Recipient's name: slybrarian
Prompts: Bonding over spaceships/weapons/things that go boom, coming out, Rodney voicing opinion upon their relationship. (I think I got all three, though the second and third more than the first.) I hope this doesn't constitute unwarranted angsting.
Word Count: ~6500
Warnings: Minor spoilers for the final episode of SGA.
Note: With my apologies to slybrarian for my tardiness.
Summary: After fifteen years of sleeping with John, Cam decides he wants more.
Cam's waiting with Landry in the gateroom when John steps through the gate, accompanied by McKay and a handful of marines and scientists. For once, it's neither tragedy nor emergency that's summoned the Lanteans home--just a series of meetings and updates and scheduled vacations. It's a situation that makes Cam very happy, because he has plans for this visit, and tragedies and emergencies would interfere with those plans.
Landry stiffens a little as the gate closes and the Lanteans head down the ramp, the way he always does when he comes into contact John's non-regulation hair and almost-saunter. Cam smothers a grin--because Landry's sometimes a little too spit-and-polish even for Cam's taste--and steps forward to say hello. His presence elicits a disdainful snort from McKay, and a questioning look from John. They usually avoid anything that might qualify as suspicious behaviour--the better to avoid questions about why John frequently stays with Cam when he's on Earth--and hanging out in the SGC gateroom waiting when John's due back is definitely on the list of suspicious behaviour. This time, however, Cam has an excuse, so he smiles reassuringly at John and then greets the whole group cheerfully because he knows it will irritate McKay. McKay frowns, but doesn't have a chance to get in an insulting comment before Landry takes over, explaining the various changes in scheduling that have occurred since this trip was organized, and Cam sees John relax a little as he realizes why Cam's there.
After the initial meet-and-greet is over, the Atlantis personnel scatter to their various destinations and Cam gets to do the thing (well, one of the things) he's been waiting for all week--he drives John away from the city and introduces him to the newest addition to the SGC's fleet.
"So this is what you've been doing while Carter's been getting ready to take over the General Hammond," John says, running his hand along one smooth wing, and Cam smiles at his smile, wide and unshadowed and genuinely happy in a way Cam rarely sees.
"These are my babies," Cam agrees, and doesn't bother mentioning the off-world missions he's still running with the new SG-1. They don't talk a lot, but they talk enough that John knows the basics of what he's been up to. "Want to take them up?" he asks instead.
They go up together, putting the new ships through their paces. Flying is high on the list of Cam's favourite activities (as long as he's at the controls), but watching John fly--all cool competence and smooth turns--runs close behind it, and he finds himself grinning at John's boyish glee when he demolishes target after target in one clean run.
They spend the rest of the morning at the airstrip, and then it's back to the SGC for an afternoon of meetings and paperwork. Cam plans on saying something that first night--he really wants to get it out of the way, and deal with the consequences, whatever they might--but dinner ends up being a group affair, with his new team eager to hear about Atlantis firsthand, and then dinner turns into dinner and drinks and darts at a local pub, and it's late in the evening before John and Cam stumble into Cam's apartment, relaxed and just a little tipsy.
John starts kissing Cam as soon as they're inside, shoving him up against the back of the door and pressing against him before Cam has a chance to react. Cam automatically reaches out, slides his hands around John's hips, opens his mouth eagerly to the kiss, before he remembers that they were supposed to be having The Talk tonight. He thinks about what he was going to say as John slides a tongue into his mouth, a hand up his shirt. Weighs the words he's been praticing for a month as John pulls his mouth away and begins kissing his way down Cam's neck, hands sliding to Cam's belt buckle. When John falls to his knees, taking Cam's pants down with him, Cam mentally shrugs and decides the conversation can wait.
The words come back to him later that night as he's lying beside John in bed, his chest pressed to John's back, one hand resting on John's stomach, and he decides it's time. He leads in slowly.
