Characters: John/Cam gen
Word Count: 5,419
Rating: R/OC deaths, angst, some swearing.
Summary: 'The email comes through in the databurst along with the rest of the reports from the SGC.' Cam and John have been friends for a long time, so when Cam needs help, John doesn't hesitate to go.
Notes: Lots and lots and lots of thanks to theeverdream , who beta read this and didn't even laugh at all of my typos and extra commas and funky phrasing.
The email comes through in the databurst along with the rest of the reports from the SGC. John isn’t surprised to get it, at least not at first. He and Cam have been close for a long time, since they met at the Academy, and they’d kept in touch over the years, through various postings and fuckups and issues. They’d both eventually ended up with the SGC, though their postings were, obviously, pretty damn far apart. Still, it’s nice to have the guy he considers his closest friend – he might even say best friend, if he was slightly drunk and feeling maudlin – in a position where John doesn’t have to make up vague lies to explain long absences or weird blue spots on his skin when he makes his infrequent trips Earthside.
So it isn’t like it’s really a surprise to get an email from Cam. He usually sends one through, with information he’d collected over the past couple of weeks, snippets about OSU’s chances in the Bowl this year or how the Final Four matchup is looking, along with amusing stories about his family. John had been introduced to the Mitchell clan during his first year at the Academy; he’d accidentally let it slip that he didn’t really have anywhere to go for Christmas, and before he could do much more than blink, he’d been packed into a car with Cam – whom he’d barely known, at the time – and forced to spend the next nine hours or so listening to Cam’s slightly off-pitch renditions of traditional (and some not-quite-so-traditional) Christmas songs. The holiday had been a blur of brown hair and blue eyes and ridiculously happy smiles for Cam and John alike, and he’d met what had seemed at the time to be every single person who could even be tangentially related to the Mitchell family, from Great-Gran’ma Edith (ninety-eight that year) all the way down to second-cousins-twice-removed Bryce and Brody (two months).
That was when John had first figured it out – Cam’s big secret. His entire family was so easygoing and supportive, and apparently it hadn’t occurred to anyone there to tell the younger kids to keep their mouths shut, because Ian, aged seven, had looked up at him while John was attempting to build a helicopter out of Legos (“Quit that, Sheppard,” Cam had groaned when he looked in. “Stop spoiling my family for your stupid choppers”) and asked, “Are you Cam’s boyfriend?”
John had dropped his carefully crafted propeller back into the pile of bright bricks and stared at Ian. “Am I what?”
“Cam’s boyfriend,” Ian had repeated, a little more loudly, and that’s when Aunt Macy had come in and swept Ian out of the room, pinning John to the couch with a glare that kept him in his seat even after she left. Cam had come in a few minutes later, looking apprehensive.
“Is this gonna be a problem?” Cam had asked, sounding tired and worried. His face looked strained, and John had instantly understood that it had been a problem for someone before, maybe several someones. “I can take you into town, find you a hotel room.”
“And miss out on the eggnog your Momma promised me after the kids go home?” John had made his decision instantly, leaning back casually against the couch and raising an eyebrow up at Cam. “Look, Mitchell, as long as you didn’t bring me out here to try to get me in bed, I honestly could not care less.”
Cam had relaxed instantly, shooting him a grin. “I won’t say I’d be upset if it happened,” he’d drawled. “But no, that wasn’t my intention. Family’s kind of a big deal to me and mine, and it just didn’t seem right to leave you on our own for the most family-oriented holiday of the year.”
John had stood and clapped him on the back. “This has been the nicest Christmas I’ve ever had,” he’d said, figuring that if he’d learned something personal about Cam, he owed it to the other man to reveal something of his own. “It kind of sucked for me, growing up.”
Cam had looked almost offended. “Christmas doesn’t suck. Christmas is the best time of the year.”
John had just grinned and headed for the door. “Convince Momma to give me that eggnog a little early, and I’ll believe you,” he’d promised.
John isn’t thinking about that now, as he clicks open the email, expecting an in-depth analysis of the Citadel/VMI game and some pictures of cousin Breeann’s new baby (Mallory? Marie? He can’t quite remember). He’s definitely expecting more than one line, and nowhere on his radar was a request for his presence.
can you get leave any time soon?
John frowns and stands, heading almost on autopilot for Woolsey’s office. He stops and knocks on the door, waiting for the man to set his datapad aside and wave his hand.
