Welcome to the Madhouse (1/2) Author: slybrarianRating:
Sheppard/Mitchell, background Lorne/Parrish, McKay/Carter (he wishes)Words:
This was supposed to be a short day-in-the-life fic. Whoops. AU, set after "The Return, Part II".Summary:
Cam's first week as part of the Atlantis expedition was all smooth sailing, until his ship hit a whale and an Orici-shaped rock. Metaphorically speaking, of course. There's not really a ship, except for the one Caldwell has, and no rocks. Whales, though, plenty of those.
Cam awoke to the sound of a hideous screeching noise and almost jumped out of his bed. At first he thought that someone had sneaked into his quarters and started cutting through the walls with a buzz saw, but after a moment he realized it was actually the Ancient alarm clock. He fumbled around on his nightstand and smacked the thing a few times, but it kept wailing away until he finally managed to think 'off' at it coherently enough. With that done he dropped back onto the bed and covered his face with a groan. He had to hand it to the Ancients - an alarm clock that didn't turn off until you were sufficiently awake to think straight was a neat idea. He just wished he had asked John how to hit snooze and maybe change the alarm to something a little less ear-grating.
Cam forced himself to climb out of bed and stumble towards the bathroom. Usually waking up wasn't a problem for him, but he was having trouble adjusting to the longer days of Atlantis. Not only was it summer instead of winter like it was back in Colorado, but there were three and a half extra hours in the day. He would probably like that change eventually, but at the moment it mostly made him tired all the time. He showered and made his way to the mess for breakfast. Oatmeal was the dish of the day, along with generous sides of real bacon and something that was close enough to scrambled eggs to pass. It was surprisingly good, all things considered.
His next stop was the headquarters tower, a relatively small round building on the west side of the city's central mass. It was one of the few buildings that retained its original purpose, and for that matter that they could even determine the purpose of. It housed the chair room, a planning center with a huge and outdated galactic situation map, various offices and training rooms, and a large armory that had sadly been stripped when the city was evacuated at the end of the Lantean-Wraith war. The military portion of the expedition had moved in and claimed it as their own not long after it had been discovered. The battalion's leadership shared an office suite near the top. John occupied what had once been the office of Lantean military's supreme commander and resolutely refused to budge, which Cam suspected was because it had the most comfortable furniture and was in the shade during any afternoon naps. Cam didn't mind; his own office next door still had a view a thousand times better than that of any four-star general at the Pentagon and easily a dozen times larger than the one Landry had at the SGC.
When Cam entered the outer shared area of the command offices, Major Lorne and First Sergeant Stackhouse, the senior non-com on base, were sitting at the conference table in the center of the room and surrounded by booklets and three-ring binders.
"Good morning, Major, Top," Cam said with a wave.
"Colonel," Lorne said while waving back.
Stackhouse nodded politely. "Sir."
Cam dropped into a chair across from them. "Anything interesting going on that I should know about?"
Lorne raised an eyebrow. "As opposed to interesting things you shouldn't know about?"
"Yeah. We've got over two hundred marines and airmen running around. I'm sure there's all sorts of things that are interesting that I really don't want to hear."
Lorne and Stackhouse looked at each other, then Stackhouse said, "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about, sir."
"Neither do I." Lorne grinned. "We finally got our last officer and jumper-load of marines pried loose from the SGC last night."
Cam closed his eyes. "That would be... Grogan? The captain we stole from SG-7?"
Lorne nodded. "Yes, sir. That brings us up to full strength and everyone seems to be getting settled back into place."
"Except for Doctors Walker and de Vries," Stackhouse said, "who got into a slap fight over possession of a lab last night."
"What, again?" Lorne said with an annoyed sigh.
"Again. Mehra and Vasquez had to physically separate them. Then McKay got involved and gave the lab to Vogler instead, at which point they tried to throttle him instead."
"Does this sort of thing happen often?" Cam asked. He was pretty sure no one at the SGC had ever gotten into slap fights while he was there, except that one time between Lee and Felger, and that time Daniel was startled awake and - supposedly on accident - knocked out Nyan as he tried to get at Daniel's coffee supply.
"No, most people keep it to just cutting remarks or sparring in the gyms," Lorne reassured him. "There's occasionally an incident here and there, but no worse than any other base."
"Good to hear. Anything else?"
