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Fanfiction: Broken Wings, Chapter 6

For author's note and disclaimer see Chapter 1

 

'You're a sadist.' Cam declared and lurched to a halt in front of the polished glass doors of the hotel. He bent over and tried to catch his breath.

John was busy stretching their morning run out of his muscles and simply grinned at him. Cam followed his example. He was going to be feeling every step of the four mile jog as it was without adding muscle strain to the damage.

'If you're going to be too tired to fly later...' John teased.

Cam's answering grin was warm and easy. 'Not a chance.'

John smirked and moved into another limber stretch that had Cam grimacing and wondering how John managed it. He was pleased though to see the other man looking relaxed and rested for all they were both dripping sweat and flushed from their run. He thought maybe John had actually slept the night before.

One woman walking by nudged her friend and adjusted her sunglasses to get a better look at them. Cam was aware they made a picture; both of them weren't exactly ugly looking and although they were both in sweats, their t-shirts were mostly plastered to their torsos. Cam hid his grin at John's complete obliviousness. Or maybe not obliviousness, Cam revised as he realised John was watching in the polished door and smirking at being ogled.

'Boys.' The woman said appreciatively.

John's head swivelled round. He smiled charmingly at the passing women. 'Ladies.'

Cam followed suit with a smile and nodded. The women continued walking but they smiled back at them over their shoulders. It suddenly occurred to Cam that John might want some female company on their trip at some point. After all, John hadn't just ended an engagement, was free and single, and was on leave.

Cam nudged John's shoulder. 'You want to go after them and invite them for breakfast?'

John shook his head. 'Nope.' He stopped abruptly and stared at Cam. 'Unless you…' he gestured towards where the women were disappearing around a corner.

'Oh, hell, no!' Cam held his hands up. 'I'm officially taking myself out of the game but I'm OK if you want…'

'I'm good.' John stated without expanding. 'So…breakfast?'

'Shower first.' Cam said, plucking his t-shirt away from his body. He followed John inside.

There was a guy in an atrocious shirt sat in the lobby. Cam made him immediately as someone out of place. He wore the wrong clothes for a hotel of its calibre and was desperately hiding behind what seemed to be an upside down French newspaper. More than that, Cam was certain that he had seen the guy in the diner John had dragged him into the night before on the basis that he hadn't had a real American burger and fries forever. Cam had found himself nostalgically enjoying the same along with a root float. The guy had been sat two booths behind John.

Cam was figuring what to do when he looked over at John. The dangerous light in the other man's hazel eyes was enough to cool Cam's blood. John had obviously made the guy too and he was staring at him as though he'd already planned how to get rid of the body.

Cam stepped directly into John's eye-line. He signalled for them to continue to the elevator. John nodded unhappily and said nothing. They waited until they were in the suite before talking.

'The guy with the shirt…' John began.

'Is tailing us.' Cam completed. 'Yeah, got that. Saw him in the diner last night.'

'He was at the beach bar too.' John raked a hand through his hair. 'Damn.'

'We need to call it in.' Cam reached for his phone.

John grimaced but motioned for Cam to get on with it.

Cam's phone chose that moment to ring loudly. It was Sam. He mouthed that at John and answered. 'Hey, we were…'

'So, I have Malcolm on my other line saying that you're about to kill one of his people?' Sam cut him off with a tone somewhere between aggrieved and amused.

Malcolm. Agent Barrett. NID. Cam made the connection and let out a relieved breath. He leaned his hip against the desk. 'The idiot downstairs is NID?'

John's eyes widened and he mimed that he was going to take a shower. Or that he was washing his hands of the entire sorry mess but as he disappeared toward his room, Cam was inclined to go with his first thought.

Cam was annoyed at the NID guy; annoyed that their leave had been interrupted; annoyed that having just gotten the tired look out of John's eyes, he could see it there again. Operation Get Sheppard Talking was going well; the story thing was, in Cam's opinion, inspired. He didn't think John would talk about any of the really bad stuff – the dodge on the first day story had verified that – but maybe talking about some of any of it would be good enough to help John in some way.

'So I can reassure Malcolm you're not planning on killing his guy?' Sam was all the way amused now.

'Why were we being followed?' Cam retorted.

'There's chatter about the two of you connected to both the Trust and the Lucien Alliance.' Sam said. 'You're both high profile targets and you're travelling together so I don't need to tell you that made you a bigger target.' She sighed. 'Malcolm said one of the NID intelligence analysts thought there was something unusual in the chatter but his superiors disagreed so he struck out on his own and…well, you made him so he called Malcolm.'

Cam rubbed his forehead. That the guy downstairs wasn't an agent at least explained how bad he was at camouflage.

'Look, I'm going to look into the chatter.' Sam said seriously. 'If this guy thought he saw something maybe he did, but it's more likely this was the usual talk about the two of you.'