"How's the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell working out on Atlantis?" he asks, propping himself up on one arm.
"There've been a few surprises," John replies lazily. "Not too many, though. I think a lot of people are taking their time in deciding just how public they want to be."
"No incidents yet?" The polls showed overwhelming support among the armed forces for changing the regulations, but Cam still has the occasional nightmare about what might have happened to him if people had found out, back when he was in the regular Air Force, and he's not convinced that problems won't arise. Even among the relatively tolerant types who ended up with the Stargate Program.
"It's a pretty international contingent," John says. "Lots of openly gay soldiers from other countries were already around. Everyone's had time to get used to the idea."
"What about you?" Cam asks. "Thinking of making a public announcement?"
John twists to look at Cam and makes a face. "I think I'll leave that to the young guys. I'd like to keep my status as Mysterious Leader who no one can figure out." He pauses, studying Cam's expression. "Why? Are you thinking of coming out?"
"Nooo," Cam says slowly. "Not exactly coming out. But I was thinking...." His stomach lurches as he thinks about what's supposed to come next, and the carefully rehearsed words dry up in his mouth. He shouldn't be doing this, he decides. It was a mistake. He knows better. He should know better.
"Thinking what?" John asks curiously, looking up at him intently from under dark, ruffled hair, and Cam feels his pulse pick up just a little. He wants this, wants John here, wants...wants all sorts of things he'll never have if he doesn't speak up.
Cam turns away from John's gaze, toward the window. "Thinking we could...you know. Start, uh, dating." Which seems like a silly thing to say to a man he's been sleeping with on and off for fifteen years, except that he still can't go to the gateroom to greet John without an excuse, and he can count on one hand the number of times the two of them have gone out to dinner alone, and he's past forty now and he wants more.
"Dating?" John repeats. Cam looks down at him in time to catch his astonishment (was that fear beneath it?) before the mask slips into place. Cam isn't surprised by the reaction, but he is a little disappointed. He was hoping that he wasn't the only one thinking along these lines.
"Yeah," Cam says, deciding that the only way to go now is to brazen through. "You know, go out in public together. List each other on our paperwork so that we aren't always learning about injuries through AARs three weeks after they happen. Maybe...talk about the future." The last is the heart of what he really wants, and the thing he never dared pursue when the choice was between a relationship and the stargate.
John doesn't respond, just lies down with his back against Cam's chest so that Cam can't see his face. Cam lets out a slow breath and hopes he hasn't blown things completely. He doesn't think John's afraid of relationships, exactly--he was married, after all--but this is a different kind of request, asking him to overturn a lifetime of tight-lipped, career-ending secrecy, and Cam's barely sure of his own desires, never mind John's, though he's hoping....
He tries again. "Look, I'm not declaring my undying love here or anything. It's just...I've slept with a few people over the years. And you're the only one I'm still sleeping with fifteen years later. And I want to see if...we can be more." He pauses, trying to judge the quality of John's silence. He can feel the tension running along John's back, knows that he's listening, isn't at all sure what he's thinking. "You don't have to decide now," Cam says. "Just...think about it." He reaches over to shut off the bedside light and lies back down, closing his eyes. A moment later, John's voice rises out of the darkness.
"I'll think about it."
John gets up with Cam the next morning, even though his first meeting of the day isn't scheduled for another two hours. They cook breakfast together--pancakes and bacon and the good coffee that John knows Cam buys especially for him--and neither of them bring up the conversation of the night before. Instead, they banter lightly about recent missions and the challenges of breaking in new lieutenants and their schedules for the day, and John tries to ignore the tight watchfulness behind Cam's smile and the way his own stomach is knotted up.
As he fries bacon and watches Cam flip pancakes, John tries to imagine this as his daily routine. Breakfast at home instead of in the mess. Lingering over coffee in the morning. Sharing jokes with Cam instead of with his team. It's a surprisingly comfortable idea. Well, except for the last bit, maybe, because he really can't imagine never having breakfast with Rodney and Ronon and Teyla again. On the other hand, he doesn't think Cam is asking him to give up Atlantis, so that's not a problem.