"Not really, no. It's remarkably boring right now, although that'll change once off-world missions and city exploration rounds start up again." Lorne shrugged. "Oh - we have a battalion staff meeting at 1000 hours. It would be helpful if you showed up."
"I know," Cam slowly said. "I did read all three emails you sent out."
Lorne just grinned. "Sorry, sir. I guess I'm just used to having to remind people."
Cam knew exactly who Lorne meant when he said people. "You haven't seen Sheppard around, have you?"
"He's probably just finishing his morning run, and I expect he'll be spending a couple hours with McKay in the main technology lab. In theory he'll be helping them out with initializing stuff."
"Doesn't McKay have the gene, too?" Cam asked.
"From the therapy, yes, but it's not Sheppard's magic gene - not that it really matters, since he'll mostly be lazing around and playing video golf." Lorne rolled his eyes. Stackhouse gave him a vaguely disapproving look, either because he didn't like Lorne making fun of superior or more likely because he didn't like Lorne doing it in front of the new boss. It was the kind of thing Cam had seen more than once on various faces over the last week, both back at the SGC when they were planning and the past three days after they returned to Atlantis. With any luck they would disappear soon enough.
"I'll go grab him before the meeting and save you the trouble of doing it," Cam told Lorne. He briefly wondered when he had turned into a teenage girl who couldn't go more than twelve hours without seeing his boyfriend, and decided it had probably been sometime during the last six weeks when they had been sleeping in the same bed every night. It was ironic that for all its other benefits the return to Atlantis had put a firm stop to that. "In the meantime, I'll just be in my office going over more reports and policies."
The first thing Lorne had done when they were planning to bring the expedition back from the city - besides threaten to kill John and Cam if they didn't cooperate with the paperwork - was put together an essential packet of things he needed to know, which was far more concise the official version. Most of it wasn't that different than how the SGC worked. There were various polices and procedures, ranging from anti-foothold measures to operating instructions for the Ancient laundry machines, and there were countless mission reports detailing exactly why many of those policies had been put in place. Cam had spent most of his free time reading the mission reports once he'd memorized Lorne's essentials. It was amazing and more than a little frightening how many times the expedition had nearly been wiped out in one way or another. The same applied for the missions of John's team, who seemed to have a knack for getting into trouble. From what Cam could tell, they were every bit as bad as SG-1, and if anyone had asked him before he would have said that was impossible. It was enough to make him want to hunt John down early and either hug him protectively or smack him for conveniently leaving out any mention of near-death experiences when he had written Cam letters.
At 0950, Cam stood, stretched, and wandered out of the office and to a transporter. A couple quick taps to the screen sent him across the city to the control tower and up fifty floors to where the main lab was located. It wasn't hard to find his way once he got to the right level, because all he had to do was follow the shouting.
"What the hell did you think you were doing? Did you ask anyone for permission to hook that up? No, I didn't think so, because even the brain-dead morons who call themselves engineers would have told you that it was bad idea. Do you have any idea - no, wait, that'd be a silly question, of course you have no idea what that power distribution node was for. Just be glad someone caught you before you managed to blow out the fuses and shut down half of our desalinization plants. God, what am I going to do with you people? Oh, come on, Radek. Just because you're from Prague doesn't mean you always need to say defenestration. Be creative for once in your life! And you! You want us to build you a tank for a squid? Do we look like we have time to cater to your weird fetishes?"
Cam slipped through the lab's rear door with as much stealth as he could muster. The lab was fairly crowded at the moment as people sought out advice or instructions from the senior tech geeks. An unlucky few were standing in the semi-circle in front of McKay and cringing as they waited to hear what he would say to them; everyone else was at workstations and doing their best to keep their heads down and avoid drawing attention. The only exceptions were Zelenka, who stood at McKay's side, and John, who was sitting near the back in front of a large computer monitor. As Cam up behind John, he saw the Lorne had been entirely correct about what John was up to. Cam waited patiently for the right moment to interrupt.
"Hey," Cam said into John's ear when he was in the middle of his backswing. John jumped and his ball went into the rough.
"You bastard," John grumbled.
Cam smiled. "That's 'you bastard, sir,' Colonel. I see you're hard at work."
"I am. I can't spend every day teaching you how to fly jumpers." He didn't even look up at Cam before starting to line up his next shot.
