Disclaimer: They're not mine.
Summary: Fighting the good fight after the Ori invade Earth.
Notes: This is a sequel to Under One Moon. The fic title is from a lovely poem called "Guinevere at Almesbury" by Guy Gavriel Kay, from the collection Beyond This Dark House. This story was written for the 2008 sg_rarepairings Fic Battle for the prompt "gun in your pocket."
John ducked awkwardly down a side street, out of sight of the Ori soldiers who'd been perilously close behind him. He immediately slowed down, trying to disguise his stiff-legged gait and blend into the crowd, willing the soldiers to pass him by. Even when he was sure he wasn't being followed, he kept his pace casual. There was no point in drawing attention to himself--you never knew who might have accepted Origin.
The crowds had all but disappeared by the time he reached his destination--a nearly derelict house in a neighbourhood where no one asked questions. Cam was already inside, waiting.
"Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" he smirked.
John grinned viciously and eased the weapon out--an M40A3 USMC sniper rifle, smuggled out of a small weapons cache established by the SGC in the early days of the final battle.
"Now that is an impressive-looking gun," drawled Cam approvingly. "Any trouble?"
"Other than having to walk past a group of Ori soldiers carrying this thing?" said John. "None." He pulled out the bipod and telescopic sight. "Did you get everything else?"
Cam hefted the pack sitting beside him. "Coloured smoke grenades. Urban camouflage gear. Firecrackers. Anti-Prior device. Your basic Prior assassination kit."
John nodded and handed the bipod and sight to Cam, who added them to the pack. "You know, this is going to make things a lot harder."
"Yeah," agreed Cam. "But it's this or let them burn Denver." Of course, assassinating the Prior wouldn't stop the burning. But it would delay it, at least for the time it took the Ori to get another Prior in, at which time they might just decide to burn all of Colorado in retaliation. Unless the loosely-organized resistance managed to take out the entire Ori fleet before then. Or maybe they could just kill the next Prior too; the Ori had to run out eventually, right?
"As long as we're clear on what we're doing."
"We're clear. Sit down," said Cam, gesturing to the other half of the ratty couch that was the room's only seating. "We've got a while." John laid the gun gently on the table and sat.
"Jackson meeting us here?"
"Nah," said Cam. "At the car. He's not carrying anything incriminating." Better to minimize comings and goings, even in this neighbourhood.
John smiled lazily at Cam. "So we have the place to ourselves?"
"And a couple of hours.” He slid towards the John’s end of the couch.
The only good thing about having to blow the Mountain, thought Cam distractedly as John planted kisses along his collarbone, was that John Sheppard had been on this side of the Stargate when they did, summoned back to Antarctica when the Ori first appeared on Earth's horizon, and unable to get back to Atlantis before Earth fell. He wasn't sure John was quite so happy about the situation, but Cam had made it one of his primary goals in this new life (right after making the Ori regret they'd ever heard of the Milky Way) to compensate John for his loss.
They made it to the meeting point with five minutes to spare. Jackson gave them a knowing look, but helped load the car without comment. The car was nicer than the usually resistance vehicles; it even had a functional air conditioner, for which Cam was particularly grateful in the July heat.
The Ori followers had been on Earth long enough to have a sense of how things worked in the United States. The new Prior was scheduled to appear at the Christian Heritage Megachurch at 11, with mass murder by fire to begin shortly thereafter. Originally the Priors had favoured government buildings as the site of burnings, but once they realized the significance of Earth's churches, they had switched. The desecration bothered Cam a little, even though he had long since left behind his grandmother's faith, retaining only a vague sense that there had to be something out there watching over them. John, who rejected both religion and God altogether, had simply said that it was too bad so many European cathedrals were being lost in the process, leaving Cam wondering when exactly John had developed a fondness for European cathedrals.
The three of them met up with two former SGC marines in Denver. Cam handed over the pack to them, and then followed John up to the vantage point they'd mapped out earlier. Jackson, armed with both book and gun, waited by the car, ready to provide back up or a quick getaway to anyone who needed it.
Back when the world was still whole, Cam had competed with John on the firing range just as they'd competed in the sky, and while he'd never concede that John was the better pilot, he had to admit that John was a better shot. Thus it was John who set up the sniper rifle while Cam kept watch and subtly admired the shape of John’s hands as he adjusted the telescopic sight.
It was a good day for a sniper hit—clear and perfectly still. The church was in a particularly good location, with lots of tall buildings with good sightlines nearby. They’d picked the one that offered the most exit routes. Cam raised his binoculars and looked down at the church. 10:55 and there was no sign of the Prior or the day’s victims yet. The Ori soldiers, however, were already in place, as were the cameras. The Ori didn’t have television on their worlds, but they’d learned to harness it on Earth to great effect. All major pronouncements and events were now aired live. He lowered the binoculars and looked over at John, who had stopped fiddling with the gun and now stood waiting with a calm stillness that Cam envied.
“All set?” he asked, knowing the answer but needing to say something.
“Ready when they are,” said John.
Cam paced restlessly across the roof, rechecking for anyone who might have spotted them.
“They never start these things on time,” he complained. John quirked an amused eyebrow and Cam suppressed a sudden desire to kiss him. He allowed himself to admire the long, lean form absently caressing the gun.