“Colonel,” Woolsey greets him formally. “What can I do for you?”
“I need to take some leave,” John says abruptly. “Something’s come up.”
Woolsey frowns, reaching for his datapad again. John can see that he’s rearranging schedules, pulling up personnel files, and scanning through the upcoming weeks. “Family related?” he asks as he works.
“Yeah,” John replies, because it’s close enough to the truth.
He returns to his office and writes a single line back. He’s requested that they open up the wormhole so he can send it through, even though they’d just had it open and McKay will undoubtedly bitch about the power drain. He wonders what he must be showing on his face, because Rodney doesn’t say a single word when they send his message back to Cam.
I’ll be there tomorrow.
He’s actually there less than six hours later; he doesn’t know if it was Lorne or Chuck or a combination of the two (because, holy hell, was that a team to be reckoned with), but they’d managed to get him packed and ready and okayed with all the higher-ups in record time. John is prepared to kiss whoever it was that kept Rodney away from him for that period of time, because while he knows that John and Cam are friends, John’s really not prepared to delve into why he’s willing to drop everything he’s doing to race across the span between their galaxies the second Cam asks.
It’s because they’re friends, nothing more, and because Cam gave him a home and a family when he didn’t have either, and because Cam’s closer to him than his own brother. It’s because Cam never asks anyone for anything, least of all John, because he knows John doesn’t really have a lot to give. It’s because when Cam does ask for something, anything, it means he really needs it, and there’s absolutely nothing that John’s not prepared to give.
And it’s not that he’s ashamed of it, but he doesn’t think it’s any of Rodney’s business to know, really. Rodney doesn’t like Cam, probably won’t care that Cam is in trouble of some kind, and John wants – needs – to be calm when he steps through the Gate. Arguing with Rodney certainly won’t accomplish that.
John steps through the Gate when he’s given the okay and meets General Landry on the other side. He snaps to attention, sort of, before Landry waves a hand at him and leaves the Gate room. John stands there for a minute, unsure whether he’s supposed to be following or not, when he hears his name coming from a nearby hallway. He turns and finds himself with two arms full of a slight blonde Colonel.
“Hey, Sam,” he says, smiling as he pulls back. “Didn’t realize you were in town.”
Sam grins up at him. She looks happy, he notes. Command is a good look for her. “The General Hammond is going through some routine maintenance,” she tells him. “I’ve been here about a week, but we’ll be heading out tomorrow.” They’re walking towards the infirmary for John’s intergalactic check-up, and Sam stops him, lowering her voice and leaning in slightly.
“Look, John, I don’t know why you’re back in town, but – I know you and Cam are friends,” she says haltingly, like she’s not sure she should be telling him this. “If you’re going to be around, stop by his place, okay?”
Something in John’s stomach twists. Stop by his place means he’s not going to be here. Cam rarely takes time off. “I was planning on seeing him while I was around, yeah,” he says casually. “Something up?”
Sam sighs, and when the smile drops from her face, John can see the stress lines around her eyes crinkle. “He’s been doing trainings,” she tells him, and John nods. Since Sam’s been promoted out of the team and Teal’c has gone back to the Jaffa, SG-1 has become more of an idea and less the SGC’s premier team. Jackson is leaning more and more towards being a consultant rather than an active member of day-to-day operations, and John isn’t sure where Vala is, only that she’s not around too much. Cam has been shifted into a more supervisory position, leading teams out on training missions. It’s supposed to be an easier post; none of them are getting any younger, and Cam has more bad days with his legs than he used to. Nobody would dare suggest that he step down or take a desk job, so things have been rearranged around him. If John were a lesser man, he’d feel bitter about it, about the fact that the Air Force would bend heaven and earth for Cam, but always seemed about three steps away from kicking him out. As it is, though, John’s happy that Cam’s getting to keep the job he loves while cutting down on his chances of getting shot at on a biweekly basis.
“Taking the new grunts out for some milk runs,” John says, nodding to Sam. “Nothing difficult, nothing dangerous. Except something went wrong.”
Sam nods and doesn’t ask how he’s put two and two together. It’s not hard to assume that something went wrong in their line of work, and besides, he’s always been good at math. “He lost a team earlier this week,” she says, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Five Marines. Just out of SOI, all of them.”
“Shit.” Cam has always taken the deaths of those around him hard, and these had just been kids, barely out of their training at the School of Infantry, entirely under Cam’s command. “What happened?”
