Word Count: 25,754
Rating: NC-17/non-con, dub-con, abuse, sex
Warnings: Non-con, dub-con, abuse, graphic sex. It's really more h/c than any of these things, overall, but these elements are definitely present.
Summary: 'Cam isn’t sure what he’s expecting to see when he walks into the General’s office, but he knows for damn sure that it’s not a man, dressed in base uniform, slouching in a chair with his arms crossed behind his head, staring unconcernedly at the ceiling while General Landry does his best to glare a hole straight through him.' AU.
Prompt: Originally for an sga_kinkmeme fill: 'John/Cam, slave!John: the punishment for disobeying direct orders in the military is to be sold as a slave to successful officers until they learn to obey without questioning their superiors. John is given to Cameron, who takes his duty as officer very seriously and is set in teaching John what he needs to learn in order to be re-instated, whatever the price.' And then, whoa, it took on a life of its own.
Notes: There's a lot of thanking to do here, mostly to stormylullabye and clwilson2006, who held my hand through this and prodded me for more and proofread and put up with me changing just about every detail along the way at least twice. Thanks, ladies, because without you this would still be floating in my head somewhere, probably never to be seen.
Other notes: Since apparently writing a 25,756 word fic is not enough for me, I've also made a soundtrack fanmix to go along with the story. It can be downloaded here. The title of the fic is from the song "I Will Keep The Bad Things From You" by The Damnwells. It's on the soundtrack.
Cam isn’t sure what he’s expecting to see when he walks into the General’s office, but he knows for damn sure that it’s not a man, dressed in base uniform, slouching in a chair with his arms crossed behind his head, staring unconcernedly at the ceiling while General Landry does his best to glare a hole straight through him.
“General,” Cam says, saluting sharply, as is his habit. Landry salutes back, just as crisply, and Cam does a pretty good job of not acting surprised at that. It’s not Landry’s way, not usually. He supposes it has something to do with the man in the chair.
“Colonel Mitchell, I’d like to introduce you to Major John Sheppard,” Landry says, waving his hand at the reclining man. Cam turns, expecting a nod or a wave or an acknowledgement of some sort, but he gets nothing. Sheppard acts like he doesn’t know there’s anyone else in the room with him.
“Pleased,” Cam tries, and Sheppard’s eyes flick to him once, a quick up-and-down, before he finally meets Cam’s eyes with a look that can only be described as full of loathing. Cam blinks, because he’s never met the man before, so he’s not quite sure he deserves that. He turns to Landry.
“Major Sheppard is your new Assignment,” Landry informs him, and Sheppard shifts, bringing his arms down to rest lazily against the arms of the chair, lacing his fingers together over his stomach. The motion brings the collar of his uniform jacket down, and it’s the first time Cam sees the collar, and oh, it all falls into place.
Because the collar means that Sheppard’s fucked something up. Royally. He’s done something so off-the-map that he’s been sent to Disciplinary, and Disciplinary put him through the wringer and spat him out. He’s been assigned to Training.
He’s been assigned to him, Cam suddenly realizes with a widening of his eyes. Cam is, technically, a Trainer, though he’s never actually used his skills. Training is a pretty rare punishment, so even though there aren’t that many Trainers around, it’s not that surprising that Cam’s gotten to his age and position without being called into service. And for someone to get Assigned to Cam’s level of Training…
It all goes through Cam’s head in a matter of seconds, so it’s not actually that long before he nods and says, “Yes, sir,” in the voice that got him to this position in the first place, the voice that got him selected to be a Trainer so long ago, the voice that promises I’ll do it, sir, no matter what.
He surveys Sheppard again with a critical eye, that of a Trainer, noting the obvious things that they’re going to have to work on. Posture, respect for the uniform, that looks like a huge issue. Clearly respect for superiors is another problem. Something will have to be done about that hair, too. And this is all small stuff, will all be secondary to whatever the problem is, whatever it was that had gotten him sent to Disciplinary in the first place, because that’s all slap-on-the-wrist stuff. Quick observation finished, Cam nods at Landry again, then at Sheppard. “Let’s go, then.”