"You know, most people at least switch to a spreadsheet or something when their boss is looking over their shoulder," Cam pointed out.
"Most people don't have a sore ass because of their boss," John replied.
"Hey, don't you go blaming me for that," Cam protested. "I told you laying in the sun that long was a bad idea."
"It's your fault we were naked in the first place."
Cam lowered his voice. "I don't think you can blame me for not wanting to get our clothes messy."
"Sunburned. Ass." John finally turned around and grinned. "You're going to be paying for that for a long time, Mitchell. Trust me."
Cam rolled his eyes. "Whatever."
"You need something?"
"There's a battalion staff meeting in a couple minutes. You're supposed to be there."
John let out a long suffering sigh, saved his game, and stood up. "I guess I'll come if you insist."
They arrived at a conference room back at HQ at exactly 1000 hours. The other officers were already there, seated around a long rectangular table. There were two empty chairs at one end; Cam took the one at the end and John sat at his right. Lorne was already seated at the chair to Cam's left.
As they sat down Cam looked around the room. Other than Lorne, Cam hadn't really known any of the officers except in passing less than two weeks before and this was the first time all of them were gathered in one place. He tried to put some names with faces. The captains, who were closest to his end, were the easiest. On one side were Jake Grogan and Sharon Satterfield, two long-time SGC vets who Sam had recommended to replace lost personnel; on the other side were Alicia Vega and Jeanette Deveraux of the French Army. The herd of lieutenants was a bit more difficult. Thornton, Kemp, and Salinger were all Marines; Costanza and Quartaro were Air Force; Araki and Stayton represented the Army and Navy; Fredriks, McLaughlin, and Flying Officer Reed were from Germany, Canada, and Britain. It was one of the oddest collection of officers he had ever served with, especially given how integrated the international troops were; it was made even odder when you considered that about two-thirds of the enlisted men were Marines, with the rest split up between other American and international services. All of the officers were holding down multiple positions as team leaders, platoon and company commanders, and staff officers. In short, it was the expedition in miniature: quirky, non-standard, and yet functional none the less.
"This is everyone, right?" Cam asked Lorne.
"Yes, sir. Here's an agenda, by the way." Lorne passed over a sheet of paper and Cam studied it for a few seconds.
"Great." Cam rapped on the table to get their attention, and in short order all eyes had turned to him and the ongoing conversations died out. He gave them all his best smile. "Mornin', ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our first weekly battalion staff meeting. I'm excited, how about you? No? Fair enough. I want to start by saying that it's a real honor and privilege to take command of this unit. I've heard a lot about you all and I look forward to working with each and everyone one of you." It was all true, although it was also about as clichéd as you could get. Still, it was the sort of thing people were supposed to say when taking charge of a unit. "I know it probably comes as a bit of a surprise that Colonel Sheppard isn't retaining command, but I want to assure you all that I wouldn't be here if he didn't want me."
"Want you what?" John looked up from the doodle he was making on his agenda. "Oh, right. Yeah, he's cool, guys. Don't go smothering him in his sleep or something to avenge my honor."
Oddly enough that did seem to make a few of the more earnest-looking lieutenants relax a little. Lorne had warned Cam that some of the younger members of the expedition had a slight case of hero-worship. Cam was fairly certain that John didn't even notice it at all, which was probably best for everyone concerned.
"Thank you, Colonel. It's nice to know I'm still cool." Cam looked around the table. "I don't expect that things are going to change too much as far as how things are run around here. I've spent the last year and a half leading a team consisting of a fellow colonel, an archaeologist, a former alien general, and a space pirate, so I've learned that sometimes a laid-back style can work pretty well if everyone still gives their all. Organizationally speaking, Colonel Sheppard will be my second in command and the base vice commander, while Major Lorne will remain as executive officer. I'm sure you're all glad to know your personnel files are still safe from Sheppard."
That drew a round of chuckles from the others.
"You know, I've managed without him before," John said. "Once for an entire month. Everyone still got paid."
"The SGC handles pay and benefits, sir," Lorne said.
"Oh." John frowned. "So what were all those expenses I authorized?"
"I honestly have no idea, sir."
"Anyways, that's really all I have to say at this point, so I guess that's the end of 'Introduction by Colonel Mitchell'," Cam said. He stole John's pen and made a little ticky mark on his agenda. "Which brings us to something involving teams and companies and so forth with Lorne's name next to it, so I guess it's his turn. Major?"
