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Fanfiction: Broken Wings, Chapter 12

For author's note and disclaimer see Chapter 1

 

Cam paced back across the study and checked the clock again. It had been thirty minutes since McKay had contacted John.

John shot him a 'sit down and stop pacing' look of annoyance from his position on a plump leather sofa and Cam subsided into the matching deep leather chair, glad to get off his feet. His hand drifted towards the bruise on his rib from a blow one of the locals had managed to land. He ignored the aches in his left leg which had nothing to do with the fight. The sore muscles in his shoulders though made him almost glad that John would have the majority of the flight time later. He ignored the niggling worry that his body was failing like a battered old plane that needed too much maintenance.

'He's late.' Cam pointed out needlessly.

'We'll give him another five minutes.' John said, frowning.

Cam could see the hint of worry in his eyes. If Rodney had been caught hacking into Landry's files…

The phone rang and they both jolted upright. It would have been funny if it wasn't so important.

John smiled sheepishly and reached over to press the button on the speakerphone he'd hunted out and placed on the coffee table between them, along with the jamming device Woolsey had gifted them. 'Sheppard.'

'Sorry, sorry, took me longer than I thought to hack the satellite to jump the signal and…you didn't need to know about that. In fact, let's just forget that I mentioned that, right? Although it's not like you wouldn't already know…'

'McKay.' John said firmly, interrupting the steady flow of words. Cam mused that John could probably win a gold medal if McKay-wrangling ever became a national sport.

'Is, um, Mitchell there?'

'I'm here, McKay.' Cam slid forward in the chair to speak closer to the phone.

'Good, good.' Rodney harrumphed. 'So, I'm not sure where to begin here because…'

'Begin at the beginning, Rodney.' John suggested calmly, inching forward on the sofa to hunch over the speakerphone.

Cam felt his mouth dry up in anticipation; he was unexpectedly nervous, hands sweating.

'OK.' Rodney took a breath and launched in. 'Well, the beginning according to this was an official mission that Colonel Mitchell here undertook approximately around the time you, John, took your little side-trip into one potential future timeline that thankfully is now never going to happen so…maybe he can actually begin by informing us of the mission because all the official reports had been blacked out.'

'What mission, Rodney?' John asked before Cam could.

'Oh, um, the mission to go undercover with the Lucien Alliance with the objective of obtaining information regarding the location of the Ba'al.'

Cam frowned. The mission had straightforward; above board. 'Are you sure that's the mission because there's no reason for those reports to be blacked out?'

'No, I'm not sure,' Rodney replied snappily, 'I'm making this up for my health and…'

'McKay.' A warning note entered John's voice but the look he was aiming was at Cam.

Cam knew he was being told without words to stop questioning McKay just as John was telling McKay to play nicely with Cam. Cam sighed and rubbed the back of his head. 'We had intelligence that one of the new players in the Lucien Alliance was rumoured to know where Ba'al was. I went undercover pretending to be another Lucien Alliance player who was rarely seen. I'd done it before and this was pretty much the same thing. Anyway, long story short; I spent a couple of days there and my cover was blown. I ended up in a cell and I was expecting torture, pain, more torture…'

'The usual.' John commented.

'Right.' Cam gave a shrug. 'Only instead I get taken to her quarters and…'

'Her quarters.' Rodney said on the other end of the line. 'I might have known. Never mind. Carry on.'

'We talked.' Cam stressed, defensively.

There was a muffled snort from Rodney and he could tell John was laughing at him silently because the corners of his eyes had crinkled up.

Cam rolled his eyes at them. 'Anyway, I managed to convince Allia that giving me the information about Ba'al and letting me go was the best thing for everybody and…' he made a flappy motion with his hand.

'That was it.' John deciphered.

'A couple of days later we'd verified the intel with the Tok'ra and went Ba'al hunting.' Cam shrugged. 'I wrote up the report but Allia was never named to protect her.'

'Hmmm,' Rodney's voice drifted up from the speakerphone, 'well, what you didn't know was two weeks after Ba'al bit the dust, your lady friend contacted the SGC. You were on another mission with SG1 and General Landry took the call.'

'Allia called the SGC?' Cam felt stunned.

