Fandom: Stargate Atlantis/SG1
Pairing/characters: John Sheppard, Cam Mitchell, Ronon Dex (some John/Cam, mostly in the past, mentions of others)
Disclaimer: Not mine
Prompt: 811. Crossover: Stargate Atlantis/Stargate SG-1, John Sheppard, The problem with having Cameron Mitchell for an ex is that he feels qualified to offer dating advice
Summary: John winds up in another galaxy, commanding 97 marines, with a memo giving permission for same sex relationships as long as they're discreet and his ex-boyfriend turned civilian deputy commander wanting to *talk* about who John sleeps with.
Author's Notes: Set in the same universe as Almost, But Not Quite but this is the prequel to that and will make complete sense without reading that.
Steal The Moment
"And this is my deputy," Weir says, tapping at an open office door and walking in without waiting for a response. "Cam, this is –"
"John Sheppard," Cam finishes for her. He's already out of his chair, coming around his desk to shake John's hand, his eyes warm and bright, flashing with secret amusement. "We've met before."
"Yeah," John agrees, hoping he doesn't sound too strangled, or too thrown, as he returns Cam's handshake. "Should I be calling you sir?"
"Only if you plan on calling me ma'am," Weir says, smoothly. "Which I hope you're not."
John swallows the automatic urge to say no, ma'am in response – she's got exactly the tone of authority that brings it out in him – and says, "No, Doctor," instead.
"Now that I like," Cam says, smiling, then shakes his head. "No, Cam's fine. Or Mitchell."
"Mitchell, in public at least, please," Weir says, giving Cam an indulgent look that makes John wonder. Like he hasn't got enough to wonder about, especially if Cam meant it about having the qualifications to back up being called Doctor.
She checks her watch, then the file in her arms, and gives them a wry smile. "Well, it looks like I'm running a little late for the IOA. Cam, can you walk John down to Colonel Sumner's office, please – he's expected there at some point this afternoon."
"No problem," Cam says easily. "Dinner and requisition forms later?"
"Unfortunately," Weir agrees. "John, I'm sure I'll see you again soon."
John's hyper-conscious, now, of what name he uses for Dr Weir, and has no idea what he's been calling her since he met her in Antarctica a week ago. "Thanks, Doctor," he says in the end.
Weir smiles her way out of the office and Cam rolls his eyes at John. “I can practically feel you trying not to call her ma'am,” he says.
John shrugs, a little uncomfortable that Cam still knows him that well, when they haven't seen each other in the better part of ten years, especially when it's becoming clear that he doesn't know Cam anything like that well any more. “You're going to Atlantis as well?” he asks.
“Looks like,” Cam agrees. He hesitates, then goes over and closes the door. “I didn't realize the Major John Sheppard who just got added to the roster was you, or I would have called, rather than let you just walk in on this.”
John can't stop the instinctive glance around for cameras, even though he suspects they wouldn't be obvious enough for him to see them, in a place like this. “We've been discreet before,” he says, then regrets it for the way it makes him sound like he's expecting something to start up between them again.
“True,” Cam says, brushing it off. “Are you sure you're okay with this?”
“I don't have much choice,” John points out. “I don't want to explain to Dr Weir that I need to be reassigned after all, because my ex-boyfriend is her deputy commander.” And that's another thing, because Weir is the civilian commander, and considering they have Sumner to command the military, John can't imagine that Weir would have a military deputy, which means Cam must be out of the Air Force. Which John would have said, before, was about as likely as him leaving voluntarily, and there's no sign of an injury that would have forced him out.
Even with this conversation, he doesn't feel like he can ask – isn't sure he has the right.
Cam just looks at him for a long moment, then shrugs, his expression relaxing into a grin. “Good, then. Because we could really use you and your gene.”
“Everybody just wants me for my body,” John says, mock-wounded.
Cam laughs, pats him on the shoulder, and John remembers why he got involved in the first place, partly – Cam's relaxed, easy nature, how nothing's ever awkward with him, even when it maybe should be. “Don't worry, you'll get used to it.”
John doesn't have time to get used to it, between packing and leaving and killing Colonel Sumner. Getting made military commander of ninety-seven Marines, and then killed under the instruction of the mission doctor.
Who must be talking to someone in the command team, because Cam turns up right as John's being released from the infirmary to rest in his quarters.
“I'll walk you,” is all Cam says, and John just nods, because his chest still aches from the CPR, and his neck itches where that thing latched onto him, and Cam's maybe the only person he can afford to be vulnerable in front of right now.
