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Fanfiction: Broken Wings, Chapter 2

For author's note and disclaimer see Chapter 1.
 

 

Three days had passed since Cam had told Amy that he couldn't marry her.

Somewhere around oh-five-hundred, Cam gave up on sleeping. He lay awake on the sofa in his parents' den and stared up at the ceiling, tracing familiar cracks and paint smears as he listened with equal familiarity to Teal'c's quiet snores and Daniel's breathing.

His team had turned up within twenty-four hours of him calling to tell them the news. His parents, upset and confused by Cam's decision, had welcomed them. Cam was appreciative; he was. He was also...he didn't know what; embarrassed because he'd screwed up? Wanting to lick his wounds in private? He wasn't sure. It was the same hesitancy that had kept him from confiding his escalating panic about the wedding to them.

He was closer to SG1 than to any other team he'd ever served on. As much as he loved her, he knew it was only when Sam had gone to Atlantis that SG1 felt like it became his. Daniel, Teal'c and Vala had been to his parents' house for Thanksgiving. He'd seen them all naked and vulnerable; they'd seen him the same way. In the field, they'd worked out a rhythm. Cam knew the minute differences in expression that Teal'c employed; he could tell when Daniel's softly worded curse (usually in another language) meant they were in trouble; he knew Vala's actual innocent look and the one that she employed when she was as guilty as hell.

He knew his team.

He loved his team.

He really wished they'd leave so he could go back to pretending that he was fine again.

Because that was what he'd been doing with them for months; pretending he was fine, that he was happy. He didn't know why. A mixture of not wanting to admit the truth to himself never mind them, and maybe some deeply ingrained bravado that as leader he had to put on a brave front and be confident even when he wasn't (when he wanted Sam back in the field with them so he could slide a look her way and know she would be there to help him).

Cam tucked his hands behind his head and stared at a patch of pale green an inch from the edge of the wall. He remembered slipping with the paintbrush and his father laughing and promising they'd paint over it. They never had.

Some mistakes couldn't be covered over so easily.

Guilt flooded him and Cam closed his eyes at the sting of tears; the ache in his chest as he clamped down on the rising emotion that wanted to break free. Amy had been calm when he'd told her; asked if it wasn't a case of last minute jitters. When he'd said no; she hadn't cried or begged. She'd accepted his apology with grace and composure. She hadn't let him handle any of the details of cancelling their wedding beyond informing his own relatives and friends, but she had eventually accepted the cheque he'd written to cover the costs. It was the least he owed her.

He rubbed his eyes.

Cam loved Amy but it wasn't enough. He could list all the reasons why he should marry her until he turned blue in the face but the only reason why he shouldn't trumped all those: he didn't want to marry Amy.

'I couldn't clip my wings.'

Sheppard's words echoed in his head. He had felt them resonate in his bones the minute Sheppard had said them, because Cam couldn't clip his wings either - not for Amy. Not that she had asked him to but that was how he'd felt. Trapped. Grounded. Maybe if he'd been more honest with her from the start...maybe if he'd been more honest with himself.

Cam sighed silently. He wanted to be somewhere else. Anywhere else. The room was closing in on him. He pushed the blanket away and slid off the cushions. He was already dressed in sweats and an old t-shirt in deference to sleeping with two other men in the same room. He padded out and closed the door behind him before he headed into the kitchen. He pushed his feet into the worn sneakers by the back door. He was out and into the night air without thinking about it. He stretched, ignoring the multitude of aches in his legs and back, and started running.

He ended up in a neighbour's field, lying flat on his back and gasping for breath. He had a whole sky above him and he still felt trapped. He wanted to be in the cockpit of something fast, something he could feel when he pulled g-forces; maybe a F16. He wanted to feel the metal shudder around him. He wanted to feel the hitch in his breath when the stick responded to his smallest nudge. He wanted to feel the connection between him and his bird when he went into a spiral, into a dive, into a climb. He wanted to hide above the clouds not below them.

Cam cried. He let the tears come, sobs that felt wrenched from his gut and left him wrung out. He didn't know if he was crying for screwing up, for the loss of what he'd had with Amy, for Amy. He felt better when it was over. He stayed until the sun started to seep gold into the purple sky.

He ran home. He showered, dressed and made coffee. He took a mug and went to sit on the fence that ran along the drive to the farm. He was close enough to the house that they'd all find him easily enough; far enough away to make it an effort for anyone to come and talk to him.

He didn't want talk.

Although, mused Cam, he'd talked to Sheppard. Cam felt a momentary tug of shame at how he'd unloaded on the guy despite the look of 'don't do this to me' when Cam had asked whether Sheppard had ever been married. Heck, they didn't even know each other all that well, although maybe, in retrospect, that had helped Cam to talk along with a fair amount of alcohol and the soothing sound of the planes they'd watched. He smiled. He should have known another pilot would know what he'd needed.