"Thank you, sir. We've more or less just returned to our original TO&E as far as the battalion is concerned, with new arrivals slotting in as needed, and everything and everyone seems to be back in place. I'm sure that if any of you had problems you would have informed me by now." Lorne aimed a baleful look around the room, and if anyone did have a problem they were wise enough not to bring it up then and there. "Team assignments are a different story. Obviously changes are going to be needed. Some of us, myself included, had entirely new teams on Earth and brought them along back to the city, which means some of the original teams may need to be shifted around or merged. Colonel Sheppard, I'm assuming you'd like your original team back?"
"Yes," John said emphatically. "Mitchell can have my SG team."
"Hell, no," Cam said. "They followed you, they're your problem."
"Nope, they're yours."
"Colonels," Lorne broke in, "If I may? Thank you. In any case, existing team leaders will have first call on their old teammates, and I've draw up a list of potential orphans and other qualified candidates for the new team leaders to consider."
Lieutenant Townsend raised his hand. "Sir, have you already decided on who's getting teams?"
"The captains are leading the main first-contact teams, but you'll all be regularly leading trading and scientific escort missions," John replied. That provoked more than a little consternation at the far end of the table. John grinned broadly. "Unlike the SGC, we remember you're all qualified to command platoons. Small teams should be easy. Try not to start any interstellar wars."
"Oh. Yes, sir."
The next thirty-odd minutes were spent hammering out some preliminary assignments. It went smoothly, as those with teams already wanted to keep them and those without teams couldn't make any final decisions yet. Cam was confident that Lorne would take care of guiding the lieutenants in making some good choices, including finding good sergeants to babysit them in the field. Cam himself didn't get anyone, and truth be told he would be lucky if he even got John's former team. Doctor Weir had been making noises that a military commander really shouldn't be going off-world all that often, regardless of whatever John had been doing up until now. It was hard to argue with her, because she was absolutely correct. John may have gotten grandfathered in since he'd already had a team by necessity from the first year, but for Cam there wasn't any excuse. He was pretty sure she still didn't completely trust him, either, and given how the SGC had tried to replace her choice of commander more than once he really couldn't blame her. Cam was a big boy; he could wait until she accepted him before pushing for more off-world activity.
Once that was settled, it was time for the boring stuff that made any unit function: inventory reports, proposed training schedules, initial duty rosters, and so forth. Cam had been forced to deal with it all when he was commanding the Snakeskinners, and after the merciful break he'd had while leading SG-1 he was back at it again. He was extraordinarily glad that he had Lorne at his side, because there would probably be an even bigger mess without him. Pulling an entire expedition back together and tossing them to another galaxy in less than a week had been a difficult feat and doing it as successfully as they had was impressive, but now that they were back in the city it turned out that there were more then a few rough spots, such as no one having a clue where any of the combat engineers' gear had been stored, or if it had made it onto a jumper at all. Cam didn't envy the job the quartermaster's staff was going to have getting everything sorted out, and wasn't looking forward to trying to get anything they needed freed up from the SGC when the Daedalus
made its next supply run.
It was boring but tolerable work, and it would have gone smoothly if it hadn't been for the fact that an hour in John suddenly decided he'd like to rub his foot on Cam's leg. Maybe Cam should have been expecting it; after all, when John got bored it rarely took long before he started to get mischievous. Feeling Cam up in the middle of a roomful of subordinates was a new way of acting out, though. All attempts to discretely nudge, kick, or otherwise remove the offending foot failed miserably. Eventually Cam gave up, not wanting to attract attention to them. He tried to just ignore John, with only marginal success; he was distracted enough that by the end of the meeting he realized that he had agreed that it made sense for him to take over John's flight training sessions.
"You do realize you're not getting out of those entirely, right?" Cam asked as the meeting broke up and the other officers began filtering out of the room.
"Watch me," John replied. "It makes sense for our only experienced fighter pilot to take over flight instruction."
"Jumpers are VTOL craft, which means the guy who's a chopper pilot and who's flown a Osprey should be the one doing it," Cam retorted. He looks at Lorne. "What do you think?"
"I think two grown men should be able to split it up fairly, although I wouldn't want to presume you're both adults," Lorne said calmly as he finished packing up his stuff. "I also think I'd like to get some lunch. You can join me, if you can avoid playing footsie in front of everyone."