Landry hands him a thick file that Cam knows will contain all of the information pertinent to Sheppard’s Disciplinary Hearing. There’s quite a lot of intel in it, and it’s going to take some time to go through the whole thing. Cam walks to the door and waits, but Sheppard doesn’t stand, doesn’t follow. Cam turns back. “Sheppard.”
Sheppard tilts back in the chair, turning slightly in the seat to only sort-of look at Cam. ”Yeah?” he drawls, a slow, lazy voice to go along with the rest of his appearance. Somehow, Cam isn’t surprised, neither at the voice nor the impertinence of his response.
“With me,” he orders. Sheppard raises one eyebrow, and Cam opens the file folder in front of him, reaching for the small device he knows will be tucked right into the front. It’s small, about the thickness of a credit card but only about half the size, and it’s translucent. There are two glowing spots on it, one green and one orange, each slightly smaller than a dime. He waves it in Sheppard’s general direction, and the man narrows his eyes.
“I’m assuming they told you at Disciplinary what this is,” he says softly. Sheppard nods once, jerkily. Cam continues. “And I’m assuming they gave you a demonstration.” Sheppard doesn’t answer, but he’s staring at the remote in Cam’s hand. Slowly, he stands from the chair and walks to Cam’s side, eyes never leaving the remote.
“I don’t want to use this,” Cam says quietly, putting the remote into his pocket, where it will stay for the rest of the Assignment. It’s protocol that Cam has it on him at all times. “There’s no way you believe me right now, so I’m not going to press the issue, Sheppard, but I hope to God I don’t have to use it.”
“Sure,” Sheppard manages. “So do I.” He sounds a little panicky, though he’s managed to tear his eyes away from the pocket that holds the remote. “After you, then.”
“Sir,” Cam adds, and Sheppard’s eyes focus on his face. A sour look crosses the man’s face.
“After you, sir,” he says, and Cam can tell he’s only barely holding back a sarcastic comment.
Cam sighs. This is going to be a long, difficult Assignment.
They walk back to Cam’s quarters in silence. As Sheppard’s Trainer, it’s Cam’s prerogative to decide everything for the man until the Assignment is over – where he goes, what he does, even where he sleeps and what he eats. For now, Cam thinks it’s probably a good idea to keep the man close. It’s often that way with Trainees.
They stop outside Cam’s door, and Cam turns to face Sheppard. “You’ll be staying with me,” he says, and thinks that Sheppard does a damn good job of not reacting at all to the statement. “I’ll get a cot sent in this afternoon.”
“A cot,” Sheppard murmurs. “One of the lumpy ones, I’m sure.”
“You can sleep on the floor.” Cam shrugs. “I don’t really care at the moment, Sheppard.”
Sheppard doesn’t say anything else, and Cam makes a mental note to request one of the better cots, maybe one of the spares from the Infirmary. Catching more flies with honey, and all that.
They enter Cam’s quarters together and Cam immediately crosses to the desk there, opening the top drawer and placing the file inside. He closes the drawer and very carefully doesn’t lock it, stepping away from the desk and looking at Sheppard. The man has been standing just inside the door, watching Cam’s every move.
“You will not go in that drawer,” he orders quietly. Sheppard narrows his eyes a little but nods. Cam shakes his head. “When I give you an order, you respond with ‘yes, sir’ or ‘no, sir.’”
“Is this a ‘yes, sir’ or a ‘no, sir’ situation?” Sheppard asks, and Cam slips the remote from his pocket. Sheppard doesn’t move, doesn’t blink, but he doesn’t stare at the remote, either. Cam gives him points for bravery, but deducts them back for stupidity. He hovers his finger above the green button but doesn’t press down.
It’s a tense moment. Cam doesn’t want to press the button, and he’s trying to make that abundantly clear to Sheppard. Sheppard, for his part, doesn’t flinch in the slightest, though his face pales a little.