“Depends who you ask,” Sam replies, “and that’s the problem. Cam, of course, blames himself, thinks he should have somehow been able to magically know that the natives were going to attack. One of the kids made it back here alive, though, and swore up and down on a stack of Bibles that there was nothing Cam could’ve done.” She sighs, long and heavy, and her shoulders slump. “He died about an hour after that. Cam pretty much shut down. Went into his polite-but-disinterested mode.”
That’s never good. Cam wears his heart on his sleeve, always has, and if he withdraws from the world around him, things are already in a bad place. John shifts his bag on his shoulder, wishing that he’d be allowed to skip the mandatory infirmary visit and just leave the Mountain. “Is someone with him?” he asks, and there must be a note of something in his voice, because Sam’s looking at him a little more closely. He forces the concern back down his throat. “Look, Sam….” And now it’s his turn to wonder if he’s overstepping his bounds, telling her something Cam wouldn’t want her to know. “He emailed me, asked me if I could get some leave.”
Sam’s eyes flash, bright and worried, and she nods. Message understood. “Daniel’s been there for a few hours,” she reports. “I’ll swing by to relieve him until you can get there.”
“Thanks,” John says, some of the tension in his stomach uncurling.
Sam smiles at him, the worry lines in her face tightening. “He’s not just yours, John,” she says as she squeezes his hand, and he knows she’s misunderstood but doesn’t correct her, doesn’t care, because she can think what she wants about him and Cam as long as Cam’s not going to be left alone right now.
John answers Dr. Lam’s questions on a sort of autopilot; he already knows he’s healthy. He wouldn’t have been allowed to come back here otherwise, and Dr. Keller keeps them in excellent health anyway. Soon enough, he’s picking his duffel off the end of the bed and heading for the door. Lam doesn’t try to stop him.
John pauses at the end of the corridor, looking alternately down at the elevator and back towards the control room. Harriman can get him what he needs, he decides, and it’ll be much better to have all the facts before he goes to Cam.
Ten minutes later, he’s being directed to a car that he’ll be allowed to use for the duration of his stay (length as yet undecided, he’d informed Landry, and the man had just nodded, which spoke to the depths to which Cam had already dropped) and he’s soon on the road, driving streets he knows all too well from years of shuttling between the Mountain and Cam’s small house. The drive takes maybe half the time it’s supposed to, but John’s not really worried about getting pulled over. He’s not worried about anything but his friend.
John takes a deep breath in the car as he pulls into the driveway. The file is sitting on the passenger’s seat, tucked beneath his duffel, and he yanks it out and opens it in his lap. There are few pictures, but they tell enough of the story: the kid Cam had managed to get back through the Gate was bleeding heavily, already looking half-dead by the time he got to the infirmary, with one arm hanging uselessly from its socket. Cam himself was covered in blood, but John can’t tell from the pictures if it’s his own or that of the young Marines. The file tells him pretty much the same thing that Sam had: it was supposed to be an easy mission, things had gone pear-shaped with little warning, five lives had been lost. The mission report is signed with Cam’s careful penmanship, and the distinct lack of personality in the writing makes John ache for his friend a little more.
He swings the bag up and off of the seat and lets himself into the house; Cam had given him a key years before, when they’d both been assigned to the Stargate program, telling him to crash there whenever he was Earthside, whether Cam was there or not. John had used the key infrequently, but it’s one of the items he always keeps in his allotted SGC storage, and it’s handed back to him every time he steps through the Gate.
“Hey,” he calls through the hallway. Jackson pokes his head out of the living room.
“Sheppard,” Jackson returns. “In here.”
John walks down the hallway, trying to figure out how to politely tell Sam and Jackson to shove off so he can put Cam back together. He stops in the doorway and takes in the scene, abruptly deciding to tell politeness to go screw itself. Cam’s slumped on the couch, staring at the television without taking it in, while Sam chatters brightly at him from the easy chair. She looks up at John, almost desperate, and he knows that she just doesn’t know what to do. For all her smarts, Sam has no idea how to deal with Cameron Mitchell in full-on meltdown mode.
To be fair, John isn’t quite sure what he’s going to do yet, but he knows damn well that he’s got a better shot at dragging Cam back from whatever brink he’s about to fall from than either of the room’s other occupants.
“Hey,” he says, not even trying to sound nice about it. “Thanks, Sam, Jackson. I’ll call you guys later.”