'Apparently you made quite the impression and she wanted to see you specifically,' Rodney needled, 'but she finally acquiesced to meeting up with Landry. They, uh, talked and she cut a deal.'

'She agreed to spy for us.' John said out loud what Cam was thinking.

'For a year after which she'd get to come to Earth and begin a whole new life.' Rodney confirmed.

Cam frowned. 'Why wasn't I told?'

'Because it was kept off the books.' Rodney sounded as though he's talking with his mouth full. 'Way, way, way off the books. I mean we're talking like Landry's personal project off the books. Until the Lucien Alliance tried to force you guys off the map, the only people who knew about this project other than Landry as far as I could tell were O'Neill, Sergeant Harriman, Major Davis and the President.'

'OK,' John said slowly, 'so this secret task force that Landry's supposedly heading up in Washington which everyone thought was about moving the Stargate out of the mountain…'

And suddenly Cam caught on. Crap.

'Not so much.' Rodney agreed. 'He's debriefing her.'

Cam felt his lips twitch; he glanced at John and that was all it took to have them both laughing out loud.

'What? Are you both twelve?' Rodney spluttered. 'And that's just so…I so did not need that image in my mind thank you very much!'

'Sorry, Rodney.' John waved a hand at the phone.

'Yes. Sorry, Rodney.' Cam parroted, tapping at his chest and trying to catch his breath.

'Hmmph.' Rodney didn't sound at all mollified by their apologies. 'Where was I?'

John's eyes snapped to Cam and there was a fraught moment as they both bit back the urge to start laughing again.

'Right,' Rodney continued oblivious, 'the deal Landry made said they'd bring her in from the cold after a year; give her a new life here on Earth. New identity, the works. In return, she provided intel via Landry using the Ancient communication stones. As far as I could see, she would take over Harriman for an hour every couple of weeks or so.'

'Is it just me or does that not creep you the hell out?' John stroked a hand over his upper arm as though cold.

'It was creepy enough when Vala and Daniel did it.' Cam murmured. His hands curled into fists. He was angry at being left out of the loop; angry that Landry had chosen Harriman as his confidante when it had Cam who had made the initial contact. Yet, he knew the General. He knew Landry had made the decision he thought best.

'Anyway, according to the information I've managed to, uh, gather, all goes well the first month but then, Allia provided them with intelligence that the SGC had to use to rescue SG12.' Rodney continued.

'I remember that mission.' Cam said grimly and pushed back the memory of SG12's battered bodies; they'd been tortured and mutilated before they'd been rescued. Of all of them, only Lieutenant Estel hadn't been medically discharged afterwards.

'Rumours begin, or more accurately rumours of rumours, all saying that someone was telling Earth the Alliance secrets.' Something crunched and rustled; Rodney was definitely eating something. 'And then one Alliance operative gets it into their head to investigate properly and somehow finds out about the deal. Luckily Allia manages to, well, terminate the problem – and that's not a phrase I use lightly, but not before the details of the deal make it out into the wider Alliance minus who the spy actually is.'

'So, the Alliance knew they'd got someone telling us their secrets; that the spy had a year to deliver and after that they get a new shiny life on Earth beginning with this three week debrief.' John said.

'And that Colonel Mitchell here was the first contact.' Rodney adds. 'That's why they targeted him.'

'They thought I would know about the deal.' Cam realises. 'That I would lead them right to the spy.'

'You know what I don't get,' John said, 'why wait the year? Why not try and find whoever they thought was spying and deal with them immediately?'

'Good questions,' Rodney admitted somewhat grudgingly, 'and from Allia's intelligence reports, they were definite attempts. They even came close a couple of times. But, no. Mitchell here was their plan B.'

'If they didn't find the spy in the year then the only option was to take her out here before she gets the chance to tell us everything in the debrief.' John said.

'Or take her out regardless.' Cam said. 'The Alliance take a dim view of traitors.'

'Presumably this Allia put something in place to cover her absence with the Alliance?' John asked.

'Lots of the top dogs remain hidden.' Cam informed them briskly. 'Since Netan it's rare for the leadership to get together or for any of the major players to be out in the open.'

'Which made it doubly hard for them to verify who the spy was.' John murmured.

'Does it say where Allia is now?' Cam asked Rodney.