“You okay with this?” he asked. Another silly question—John’s killed men before, he knows, both with the resistance and before. He’s read the Atlantis reports. But there’s always something a little different about cold-bloodedly planning someone’s death, and then being face-to-face with them—so to speak—when you actually carry out the plan. Not like dropping bombs, clean and easy, without blood or screams to feed nightmares.
“Fine,” said John shortly, and Cam wondered whether he was really fine with playing sniper. Or maybe it was the potential consequences if the Priors pick up on the idea of collective punishment that bothered him. The Ori followers had certainly picked up on all of Earth’s other worst ideas.
Cam scanned the scene below once again, and this time detected movement.
“Looks like it’s game time,” he said. "We'll get the signal any minute now." John positioned himself at the gun, eye at the site, finger resting lightly on the trigger. Cam alternated between looking at the scene below with his binoculars and keeping watch over their immediate surroundings. Below, the Prior had stepped forward and raised his arms, addressing the crowd. Far to the right was a large device that looked like the weapon another cell had warned them about—a Prior-activated bomb, more or less, one that would set fire to the houses of all non-believers. (How it determined who believed was something they still hadn’t figured out. But they’d heard about its testing in a small town and had no desire to see its operation for in person.)
Behind the Prior was a row of a dozen people, hands tied, looking worn and defeated: the opening act to the grotesque show that the Ori followers had planned. Off to the side were six large woodpiles, each with its own post set conveniently in the centre. Cam suppressed a shudder and pulled back to do a sweep of the building vicinity. At his side, John was focusing intently. Cam held his breath as John adjusted his aim slightly. In the distance a series of sharp pops suddenly filled in the air, causing the crowd to peer around; John squeezed the trigger. The gun went off with a satisfying crack, hidden amidst the firecrackers sounding off all around them. Cam raised his binoculars and saw the Prior on the ground, unmoving.
“You got him. Let’s go,” he said. But John was still leaning over the gun, looking a little sick. Cam wondered for a moment whether the killing had gotten to him after all, and then he fired again. Cam took another look at the scene down below, and saw that the Ori were ignoring the dead Prior and had instead lit torches and were fast approaching the woodpiles, non-believers already tied in place. John fired again, taking out another torch bearer, and now the soldiers were looking around, looking up, calculating angles. Cam touched his shoulder.
“We’ve got to move.” John didn’t respond, so Cam grabbed his arm and hauled him up. “Come on!” he insisted. John tried to shake him off, and then reluctantly let Cam pull him away from the gun and roof as the square below began to fill with smoke. They hadn’t needed the smoke grenades after all.
They somehow made it back to the car without encountering any Ori soldiers. The marines hadn’t been quite so lucky, but neither of them was injured thanks to Jackson, and they thought they’d gotten everyone who might recognize them. Just to be safe, they decided to move on to another city, and promised to let the Colorado Springs cells know once they’d settled.
Everyone was silent on the ride home, Jackson having heard from the marines what had happened in the square and Cam having no idea what to say to John. Jackson left them once they were back in Colorado Springs, heading off to some sort of secret meeting. By mutual consent, John and Cam went back to Cam’s place. John had finally rented a place of his own, at Cam’s insistence, but the furnishings were pretty minimal, like he wasn’t really expecting to use it. Then again, thought Cam, John had always been one for traveling light.
It was night by the time they got there, and the apartment was dark. Cam flipped on a small lamp in the living room and then stood awkwardly, watching the shadows play across John’s face as John stared at the floor.
“I’m sorry,” he said at last, because he didn’t know what else to say. John looked up wearily.
“Not your fault.”
“Yeah.” He tried again. “Hungry?”
John shook his head and turned away, heading toward the small balcony. Cam watched him go in mute frustration. With a slow sigh, he headed into the kitchen and rummaged through the shelves, hunting for something that might be palatable to John. No meat, he decided, the smells of the morning still fresh in his memory. He found a couple of cans of vegetable soup and set them on the counter, then changed his mind and pulled out a couple of bottles of beer instead.
John was still on the balcony, leaning with his forearms on the railing, looking up. He held out a bottle, but John shook his head.
“I don’t like to drink after missions like this,” he said quietly. “It’s too easy to start drinking every time something goes wrong.” Cam nodded and set the bottles on the small table, then came to stand beside John, echoing his position.
“How are you?”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, but how are you now?”
John turned his head to look at him, and Cam thought he detected a hint of amusement beneath the fatigue. “I’m fine now,” he said.
Cam nodded up towards the stars John had been staring at. “Today’s one of those days when I bet you wish you were still there. Or is that every day?”
“I don’t know,” said John, looking up. “I don’t know which would be worse, staying there knowing there was no way to help Earth, or being here, not knowing what’s happening to them. The Wraith, the Genii…”
“Lorne’s a good officer. He’s taking care of them.” They stood in silence for a moment.
“They’re worse than the Wraith,” said John suddenly. “At least the Wraith kill us because they need to in order to survive. The Ori, though….”
“The followers need to kill us in order to avoid being killed by the Priors, and the Priors need to kill in order to avoid being killed by the Ori,” said Cam. “The Ori, well, they’re just greedy bastards.” John cracked a small smile at that, and Cam felt some of the tension drain out of him. He moved his hand over just a little, enough to rest lightly on John’s arm. Without looking at him, John pulled his arm back and caught Cam’s hand in his own, entwining their fingers, clutching it tightly as he continued to look out at the night.