Both of them know a dismissal when they hear it, and they might toss him a look as they leave, but John’s not paying them any attention. He’s focused on Cam, slumped on the sofa, as if all of the physical therapy after his crash hadn’t done him a damn bit of good and his legs would collapse if he tried to stand. John barely registers the door closing and locking as he drops his bag on the floor and sits down next to his friend.
“Cam,” he ventures, and Cam blinks, looking up at him as if he’s startled.
“John?” Cam’s voice is questioning and shaky, raw and broken. “John,” he gasps again, and sort of leans sideways into John’s body, crumbling into him.
John manages to get an arm slung around Cam’s shoulders, patting his upper arm. Cam doesn’t cry, doesn’t lose it; he just lies there and lets John hold him. The funny thing of it is, John thinks as he rubs at Cam’s arm, is that he wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this with anyone else. He’s never been much for physical affection, but it’s second nature with Cam. It’s never awkward or weird. Even with his team, even now, he would feel weird offering this kind of contact. Here, though, it’s what Cam needs, and John has no problem supplying it.
John halfheartedly watches the Discovery Channel – half of a Mythbusters and two Dirty Jobs – before Cam finally sits back up. Neither of them has said a word the entire time, but Cam had clenched his fists in the material of John’s shirt and John’s hand had never stilled on his arm.
“Thought you weren’t getting here ‘til tomorrow,” Cam says. John just shrugs.
“I told Lorne to step on it,” he offers. Cam knows Lorne, too, and it gets the tiniest hint of a smile out of him. “So here I am.”
Cam closes his eyes and leans back into the couch. “Thanks for coming,” he says quietly. “I’m sorry. I just – I didn’t – there was – they don’t get it, and I can’t tell them,” he finishes, and John understands the sentence through and through. My team doesn’t know why I can’t deal with this. I can’t tell my family about it. You’re the only one who gets it.
“Have you slept?” John asks instead of responding, because yeah, he’s been there too, and Cam knows it. He was there, after all, took leave when the expedition had been kicked out of Atlantis and John had floated without his moorings for a while. “No, fuck that, you haven’t. Have you eaten? Today,” he adds when Cam opens his mouth. Cam frowns, looks around the living room, and finally meets his eyes sheepishly.
“I’m not sure what today is,” he admits, and John stands and pulls Cam to his feet. He points down the hallway.
“You shower, I’ll scrape something together,” John says, and Cam just goes and does what he says without comment. John sighs as he walks to the kitchen. It’s much, much worse than he’d thought.
By the time Cam gets out of the shower, John’s been through everything in Cam’s refrigerator and has decided that most of it wouldn’t even be good enough to feed to strays. All that’s left when he finishes is a tub of pickles, a jar of chili peppers, and a few slices of American cheese. John flips a menu at Cam as he enters the kitchen.
“We’ll go to the store tomorrow,” John says. “Nothing in there was food.”
“It used to be,” Cam defends, a ghost of a smile on his face.
John gestures to the trash bin. “Help yourself,” he drawls, and Cam makes a face at the bin, which is giving off a slightly foul odor. “Or we could, I don’t know, order pizza.”
“Right,” Cam says, picking up the phone and dialing. John takes the opportunity to run to the street with the garbage. By the time he gets back in the house, Cam’s hanging up the phone, and they spend the next twenty minutes catching up on everything that hasn’t been traded through the databursts without touching the reason that John’s here.
“How’s Breeann?” John asks, and Cam reaches for an envelope tucked into the napkin holder. In it, there’s a picture of a smiling Breeann holding a tiny baby, wrapped in a gauzy-looking pink blanket. Anson, Breeann’s four-year-old son, is kneeling on his mother’s lap, peering into the blankets. “Shit, Anson’s huge!”
“I know,” Cam says, a true smile on his face as he studies the picture. “And Marla’s two months now. It’s the only picture they’ve sent down so far.”
Marla, right. John recalls not remembering the baby’s name earlier, when he’d first opened Cam’s email and expected the picture to be attached. It’s been a long time since then, but only in the metaphorical sense. In reality, it’s been less than ten hours. “Have you been back to Auburn yet?” he asks, and Cam shakes his head.
“Been busy,” Cam replies, voice going distant, eyes focusing on something neither of them can really see. The doorbell rings then, snapping him out of it, and he rises and heads to the door. John can hear him talking to the delivery boy in the hallway. He breathes out, pinching the bridge of his nose. He has no idea how to do this, how to be the friend that Cam needs right now, how to keep him from flinging himself off of his metaphorical cliff. Cam returns and slings the pizza box onto the table, grabbing the envelope with Breeann’s picture and tucking it carefully back into the napkin holder.