'No,' and there was a silent 'don't be stupid' in that single word uttered by Rodney that even Cam couldn't miss, 'and I don't think I should find out because theoretically I could find out but I don't think you want me to in case, you know, you actually do get captured by the Lucien Alliance and they torture you for information.'

'Way to be optimistic, Rodney.' John said, sending Cam an apologetic look.

'Please.' Rodney sniffed. 'Let's not kid ourselves here. You do know what this all means, right?'

John waved a hand at the phone. 'Why don't you tell us anyway, Rodney?'

'He doesn't have to,' Cam said, 'he means that the situation with Allia ensures the Alliance is going to try and abduct me at some point during the next ten days.'

'And the Colonel with the lemon gets the prize.' Rodney said. 'Although as that means abduction, torture and-or death, I'm not sure I'd categorize it as a prize really.'

'Rodney!' John snapped.

Cam marvelled at McKay's bluntness, caught between a desire to laugh and a desire to punch him. He rubbed his eyes instead to hide his expression from John. Despite John's exasperation, Cam knew from the way John talked about McKay, from the way he trusted him absolutely, that their friendship was one forged in steel and John would take Cam's urge to hit McKay badly. And it wasn't really McKay's fault; he was only the messenger.

'It makes sense why Sam believed it made no difference if we knew.' Rodney continued on blithely. 'I mean, it doesn't change your situation or your options. You already knew they might make an attempt, you just didn't have a concrete idea why.'

But it changed the risk assessment, Cam thought. Staying on vacation and out in the open was a risky option when the Alliance threat had been a maybe; now it was upgraded to almost-certain-to-happen, it was riskier – and he had John to think about.

He raised his gaze and found John looking right back at him as though he had heard every thought that had just gone through Cam's head. Cam fought the blush but he felt the heat of it as it worked its way across his face anyway.

'Is there anything else, Rodney?' John asked, without taking his eyes off Cam.

'No, that's everything I managed to find.' Rodney stated. 'And I think I really need to sleep now.'

'So go get some sleep.' John ordered. 'And, Rodney – thanks.' He punched the disconnect button with a finger before McKay could reply. He pointed the same finger at Cam. 'You have that look.'

'What look?' Cam asked, sliding back to settle fully into the depths of the chair. He crossed his arms over his t-shirt and tried not to feel defensive.

'The one that says you think you should be sensible.' John answered back smartly.

Cam appreciated what John was trying to do but he couldn't let him. He'd been a Colonel for longer than John; he let his face fall into his military mask; responsibility and formality. 'Sheppard,' he said tightly, military inflection perfect given the way John's face went blank in automatic response, 'there are times when sensible is the way to go.'

John narrowed his eyes and Cam saw for a brief second the swell of rebellion that he assumed most of John's COs had come up against at some point. But there was a minute shift in John's gaze – possibly, Cam thought, when John remembered Cam wasn't his CO and that it wasn't a mission.

And suddenly Cam was the one feeling like a raw recruit under the glare of a senior officer. He'd forgotten, Cam mused ruefully that even though he'd officially held the rank for longer, John had effectively performed at the rank of Colonel by commanding an off-world base in hostile territory for years. He felt far too exposed under the intense glare but he held still and waited, because Cam wasn't John's CO, but John wasn't Cam's either.

A tiny quirk of John's lips was the only sign that John was aware of the silent power struggle. He rested his elbows on his knees and leaned forward.

'Let's say you're right, we fly to the nearest military base and you go into protective custody,' John said so reasonably that Cam was almost fooled into thinking John might not be annoyed with him, 'what do you think happens next?'

Cam tried to follow his logic but couldn't. 'I'm not sure…'

'You think the Alliance is going to say, 'gee, too bad; we can't get to him; oh well, might as well go home'?' John was openly mocking him.

Cam's own anger stirred. 'If I'm out of the picture…'

'They'll try and draw you out anyway. And, oh, I wonder; what's the best way they could do that?' John's comment had the precision of a surgical strike.

The Alliance would target his family or Amy. Cam's blood ran cold with the thought.

Cam lurched to his feet and stalked away to the window. He stared out at the vista of stables and barns; people going about the every-day business of the ranch. He pushed his hands into his jeans' pockets because he was angry enough to hit something – someone – and it wasn't John's fault any more than it was McKay's.