And yet the thought of making explicit something that's been implicit for so long is inexplicably just about sends him running out the door. Why? Yes, they live in different galaxies, but other people seem to work around that. And yes, if they start dating then people will eventually find out, but John has long since given up caring what the military thinks about his personal life, and he's pretty sure such a revelation won't cost either of them their careers. Probably. Anyway, John's over here at least one night of every trip to Earth, which in his books means they're already practically dating. Why not make it official?
He glances down at his watch and sees that Cam still has nearly forty-five minutes before he has to leave, so once the two of them are seated across from each other at the table, John leans back and asks, "What would this new relationship look like?"
Cam looks up from his plate, a startled expression on his face, and John smiles a little.
"Well," Cam drawls after swallowing a bite of bacon, "I don't know. I thought we'd take it slow. Go out sometimes. See if we might want to stick it out long term."
"Introduce each other to our family and friends?" John asks, still trying to feel his way through. Pictures of Cam's family---both immediate and extended--abound throughout the apartment. John's not sure how he'd adjust to that kind of family closeness.
"I think all my friends already know you," Cam says, cutting into his pancakes. "Unless you count the ones from high school." He doesn't touch on the family issue. John lets it go.
"Stop sleeping with other people?" he asks instead. That wouldn't be much of a sacrifice. There have been a few brief affairs over the years, but despite the stories that float around Atlantis and the SGC, there aren't all that many situations in which the people they meet pressure them to have sex. He's avoided sleeping with other Lanteans since the beginning--there were too many ways for it to go wrong. It would be more of a sacrifice for Cam, who actually has opportunities on a regular basis.
"If that's what you want," Cam says easily. "Might be a good idea." So maybe not such a sacrifice. John thinks for a moment about whether it is what he wants, and then decides they can figure it out later.
"How about dinner tonight?" Cam says.
"Tonight?" It occurs to John that being okay with a relationship in the abstract doesn't necessarily translate to being okay with it in reality. Maybe he just needs to get used to the idea. "Sure," he says quickly. "Dinner tonight sounds great."
"Somewhere nice," Cam says.
Cam refuses to be more specific than that, and John realizes with surprise that he really intends to treat this as a first date. It seems a little odd after fifteen years of knowing each other, including maybe six years of actively sleeping together (plus a few one-nighters in-between), but Cam's clearly not going to give on this, and in the end, John just sighs and agrees to dig out a suit from his storage locker.
He catches a ride in with Cam instead of taking a cab, and finds himself with time to kill even after he finishes at the gym. He automatically starts toward the sciences labs to look for Rodney before remembering that Rodney's on his way to Vancouver to visit Jeannie and her family. He adjusts his course and begins thinking about who else might be around who he knows. He's on Earth so infrequently these days...
He finds Carter in her office talking to a serious young captain, and hangs around in the corridor until the captain leaves, then taps lightly on the open door. She greets him with a smile.
"John! I was hoping I'd have a chance to see you." She gestures toward a chair, and he steps inside and sits down, noting as he does the massive pile of files on the desk.
"It looks like they're keeping you busy."
Carter rolls her eyes. "I'm trying to put together a crew. It's proving more challenging than I expected."
"I'd have thought that everyone would want to get in on a new ship," John says.
"Oh, there's no shortage of applicants," Carter says. "And for the most part, we've managed to find people with the right skill sets. The problem is politics. Every country involved wants fair representation on both the military and scientific sides, and now the IOA has stepped in and said we also need to make sure we have a good male/female balance and good racial diversity."
"Since when do they care about that?"
"Since they began discussing the possibility of declassifying parts of the Stargate Program. Or at least the parts related to starships."
