Word count: 1,307
Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate: Atlantis.
Prompt: Cam is John's flight instructor. John is entranced by the planes; Cam is entranced by John.
“What’s on the schedule for today, boss?”
The voice is lazy, drawled, and Cam grins for a second before he turns around. “Morning to you too,” he replies, putting as much of the South as he can in his voice, because he’s noticed that when he does, it makes a funny little look cross Sheppard’s face. Sure enough, Sheppard’s nose crinkles a little and the skin around his eyes wrinkles; not a lot, not for long, but Cam loves to see it.
“Going up today,” Cam adds. Due to bad weather and various training exercises, they’ve been grounded for almost a week. He feels stuck on the earth, heavy, as if his boots are metal and the floors beneath him magnets. He knows Sheppard feels the same; as soon as the words are out of Cam’s mouth, Sheppard is smiling wildly, joy and anticipation and something else that Cam can’t quite define showing in every feature.
Cam can’t help but match the smile. He gestures to the hangar door, and they begin the walk across the tarmac, making idle conversation about training exercises and other pilots in the program. They step through the doors, and Cam hears Sheppard give a gasp beside him and turns.
There’s a look on Sheppard’s face that he’s never seen before, one of wonder and awe and amazement, and Cam almost feels like a voyeur, watching the emotions flicker across the other man’s face. It’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen, and he wonders suddenly if his face looks like that as he’s looking at Sheppard, like he’s looking at something he’s heard about but never dreamed he’d be allowed near.
“We’re going up in that?” Sheppard asks, and he traces his hand along the fuselage, delicately, gently, as if he’s afraid that anything more than the most gossamer of touches will steal its ability to fly. His voice is full of wonder, no trace of his ever-present drawl, and the tone makes Cam glad there’s nobody else scheduled in here today, because he’s sure his face isn’t hiding any of what he’s feeling.
“Yeah,” Cam says quietly. “Noticed they’ve been sticking you with the T-6s. Seemed like this might be more what you were looking for.”
Sheppard turns back to him, the look on his face shifted more towards surprise and gratitude. “You heard me talking to Williams?”
Cam shrugs. “Williams mentioned something about it, yeah.”
“Remind me to kiss her,” Sheppard says, walking around the helicopter, admiring it from this angle and that.
And just like that, Cam’s mood dims a little, because he can do all the digging he wants and pull all the strings he holds to get Sheppard the assignments he so craves, but at the end of the day, it won’t get Cam any closer to his own goals.
“You been up in one before?” he asks, trying now to get that look off of Sheppard’s face, because while it’s something he’s pretty sure he’ll never get tired of seeing, right now it just hurts.
“Not in one of these, no,” Sheppard replies, finally stepping back. “Chopper, yeah, when I was a kid. That’s what made me want to join up. But I’ve never been in one I’d be allowed to fly.” He pauses, as if something has only just occurred to him. “I will get to fly it, right?” His voice is cautiously hopeful, as if he’s been given a gift he’s not sure if he has permission to open, and Cam would never deny him anything he asks in that tone.
“Yeah,” Cam says, and watches the expression break on Sheppard’s face like dawn over the ocean, brilliant and beautiful and gone before he can really absorb it fully.
They go through the pre-flight checks and Cam gets their initial takeoff clearance with Control before they climb up and in. Cam sits in the pilot’s seat and lets Sheppard sit in the co-pilot’s before he turns to the other man.
“Your sim records say you’ve gone through the whole program on one of these,” Cam says, indicating the control panel broadly. “You know what you’re doing?”
Sheppard nods, and the lazy confidence is back. “Just need to fly a real one to get the gold star on my chart,” he says, and the drawl is in place, too; Cam finds that he doesn’t enjoy the sound now as much as he had an hour ago, because now he’s got something else to compare it to, something beautiful and rare.
Cam stands and motions to his own seat grandly, watching as the expression crosses Sheppard’s face again, the sun rising and setting in the blink of an eye, and Cam’s going to have to figure out what else in life Sheppard wants this badly, because Cam’s pretty sure he wants to see that look every day for the rest of his life. They switch seats and strap in, but before they put their breathers on, Sheppard grabs his arm. “Is this, y’know, cleared?”
Cam grins and shakes his head. “Not as such,” he admits, flicking one of the clasps on the breather. “Cleared to take you up, give you some air time in one of these, but I’m pretty sure they’re expecting me to do the bulk of it.” He shrugs. “What they don’t know won’t hurt me.”
“What they don’t know,” Sheppard points out, his voice serious – another tone that Cam’s never heard from him – and continues, “could get you kicked out of the Air Force.”
“They won’t ask, and I’m sure not going to tell them anything.” Cam’s positive that he imagines the brief look that flickers through Sheppard’s eyes as he plays on the military’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy.
“If you’re sure,” Sheppard says finally, grabbing his own breather. Cam nods and clicks his into place.
They’re only up for an hour, because Cam’s not sure how long Sheppard can handle the bird – he’s logged much longer in the T-6, but flying a copter is an entirely new ballgame. Sheppard seems to enjoy every second of it, executing increasingly more complex maneuvers with the ease of someone born to it, and after they’ve landed Cam can’t help but watch his hands as they flick at switches and pull knobs during the post-flight check.
Sheppard notices Cam’s staring and stills. “Am I doing it wrong?” he asks, slightly unsure, and Cam is forced to remember that though he’s never had a smoother ride in a helicopter, Sheppard’s never actually done this before. He shakes his head.
“Just making sure you get it all,” he responds, and it seems to satisfy Sheppard, because he gets back to work.
They’re finished not long after, and Sheppard walks to the hangar entrance with one last look over his shoulder. He stops near the entrance, and Cam nearly collides with him before stopping just in time. Sheppard turns around and takes the tiniest step back, but they’re still close, mere inches apart, and Cam leans back even as his body strains to lean forward.
“Thanks,” Sheppard says, and it’s that same honest, awestruck tone that he’d had when he first set eyes on the chopper. “That was – everything,” he says again, and quickly, almost hesitantly, reaches out to pull Cam into a rough embrace, thumping him on the back. Cam stands still, stunned, and Sheppard drops his arms before Cam can make himself respond.
“See you later, boss,” Sheppard drawls as he steps back into the last sunlight of the day, and Cam watches him saunter back along the tarmac, the setting sun playing on his hair and the skin at the back of his neck. A slow smile spreads across Cam’s face as he closes his eyes and images play through his mind, images of the day, and he thinks, yes, that was everything.
Edit: now with a sequel, Realization.