Cam pointed an accusatory finger at John. "That was all him. I was sitting there and trying to do my job."
"I don't know what you guys are talking about," John said with a smug grin.
"You know, I bet it's not too late for you to go back to Earth, sir," Lorne said to Cam. "You know he's just going to get worse."
"I think I can handle him," Cam replied. John couldn't possibly be more trouble that Vala had been. For one thing, he at least pretended to be professional most of the time.
"Don't say I didn't warn you."
John sighed and shook his head. "Sometimes I get the feel you don't have a very high opinion of me, Major."
"I admire and respect you, sir," Lorne said in a deadpan voice. "That doesn't mean you're not a pain in the ass a lot of the time."
"You see what I've had to put up with since he arrived?" John asked Cam. "It's been nothing but sarcasm and eye rolls the entire time, and now he's even talking back. I think you're a bad influence."
"Bite me, sir. Are we having lunch or not?"
Lunch was beans and weenies. Where the mess cooks had found real sausage as opposed what the SGC claimed was a hot dog, Cam didn't know and probably didn't want to know. Maybe it was from the same place they had gotten his Gran'ma's cornbread recipe. By coincidence, or more likely by good planning on Lorne's part, Parrish turned up just after they found a table. He was practically vibrating with energy, so earnest and wide-eyed that Cam imagined he was what Daniel had been like once, before nine years of conflict had hardened him. He greeted them and started to ramble about how the hydroponic gardens hadn't been ruined by the Ancients and that Katie had made a trip to the mainland to check on the crops and discovered up a weird phenomena among the native plants and would the it be possible for someone to fly him out to study it in more detail? Lorne grinned and nodded along, agreeing that it was nice the Ancients had managed not to fuck up for once and allowing as how he might be able to fit a trip into his schedule. It is disgustingly cute to watch the two of them and Cam and John shared a few amused glances while continuing to bicker about who had to train whom when. Cam really hoped that the amused glances Lorne and Parrish were giving each other didn't mean he and John were as bad as they were.
After lunch they split up again, Cam heading back to his office, Lorne being tugged off by Parrish in the direction of botany, and John ambling away to do whatever it was he did all day. Cam stretched out on his office couch to review personnel files. He knew it wasn't entirely realistic, but he was trying to at least put a name to a face for every man and woman under his command. Unlike normal uniforms there was no name tag on the expedition uniforms, which meant there could be no cheating on his part. Cam thought it was important to have at least some idea of who everyone was if he was going to be leading them and sending them out to die, and if his Aunt Lavinia could keep track of a couple hundred students at her age he sure as hell should be able to do the same. He had managed to get through Garrett, Sean, Chief Petty Officer - a Coast Guard meteorology technician, which just went to show that every service on the planet seemed dead set on having at least one representative in the city - when someone knocked on his door.
"Come in!" Cam called out.
The door opened and Colonel Caldwell stepped inside. "Good afternoon, Colonel," he said.
Cam hurriedly sat his tablet aside and stood. "Afternoon, sir. Is there something I can do for you?"
"I was just passing through the area on the way back to the Daedalus
. Novak and Hermiod have finished whatever it was they were doing with the hyperdrive, so we'll be leaving on a test run this afternoon and hopefully head back to Earth within a couple days."
Cam nodded. "I'm sure it'll be nice to be heading home."
"It always is. In any case, I thought I'd take a chance to see how you were settling in, in case there wasn't time later."
"It's a bit of an adjustment, but I'm doing pretty well so far," Cam said, faintly puzzled as to why Caldwell was even asking. In his limited experience, the man didn't seem like the type to visit subordinates and make sure they were feeling okay about their new job. "'Course, all I've had to deal with so far have been some killer robots, but I can't imagine it'll be much worse than what I was already doing on SG-1."
Caldwell shook his head. "Let's hope that's the case. Between you and me, some of the things that have cropped around here have made me glad I ended up 'only' commanding a starship."
"It wouldn't be half as much fun if it weren't for the weird shit, sir," Cam said with a shrug and a grin.
"If that's your attitude, I'm sure you'll do fine." Caldwell looked around the office for a moment before returning his gaze to Cam. "I also wanted to have a word with you about Colonel Sheppard. I understand the two of you are friends?"