John raises a shocked eyebrow. "Really?" He hasn't heard anything about this before now, and he feels a twinge of apprehension at the thought. If Atlantis is declassified, he has a pretty good idea of who the IOA is going to put in front of the camera, and it won't be Rodney. He imagines Woolsey will be assigned to do most of the talking, but he knows from experience that governments tend to like to have uniforms around during interviews.
Carter apparently notices his concern, because she smiles reassuringly. "I think you're safe for now, John. They're planning on declassifying things in small steps. Atlantis is pretty far down the list. I don't think they want the public hearing about the Wraith just yet."
"Probably a good idea," he says. It occurs to him that even if he's safe from public attention, Cam might not be. He wonders if Cam knew that when he made his suggestion. "How many people know about the declassification?" he asks casually.
"Not too many," Carter replies. "I think they're afraid of what the science branch is going to do when they find out they can finally start publishing. Or when some of them find out they can't start publishing yet."
"Yeah, I imagine Rodney will be pretty ecstatic."
"He is. He found out about it this morning."
"Cool." He hesitates, still wondering how to find out whether there's been talk of declassifying the actual stargate, and what that would mean for Cam as leader of SG-1.
Before he can figure out how to ask, Carter taps the file in front of her and adds, "And not only do I have to deal with nationalities and race and gender and finding the appropriate skills, now my XO has told me that a couple of senior officers are objecting to having gay crewmembers on board. Apparently they're arguing that 'the closed confines of a long distance starship are no place to experiment with changes in military regulations.'" She quotes the last bit in a tone of disgust.
John keeps his tone neutral. "What are you going to do?"
"Offer to relieve them of this assignment. Anyone who's that close-minded shouldn't be dealing with other species."
"Has that been much of a problem around here? Since they eliminated DADT?"
Carter shakes her head. "Most of the younger soldiers assigned to the SGC are fine. A few of the older ones are a bit stiff, but Landry's been pushing tolerance, and so far most of them have fallen in line. The rumour mill's been working full time, but that's to be expected."
"Landry's setting the bar for tolerance?" John asks disbelievingly.
"He's not as bad as you think," Carter replies, grinning. "Besides, apparently his niece is gay. I think that may have influenced his views."
"I'm glad it's going smoothly."
"How are things on Atlantis?"
"About the same. There haven't been any big surprises yet."
"Good." She smiles at him, and then adds, "Listen, I'd love to chat longer, but...." She gestures toward the stack of files.
"I'll let you get back to work," he says, standing up. "I'm meeting with Landry in a few minutes anyway."
"Come by when you're ready for lunch, and we'll finish catching up," she says cheerfully, and he nods assent as he leaves.
The rest of the day passes in a march of meetings and reports, and beneath it all runs a thin line of anticipation that astonishes him. He'd thought he was too old to be excited about dinner. Apparently he'd been wrong.
He's skimming one final report before getting ready to leave when there's a knock on the door of his temporary office.
"Hey." Rodney comes in without waiting for his reply and stops directly in front of his desk. "Want to get some dinner?"
"Aren't you supposed to be in Vancouver?"
"Yes, well, apparently Madison is sick, and Jeannie didn't think it was a good idea for me to carry Earth germs back to the Pegasus Galaxy."
"Sorry to hear that."
Rodney nods. "I was looking forward to...I guess I'll have to wait until next time." He shrugs and continues more cheerfully, "So, back to my original question: dinner? Soon? Somewhere that isn't here?"
John glances surreptitiously at the suit hanging on the back of his door. "Uh, actually, I kind of have plans," he says apologetically. He hopes Rodney will leave it at that. DADT may be history, but he's not sure he wants to deal with Rodney's reaction to his coming out right at this very moment.
"Who do you have plans with?"
Rodney grimaces reflexively. "I suppose I could put up with him for one evening. Jackson says he's not as stupid as he seems at first. Is anyone else coming?"