Cam follows John into his quarters when John doesn't say goodbye at the door.
"Sit down," John offers, waving a vague hand in the direction of the bed, since it's that or the floor.
Cam complies. "You know we have a Marine team in charge of distributing furniture to the crew quarters, right?"
"I do remember assigning people to do that, yes." Sumner left a whole file of instructions and orders, and John worked his way through it from beginning to end, even the stuff he wasn't too sure about, feeling Sumner's ghost hovering at his shoulder the whole time, faintly disapproving.
"So ask them for a desk at least," Cam says, oddly annoyed for such a small thing.
"Yes, sir," John says, raising an eyebrow at Cam.
"Don't start," Cam says. He sounds tired, like John feels, and they've only been here a couple of weeks. With no end in sight, that's not going to cut it.
"Sorry," he offers. "But I've kind of had other things to worry about."
"Yeah," Cam says quietly. He touches the patch of half-healed skin on John's neck, and John shivers, ducking his head. "You're okay now," Cam says. He sounds like he's reassuring himself as much as John. His hand is still on John's neck.
"It's gonna get better, right?" John asks, hating that he wants the reassurance.
"Yeah," Cam says again, and adjusts his fingers on John's skin enough for John to lift his head, perfectly timed for Cam to kiss him.
It's nice – warm and familiar and safe – and it can't happen. John leans back, just far enough for Cam's hand to drop away. "We can't," he says. "If someone finds out –"
Cam shakes his head, almost smiling. "You didn't get the memo?" John just looks at him, waiting. "What happens on Atlantis stays on Atlantis? It's too much of an international expedition for them to maintain stuff like don't ask don't tell, so people get a free pass out here as long as they're discreet and don't fuck around with the fraternisation regs."
"Dr Weir," John says. Has to be. Also: "There was an actual memo?"
"Trust me, the IOA's never happier than when they can write out a twelve-point plan for something."
That really seems like something Sumner would have had amongst his files, but John can't remember seeing it, which probably means it isn't the only thing he's missed. Just when he was starting to think he was done with the admin work. "That's going to be awkward when we get back to Earth."
Cam drops his head into his hand with a groan. "I didn't actually mention it so you could start worrying about the implications for your troops. At least, not right this second."
Right. Kissing. "Oh," he says, unable to think of anything more intelligent while he's still trying to wrap his head around being allowed to do this – around Cam being someone he can do this with, even with the fraternisation rules still in place, and it's probably past time he asked how Cam ended up with a PhD and on an intergalactic mission.
"I should probably get going, anyway," Cam says.
Just like that, John's right back to how he felt on the jumper as Ford hesitated over shocking him, shaken and scared. As much as he hated being stuck in the infirmary with people always there, he really doesn't want to be alone. "Don't," he says. Cam still hesitates, until John lays a hand over his wrist, says, "Don't," again, letting some of his old fear bleed through.
"Okay," Cam says, and leans in, kisses John down onto the bed.
They trade hand jobs, slow and easy, and later, lying together, Cam says, "You're going to do fine out here, you know. As military commander, you're going to be good," and it makes John feel better that anything has since he woke up in the infirmary and wasn't dead.
It was pretty clearly not 'back together again' sex, and John's grateful – they're good at friends, they're even pretty good at friends with benefits, but they could never really make lovers work right, and John's fairly sure it's not just because of all the risks and the secrecy.
That said, it becomes rapidly obvious that John's people aren't as slow on the uptake as he is, and that there might have been a bit more than just international cooperation behind the policy, if even half the people who John thinks are sleeping together actually are.
"People react in predictable ways in a crisis," Elizabeth says, catching John watching Metcalfe and Li lean into each other over pancakes one morning.
"Right," John says, looking away. He really doesn't want to think about his people's sex lives.
Elizabeth smiles, or maybe smirks is the word, like she knows she's making him a little uncomfortable. "At least it probably won't result in any tiny feet."
John groans and Cam, sat next to Elizabeth, laughs at him. "I think it's just what Atlantis needs," he says. "A baby or two to bond over."
"We'll get a kitten," John promises darkly.
"Judging from our luck so far, it would turn out to be a man-eating kitten set on our destruction." Elizabeth sounds far too cheerful about this prospect.
Thankfully, John's saved from having to think of something intelligent to say to this by Teyla's polite arrival, followed swiftly by McKay dropping his tray at the table and tucking into a bowl of oatmeal without even a good morning.