"Yes, sir, that's true," Cam said cautiously, getting even more puzzled about what Caldwell was angling at. Friends was certainly one way of putting it, although Caldwell would probably have a stroke if he found out what else they were.
"That's good. It means you're already familiar with some of his odder quirks and prepared to work with him in a productive manner."
"I'll be blunt, Colonel. I'll admit I didn't like him at first, but he's long since proven that he's perfectly suited for the operational realities of Pegasus. It's a situation that calls for bold action and out-of-the-box thinking and he has both in spades, even if some of his ideas and attitudes are unorthodox. If you were any other person I'd be worried you'd try to stifle that, possibly with disastrous results for everyone, but given your friendship and your time on SG-1 I'm sure you can manage to avoid that."
It took Cam a moment to realize that Caldwell had come there to defend John, not warn Cam about him. Caldwell, who John had spent a considerable number of e-mails bitching about for the better part of a year. Cam chuckled and said, "I've been riding herd on Dr. Jackson and Vala for a while, sir. Compared to them, handling Sheppard will be child's play."
"Good." Caldwell smiled slightly. "That's not to say that he doesn't have room for some positive changes. Maybe your friendship will let you rein him in a bit and sand off a few of his rough edges."
"Trust me, sir, reforming Sheppard is one of my priorities. Just because I can deal with his antics doesn't mean I wouldn't mind there being fewer of them." Cam would start with trying to lower the number of needlessly death-defying stunts to just one or two a year and see where he could go from there. It would be in everyone's best interests - Cam didn't want to have a heart attack before he hit forty, and he imagined Doctor Weir's blood pressure would be a lot better if she didn't have to worry that John and McKay were going to accidentally blow up another solar system at any moment.
At that point the door hissed open without warning and Neill Jackson, a 'twenty-two-year-old' civilian engineer, stuck his head inside. He was smiling faintly, which Cam was sure was a bad sign.
"Hey, either of you see Dean Winchester around lately?"
"No," Cam said shortly, "and didn't your mother ever teach you to knock?"
"Damn," Neill said without answering his question. "Thanks anyways." He disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.
The two colonels looked at the now-empty doorway, until Caldwell finally said, "And right there is another reason I'm glad I'm not in charge of this place."
"I have to say, the runt freaks me out sometimes," Cam admitted. "At least he's Doctor Weir's problem, not mine."
Caldwell snorted. "You can tell me how well that works out for you next time the Daedalus
is in port."
"Maybe I should ask you to bring me a good drink on your next visit," Cam said. "I may need it."
"I'll see what I can do." Caldwell checked his watch. "I should get going. If I wait much longer, they may decide to take the drives apart again. Sometimes I think they forget who's in charge."
"I know the feeling, sir. You have a good day."
Once Caldwell was gone, Cam settled back onto the couch and returned to his reading. He got through Knight, Albert, Corporal USMC, Three-Time Best Chili Recipe Winner, before someone rang his door chime.
"Yeah?" Cam said.
Samuel Winchester, one of Lorne's team members, stuck his head in. "Good afternoon, Colonel. Ah, I don't suppose you've seen my brother around, have you?"
Cam frowned as he wondered what was up. "No."
"Oh." Sam bit his lip. "What about Major Lorne?"
"If he's not in his office, check botany."
"What's going on?" Cam asked.
Sam got a shifty-eyed look that Cam recognized all too well from growing up with his own brother. "Nothing. Nothing at all. Bye."
Cam sighed and went back to reading his tablet once more. This time he got to Mehra, Dusty, Master Sergeant USAF, Voted Most Likely To Kick Your Ass, before the chime rang again. It turned out to be Lorne this time. Cam looked at him and said, "No, I don't know where Winchester is."
"That's nice," Lorne said. He did his eyebrow-quirking thing. "I just wanted to let you know I'm heading to the mainland for the rest of the day."
"You're not even going to bother asking for permission?" Cam asked.
Lorne's other eyebrow joined in the action. "Please, Colonel Mitchell, may I take a couple of botanists to the mainland to study the magic retracting plants and make sure they're not going to kill us all in our sleep, sir?"
"Magical retracting plants," Cam repeated. He stared at Lorne and rubbed his forehead. He was pretty sure no one would have ever used the phrase 'magical retracting plants' when proposing a mission to Hammond or Landry. "Go on, have fun, don't forget the sunscreen."