"No," John says, and ponders how to tell Rodney that he's not coming either. His eyes stray again to the suit. This time, Rodney catches his gaze and turns to follow it.
"What's that for?"
John sighs resignedly. "Dinner."
"With Mitchell? Just Mitchell?" Rodney says, and then his eyes widen. "Wait. You and Mitchell?"
Well, that's one way to come out. "Yeah."
"But..." Rodney begins pacing across the office, then stops again in front of the desk. "Chaya? Larrin? Teer?" He states each name like it's a piece of evidence building toward a logical, irrefutable conclusion. One that John is now incomprehensibly rejecting.
"So you're saying you're not actually gay, you're...." Rodney gestures uncertainly, apparently unable to find a satisfactory conclusion to the sentence.
"Flexible," John suggests helpfully.
"Flexible." Rodney sits down heavily in the chair across from John’s desk. "And you never mentioned this because...?"
"Because up until recently, it was something I could have been fired for, and I didn't want you to have to lie so that I could keep my job."
Rodney blinks thoughtfully. "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
"Don't say that until you've tried it," John says. "It's not as easy as you think." Rodney's taking this better than he expected. Not that he'd thought that Rodney would be upset that he was bi, but he was expecting somewhat more yelling over the secrecy part.
"So what else don't I know about you?" Rodney asks, a little coldly, and John tenses, wondering if they're now approaching the yelling part.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that apparently in-between your various female conquests, you've also been hitting up the other side and I had no idea. So what else don't I know about you?" Rodney's voice rises as he speaks, which John finds oddly reassuring.
"Lots of things, probably," John says. He rests his hands on his desk, on either side of his laptop, palms down, carefully non-defensive. "Anything in particular you want to know about?"
Rodney leaps up and paces a few steps, then spins to face him. "How long have you and Mitchell been together?"
"It's kind of complicated." Rodney frowns at him, so he adds, "We sort of hooked up when the expedition was kicked out of Atlantis." He doesn't mention the first hook-up, fifteen years ago, when they were posted together in Germany for six months. Nor the other hook-ups that have taken place over the years since then. There's time to get into the whole, drawn-out history of his relationship after Rodney's had time to get used to the idea.
"That's what, three years?" Rodney says, still frowning.
"Kind of," John agrees.
"I thought you slept at Mitchell's place so you could watch football reruns all night."
"Well, that's one of the other reasons," John says, smiling a little. Rodney still looks hurt, so he adds, "It wasn't exactly serious, Rodney. We both knew it couldn't go anywhere, so...." He shrugs, hands wide, illustrating just how non-serious it had been.
"And where are you planning for it to go now?" Rodney asks.
"We're still trying to figure that out," John says. He glances up at the clock. If he's going to meet Cam on time, he needs to start getting ready. Rodney follows his eyes.
"Go to your dinner," he says. "I'm going to see if Sam's free. Don't think we're done, though. We're talking about this later."
Cam finishes up fifteen minutes early, and spends the next twenty-five minutes sitting in his car, wondering whether John is going to show up. John has never stood him up before--unless you count that time when he skipped movie night to make a break for Atlantis--but they've never arranged a formal date before either. He was tempted to check John's office on his way out, but they've agreed that they didn't want to furnish the SGC gossip mill with material this early on, and he suspects that anyone who spots the two of them together, all dressed up in civilian suits, is probably going to spread the word, so he resisted the urge.
He's just beginning to worry when he sees John striding across the parking lot. His breath catches at the sight. John, he realizes, really knows how to wear a suit.
"Rodney figured it out," John says without preamble as he settles in his seat.
"Really," Cam says. This wasn't really how he had imagined their date beginning.
"He saw the suit," John says apologetically, not quite meeting Cam's eyes. "And I'd already told him I had plans with you, so..."
"He is the second-smartest person in two galaxies," Cam says magnanimously. "I suppose he was going to figure it out eventually. How'd he take it?"