John looks around for Ford, already habit, and spots him at a corner table with a mixed group of young marines and scientists. It's probably a good thing – he feels old and cynical next to Ford, even if Ford doesn't seem to think of him that way, and God knows Ford needs to spend some time with people his own age.
"I knew you'd be a dog person," McKay says, sudden and loud, drawing John's attention back. He's glaring at Cam, who looks a little taken aback. "Most cats are perfectly pleasant animals, amenable to living in happy co-existence with their human owners –"
He's pretty clearly gearing up for a rant that John's not ready to cope with this early in the morning. He shoves his half-empty coffee mug across the table instead. "Caffeine first. I don't think you'll be so invested in the argument once you've had coffee."
Teyla gives him a politely doubtful look. "Perhaps you would do best not to have more coffee," she says, deftly swiping the mug from under McKay's nose and exchanging it for her own. "My people drink a stout tea in the mornings, to energise you without the less positive effects of coffee."
McKay glares but drinks it, so John counts it as a win. Even more so when they manage to steer clear of any more killer cat conversations.
The thing is, even with permission, John can't shake the sense that getting involved with someone on Atlantis is a bad idea, or setting a bad example to his troops or something. Not that he's cared all that much in the past, but in the past, he hasn't been trying to single-handedly hold them together through life-sucking space vampires, energy clouds that want to kill them, and a city that's as likely to hurt them as keep them safe some days.
Of course, off-world, it's kind of different.
And Keres, even with the arrow wound, really was very grateful to John and his team for saving his life, and the lives of everyone else in his village. John's pretty sure he can argue that it was in the name of diplomacy. Anyway, it's not like John didn't reciprocate.
He's not sure whether to be insulted or complimented that Keres seems more appreciative of that than the whole life-saving thing.
Almost back to the gate, McKay says, "Good to see you're embracing your new found freedom to finally behave like a citizen of a civilized nation."
"Okay," John says, waiting. McKay always gets to the point eventually, and right now, John can afford to let him get there by whatever winding route he wants to take.
"Not that it will make any difference when I find us a ZPM to get us home, of course," he adds. "I hardly think they're going to have gone through mass social change while we've been away."
"They," John echoes.
"The US military," McKay clarifies as the gate comes in sight – with the expanded shield, they can't bring a jumper in.
"Right," John says. Teyla and Ford have gotten ahead, and he speeds up to catch them, Ford already dialling the gate.
"Although," McKay adds, coming up behind them as the gate connects. "I'm not sure this was really your best choice. For one thing –" John steps through the gate, McKay's words washing over him along with the event horizon – "He's only twenty-five," McKay finishes as they step out into Atlantis.
Every marine in the gate-room looks at John, then at Ford, then back to John, then very carefully away.
"Thanks," John mutters to McKay as Ford flushes and Elizabeth and Cam make their way down the stairs from the control room.
"What?" McKay asks.
John opens his mouth to say Now they all think I'm fucking Ford, then decides that, given all the possibilities for that to be misheard, he's really better off just shutting up.
"Ford?" Cam says, ambling into John's office.
John gives the room an exaggerated once-over, then gestures to himself. "John."
"Funny." Cam sits in John's visitor chair and picks up a pen, turns it over in his hands. John makes a mental note to get it back – pens are getting to be a rare commodity. "You remember the memo?"
John waves a vague hand at his laptop. "Care to be a bit more specific? Sumner had kind of a lot of them."
"What happens in Atlantis?" Cam turns the pen over again, then looks up at John. "Anything as long as it doesn't violate the frat regs?"
"Seriously?" John asks.
Cam shifts awkwardly. "Look, I know it's weird, because we were –"
John holds both hands up defensively. "We're not having this conversation."
"Ford is –"
"I'm not sleeping with Ford," John says, a little too loud, not sure if he's amused or insulted. "Jesus, Cam."
"McKay said..." Cam trails off, suddenly looking awkward. "He wasn't talking about Lieutenant Ford." John shakes his head, fighting the urge to smile. Even with everything else, he's stupidly glad that Cam's in Atlantis as well. "He was talking about one of the kids."
"Keres," John confirms, then, before Cam can start up again, "And he's about as much of a kid as we are."
"He's the leader of an off-world civilization," Cam points out.
"Really only a village. The others have their own leaders."
Cam waves it away. "Just – be careful," he says, typically concerned.