“Sheppard,” Cam says evenly. “I seriously do not want to use this. Not now, not ever. It’s not my style, and I’m willing to bet it’s not yours.”
Sheppard shakes his head. “No, sir.” It’s brisk and even, but Cam can hear the hatred and nervousness mixed behind the polite-on-the-surface tone. It’s fine. He’s expecting it.
Cam points to the couch in the sitting area of his quarters. “Go, sit, flip through a magazine or something. Occupy your time. I’ve got some reading to do.”
Sheppard’s mouth twists as Cam retrieves the folder, but he bites out a sarcastic “Yes, sir” as he flops onto the couch and opens an old copy of Sports Illustrated that Cam doesn’t remember purchasing. Cam sighs and opens the file, starting at the top of the first page. He doesn’t try to scan through the text, instead reading every word; all of the information in this file will be pertinent. Disciplinary made this file just for Sheppard’s Trainer.
It takes Cam the better part of three hours, during which Sheppard makes no sound. He’s on a different copy of SI each time Cam glances up at him, and by the time he’s done, Sheppard is reading about last year’s Final Four matchups. Sheppard seems to sense that Cam’s done and lowers the magazine. He taps it with one finger.
“King had it all wrong, didn’t he?” Sheppard shakes his head. “Wrong picks, wrong scores, wrong everything.”
“Hindsight’s twenty-twenty, Sheppard,” Cam says, tapping the papers in his hand, and Sheppard winces. Point taken.
Cam puts the folder back into the drawer, again skipping the lock. He folds his arms over his chest as he recalls the information in the file and surveys the man before him.
There are several different methods of Training, and each Trainer chooses a specialty during their schooling. Most become First or Second Trainers, learning to deal with Trainees with either friendship and coddling or military efficiency. Some choose to become Third Trainers, honing violence to a sharp point. Few choose the Fourth path for several reasons, not the least of which are attachment issues and the somewhat hazy ethical boundaries. Cam is one of only three Fourth Trainers right now.
That’s why Sheppard is here.
“So,” the man in question begins, frustratingly sprawled across Cam’s couch as if he hasn’t a care in the world, as if he’s here because he wants to be, as if the collar around his neck is a fashion accessory. “What’s the verdict?”
Cam reaches forward to rummage through the bottom drawer of his desk, pulling out three things. He tosses the first to Sheppard. “This is a base identification,” he says. “It’ll open the door to this room.”
“That’s all?” Sheppard frowns at the piece of plastic.
“It doesn’t matter,” Cam shrugs. “You’re not leaving here any time soon.” Sheppard raises an eyebrow, but he’s still sitting, still smirking. Cam picks up the second item and strides over to Sheppard, reaching down and setting it with a click into the slot on the side of Sheppard’s collar. “That will let me know where you are at all times.”
“Tracking device,” Sheppard mutters. “Brilliant.”
Cam nods. That had probably also been explained to Sheppard, that his Trainer would have a way to keep tabs on him at all times. The other piece of that device is the third item from the drawer, and Cam picks it up from the desk now, clipping it to his ID badge. He’ll program it later to alert him if Sheppard tries to leave his quarters without Cam’s permission. Now, though, he sits down on the other end of the couch and evaluates Sheppard again. Sheppard waits him out, watching Cam watching him, until Cam finally speaks. “Tell me what happened.”
“You read the file,” Sheppard points out. Cam doesn’t reach for the remote, but he gives Sheppard a look, and he rephrases. “You already know. Sir.”
“I’d like to hear your side of things,” Cam tells him, and it’s true. He knows how Disciplinary works, and he knows how facts can get skewed through the process, especially if the military is looking for someone to blame. He’s seen enough Hearings to know that some Trainings are more deserved than others, and he wants to know where on the scale Sheppard fits.