"Better than I expected," John says. "I'm probably going to be hearing about it for a while, though."
"I expect I'll be hearing a few things myself once people start finding out," Cam says. He starts the car. "You ready to go?"
"Yeah," John says. "Are you going to tell me where we're going?"
Cam grins. "You'll see when we get there."
He's a little nervous as they pull up to the restaurant. John doesn't often talk about his childhood, but he's let enough slip over the years that Cam knows (or at least strongly suspects) that his family has money, which means John probably has more than a little experience with fine dining. If Cam had had more time to think things through, he might have suggested a date that was less formal and more them, but he'd really wanted something traditional for their first official date, and dinner had seemed like the way to go.
John doesn't say anything as they walk up to the restaurant, just smiles and slips his hand into Cam's. Cam doesn't miss John's quick look at the people around them before he reaches out. He expects they'll both be doing that for quite a while.
They let go of each other before they enter the restaurant, but Cam imagines it's still obvious that they're on a date--this isn't the kind of restaurant people come to for business dinners. It doesn't seem to matter to the hostess, who seats them and hands them their menus without blinking an eye.
The restaurant is moderately crowded, and Cam scans it automatically to make sure there's no one he knows, even though he's not sure what kind of plausible excuse he could come up with if he did run into someone he knew. John, he notes, does the same. After that, they both relax a bit and turn to the wine menu.
Dinner goes as smoothly as Cam hoped. The food is excellent, the noise level perfect for conversation, and they both manage to find things to talk about that aren't classified and aren't (just) sports. John's lingering over his coffee as Cam tells the very funny story of his parents' first date (and admires once again just how good John looks in a suit) when Cam spots a familiar face. Cam keeps half an eye on the couple at three tables away as he finishes the story. He thinks they might escape undetected when the man--Major Stiller, Cam thinks--looks directly at him. Stiller looks like he's starting to smile, but then he sees John and his face hardens. Stiller turns back to his companion and Cam feels his face flush. He looks at John, who seems a little pale.
"Ready to go?" Cam says quietly. They've already paid the bill, so they stand up, collect their coats, and slip out.
In the car, John says, "Can you drop me off at the base?"
"You're going back to the Mountain?" Cam asks. He's surprised, even after the encounter with Stiller. He'd thought the evening was going well...
"I have an early meeting tomorrow. Need to get some work done."
"You can work at my place," Cam suggests.
"We both know I won't get any work done there," John says with a grin, but Cam sees that the grin hasn't reached John's eyes and he realizes with a sinking heart that this is John running away.
"Sure," he says, mentally cursing Stiller. He wonders if the situation is repairable. Probably not tonight, he decides. He knows from experience that John retreats from pressure. Maybe tomorrow, if he's lucky, he can reassure John that Stiller doesn't matter.
They drive back to the Mountain in silence, the easy companionship of dinner gone. John doesn't say anything as he climbs out of the car, just thanks Cam for the ride and heads into the Mountain. Cam drives home torn between anger and misery, and not at all sure he's going to be able to fix this.
He contemplates going to see Sam the next morning, because he really wants someone to talk to, but he's not sure he's ready to come out at work yet, even to her. Instead, he hits the gym with extra vigour and imagines that the punching bag wears Stiller's face.
Rodney tracks John down at noon and drags him to lunch.
"How was your...thing?" he asks around a mouthful of sandwich. "Your date."
"Great," John says, poking at his salad. "Right up until I asked him to bring me back to the Mountain and sent him home alone."
"You sent him home alone," Rodney repeats incredulously. "Why?"
John shrugs and tries to spear a particularly resistant cherry tomato. He spent the night reviewing all the reasons why that was the right thing to do. He's tired this morning.
"You said you've been sleeping with him for three years," Rodney says. John glances around reflexively at the words, even though Rodney is--for once--taking care to keep his voice down.
"Yeah," John agrees. He returns his attention to the tomato. It continues trying to escape.