He felt irrationally angry at Sam for not telling him even though she was under orders from Landry because he thought he might have taken what McKay and John had told him better if she'd been the one to say it. She'd already thought it through and worked it out, Cam thought angrily. She already knew Cam needed to stay on leave and let the Alliance make their move.

And he was furiously angry at Landry regardless of how much he admired the man and had always gotten along with him. Some spark of reason reminded him that Landry had his reasons. Leaving Cam completely out of the deal with Allia probably became a necessity when the detail that Cam had been the first contact had leaked out. Landry hadn't known about the plot to kidnap and torture Cam to get to Allia; that had only come out with the Alliance's failed attempt to force John and Cam off-grid and make them vulnerable.

And as much as Cam wanted to rail at Landry for deciding not to tell Cam the whole truth on why the Alliance wanted to kidnap him, he knew Landry knew him, his strengths and his flaws, and Landry knew what path Cam would likely go racing down. He remembered his first ever discussion with Landry.

'Nobody's perfect. Everyone has some sort of character flaw. What's yours?'

'Sometimes I can be impatient, sir.'

Cam could feel the impatience bubbling up along with the more dangerous character flaw that came with it; recklessness, the urge to rush in where angels feared to tread, without any kind of plan beyond the need to do something.

A half-formed idea took shape in his head; he could leave John, head out on his own and…

'I'm thinking that look can't be good.' John commented dryly.

Cam looked over his shoulder and realised John had seen his reflection in the glass. He sighed. 'John, it's not that I don't appreciate all you've done but…'

John jumped to his feet and pointed a finger at him. 'Tell me you aren't seriously thinking of going off on your own as bait to tempt the Lucien Alliance out in the open.'

'OK,' Cam said agreeably, muscles tensing ready for the fight because he wanted it badly enough that he was looking forward to it, 'I won't tell you!'

'Mitchell…'

'You signed up for leave, Sheppard.' Cam cut in, letting his anger bleeding through. 'And I told you in Panama City, I didn't ask you along to play bodyguard. This isn't your problem.'

'Not my…' John repeated furiously. 'Not my problem?' He took a step toward Cam. 'My entire team is involved here, Mitchell.' Another step. 'McKay risked his career to get that information from Landry's files. Teyla is at your parents and Ronon is stuck outside of your ex-fiancée's house! And now you say it's not my problem?' By the time, John was finished, he was almost in Cam's personal space, with his hand raised and finger still pointing.

Cam took his hands out of his pockets and glared. He chose his words carefully, knowing he needed to get John angrier if he was to make sure John didn't follow. 'I said this isn't your problem and I don't need your help. This isn't a mission and I'm not some CO who's been stuck with you.'

John wasn't quick enough at smoothing his expression to hide the flinch but he didn't back down. 'You think I don't know what you're doing?'

'I don't care what you think.' Cam snapped out. 'I'm done here.'

He brushed John's hand aside and stepped around him.

John placed a hand on his shoulder and Cam whirled, striking out. His punch landed solidly on John's jaw and sent him to the ground. Cam froze for a split second in shock that he'd actually hit John, but then Cam was moving; striding out of the room through the corridor to the stairs.

His heart pounded uncomfortably fast as he made his way up, a sharp pain twinged in his leg with every step. He stormed into the guest room he was using; the wide double bed was made with its corners squared away the way he had been trained. There were a few clothes thrown onto a nearby chair and he grabbed them. He pushed them haphazardly into the duffel bag. He gathered up his shaving kit from the en-suite shower room and checked around to make sure that he hadn't forgotten anything else.

He was half-way to the door when it occurred to him he was in the middle of nowhere; that they'd arrived by plane and he had a sinking feeling John wasn't going to lend him a car. He pulled out his cell phone. There was an app that Vala had loaded that would find him the nearest taxi in most cities but it took less than a minute to work out that the small town of Clancyville wasn't included. He shoved the cell phone back in his pocket and thought with his luck the local taxi driver was probably one of the men he'd put in the hospital the night before anyway.