"If you're going to ask me if I used protection..." John starts.
"We're not having *that* conversation," Cam says firmly. "Come on, I'll buy you lunch."
"We eat in the mess. The US government buys us lunch."
Cam shrugs. "You're always saying I never take you places."
"Whole other galaxy," John points out, shutting down his laptop and following Cam.
Who, John realizes that evening, has stolen his pen.
After the Genii incident, Elizabeth refuses to let any off-world teams make deals without her or Cam there, and so Cam comes out to join John and his team on P3D 128.
And, two hours after he goes into the headsman's tent, comes to sit next to John by the fire. "Lost your team?"
"People here like them," John says easily, checking for the flash of Atlantis patches amongst the people moving around between the fires and tents. Even McKay's out there, though John suspects it's less because of their science and more because their lead scientist is an attractive blonde.
"Apparently your team aren't the only people they like," Cam says. He's watching the fire, but in its flickering light, John can see a smile touching the edges of his mouth.
"I'm being safe, before you ask."
"Trust me, I wasn't intending to," Cam says dryly. He shakes his head slightly. "He seems nice."
"Nice?" John echoes.
"From what I can tell, when everything he's saying is being translated through two other people," Cam allows. "Do I even want to know how that worked for you in the first place?"
"Ninety per cent of communication is non-verbal," John says, shrugging. "We got by okay."
"You're really going there?" John asks, and then he can't help laughing, a little.
"What?" Cam asks.
John shakes his head. "Just – I'm on an alien world in another galaxy, discussing the guy I hooked up with, with my ex."
"Life's gotten a little too weird for you?"
"Something like that," John agrees.
"Are you sure you're all right?" John asks.
Cam, sitting gingerly on the edge of his bed, rolls his eyes – well, eye, the left one being too swollen, still, for John to really see. "You're starting to sound like my mother," he says. "Next thing I know, you'll be bringing out the middle name."
John ignores that in favour of making tea. He's not sure what Cam brought as his personal item, but he is sure that he wouldn't be at all surprised to find out it's the USAF mug John's pouring boiling water into, courtesy of someone's travel kettle. Cam's been carrying it around since well before John knew him.
"I can make my own tea," Cam says. He sounds breathless, like he's moved wrong.
John ignores that as well, like he's ignoring the way Cam's voice, Cam's pain, is making his hands tremble. In the silence that follows, all he can hear is the echo of Cam being beaten by Kolya over the open radio frequency, for John's benefit. How Cam never made a sound, and afterwards, when Kolya was distracted for a moment, McKay whispered, "He's okay, Sheppard. He's alive. Don't do anything stupid."
"I get enough of this from Elizabeth," Cam adds.
"Elizabeth feels guilty for letting you talk her into going off-world with everyone else while you stayed behind to get hurt," John says, because he can't say that he feels guilty, that McKay feels guilty for Cam being hurt while Kolya didn't lay a hand on McKay, that Ford feels guilty for not getting back early enough to help and Teyla feels guilty for introducing them to the Genii in the first place.
That John feels guilty for wishing that he was the one with a black eye and bruises, a cracked rib and a boot print in his skin that hasn't faded yet – he'd rather have the physical pain than the gnawing guilt.
Small comfort that they threw Kolya's body through a space gate with John's bullet in his head.
"They needed her more than Atlantis did," Cam says. "If anything had gone wrong, they'd have been better off with her than me and she knows it. Are you going to give me that tea, or just stir it until it goes cold?"
John turns around, even though he's not quite ready to. Cam, like he thought, has shifted back to lean against the wall, pain tightening his face. There's a bruise on the back of the hand that reaches for the mug, dark purple, and McKay says Kolya smashed the butt of his gun down on Cam's hand, that Cam went so pale McKay thought he was going to throw up.
"Stop it," Cam says, looking up at John where he's still standing by the side of the bed. "It's not your job to protect me. It's not anyone's."
"Actually, it is," John points out. "You're civilian, I'm military, it's in the job description. You and McKay. We're lucky it wasn't worse."
If he closes his eyes, he can see Cam, slumped unconscious on the control room floor when they made it back, right before the city became one big conductor, dropped where Kolya left him when he dragged McKay off to the grounding station.
"You can't be everywhere," Cam says quietly, looking down into his tea. "You can't protect everyone."
It's like the world tilts sideways, and when it rights itself, they're in a whole different conversation. John sits on the edge of the bed as unobtrusively as he can, and waits, because there's only one thing he wants to know about Cam right now, one thing that he can't ask but that Cam must know he's curious about.