"Then why stop now? I mean, apart from the fact that it's Mitchell. Actually, even that doesn't really explain it. I mean, it might explain why you don't want to sit through dinner with him, but it doesn't really explain why you wouldn't want to sleep with him."
"Because, Rodney." John gives up on the tomato and turns to an olive. It proves equally resistant to his fork.
"Your eloquence never fails to astound me."
"It was..." It was the way he'd looked at John all night. The way he'd smiled and joked and brushed his knee against John under the table. The intensity underlying his whole demeanour.
"Was what? Look, yesterday you were smiling like an idiot every time Mitchell's name came up. What happened? What did he do?"
"Nothing." John gives up on his salad and puts down his fork "It wasn't that. It's just that..." He's in love with me. "He doesn't know what he's getting into."
"I'm not exactly the easiest person to date. I mean, do you know how many near-suicide missions I've gone on?"
"Unfortunately, yes. And if dating Mitchell makes you think twice about the next one, then I'll welcome him with open arms."
"He doesn't know about that," John says. "He doesn't know me. Not really."
"He's had fifteen years to get to know you, according to his service record," Rodney says. "That's when you were first stationed together."
"You looked up his service record?"
"Of course. I wanted to know the man you were dating. If there'd been anything buried in there--there wasn't, by the way--but if there had been..."
"I appreciate the concern," John interrupts, "but I don't think it's going to matter."
"He's a big boy," Rodney says. "I think he can probably handle anything you throw at him. Even your death."
"You don't even like him," John says, feeling a touch exasperated. "Why are you trying to fix this?"
"Because you like him," Rodney says. "It makes sense, I suppose. When you look at it logically, the two of you have a lot in common. You're both addicted to adrenaline, beset with hero complexes, and possessed of an inexplicable love of exercise." He manages to insert an impressive amount of disgust into the last word. "Frankly, looking at his record, I think you're at just as much risk of losing him to some foolhardy save-the-world scheme as he is of losing you."
"Thanks," John says dryly. "Glad you approve." He picks up his fork again and tries for a crouton. The fork bounces off the edge.
"If you don't want to date him, then don't date him," Rodney says. "But it's not fair to decide for him whether he wants to date you."
"Yeah," John says. "I know."
Much to Cam's surprise, John's waiting for him in the living room when Cam gets home.
"So, last night," John says once Cam has his coat and shoes off. "I shouldn't have...I'm not very good at this stuff. But I shouldn't have walked away."
Cam nods cautiously. "I'm glad you came back." He settles carefully in the armchair across from John. "You shouldn't worry about Stiller. The guy's an ass, but..."
John looks puzzled. "Who's Stiller?"
"The guy we ran into last night. From the SGC. The one who was giving us the stink eye from three tables away?"
John shakes his head. "I never saw him."
"Oh." Now it's Cam's turn to be puzzled. "So what happened then?
John rubs the back of his neck sheepishly. "I panicked," he admits. "I thought...it doesn't matter now."
Cam hesitates. He doesn't want to push and risk driving John away again, but on the other hand.... "I think it does," he says softly. He waits a minute, then adds, "John, if you don't want to do this, we don't have to."
"It's not that." John sighs. "Last night made it all real, and I realized...I just don't want to hurt you."
"Oh." Cam considers this for a moment. "You know, you might not be able to avoid that," he suggests. "Comes with the package, sometimes. I imagine I'll probably be doing my share of hurting too."
"Yeah," John agrees, "but...I'm not exactly good relationship material."
Cam laughs, more at his expression than the words. "So you're saying what? That I shouldn't expect our change in status to suddenly result in long, heartfelt emails from you? Because I knew that. Or is it the whole monogamy thing, because we can..."
"It's not the monogamy thing," John says quickly. "We can do that if you want. It's...it's everything. It's how dangerous the Pegasus Galaxy is, and how far away it is, and how often missions go wrong."