'You do know that it's not exactly comforting that the Trust and the Alliance usually talk about us, right?' Cam drawled.

'Just…enjoy your leave.' Sam replied, and she sounded tired; like she had been woken up at an ungodly hour by Barrett to prevent Cam and John beating up one of his people. 'And don't kill the guy in the lobby.'

'You need to tell Barrett his guy's an idiot.'

'An idiot who realised that he'd been made.' Sam countered. 'You and John do know how not to give away your own position, don't you?'

There was a dial tone before he could respond, and once he got past the surge of annoyance and the thought that Sam had spent way too much time learning command at the hands of Jack O'Neill, he appreciated her point. Well, what was done was done and Cam was more interested in what to do next.

Cam scrawled a message for John, explaining both the situation and what he was about to do, and left it in plain sight. He went back down to the lobby. He needed to be quick if he was going to catch the guy. He took the stairs and ignored the twinges of pain in his bad knee as he made it to the lobby just in time to see the guy closing his phone and looking down at his feet in a dejected way.

Cam walked over swiftly and pinned on his best 'I come in peace' smile. 'Hey.'

'Oh God.' The NID analyst was young; pale brown hair cut short to try and hide the bald spot forming. He carried some extra weight not quite hidden by the yellow and green Hawaiian shirt and dark pants. His brown eyes were apprehensive.

Cam stuck his hand out. 'Cam Mitchell.'

'Yes, Colonel.' The guy looked at him dubiously as he shook hands. 'I know who you were. I'm sorry for…' he gestured at Cam, 'and I'll be out of your hair very soon.' Chagrin danced across his face and Cam bet anything that Barrett had given Analyst Guy a blistering earful.

'Way I see it you were trying to help us.' Cam said sincerely. 'How about breakfast as a thank you?'

Analyst Guy looked shell-shocked. He pointed at Cam. 'You want to have breakfast with me?'

Cam continued smiling and reached out to pat the guy's shoulder. 'Come on. We didn't want to keep John waiting.' He turned and walked away, and as he predicted, the guy followed obediently.

They rode the elevator back up to the suite in nervous silence and Cam was relieved to find John dressed in his usual jeans and a white t-shirt if sporting damp hair, waiting for them in the living area, flipping through channels on the large screen TV. John got to his feet with what Cam was sure was John's 'I will indulge the natives' look.

Cam clapped his hands together. 'How about you guys order breakfast and I'll go shower?' He didn't wait for them to answer but made his escape.

He dove into his room, stripping his clothes quickly as he made his way into the adjoining bathroom. He stood under the rush of hot water for a full minute, letting the warmth of it ease out the aches in his muscles before he hurried through the rest of the shower and a quick shave. He figured John was unhappy enough with him for inviting the guy to breakfast without adding leaving them alone for a long time to the crime.

Cam dried off with haste and dressed in jeans and a blue Air Force t-shirt. Twenty-five minutes had passed. He walked back into the living area and blinked.

A waiter was finishing laying out the breakfast on the small dining table. Analyst Guy was already seated in one of the chairs, a happy expectant look on his face. John had taken the chair on the opposite side. He signed the bill and slipped the waiter a tip. Cam smiled at the exiting waiter and took the empty seat at the table between the two men.

'Wow, this looks great.' Cam murmured as he took off the metal cover and looked down at the waffles, eggs and bacon.

John waved at their guest. 'Stan here recommended it.'

Stan. Their NID analyst had a name.

Stan smiled shyly. 'I want to thank you for the invitation.'

'No problem.' John said. He slid a look in Cam's direction and raised an eyebrow. Yes, John was not happy at Cam's unilateral decision.

'Still, I interrupted your leave and…' Stan blushes, 'and probably worried you for no reason, and I am sorry about that.'

John slid the rack over to Stan. 'Toast?'

Cam hastily swallowed his bacon and reached for the coffee pot. 'Like I said downstairs, you were only trying to help us, right?'

'That's right, although as Agent Barrett pointed out, I might not have exactly gone about it in the right way.' Stan sighed. He wiped his mouth with his napkin and waved a large hand at them. 'I thought…well, it didn't matter what I thought.'

Cam gestured. 'We disagree.'

Stan was surprised enough to stop eating.

'We're very interested in what you discovered.' Cam expanded mildly, aiming to keep things casual. He smiled to take the sting out of revealing his real reason for inviting Stan to breakfast.

'Call us curious.' John added and popped a piece of bread into his mouth. His posture suggested he was enjoying a lazy holiday breakfast but Cam recognised it for the illusion it was; he also knew that John knew why Cam invited the guy to breakfast and was on board.

Stan took another bite of his food and nodded. 'You know how it works right?'

'Vaguely.' John said, cutting up his bacon and gesturing with the knife. 'Why don't you explain it?'