Sheppard narrows his eyes, but he recounts the events with an almost clinical detachment. There’s nothing there to indicate that he isn’t telling the truth, or at least what he believes to be the truth; he stares straight forward the entire time, looking through the small coffee table as if it’s a screen playing the events for him and he’s just narrating what he sees to Cam. Cam thinks it’s probably pretty close to what’s going on.
When Sheppard finishes, he slowly lifts his eyes from the table to Cam’s face. Cam is trying his hardest not to show anything, to give nothing away. He needs time to think, to reflect, so he just nods at Sheppard and digs two chips out of his pocket and tosses them over. Sheppard catches them reflexively.
“Go get us some food,” Cam tells him. “Mess hall is down the elevator, floor 17, to the right. I’d recommend against the Salisbury steak, but anything else is fair game.” He nods to the chips he’d tossed over. “Those’ll buy our lunch. Bring it back here.”
Sheppard rises and walks to the door, but stops before he crosses the threshold. “Yes, sir,” he grinds out, and Cam can see that it’s almost killing him to do so, but he shuts the door behind him quickly, and Cam can hear him moving down the hall to the elevator.
Cam programs the receiver while Sheppard’s out, thinking about what he’d read and what he’d heard. The basic details of the stories are the same: Afghanistan, a downed chopper, some shitty orders, Sheppard disobeying. The problem, however, is in the specifics; the orders had been faulty, and Cam couldn’t say for certain that he wouldn’t have done the same as Sheppard, ignored what he was supposed to do and gone back for those left behind. However, if it had been Cam in Sheppard’s shoes, there would have been no Hearing, just a light slap on the wrist and a roll of the eyes. Sheppard, however, was no CO’s favorite, and had probably been shipped off to Disciplinary as a way of getting him out of his current chain of command.
Cam is still absently playing with his ID card when Sheppard returns, laden with food trays. He sets them on the table and slumps back into the couch. Cam sighs. Time for the first lesson.
“Ask permission,” he says, reaching out to grab Sheppard’s wrist. “I’m a superior officer, and therefore you’re pretty much here to do what I say. You walk in, you stand at attention until I tell you otherwise, and if I don’t give you explicit instructions, you ask for them.” Cam waits, his hand still on Sheppard’s wrist, watching as the torrent of emotions flash across Sheppard’s features.
“Yes, sir,” Sheppard says a moment later. “Can I have my wrist back, sir?”
Cam leans back. “Which one is mine?” Sheppard points to one of the trays, and Cam sighs, wondering if Sheppard’s being obstinate or if this is just how the man is. Either way, it’s going to change. “Sheppard.”
The man visibly grits his teeth. “That one, sir.”
Cam nods and grabs the tray, gesturing towards the other. “Eat.”
Sheppard grabs his tray and sets it on his legs. Just as Cam’s about to say something – again – Sheppard glances up at him. “Yes, sir.”
Things progress like this for a while – Cam giving directions, waiting for Sheppard’s response, Sheppard waiting to the absolute limit of his boundaries for the proper response before doing what’s he expected to do. It’s frustrating, and though Cam is still mulling over the accounts of Sheppard’s Disciplinary hearing, he can clearly see why the man has been viewed as such a tribulation.
The cot is delivered by 1500; Cam has Sheppard make it up and push it against one of the walls in Cam’s room. Dinner is a repeat of lunch, complete with instructions, disobedience, and reprimand. When their trays are both empty, Cam sets his on the table and turns to Sheppard.
“What questions do you have for me?” he asks. “Permission to speak freely.”
Sheppard hesitates. “You’re not a First Trainer, and you’re not a Third.” He seems to be sizing Cam up. “Two options.”
Cam nods. There wasn’t a question in there, at least not directly, so he waits. Sheppard narrows his eyes.
“Second or Fourth?” he asks, almost challengingly, and Cam gives him a small smile.
“What do you think?” he asks instead of answering.
Sheppard snorts. “I’d say a First,” he shoots back, the challenge more evident this time, “but they don’t get the remotes. And you’re not a Third, because I honestly can’t see you beating the shit out of me.” He pauses. “So I have two choices. I know which I’d prefer, and I know which is more likely.”
