hull integrity is not good," Zelenka adds, tapping at his tablet. "Here, the bay doors are open for you."

Cam sees the jumper as soon as they land their two ships. It's closed up, facing away from them, and he can't help the surge of hope. Maybe they found a way to shield the jumper, shield their life-signs from whatever they ran into in different realities. In a couple of hours, they could all be back in the city, getting under Keller's feet in the infirmary while John and his team tell them about their wacky adventures in different worlds.

It's a faint, feeble hope, but he holds onto it anyway, right up until Lorne opens the back of the jumper and reveals an empty ship.

Cam takes a deep breath, and tells himself firmly that he cannot fall apart in front of all these people.

"Okay," Lorne says, like it's not at all weird for him to be giving orders when the leader of the expedition is standing right next to him. "Two teams, I want us to be out of here as fast as possible. Zelenka, where do you want your people?"

Lorne sends Reed and Henderson down to Engineering with Simpson and half of the scientists, leaves Stackhouse and Kemp with the jumpers, and leads Zelenka and the rest of the scientists up to the bridge with a quick, "Why don't you tag along with us, sir?" to Cam. Cam nods, more grateful than he wants to admit for Lorne's easy support. With John's team missing, Lorne's one of a very small number of people he actually knows well in Atlantis.

They're most of the way there when Morrison, one of the chemists, says, "I'm picking up faint residual gases in the air. Nothing we've ever seen before."

"Is it harmful?" Lorne asks, bringing the group to a halt.

Morrison holds up a hand for him to wait. "Huh," she says, looking down at her scanner. "It's matched to a chemical in the database. Um, the name's not translated, but... It's fine at these levels, but much more and it would have been deadly within a few minutes."

"Any idea where it came from?" Lorne asks. "Should we be wearing breathing gear, just in case?"

Morrison shakes her head. "No. It's dissipating, I think. The database lists it as being used as a weapon by – actually, that name's not translated either – by some kind of energy creatures that lived in deep space. They sound a little like suicide bombers –"

"So it's not dangerous?" Cam presses, suddenly impatient.

Morrison starts, looking up guiltily. "No, sir. We should be fine, I'm sorry."

"Okay, keep going." Lorne gestures them all forwards again.

Cam winds up halfway back in their little procession, Lorne at the front, so he doesn't see anything when they step onto the bridge.

He doesn't need to. Lorne makes a choked-off sound that Cam's never heard from him, fear and horror and grief, and it tells him everything he needs to know.


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