Another pilot.

Cam shook his head. He guessed that Sheppard thought of himself as a pilot first just like he did. Cam had been sorry to miss the 302 defence of Earth from the Hive ship because of a mission on the Odyssey. He went up monthly to keep up his certification. He looked up at the sky. He could admit that he was looking forward to the promised 302 flight with Sheppard, looking forward to spending time with someone who understood what it meant to be a pilot like in the old days with Bryce...

Cam looked down at his coffee.

Damn.

Maybe that was why he'd unloaded on Sheppard. The guy reminded him of Bryce Ferguson in some ways and Cam missed Bryce. He missed his buddy. The guy who'd been with Cam every step of the way through the Academy and deployments until the Stargate programme came calling with the 302s.

Sheppard wasn't Bryce but he was a pilot. Not many of the SG team leads were for all they were mostly Air Force. Even Teal'c who could fly the 302s, gliders and Goa'uld ships didn't identify as a pilot. Cam didn't think Teal'c had spent his childhood dreaming of the sky and flying across the blue endless vista, but he would bet his entire savings account that Sheppard had spent his entire childhood doing just that. Just like every other pilot Cam had trained with.

He heard footsteps headed in his direction.

Cam threw a look toward the house and found Daniel walking toward him, a green nylon windbreaker over his jeans and the usual checked shirt. Cam's fingers tightened around the mug. He remained where he was, perched on top of the wooden fence, looking out into the empty field. Daniel was the one they sent when they wanted to persuade and negotiate. If they'd felt he needed a thwap up the side of his head, it would have been Teal'c; if it was distraction and comfort, it would have been Vala. He took a deep breath and waited.

He didn't have to wait long.

Daniel's cheeks were ruddy from the walk. He settled beside Cam, hands pushed deep into the pockets of his windbreaker, and leaned back on the fence, looking in the opposite direction from Cam.

'I get the impression we're not helping by being here.' Daniel commented dryly. It was direct and to the point.

Cam sighed and opted for diplomacy. 'You're not not helping.'

'Hmmm.' Daniel shifted his weight and looked at Cam with amusement. 'As a linguist I feel I should tell you that not not helping isn't the same as helping.'

Cam smiled at that but kept his eyes on his mug. 'You guys have been great coming out here...'

'But you'd like us to leave.' Daniel finished. He wasn't bitter or hurt; there was acceptance colouring his tone which helped Cam feel better about it.

'Yeah.' Cam murmured. He wiped a hand on his jeans and finally met Jackson's compassionate eyes.

Daniel held the gaze for a moment before he turned away and changed position; resting back against the fence more fully, crossing his arms over his torso. 'You know Sam didn't talk to us about Pete either.'

The reference made Cam flinch. He tried for levity. 'Well, I'm not in love with Jack O'Neill.'

Daniel snickered.

'We don't tell each other everything, Jackson.' Cam pointed out, hoping he would buy that argument.

'We don't,' Jackson admitted.

For a wishful moment, Cam thought he was conceding.

'But,' Daniel continued relentlessly, 'there was a reason why Sam didn't talk to us.'

Cam didn't answer. He didn't have an answer. He wasn't sure why he didn't want to talk to them about it, he only knew he didn't.

Daniel sighed. 'You'll be OK?'

'Yeah, I'll be OK.' Cam promised without having a clue how he made himself OK again.

Daniel pushed off the fence and took a step back towards the house. 'By the way, I talked to Sam.'

Cam sent him a quizzical look.

'Apparently they surprised Sheppard with his promotion along with orders to take leave yesterday.' Daniel said.

'Jackson.' Cam said irritated. It was bad enough Sam had set the poor guy up on the bucks' night as Cam's confessor. But a part of him was remembering Sheppard's offer to be his wingman; a part of him that desperately wanted to take Sheppard up on it.

Daniel waved away his ire. 'The guy almost blew himself up with a nuclear bomb to save Earth. You ever think she hoped for him to talk to you as well as the other way round?' He spun on his heel and headed back to the house before Cam could answer.

The goodbyes took place an hour or so later. Vala's hug was fierce and intense; Daniel's one of brotherly exasperation. When Teal'c hugged him, Cam had to fight the urge to burst into tears again.

He spent the rest of the day helping around the farm, doing chores that reminded him of his childhood. He cleaned out the den and the spare room for his Mom; did laundry. Anything and everything to keep his mind and hands occupied. His parents didn't crowd him; didn't ask questions that he didn't want to answer. But his Mom made his favourite pie for dessert and set it down in front of him with a hopeful smile. He managed a slice, swallowing past a too tight throat. They watched television and talked of inconsequential things.