'Our operatives and Homeworld's are obviously tracking and infiltrating Trust and Alliance networks. They gather audio or text intelligence and send it to my team. Well, I say my team, I mean the team I work with; they're not really my team.'

'So, you get the intelligence…' Cam encouraged gently, sipping his coffee.

'And we look for patterns, for watch words, for names obviously, that kind of thing.' Stan continued. He broke off to drink down some orange juice.

'Like a giant puzzle.' John offered.

'Exactly.' Stan beamed at him. 'You get one piece of information in one place and another some way else but it's finding what goes with what that's the hard part.' He began eating again, swiping a large chunk of bacon through the split brilliant yellow yolk of his egg. 'Anyway, as you probably both know your names are on the watch list.'

'Because of our relative positions.' Cam contributed. He cleared his plate and sat back with his coffee, trying not to rush Stan into getting to the point.

'Exactly.' Stan shoved more food in his mouth, chews fast and swallowed. 'You, Colonel Mitchell, are often mentioned by the Lucien Alliance although rarely by the Trust.'

John shot Cam an inquiring look.

'I've tangled with the Alliance a couple of times.' Cam said modestly. He was saving the story of his undercover work for when he needed the flight time.

John smiled as though he understood exactly what Cam was thinking and picked up his coffee. Stan coughed discreetly and they both turned their attention back to him.

'Now usually we didn't hear much chatter about you, Colonel Sheppard. Both the Trust and the Lucien Alliance have placed Atlantis on their to-do list but it's not a priority, and the Trust has been smarting for a while about their last plan to blow up the city not working.'

'Well, I know I feel better.' John said sarcastically, over the rim of his coffee cup.

'We do know Sheppard International have been a target for the Trust in the last couple of years.' Stan continued.

John tensed and Cam sat forward to draw Stan's attention away from him.

'Oh?' Cam murmured.

'Control of major corporations has always been their strategy.' Stan pushed his clean plate away and picked up his juice. 'If they control the money, they control the power.'

'And they want control of Sheppard International?' John checked. His tone was lazy and he slouched back in his chair but Cam wasn't fooled. John was the equivalent of a panther playing possum with the oblivious prey which had stumbled into its midst.

'Of course, they never achieved it while your father was alive.' Stan answered. 'He wouldn't give up ownership of the company and he had a very good security team.'

'And now?' John pressed and Cam knew he was thinking about the rumbling Dave mentioned at breakfast the previous day.

Stan finally picked up on John's unease and hurried to reply. 'Well, we think your father's will was designed to ensure control would remain with your family, but also to provide your brother with the added protection of your, uh, involvement. We're fairly certain that your father was aware there was a threat.'

Cam got it. Dave could never be swayed by the Trust as long as he's reliant on John for control, and he could never be threatened into complying with the Trust without attracting the attention of John who had the weight of the Air Force and the SGC behind him. He wondered if Patrick Sheppard did it to protect the company or to protect his youngest son. He feared from the expression that flitted across John's face that he knew which John believed.

'The company remains a target but it is more difficult for them to acquire control.' Stan patted his lips with his napkin. 'Anyway, the chatter I heard isn't the usual.'

Cam's reminded of why Stan was eating with them. 'In what way?'

'It's like the Trust and the Alliance are talking to each other about you both.' Stan blurted out.

Cam and John exchanged a concerned look.

'What do you mean?' John asked.

'Well, the SGC informed us, you were travelling together so I wasn't surprised when I saw both your names mentioned together in a Trust communiqué on SG personnel movements with a notation beside your names indicating your first location, here.' Stan explained. 'But then I saw the exact same phrase crop up in an Alliance discussion and again, they had your location.'

'And that's unusual?' Cam checked. 'For the same thing to crop up?'

'Not really,' Stan admitted with a sigh, 'it's quite usual for the same intelligence to appear although not with the same speed.'

'You said the exact same phrase appeared.' John stated thoughtfully.

Stan nodded approvingly as though John had answered a question correctly. Cam was a beat behind in understanding. The exact same phrase indicated a single source, or a common language for discussion. Stan was right; it possibly indicated that the Trust and the Lucien Alliance were talking to each other about him and John, or that one was used as the source for the other. And that freaked Cam out more than he wanted to admit.

'It's one single phrase; five words; same notation on location.' Stan recited. 'Which was why everyone else believes that it's not enough to make a determination of any collusion or potential threat.'

Yet.

The word hung silently over the table.

John smiled grimly. 'Well, we appreciate the heads-up, Stan.'

'No problem.' Stan grinned widely.

John got to his feet and Stan belatedly realised it was a signal for him to get to his. Cam followed them to the door, listening in amusement at John's patter that he was sure Stan understood but that they need to get moving for the day and they didn't want to keep him from his work. Just before the door, John moved to a side-table and scrawled his cell number on a pad of paper. He ripped it off and handed it to Stan with one hand even as the other opened the suite door to usher Stan out.