"We had bad intelligence," Cam says, talking to his tea. "I was supposed to be bombing a terror leader, and I bombed a refugee convoy instead. We got leave, stateside, and I thought I'd go back after, but I couldn't do it." He sounds distant, like he's talking about someone else. John wants to reach out, can imagine it clearly enough, but Cam looks fragile, bruised and battered and curled around his tea, and John won't be the one who breaks him. "I figured I'd go back to school, do something useful. Help people. Elizabeth was one of my advisors, she got me into the SGC instead."
For a moment, John's tempted to ask about their relationship, when it doesn't seem like either of them is sleeping with anyone, in the city or out. Except, even if it's not wildly inappropriate for this conversation, he's pretty sure he knows the answer already. Life in Pegasus isn't easy.
Then the rest of what Cam said catches up to him. "You're doing good things out here," he says. "You're not – this isn't like bombing refugees by mistake."
Cam shrugs one shoulder, apathetic. John wants to push, but he's not going to get through to Cam when he's like this. "I'm glad you're here," he says instead, awkward and quiet. "We all are."
Cam doesn't say anything, but some of his tension seems to ease.
"Drink your tea," John says, pushing all of it aside.
"Yes, Mom," Cam says.
The day after Cam comes back on full duty, Teyla sits in the command team meeting and says, oddly hesitant, "There is a world I think we should visit. They have technology more advanced than many worlds in this galaxy, and have allied with a number of worlds against the Wraith."
Elizabeth nods, gives her an encouraging smile. "What else can you tell us about them?"
Teyla straightens a little, which John wouldn't have thought was possible – she has better posture than the etiquette tutor he and Dave had for a few months when they were kids. "They are a well established population, with several large cities, and ways of travelling between them, to access the ring – the stargate. Their systems of government and democracy are also more developed than many worlds in this galaxy."
"They definitely sound like they're worth checking out," John offers. Anything to encourage Teyla out of the almost timid air she's had since the Genii's attempted invasion.
"Yes," Teyla says. "Although I should warn you that they will not be easily won over to allying with Atlantis. They can be a cautious people – the Wraith were once very persistent in attempting to destroy them."
"No problem," Cam says. "We've got one of Earth's foremost diplomats, right here."
"Thank you, Dr Mitchell," Elizabeth says dryly. "Major, I want you to take your team, see if you can make useful contact, maybe even set up a meeting for me with their leader."
"Sure," John says. "Teyla, this place have a name?"
"Sateda," she says.
John expects Sateda to be like every other world they've been to since they got to Pegasus – buildings that remind him of photos of 1950s America at best, people dressed like they've just stepped out of the corresponding period of history, and a gate in the middle of a field.
Instead, they step through the gate into an otherwise empty room, wide and high-ceilinged, all white except for the glass panel to their right.
"Remain where you are, please," a disembodied voice requests.
Ford twitches, turns in a sharp circle before looking at Teyla. "What's going on?"
"It is part of Sateda's security protocol," she says calmly, drawing a piece of thick, cream paper from her vest pocket. She turns to the window and holds it up, unfolding it, even though John can't see anyone on the other side. One way glass. "My name is Teyla Emmagan, of Athos. I have right of passage."
"Please wait," the voice says.
"What is this, passport control?" McKay demands, peering around the room until he spots the speaker on the wall.
"I do not understand the reference," Teyla says.
"He means, are they checking your right to come onto their planet?" John clarifies. "What about the rest of us?"
Before Teyla can answer, a panel that John hadn't noticed before slides open in the wall, and three men, all dressed in near identical brown clothes, all with weapons at their hips, file through. Customs officials, then, and John feels oddly at home, considering he's on another planet, in another galaxy.
Two of them stop a few feet back, but the guy in front comes all the way up to them, stops in front of Teyla, and bends low to touch his forehead to hers. His dark hair falls against her shoulders with the motion and his hands seeming huge on her arms – or are actually huge, maybe, since he's taller than anyone else in the room by a fair distance.
When they step apart, they're both smiling, the man's face lit up with it, and John feels the familiar zing of interest low in his stomach. He's always had kind of a thing for military men, whether they're officer-and-a-gentleman like Cam, or carry-you-three-miles-with-a-gunshot, like Teyla's friend.
"Ronon, these are my team-mates, from the city of Atlantis – Major Sheppard, Lieutenant Ford, and Dr McKay."