Cam is instantly more aware of the situation. “I’ll have you know that I’m perfectly capable of beating the shit out of you,” he drawls, and Sheppard’s eyes flick to his arms, unimpressed. Cam isn’t bothered by it. “And I’m assuming what you’d prefer and what you’re expecting are different.”
“You assume correctly,” Sheppard drawls right back. “There are, what, two Fourth Trainers right now?”
Cam just leans back and smirks a little, waiting until realization dawns across Sheppard’s face. “Holy shit, you can’t be serious.”
“Three, actually,” Cam corrects mildly. “Arrington works out of the DC area, and Lenning’s somewhere in Oregon, I think.”
“You’re a Fourth?” Sheppard asks.
“I am,” Cam confirms. “Your lucky damn day.”
Sheppard slumps back against the couch, bravado cracking. “I’m – this isn’t – I don’t think I can handle this.”
“That’s kind of the point,” Cam replies reasonably. “Disciplinary sent you to the Trainer they thought would work best for you.”
Sheppard looks back at him bleakly. “This isn’t going to end well.”
“Sure it is,” Cam says agreeably as he stands. “Weren’t you just telling me this is what you’d prefer?”
“My big damn mouth,” Sheppard replies, voice still distant. He rises to follow Cam, though, and Cam notes that Sheppard is more likely to do what he’s supposed to do – currently, stay near Cam at all times – when he’s distracted. “Seriously. This – it’s going to be bad. Very bad.”
Cam hears the tremor this time and stops walking. “You were attacked.” It’s not a question, but Sheppard’s face goes red in answer anyway. “Was he caught?”
Sheppard barks out a laugh, the sound harsh. “They gave him a fucking medal.”
Cam blinks, dissects the statement, and gestures for Sheppard to sit on his cot. Sheppard does so and stares straight ahead without saying anything. Cam’s only known the man for a handful of hours, and he can already tell that this isn’t a good sign. He sits beside Sheppard, close enough to touch but keeping a careful bit of distance between them.
“What happened, Sheppard?” he asks, but Sheppard shakes his head, lips pressed in a thin line. Cam risks slowly taking him by the elbow. “John.”
That gets a reaction; Sheppard’s eyes widen and he violently jerks away. “Please don’t do that.”
“Grab you, or use your first name?” Why isn’t this in Sheppard’s file? Who the fuck would assign him for Fourth with this kind of history?
Sheppard’s breathing is strained. “Either. Both.” He hesitates. “Especially my name.”
Cam nods and processes for a moment. “Correct me if I’m wrong.” He waits until Sheppard nods. “Someone attacked you. A man.” Sheppard nods. “A superior officer.” There’s a pause, another nod. “Did he rape you?”
Sheppard is staring straight ahead. Every bit of him that Cam can see is red, and his hands are twisting in his BDU pants, trying not to tremble. “Sheppard.” He tries to keep his tone as gentle as he can while still commanding authority.
“Yes,” Sheppard grits out. That one word is so full of humiliation and pain and regret and shame and a million other things that it seems to fill the room.
Cam nods and stands, walking deliberately in Sheppard’s field of vision to sit on his own bed. Sheppard relaxes more with each step Cam takes away from him.
“I’ll give a call to Disciplinary, see if I can get you reassigned,” Cam tells him. There’s no way Sheppard can handle this kind of Training, none at all, and he’s got a few choice words for the Assignment Committee, that’s for damn sure.
Sheppard seems to slump into his cot at the words. “You will?” His voice cracks a little in relief.
“Yeah,” Cam assures him. “Stay here, lay down, breathe. I’ll be back.”
He’s on the phone with an annoyingly pleasant woman in less than three minutes who assures him that there’s no record of any assault in Major Sheppard’s file, and is he sure that the Major isn’t lying to him, trying to play for sympathy? Cam only just bites down the urge to rip the woman to shreds through the phone, instead asking to speak to the chair of Assignments.