Cam went to bed early. He slid between the cool clean sheets, grateful to have a bed again after staying on the sofa, and stared up at another ceiling. He tossed and turned. It wasn't long before he realised that he couldn't sleep despite the lethargy in his bones. He sighed and went downstairs for some water, feeling all too much like a teenager and not the man he had become.

He was sneaking back past the door to his parents' room when he heard a soft sob. He paused and listened. His Mom was crying and his Dad was comforting her, reassuring her in a low voice that Cam would be fine; that he knew what he was doing not marrying Amy; that whatever was going on with their son, he was their son.

Cam went back to bed, drowning in guilt; he'd made his Mom cry. He sat on the edge of the bed. He considered the farm as his home regardless that he owned a house back in Colorado. He had over two weeks of leave left but he knew he couldn't spend it at the farm with his parents or he would go insane. He couldn't bear the hurt he'd caused them. But he didn't want to go back to the SGC and the inevitable gossip about why he hadn't gotten married, the pitying looks and the expectations of his team either. He wasn't ready.

The solution that flickered in his head was nebulous at best but he was reaching for his cell before he could think twice about it. He got the SGC switchboard and ordered them to put him through to Sheppard's cell.

'Sheppard.'

'Hey, Sheppard; Cam Mitchell.' Cam replied. 'I hear congratulations are in order. Told you you'd catch me up soon enough.'

'Thanks.' Sheppard answered. 'And to think there were people who thought I'd never make it past Captain.'

Cam laughed at that. 'Listen, you know that 302 ride I mentioned?'

'I may have thought about it once or twice.' Sheppard said.

'I was thinking of swapping it for a more low tech option; man against machine.' Cam said. He hurried into the next part. 'I have a couple of weeks of leave and I was thinking of a cross-country flight in a small plane.' He paused and plunged on. 'I, uh, I could do with a wingman.'

'Cross-country?' Sheppard sounded curious but nothing more.

'San Francisco to Washington.' Cam said. 'Stop off at some of the cities in between. Kind of like a road trip but by air.' He scratched his bicep. 'What do you think?'

'I have some leave.' Sheppard said as though that answered the question. 'I could probably get us a plane if you don't mind going Virginia to Frisco?'

'I can be flexible.' Cam agreed immediately.

'OK.' Sheppard said. 'I'll need to make some calls to the East coast so I'll contact you tomorrow morning with the details?'

'OK.' Cam parroted back faintly.

They exchanged phone numbers and, before Cam knew it, the call had ended with Sheppard's easy 'talk to you tomorrow' ringing in his ears. Cam threw his cell on the bedside table and climbed back under the sheets. He fell asleep thinking about flight plans.

It was the phone that woke him the next morning, buzzing relentlessly on the wood until he had to poke his head out of the blankets and pick it up.

'Mitchell.'

'Hey, my brother Dave's going to organise the plane.' Sheppard informed him. 'Can you meet me this afternoon in Virginia? We'll spend the night with him and head out tomorrow?'

Cam squinted at the alarm clock. 'You're a morning person aren't you?'

'Is that a yes?' Sheppard asked with a laugh.

'It's a yes.' Cam wiped a hand over his face and tried to wake up. 'I'll get a flight into Richmond.'

'Send me the details when you've got it organised and I'll meet you there.' Sheppard promised. 'See you later.'

Cam snapped the phone shut and collapsed back with a groan. He was awake; he figured he might as well get up. He mentally organised his day as he showered and dressed, and he made calls as he waited for the first pot of coffee. He booked onto a flight out to Richmond from Kansas City.

His Mom kissed him absently on the cheek as she entered the kitchen to make breakfast. 'You're up early.'

His Dad was only a step behind her and patted Cam on the shoulder. Cam poured them both coffee and sat at the table as his Mom made pancakes. He waited until they were eating before he sprang his plans to escape on them. He would be leaving as soon as they were done with breakfast. His parents exchanged a worried look.

'Are you sure this is a good idea, son?' His Dad asked forthrightly.

'It seems so...sudden.' His Mom added.

Cam took hold of her hand and attempted a smile. 'Look, I screwed up with Amy.' He saw the conclusion his Mom jumped to as hope entered her eyes. 'Not in calling off the wedding,' he said quickly, 'just allowing it to get as far as it did before I stopped it. And I know I hurt her and you guys for which I am very sorry.'

She squeezed his hand. 'You don't have to apologise to us.'

'I do.' Cam said gruffly. He took a breath and steadied himself. 'Now I know I could stay here with you guys to...to lick my wounds and that would be great,' he lied through his teeth, 'but Amy and I spent a lot of time here.'