Ronon looks over all three of them, then back to John. "Explains the new clothes," Ronon says, smile twitching above his beard, slanting a look across at Teyla.
"Yes," she says, tipping her head slightly. "They are – different."
"Yes, yes, she's hot with a gun in her hands, can the two of you maybe flirt over it later?" McKay interrupts. "Some of us have better things to do than stand around watching the beautiful people."
Next to John, Ford groans softly, a sentiment that John pretty much echoes. They're going to be thrown off the most promising planet for an alliance yet, before they've even gotten to talk to anyone important, and John's not going to bat for McKay against Cam and Elizabeth this time.
"Please excuse Dr McKay's manners," Teyla says, in what John privately thinks of as her mom voice. "He has a medical condition," she adds, and John knows she means McKay's supposed hypoglycaemia, but he still smiles.
"I –" McKay starts, then Ford twitches, probably elbowing him, and he shuts up.
"You want to meet the consul?" Ronon asks John, apparently prepared to ignore McKay. So, military, attractive and smart. John's pretty much doomed, right there.
"Yes?" he says, looking over at Teyla, who nods. "Our leader is interested in meeting with your leader. We've heard you're the go to guys for the fight against the Wraith."
Ronon just looks at him for a long moment, still and unreadable. It feels kind of like the way new COs have looked at him, except this doesn't make John want to duck away, make a smart remark. He doesn't really know what Ronon's looking for in him, but he does know that he's completely up for Ronon seeing it.
Finally, Ronon nods. "You got a greeting ritual?"
"Um," John says, momentarily thrown, then holds out his hand. "We shake hands." He realizes a moment later how bad an explanation that was, when Ronon takes John's right hand in his left and bounces it up and down a couple of times. Ford sniggers, doesn't try to hide it, and John says, "Yeah, something like that."
"Senior Specialist Ronon Dex," Ronon says, still holding John's hand loosely in his.
"Major John Sheppard," John says, sort of pleased with himself for picking up the cue, even if it wasn't that hard to read. "Good to meet you."
Ronon nodded, let go of John's hand. "Tyre, with us. Kai, you're in charge until we get back."
"This is good, right?" Ford mutters as they follow Ronon and Tyre out of the room and into a long corridor.
"Yes," Teyla says, sounding pleased, "This is good."
"So," John says, walking between high rise buildings that remind him of Earth cities in a way that makes him feel weirdly off-balance, "You keep your stargate in a building."
"Yes," Ronon says. He fell into step with Teyla as soon as they stepped out of the building, and it's John's job to talk to the senior person on a first contact mission – that's his story and he's sticking to it. Up ahead, Ford and Tyre seem to be bonding, if the amount of nodding going on is anything to go by, and McKay, after a couple of attempts to attach himself to John and Teyla, is trudging grudgingly along with them.
"It is a defence against the Wraith," Teyla explains. "Most worlds would be unable to take such measures, but it has proven effective in the defence of Sateda, though it has only been in place for two years."
"That and the air ships," Ronon agrees, dryly, and it's only years of Air Force trained care that keep John from drooling on him.
Because Teyla is brilliant at the whole inter-planetary diplomacy thing, and the Satedans don't want to kill them on sight, they head back to Atlantis that evening with an agreement for Atlantis' leadership to meet with Sateda's in two days time.
Ronon hands over a piece of thick cream paper when they get back to the gate. "Right of passage," he says as John studies the sharp characters, the small seal in the bottom right corner. "That's your name," Ronon adds.
"Yeah?" John traces the letters he points to, reminded of learning Arabic, the way the different alphabet turned everything into something unfamiliar and beautiful.
"Yeah," Ronon echoes. He doesn't shuffle – doesn't seem the kind of person who ever does – but something shifts in the air between them. John looks over, but Ronon's still looking at John's name in Satedan script. "It means you have to be one of the party that comes back."
John looks away before anyone can see the smile threatening to spread over his face. He doesn't even know if Ronon means it that way. He holds his hand out. "Then I guess I'll see you in two days."
Ronon takes John's hand in his, just squeezes it as he meets John's eyes, and yeah, John's not misreading here, he's pretty sure. "I'll be here."
Despite John saying, "I don’t know what you're talking about," every time (and there were many) Cam asked why he was so keen to go back to Sateda, Cam laughs knowingly the moment the wall panel slides open and Ronon walks in, accompanied by Tyre, and a man in gray pants and tunic with the red line of the consul's office down the left sleeve.