Cam threw his duffle on the bed, put his hands on his hips and closed his eyes. He tried to think of another way off the ranch; maybe he could call the Sheriff, maybe he could call Sam…only Sam had never approved of Cam doing any of his solo runs before and this time was unlikely to be any different. He pushed a hand through his hair, rubbing the short dark strands furiously in frustration.

'So…'

Cam's head swivelled round to the doorway where John lounged up against the wooden frame, legs crossed at his booted ankles, arms folded across the grey t-shirt he wore and a smirk on his face. Cam's eyes slid over the darkening bruise on John's jaw, partly obscured by the perpetual six o'clock shadow that John sported. Cam looked away on a flush of guilt; the anger draining away and leaving him tired and aching.

'I'm guessing you've realised you don't have a mode of transport out of here by now.' John said casually. 'Although if you're thinking of hotwiring Maggie I'm prepared to be really pissed off with you instead of just mildly pissed off at you.'

'I was thinking of hotwiring a car.' Cam shot back without looking at him but there was no heat to the words. He turned around and sank down to sit on the end of the bed.

John padded across and sat down next to him; close enough but not too close to get punched again. 'I'm beginning to appreciate why Landry didn't want us in the loop.'

Cam looked over at him.

'Well, let's face it; he obviously knew…,' John waved a hand at him to encompass Cam's behaviour in the last fifteen minutes, 'and I'm not exactly the poster boy for following orders.'

Cam grimaced. 'I can't sit here and do nothing.'

'I get it.' John replied. 'I do. In your place, I wouldn't be happy waiting for the Alliance to show up. I'd want to rush off and provoke them into showing their hand too.'

'But?'

'But Rodney would rant at me for being an idiot,' John said matter-of-factly, 'and then we'd come up with a plan.'

'Did you just call me an idiot?' Cam wondered out loud.

'Well, if the shoe fits…' John teased him lightly enough that Cam knew he'd been forgiven for throwing the punch. He held Cam's gaze for a moment. 'The important thing which you missed is that we come up with a plan.'

Cam looked at him, bemused.

'You want to go after the Lucien Alliance and take out the guys they've sent after you before they get you? I don't have a problem with that.' John said exasperatedly. 'I have a problem with you going off alone half-assed and getting killed.' He paused. 'I'd feel responsible.'

It was jokey enough that Cam believed he was supposed to take it as light-hearted mockery but the way John dropped his gaze to the polished oak floor suggested there was an element of truth in his words. John would feel responsible if Cam went off alone and got himself killed.

Cam sighed. 'A plan's not a bad idea.' He allowed. 'We could probably do with one of those.' He watched as John's shoulders dropped an inch in relief at the pronoun Cam used.

'You know what else we could probably do with?' John asked, looking back at him again, chameleon eyes alight with amusement.

He had no idea. 'I'm sure you're about to tell me.'

'Our teams.' John said simply.

It surprised Cam that he hadn't said an automatic 'no' and he was sure John expected that was what Cam would say after the whole discussion on whether Ronon and Teal'c should join them. Cam hadn't thought about his urge to get away from the team since then. In the quiet moments of flight, in between the story-telling and debates on movies, sports and aircraft, Cam had been thinking about his relationship with Amy; about what might have been. He was sure the base shrink Mackenzie had terms to describe the process; grieving, reflection, letting go.

But he hadn't thought about his team and his unwillingness to talk to them since he'd considered the question after his Replicator nightmare. It was as though realising on some level that his unwillingness had something to do with knowing things would change if he did had settled something in Cam. Maybe he still didn't know what would change or why it would change, what specifically was the issue, but he knew that it didn't matter in the here and now.

Right now was about finding the Lucien Alliance guys before they found Cam; before they got a chance to hurt his family and Amy. That was all that mattered and John was right; they would do better if they had the rest of their teams lined up beside them.

Cam pressed a thumb deep into the palm of his other hand and looked at John. 'We should call Sam.'

John's lips curved into a laconic smile. 'You have something in mind?'

Cam smiled back, somewhat sheepishly as he knew his answer was going to be a concession; an agreement to do things John's way. 'We're going to need her to OK getting our teams all in one place.'

John reached across the expanse of bed and patted his shoulder. 'Sounds like a plan to me.'

Chapter 13

 

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