"Thank you, sir. I'll see you this evening."
Once Lorne was gone, Cam tried to get started on the personnel files again. He really did. He had completely lost his train of thought, however, and he was beginning to feel more than a little lethargic. He decided to try to take a nap, figuring that it was perfectly reasonable given the longer day. It took him a few minutes to figure out how to polarize the windows and block the sun out, and then a few more to figure out where he had stashed a pillow. He was just starting to finally doze off when the door chime sounded yet again.
"What?" Cam snapped. "This had better be good!"
"I'm sorry, am I interrupting something?"
Cam scrambled to his feet and sheepishly said, "Sorry, Doctor Weir, I thought you were someone else."
Weir smiled slightly, as if she was used to that kind of treatment. "That's quite alright, and please, it's Elizabeth."
"Of course, ma'am. I'll remember sooner or later."
Weir nodded. "Colonel, we just received our weekly data burst. There was news about SG-1's search for the sangrael. Apparently, two days ago Doctor Jackson deciphered it's location, and SG-1 was sent to the planet in question."
Cam was thrilled for a moment, if a bit disappointed he hadn't been there, before he realized that Weir wasn't nearly as happy as she should have been about Earth having a new weapon against the Ori. Not sure he wanted to hear the answer, he asked, "What went wrong?"
"The report wasn't very detailed - they had only just returned when the data burst was compiled - but apparently both Adria and Ba'al were there was well, attempting to get the weapon themselves. In the end the Ori captured the weapon. Doctor Jackson is missing in action and presumed captured as well."
Cam slowly sat down, sighed, and rubbed his forehead. "Of course he is," Cam muttered. It was exactly the sort of thing Cam had been warned about. You turned your back for two minutes and the next thing you knew the man had gotten himself abducted by the nearest evil alien overlord. It figured he'd get nabbed by the Orici herself sooner or later. "What about the rest of the team?"
"The officer who was taking your place for the mission, Major Teldy, has a sprained wrist. Other than that, they're all fine."
"Good. That's good. I can access the report on the server with the rest of the data burst, right?"
Weir nodded. "I thought it'd be best if you heard it in person."
"Thanks. If you hear anything else -"
"You'll be the first to know."
"Thanks," Cam said again. "If you don't mind, I'd like to read up on what happened.
"Of course. If you need anything, you know where to find me."
There wasn't much more in the initial report than what had been outlined by Weir: the sangrael located, only not really because it had actually been an Ancient head-sucker with Merlin inside; Ba'al along and helping out, no doubt hoping to use the weapon for his own galaxy-conquering schemes; Adria showing up and Daniel being left behind. Cam was almost glad that there weren't more details yet, because it left less room for second-guessing either his team, his replacement, or himself. Cam told himself there wasn't anything he could have done if he had been present, and maybe it was even true. It wasn't like Daniel had ever done anything Cam had told him to when he didn't feel like it. The data burst also included a short message from Sam, promising to send him more information as soon as possible and to bring Daniel home.
Cam tried to take the nap he had been planning, but found that now he couldn't relax enough to do so. Eventually he just opened up his computer again and turned his attention to the flood of reports, memos, and emails that had arrived with the data burst He was in the middle of trying to figure out just how close to the top of Momma's shit list he was for his sudden and mysterious failure to show up with John at Thanksgiving when John waltzed into the office carrying a cooler.
"There you are," John said. "I've been looking all over for you."
Cam's eyebrows went up. "I've been right here for the last three hours."
"Yeah, and it's the last place you should be. You just found out you've got a missing teammate. You should be flying or at the range or, well, doing anything but paperwork."
"John, if I stopped working every time one of my teammates went missing, I'd never get anything done."
John sat down on Cam's desk, despite there being several perfectly usable chairs around. He fidgeted uncomfortably and got a look on his face that, were he anyone else, Cam would have assumed meant he was constipated. "Look, I'm just going to get to the point and say it. If you want to go back to Earth, I completely understand."
Cam shook his head. "If I run back to Earth every time one of my teammates goes missing, I'll never get anything done."
"I'm serious, Cam."
"I'm serious, too. Do you really think I didn't realize that sooner or later one of my teammates - one of my former teammates - wouldn't get hurt sooner or later?" Cam got up, walked over to John, and put a hand on his shoulder. "I knew what I was getting into and I decided it was worth it. I'm committed to doing the best job I can here and I'm going to do that even if I'm worried about what's happening back home."