"Don't say a word," John hisses, trying to ignore the grin on Cam's face, the way Elizabeth is looking between the two of them like she knows exactly how to read them.
"Nothing wrong with a man in uniform," Cam says, softly.
"Fuck you," John says, just as quiet, false-bright, and steps forward to make the introductions.
John's not sure if it's by accident or by design, but he ends up walking with Ronon at the back of their little parade, in a silence that edges into uncomfortable a little too fast for his taste.
"You're a soldier?" Ronon asks, a little abruptly.
"Yeah," John says cautiously. "Air man, technically. I fly things. Helicopters."
"Okay," Ronon says, sort of the same way Teyla says, "I do not understand the reference." John's seen Sateda's air ships, which look like fat bumble bees with wings. He still wants to fly one.
"Not in Atlantis," John adds, not sure if he's making it clearer or more confusing. "I'm in charge of the military there." Ninety-seven marines and an air force commander. It's not getting any less weird. "Why did you ask?"
"Civilians on Sateda don't carry weapons," Ronon explains. "But you all do, except for Dr Weir."
"We're very cautious peaceful explorers," John says. "That's not how it usually works where I come from, either." Except that, apparently, at the SGC, it is. First contact teams are all armed, all learn how to defend themselves, and he never thought he'd put a weapon in the hands of a five foot two sociologist and teach her to blow a paper target away.
He shakes his head, trying to push off the vague sense of – of something. Homesickness, maybe. Sometimes he misses the people he left behind, even if most of them aren't alive to know they got left.
He likes his team, respects the hell out of Elizabeth, but, Christ, he's so glad some days for Cam. Even when Cam's teasing him about his attraction to their off-world guide.
"Is this what you wanted to do, when you joined up?" he asks, then, when Ronon just looks at him without answering, waves a general hand to their group, to the consul's aide talking Cam's, Elizabeth's and Teyla's ears off about something.
Ronon shakes his head slightly. "Not exactly." He hesitates, then says, almost grudging, "I got promoted, as a reward for reporting our Task Master." His jaw tightens and his face darkens. "He wasn't – he committed treason against Sateda."
John gets it, or think he does – that Ronon's promotion to what he's doing is the kind of promotion you give to someone you have to reward, when you don't want to reward them, or you don't want to reward what they did. It never got John a promotion, but he's had more than one 'career move' that worked like that. "That sucks," he says.
Ronon huffs a laugh that clears his expression, makes him look young and happier. "Yeah."
John smiles, feels lighter. "We've got a saying: no good deed goes unpunished."
"Yeah," Ronon says, smiling back. "We've got that one as well."
John and his team aren't needed for the negotiation, and neither is Cam – Sateda's leader takes one look at them all and invites just Elizabeth into her office, to discuss a possible future alliance one on one.
"Well, this was a waste of my valuable time," McKay complains. Since he follows it up by sitting quietly in a corner and tapping away at his data-pad, John doesn't feel a big need to tell him to put a sock in it.
Not that he doesn't wish McKay had followed it up with a lecture when Cam joins him on the bench he's commandeered, feeling a bit like a kid waiting outside the principal's office, in the plain, open atrium.
"I'm working," he says, before Cam can say anything, and tilts his screen to show Cam the personnel reports he's working his way through, slowly.
"Your dedication to your paperwork is a credit to you and the US Air Force," Cam says, deadpan, his eyes on Ronon, sitting with Teyla at the other side of the hall.
"I've had COs who'd have a heart attack to hear you say that," John says, tapping save on the file.
"If we ever get back to Earth, I'll make sure to get a note put on your record," Cam says. He goes silent for just long enough for John to have hope, then says, "So. Senior Specialist Dex."
"I'm pretty sure they just use Specialist," John says.
"Ronon," Cam says. "He seems –"
"Nice?" John offers, against his better judgement.
"Not exactly the word I was going for," Cam says. "Your type."
"One of these days, you're going to meet someone, and I'll get my revenge for all these conversations," John says.
Cam shrugs. "Be my guest."
There's something odd about the way he says it, different from the half-teasing way these conversations have gone so far, that makes John frown. "You're not," he starts, then changes his mind. "Why do you keep doing this?"
"Doing what?" Cam asks, too innocent.
"This," John says, with a helpless hand gesture. "It's not because you want to get back together, right?"
"It's really not very flattering the way you ask that like you're hoping the answer's no," Cam points out. "But no, I don't want to get back together."