John stares at the napkin holder as they eat in silence. He has no idea how to do this on his own, but he suddenly knows exactly what to do.
After dinner, he orders Cam off to his bedroom and sets his things up on the couch. He checks in on Cam when he’s done with the couch and is wholly unsurprised to find that Cam’s already asleep. He checks his watch. It’s 2130 here, which makes it a little late to call, but John picks up his cell phone and dials one of about five phone numbers that he knows by heart.
“Mitchell residence,” a woman’s voice says over the line, and no matter how many times he hears the words, they never fail to soothe some part of him that he doesn’t always know is hurting.
“Momma,” John replies, and waits.
It doesn’t take long. Momma only needs about five seconds. “John? Oh, John, sweetheart, how have you been?”
Momma will never cease to amaze him. She all but adopted him when he’d come home with Cam for that first Christmas, and he had very little doubt now, more than twenty years later, that there’s a part of her that really does think of him as hers, just as much as Cam and Cole are. “I’ve been well, Momma.”
“Cameron,” she says instantly, knowingly. She sighs, and he can almost hear her heart aching. “You’re bringing him home, right, John?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he tells her. “I’ve got to clear it with the General, but…” John isn’t sure how to phrase it without worrying her more. “He won’t have a problem with it once I tell him where we’re going. We’ll leave tomorrow.”
“Good,” Momma replies. “Driving or flying?”
“We’ll drive,” John says instantly, trying to suppress his shudder. Neither he nor Cam enjoys flying commercially – one of the side effects of being pilots themselves – and the drive might unwind Cam a little. Flying definitely won’t accomplish that.
“Should we expect you for supper?”
John cocks his head, considering. “As long as you don’t mind eating a little late,” he says finally.
Momma laughs on the other side of the phone. “We’ll keep it warm for you boys,” she says. “Shall I invite Cole and his?”
“Not right away,” John responds instantly. Too much, too soon, he thinks, will be much worse in the long run, even if Cam loves his brother dearly. He hesitates. “Is Breeann around? Cam was talking about wanting to meet Marla and see Anson again.”
He can hear Momma brighten. “Sure,” she says. “She’s over at Macy’s ‘til the end of the month. I’ll give her a call in the morning.”
“Thanks, Momma,” he says fervently. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Thank you, John,” Momma replies fondly. “I pray at night for all of my boys. Don’t you ever forget that you’re one of them.”
John doesn’t know what to say to that. Momma does it occasionally, reminding him in no uncertain terms that he has family in spirit if not in blood, and that he’ll always have a home there. He never knows how to respond, because it’s not something he was brought up to expect.
“Goodnight, Momma,” he says, and he can hear her smile. She knows all of that, of course.
John spends the next hour getting in touch with Sam and packing a bag for Cam. Sam assures him that she’ll get Landry to sign off on their respective leave papers. He hesitates when asking for three weeks; he knows he’s owed at least four months’ worth, but he can’t realistically expect to take that all at once. Cam’s got a bunch saved up as well, he knows. Three weeks seems like forever, though, and he’s not sure how Landry’s going to react when the forms cross his desk.
“Don’t worry about it,” Sam says firmly. “I’ll get them signed before I head out.”
“Thanks,” John tells her, knowing that it’s an inadequate expression of his gratitude, but unsure what else to say.
Sam hesitates. “Just put him back together,” she says softly. “You might be the only one who can.”
John swallows, because it’s a lot of trust to place in him, but also because it’s quite possible true. “I’m trying,” he responds. “I’ll keep trying.”
“Check in with Daniel if you need anything else from us,” she tells him before she hangs up. “I’m setting out for a rendezvous with the Asgard in the morning, but Daniel should be able to take care of whatever you need just as well as I can.”
“Will do,” John says, and he ends the call.
He sleeps fitfully, unused to the couch and to the feeling of tension curled in his stomach. He’s no stranger to restless situations; in his line of work, the days where the world’s about to end far outweigh the placid ones. This is different, though. This isn’t an enemy he can fight with guns blazing and sometimes-dirty tactics. This is his best friend, on the edge of a mental breakdown that’s been a long time coming, one that John’s not sure he can stop. It’s no wonder that he jerks awake at every sound.