'If you see anything else, don't hesitate to call.' John smiled at Stan as charmingly as he had done at the ladies after their run.

Stan blushed and took the number. 'Thank you.'

Cam shook Stan's hand, thanked him again and a moment later the door was closed.

'I need to call Dave.' John said shortly. He whirled back into the living room, grabbed his cell from the coffee table and dialled. He greeted his brother as he headed into the privacy of his bedroom.

Cam checked the clock, winced as he calculated the time difference and called Sam anyway. He updated her briskly. Sam acknowledged the issue and promised again to check everything out herself. She grumbled at her second early wake-up call of the day but he could hear the sleep clearing from her voice and knew she would be on the case when she got to the SGC.

John came back out as Cam snapped his phone shut.

'OK?' Cam asked.

John nodded and slumped onto the sofa. 'I don't think he took me seriously.' He shrugged and looked away. Cam figured that John was trying to work out how to protect his brother without giving away the Stargate programme. 'You call Sam?'

'Yeah,' Cam sighed and folded his arms across his chest as he perched on the arm of the sofa at the opposite end from where John was sitting. 'She's going to do some digging.'

'What do you think?' John asked, pinning Cam with a frank, open stare.

'I could see why Stan's superiors thought he was overreacting; one phrase, just our location, no stated threat.' Cam thought it through out loud. 'Can't say I'm thrilled at the idea of the Trust and the Alliance having the same source but that's preferable to them beginning to work together.'

'You want to go off the grid?' John made the suggestion casually.

Cam had no doubt that John could make them disappear. He'd seen John's file once, kind of by accident, but Cam remembered enough to remember the huge swathes of blacked out information that spoke of secret and classified missions. He suspected John was Special Forces before he ended up in Antarctica, but Cam was not asking and he knew well enough that John would never tell.

'Plan B?' Cam replied. He was willing to wait on Sam and see what her verdict was. Plus if there was a threat, the SGC would take them off the grid officially.

John nodded slowly but Cam thought maybe John would prefer to go off grid immediately.

'You sure?' Cam checked. Because it was their vacation not a mission and he wanted John to enjoy it, not to feel like he had to be checking over their shoulders constantly.

There was a long pause and Cam was beginning to wonder if it was a good sign that John was taking the time to consider their options or not when John gave a decisive nod.

'Plan B.' John cast a look at the clock. 'And we really should get moving.' He was on his feet and headed to the bedroom before Cam could say anything else.

Cam made his way to his own room and started packing but his mind drifted back to the intelligence chatter. He hoped they were doing the right thing; that Stan's assumption that it was a sign of tangible threat against them was nothing more than an overreaction. He thought about how John's first instinct was to take them off the grid and mused over the fact that John had some damn good instincts and maybe they should be listening to them more.

He stood holding his spare jeans in his hands and continuing to debate with himself when John rapped on the open door behind him.

'Ready?' John raised his eyebrows as Cam gestured with his jeans.

'Maybe we should go off the grid.' Cam blurted out.

John rested a shoulder on the jamb and crossed his arms over his chest. 'What brought this on?'

'Thinking.' Cam muttered.

'Dangerous.' John smirked. 'Me too. I mean with the thinking.'

'And?' Cam stuffed the jeans into his duffle along with his toiletries kit.

'I think we should stick to our original plan.' John said, surprising him.

Cam looked over at him quizzically.

'Look, my first instinct is always to go off the grid.' John admitted, gesturing at him awkwardly. 'Which got me thinking what if someone was expecting that?'

'You think we're being set-up.' Cam realised, sitting down heavily on the edge of the bed. It made sense in a bizarre way; the relatively innocuous chatter, Stan's decision to tail them which someone had to realise they would notice, the conversation with Stan…

'Truth is we don't know what's going on.' John shrugged loosely. 'But if we are being set-up seems like a good idea to do the opposite of what they're hoping we'll do.'

The amused resignation in John's voice spoke to his belief that they were being set-up as though it was inevitable. Cam thought out loud that they should probably call Sam and get her to check out Stan.

'Already did.' John said.

Cam sighed. With John's request for Stan to be checked out, they'd done as much as they could for the day and Cam had been looking forward to flying since he won the story competition the day before.

He pushed off the bed and grabbed his duffle. 'Well, we have a flight to Panama City to make,' he declared, 'of which I have sixty-five per cent of the flight time so we should get going.' He grinned at John.

John eased off the door frame. 'I'll be flying it tomorrow.'

'That sounds like fighting talk.' Cam joked.

John lifted up his own duffle and simply smirked, his eyes crinkling with amusement.

And Cam was suddenly more determined than ever to make sure the threat of impending doom didn't ruin their holiday. They both needed the downtime too much.

Chapter 7

 

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