John waits, but Cam appears to be done. Unfortunately for him, John's not, so much. "So what's the reason?"
Cam shifts a little, looks down at his hands folded in his lap. "I don't want anything to happen to you."
John opens his mouth, realizes he has no idea what to say to that, and closes it again. Then decides maybe he does. "I'm an officer in the Air Force, the military commander of Atlantis, and on a gate team in another galaxy, and my sex life is what you're worried about?"
Cam shrugs again. "I've still got friends in the Air Force."
John feels his face go hot, remembered humiliation. Of course Cam would have figured out that the reason for his black eye and cracked wrist after that one weekend pass was a lie, even if John was long gone from Cam's life by then. "That was a misunderstanding."
"No it wasn't," Cam says, gentle. "I know you, and you're not the only person people talk about."
"You don't know what you're talking about," John says, but it's a lie and they both know it. Mitch and Dex dead, and the weekend pass was supposed to be a chance for everyone to get out of their own heads. It didn't work right for John; he never expected that it would.
"I don't want there to be more misunderstandings," Cam says.
"There won't be," John says, and that's not a lie. He's better now. "And Ronon's not like that."
"I know," Cam says, relaxed and easy, like they didn't just have an awkwardly personal conversation in public on a mission. "He seems like a decent guy."
"Yeah," John says, looking over at him. Decent. That sounds good. If they make this alliance… And it's not like they don't have precedent for Pegasus natives joining Atlantis. Maybe he can get Ronon away from his dull posting.
He's just getting lost in the good kind of daydreams when a woman walks in, scans the group, and walks over to Ronon. Who stands up, touches her elbow, then bends his head to give her a short kiss on the mouth – just like how John used to kiss Nancy hello.
"Don't say anything," he says to Cam, not looking away, and Cam, to his credit, doesn't.
Ronon doesn't bring the woman over to meet John until Cam's drifted away to talk to Ford and his new friend Tyre. She's pretty – small and blonde, with a sweet smile and the same kind of strength Nancy had, that's all about a steel core, not the ability to bring a Wraith down with a tree branch, like Teyla.
"Sheppard," Ronon says, looming over John until he stands up. "This is Melena, my wife. Major Sheppard, from Atlantis."
She holds her left hand out for John to shake, and there's an awkward moment of fumbling as he tries to shake the way he's used to, then remembers that the Satedans think it doesn't work that way and switches hands just as she takes his. She laughs, warm and amused, and John can't help smiling back.
"Smooth," Ronon teases, looking between them in a way that makes it clear he means both of them.
Melena shakes her hair back from her face. "I'm a doctor, not a diplomat," she says, voice warm like her laugh. "I only came by to drop in the registration paperwork, I wasn't expecting to be introduced to off-world leaders." Not that she seems at all thrown by it.
"Melena's developed a new technique for performing skin grafts," Ronon adds, obviously proud of her.
"That's great," John says. Smart, attractive, strong, nice laugh – she's not as much John's type as her husband, but she's not exactly not, either. "Congratulations."
"It was a team effort," Melena assures him. She slides a glance over to Ronon. "And I had far more test subjects than I would have wanted."
"Always happy to help," Ronon says.
John really, really wants to be annoyed that this attractive, engaging guy is married, but listening to them banter, the way they draw him into it, he really can't be.
"Ronon tells me your leader is hoping to make an alliance with us," Melena says, turning back to John.
"Something like that," John agrees.
Melena nods. "Then I am sure you'll be staying here for the night, at least. Perhaps you'd like to join us for dinner tonight?"
"I –" John hesitates, looks for Teyla and can't find her. "I'd have to ask the others."
Ronon shakes his head. "Not them. Just you."
"We do, after all, only have a small bed," Melena adds. Her eyes are bright, amused and welcoming, and when John looks at Ronon, he's looking at John the same way.
"Oh," John says stupidly. "Thank you. I'd be –" He shuts up, gets a grip on his old ability to be graceful in social situations, and says, "Thank you. I'd like that very much."
"You know we're inviting you back to have sex," Ronon says, not quite a question.
Melena rolls her eyes, laughs in disbelief. "I was trying to be subtle."
"Better to be clear," Ronon says. He looks back at John. "You do know."
"Yeah," John says, not sure if he's amused or embarrassed or both. "I know."
At least, he thinks, as Melena lists out a menu for dinner, this'll give Cam something new to try to give him dating advice over.