"You know, life here isn't exactly a cakewalk. We both have dangerous jobs. That's part of the package too."
"I know. But..."
"Let's worry about that later," Cam says. He slips from his chair to the couch and slides an arm around John. "If that's all it is, I think we can handle it."
"All right," John agrees, and relaxes into Cam's embrace. "Have you heard that they're talking about declassifying the program?"
"Yeah. All of the major Earth-based parts will probably be public within the next two years."
"If they do that..." John says warningly.
"We'll have to pick our restaurants carefully," Cam agrees. "And I'll need to have a talk with my parents. Just in case." He's not sure yet how he's going to tell them, but he's been thinking about it.
"You're okay with being publicly outed?"
"I'm okay with it if the alternative is being alone. Who knows? Maybe it will help some of the others." He leans his head against John's, breathing in the sweet scent of shampoo and product. "We can do this," he says quietly, and feels John nod.
"So," Cam says, leaning up against the wall of John's office, "this is it. When are you due back again?"
"I don't know yet," John says. "We only get vacation time every couple of years, so probably the next time they send for me."
"Guess I'll have to come to you, then," Cam says. "Maybe I can hitch a ride with Sam on the General Hammond."
John feels a smile creeping across his face. "You should do that." He glances up at the clock. "I need to go."
"I know," Cam says. He looks at the closed door, then walks over and kisses John. "I'll see you soon," he says in a low voice.
They're interrupted by banging on the door. "John! Come on!"
John disengages from Cam regretfully. "Rodney's never the first one ready to go," he complains as he picks up his pack.
"Better not keep him waiting," Cam says. "Or else he'll blame me. I really don't want to have another Talk with McKay." John smiles at the tone. He heard about that conversation from both sides.
"Yeah," he says. "See you." He brushes Cam's arm as he opens the door.
"Don't tell me you were getting all mushy in there," Rodney says as they head to the gateroom.
"Okay," he says, and ignores Rodney's exaggerated eye roll.
The marines heading back to Atlantis are already in the gateroom when they get there, but the scientists aren't, so John settles in to wait, chatting with the marines about their time on Earth.
The gateroom guards change shifts while they're waiting, and the new ones strike him as a little odd. At first John thinks he's imagining things, but he keeps an eye on them as the scientists begin to trickle in, and eventually he realizes that they really are avoiding looking at him. He doesn't know what to make of it, given that he's quite sure he's never spoken two words to either of them.
"Do they seem a little off to you?" he asks Rodney quietly, nodding toward the guards.
"Oh, them," Rodney says dismissively. "Don't worry about them." He looks over at the two men, who seem to cower a little under his gaze. John's not sure he's ever seen marines cower before.
"Why should I have been worried about them?" he asks, wondering if he's going to regret the question.
"Corporals Lexington and Greene apparently heard a rumour about you and Mitchell. One which they felt compelled to pass on to others, along with their opinions on their situation." Rodney smiles grimly. "I enlightened them as to just how irrelevant their opinions on the matter are, and informed them of the probable consequences if General Landry finds out that they've been spreading those particular stories. I don't think there will be a repeat."
"Thanks, Rodney." The rumours don't particularly bother him--he assumes there will be some he and Cam are too high profile to escape notice entirely. But he's touched by Rodney's efforts.
"You'd do the same for me," Rodney says. Off to the side, John sees the last Lantean scientist rush in. Right on cue, the gate begins to spin.
"Are you going to be okay?" Rodney asks as the address locks into place. "I know the whole long distance thing kind of sucks."
"I'll be fine, Rodney."
"Right. Well, home then."
"Home," John agrees, walking up the ramp. He stops before he steps through the gate and looks back one last time. Cam is up in the control room, watching. He considers waving just to bug the gate guards, but decides against it. Instead he nods, just a little, and sees Cam nod back with just the hint of a smile. Carrying that image, he steps through the gate.
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