It’s about four in the morning when he snaps his eyes open, reaching automatically for a Beretta that isn’t there, already sitting up before he recognizes that he’s not where he thinks he is. He’s in Cam’s living room, he recalls, and the sound he’s hearing is Cam shouting in his sleep. John is down the hall and into Cam’s bedroom before he remembers deciding to stand up.
“Cam,” he tries, watching with an unidentifiable mix of emotions as Cam twists in his sheets. Cam’s sweating, rivulets running down his face, and he’s just moaning. There are no words in his outburst, just a long, drawn-out groan, and his face is pulled into a grimace. “Cam!”
Cam shoots upright in his bed, wild eyes searching the dark of his bedroom before they settle on John. “God,” he chokes out. “They were just bleeding, just laying on the ground bleeding, and I was just standing there and watching them. I was yelling at them to get up, but they just kept lying there. They were bleeding. There was blood everywhere.”
“It wasn’t real,” John tries helplessly.
“It was,” Cam says, somewhere between haunted and utterly exhausted. He slumps back into the bed, half-supported by the headboard. “It was real.”
“I read the mission report, Cam,” John says, sitting on the edge of the bed. This isn’t how he thought this would go down, but you don’t always get to choose your battles, the emotional ones least of all. “Nothing that happened there was your fault.”
“It was,” Cam tries to insist, but it’s hollow, like he’s not sure if he believes himself or not.
“No,” John says firmly. “Unless you conspired with the people on that planet, no, Cam, it wasn’t your fault.”
“They all died,” Cam says instead of arguing. “Five kids. All of them were under my command, and they all died. The oldest one was twenty-three.” He meets John’s eyes, and his gaze is empty. “They were my responsibility.”
“Yeah, they were,” John replies evenly. There’s no use lying to Cam. “And shit goes wrong, Cam. You know that.”
Cam doesn’t answer. It’s probably only because he doesn’t have a response he hasn’t already used.
“You think Antarctica was your fault?” John had been there then, too, when Cam was trying his best to drown himself in the deaths of the rest of the Snakeskinners. John hadn’t let him do it them, and he damn well isn’t going to let him do it now.
“No,” Cam says slowly. “It wasn’t.”
It had been months before Cam was able to admit that the first time around. John’s hoping that Cam remembers how to lay aside the guilt and let it go, or at least that he can recall that it’s possible. That would be a victory at this point.
“Neither is this,” John finishes. “There’s nothing you could have done, Cam, not a damn thing.”
“This sucks,” Cam tells him brokenly, and here’s the breakdown, here’s where Cam loses it. His eyes are closed, and his breathing is shallow. John can tell he’s holding it back with the barest of threads, and he suddenly thinks that maybe it’s best to just let him do it, to break the dam and let the flood out, because it’s suppressing it that’s gotten him so far from shore already. John settles his hand low on Cam’s leg, and Cam opens his eyes back up.
“That’s why I’m here,” John reminds him. “Let it go, Cam.”
Cam is suddenly shuddering, wrapping his arms tightly around himself, sliding down the headboard and curling into a tight ball, trying to shrink his large frame into the smallest space possible. His head ends up somewhere by John’s knees, and John runs his hand up and down Cam’s side as he falls apart.
This is why half the people who know about Cam think he’s with John. It’s because John doesn’t let anyone in, but Cam somehow found his way through all the barriers, and John will do anything for him. Cam’s his best friend, more than his brother, and people will think what they want, regardless of the truth of the situation. As long as it doesn’t hurt either of them, John doesn’t mind it, not really.
In this case, it might actually help. Sam and Jackson will make sure neither of them are recalled before their time is up. They’ll probably even push for longer if John asks it of them.
Looking down at Cam, shaking against the bed, John thinks that he might have to.
In the morning, they’ll get up and get in the car and drive the nine hours from here to Auburn. They’ll talk on the way and they’ll listen to the radio and things won’t get resolved. Then they’ll be home, and things will get worse before they get better, but Cam will heal there with his family around him, with John there to talk him through the worst of it.
It won’t be easy and it won’t be fast, but in the end it will be better. John keeps his hand stroking up and down Cam’s side, soothing him until he falls back into a deep sleep. John stands then, glancing back down the hallway to the couch before he decides against it. Instead, he sits on the other side of Cam’s bed, a sentry protecting the sleeping man beside him from the terrors that come in the night.