"Okay, I get that," John said with a slow nod. He grinned suddenly and lifted up the cooler. "I guess that means you don't need to beer I brought, then?"
Cam chuckled. "I didn't say that. It'll have to wait until I'm off-duty, though."
"I'll save it for the movie tonight." John hopped off the desk. "You sure there's nothing you need?"
"Hmmm." Cam waited a beat, then said, "I could use a hug."
"Oh." John's face contorted, not so much constipated this time as maybe shot in the gut, then he awkwardly reached around Cam and squeezed, throwing in a few hesitant pats for good measure. Cam hugged him back and managed to keep from so much as snickering for three, maybe four whole seconds, at which point he couldn't help himself any longer and broke out laughing. John tried to shove him away but Cam held on tight.
"God, John, you suck at this," Cam said when he was finished laughing. "Seriously."
"I don't know why you'd expect me to be any better after this long," John said, disgruntled but with a hint of amusement in his voice.
"If I ever need comforted for I'll be sure to ask Lorne instead." Cam let John go. "Speaking of which, there actually is something I need to ask."
"You and Lorne, P2G-291. The reports were a bit vague about what you had to do to seal that treaty."
"Oh. That. Yeah, nothing happened."
"Because if you had to do something for the good of the mission, I completely understand," Cam said with a wink and a nudge.
John sighed. "We... we had to dress up like these sacred ostrich things. And then dance."
"Oh." Cam scratched his head. "That's really not the hot story I was expecting to cheer me up."
"Sorry. Wanna go flying?"
Cam glanced at his abandoned tablet. "Sure."
They flew for a few hours, along with a pair of marine aviators who they scrounged up in the name of training, before returning to the city for supper. Cam attended his first official Lantean Movie Night later that evening and was glad he had saved John's beer. The person was responsible for picking the movies, who was selected by some arcane point system that Cam couldn't even start to understand, had chosen what had to be the two most hilariously awful vampire movies ever to be released. Cam supposed it said something deep about laughing in the face of adversity and genuine space-vampires, but by the second hour he was a little too tipsy to give it any real thought. Afterwards he and John went their separate ways, Cam going to his quarters and John going off with McKay. John just happened to pass by a ten minutes later and stayed for an hour or so. He valiantly and quite successfully tried to take Cam's mind off his worries, or indeed off anything other than how much Cam appreciated John's body, his non-regulation skills, and just John in general.
Once John was gone Cam went about getting ready for bed. After he finished washing up and brushing his teeth, he turned around and nearly pissed himself when he found a woman standing in the bathroom doorway. He had never seen her before and she wasn't wearing an expedition uniform, but an odd tan and off-white outfit.
"Eventum solis periculosum acciderat," she said. "In imperio centro te egermus." She turned and left Cam's sight. He immediately followed but she was nowhere to be seen. The door to the corridor was shut and there was no way it could have opened and closed in such short time, nor could it have done so quietly enough that he wouldn't have heard it.
"Hello? Hello?" Cam looked around his room, glanced into the closet, and even peeked under the bed, but there was no sign of the woman. Unless she had somehow managed to get the window to open, a feat Cam had yet to manage, and jumped out in the space of a couple seconds, then she had just vanished into thin air. Or she had never been there at all.
"Great," he muttered to himself. "Either it's my turn to see invisible space people, or I'm going insane. Or have an alien bug in my head." He found his radio headset and put it in his ear. "Control room, this is Mitchell. You guys wouldn't happen happen to have noticed any energy surges or anything near my quarters, would you?"
"One moment, sir," the tech - Banks, he thought - replied. "Nothing in the last hour, no. Is there something wrong?"
"No, I just thought I saw something weird. It was probably nothing, but keep an eye out. Pass that along to the patrols."
"Will do, sir."
"Thanks. You guys have a nice night."
"You too, sir."
Cam bet they were laughing their asses off at him, but it was better to be safe than sorry. He'd read about way too many things like this and experienced a couple of his own to just lightly set it aside as just stress or batshit craziness. He waited up for a while just in case the woman would reappear but she never showed. He slept unsoundly that night, tossing and turning for hours because of a vague feeling of dread.(Continued)