They had, and it seemed he'd found the excuse he needed to make it OK for his Mom if the sudden understanding in her face was anything to go by.

'I think getting away from everything and getting my head straight is exactly what I need.' Cam continued. He could almost taste the sky; flying was calling to him like a siren.

'Well, if you're sure...' His Mom patted his hand and turned her attention to her breakfast.

His Dad frowned. 'And this Sheppard is a friend of yours?'

Cam nodded.

'I don't think I've heard you mention him before.' His Dad said pointedly.

'We work in different parts of the same programme. He's...rarely stateside.' Cam replied. 'He's a good pilot, Dad. I'll be safe with him.'

His Dad looked at him and Cam knew he was weighing everything; what Cam had said and done for the past four days against what his Dad thought he needed. He nodded slowly. 'I'll ride with you to the airport.'

'Thanks.' Cam said, gratefully.

He packed and said goodbye to his Mom. She hugged him goodbye, kissed his cheek and told him to call. She stood in the yard and watched them until they were out of sight.

Cam drove to the airport. The car had been altered for his Dad's disability; it was completely automatic, levers and brakes on the steering wheel. But Cam had driven it before and it was easier than a F302. He let the music stay on a country station his Dad preferred and concentrated on the road in between thinking about Sheppard's text confirming he'd meet him at Richmond and the post-script; your team know.

They were early at the airport, way too early, and his Dad insisted on seeing him inside. They grabbed a coffee while they waited for the check-in desk to open. Cam predicted his Dad would say something and wasn't surprised when he settled back in the uncomfortable wooden chair and regarded Cam with concern.

'So a cross-country trip by plane.' His Dad tapped his cup thoughtfully. 'What gave you the idea?'

Cam shrugged. 'I was thinking road trip and then I thought why not in the air.'

'I envy you.' His Dad admitted with a wry smile that fell away almost immediately. 'But I'm concerned that...'

'I'm running away from my problems?' Cam finished for him. He sighed. 'Maybe I am. Is that so bad?'

'Is it?' His Dad pressed. 'Because this isn't like you.'

Cam stiffened. 'I know I've disappointed you and Mom, and I'm sorry about that.'

His Dad sighed heavily. 'We're disappointed for you, Cameron, not in you. There's a world of difference.' He held up a hand as Cam started to argue. 'We're disappointed that Amy wasn't the one for you; that you don't get to experience the type of marriage and love your Mom and I have; that you won't have a family of your own to love and bring up in the near future when we know what a great Dad you'd make.'

Cam couldn't say anything; his throat was too tight.

'But we're proud of you for making the decision to cancel the wedding.' His Dad insisted. 'We know it wasn't an easy thing to do.'

'I should have done it sooner. I screwed up.' Cam said tiredly.

'And it probably won't be the last time you do.' His Dad looked at him kindly. He fidgeted with his cup for a long moment. 'I screwed up too.' He confessed. 'I knew you weren't happy when we had the engagement party but I told myself I shouldn't say anything.'

Cam was startled. He'd thought he'd fooled everyone.

'Which is why I'm saying something now.' His Dad continued. 'You're not happy, son, and I can't help think that Amy's only part of it.'

'Maybe.' Cam allowed, shaking off his initial shock to formulate something of an answer. 'I don't know but maybe this trip will help.' He raised his own mug. 'I miss flying.'

His Dad nodded understandingly. 'Me too.' He sat back. 'So, this Sheppard is a pilot?'

Cam nodded. 'He's good. Better than me, I think.'

'And you trust him?'

'I trust him.' Cam said with absolute certainty.

'Then we'll say no more about it.' His Dad moved the topic on but it wasn't too much longer before Cam's flight was up on the boards and they were hugging goodbye.

Cam made his way through security. He checked his duffle bag, and took the bare minimum with him onto the cramped plane. He hated travelling on commercial flights, felt the instinctive need of every pilot to be the one in control but he adjusted the aircon, squirmed into the hard seat until he could convince himself he was comfortable and let the businessman in the seat beside him steal the middle armrest.

The take-off was smooth and he stared out of the window at the white clouds below. He'd done the right thing but his Dad was right; Cam wasn't happy and it wasn't just because he screwed up with Amy. His mind drifted over his reluctance to talk to his team again before he shied away from thinking about it. He was going to had plenty of time to mull it over on his two week jaunt across America.

For a moment he worried whether it was such a good idea asking Sheppard; whether they were going to hate it and each other within hours. They could always call a halt and go their separate ways, Cam decided, but he didn't think it would happen.

He was suddenly weary; tired from the emotional impact of the days behind him and the repressed anxiety that he'd suffered in the months before that. He slid down so he could rest his head comfortably against the cushion and closed his eyes.


Chapter 3

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