His call is picked up almost immediately. “Dobbs.”
“General, this is Colonel Cameron Mitchell,” Cam says, rattling off his identification code and the pertinent information. “I’m requesting immediate reassignment for Major Sheppard.”
“Denied,” the General says easily, and Cam feels his jaw drop open. “He’s lying to you, Colonel. There’s no record of anything like this on his record.”
“With all due respect, sir, he’s not lying to me.” Part of learning to be a Trainer is figuring out how to discern between lies and truth. Cam’s pretty damn good at it.
“Of course he is,” the General retorts mildly. “Look, Colonel, he’s your Assignment. If you feel that, for whatever reason, you will be unable-”
“Don’t quote the Code at me,” Cam snaps, incensed. “If you won’t reassign him to a First or Second, then I’ll keep him.”
The Code is the informal name for the oath taken by all of the Trainers. If Cam doesn’t think he can handle Sheppard, he’ll be passed along to one of the other Trainers on his level. It’s not that he can’t handle Sheppard, though, it’s that Sheppard can’t handle Cam, and Cam knows Arrington and Lenning well enough to know that they won’t investigate Sheppard’s reluctance, his terror, his eventual breakdown. It looks like Cam is Sheppard’s only shot at getting back to a semblance of a normal life.
“Very well,” the General says to him. “You have a nice day, now.”
Cam slams the phone back into its cradle before stalking back to his quarters, swearing. He stops outside his door, taking a deep breath. Storming in hopping mad isn’t going to help Sheppard trust him, and that, Cam decides, is what he needs to work on first. He needs Sheppard to trust him for this to work. He suspects that Sheppard needs someone he can trust, too.
“Sheppard,” Cam calls as he walks into his quarters. There’s no answer, and Cam grabs at his ID card, checking the locator tag, but Sheppard hasn’t left. Cam enters his bedroom, only to find Sheppard curled on his cot, back pressed into the wall, arms wrapped around his middle. His knees are drawn towards his chest and he’s fast asleep.
Cam debates about whether or not to wake Sheppard before deciding to leave. He exits as quietly as he can, but as he’s shutting the door, he hears Sheppard’s voice. “Let me guess.”
Cam exhales and leans on the doorframe. “I’m sorry, Sheppard. I tried.”
“I’m not really surprised,” Sheppard says dully, and yeah, he doesn’t sound like he is. “I got the feeling that the Assignment Committee wasn’t too fond of me. The head guy wouldn’t even come to the Hearing. It was like he’d already decided before he even met me.”
“Yeah?” It’s happened before, the Committee deciding that they were going to punish a Trainee for one reason or another. It’s kind of a screwed up system, not that Cam likes to think too hard about that, being a part of said system and all.
“Yeah,” Sheppard responds tiredly. “Do you mind if I just sleep? Sir,” he adds, and Cam has to bite his lip to protest Sheppard’s sudden willingness to adhere to some form of protocol.
“Go ahead,” Cam tells him, shutting the door and walking the few steps to the couch. He drops down on it and sighs, rising almost immediately to retrieve Sheppard’s file from his desk before sitting again. The rest of the evening is spent reviewing the file, contrasting it with what Sheppard has told him, factoring in what he’s learned about the man’s past. There’s a breaking point about two years ago, he notices, when things really start to go sideways, and he makes a note to look into Sheppard’s history a little more thoroughly, to see if he can maybe piece together what had happened.
Sheppard wakes again when Cam enters the room. “Go back to sleep,” Cam says quietly. “I’m hopping in bed.”
Sheppard nods, barely visible in the shadows, and his eyes track Cam’s every movement as he pulls pajamas from his dresser and heads into the bathroom. He emerges a few minutes later, changed and ready for bed. “You gonna be okay?”
Sheppard hesitates. “Yeah.”
Cam doesn’t believe it, but he lets Sheppard have the lie as he turns over, deliberately putting his back to the other man. He’s asleep before much longer.
The noises startle him awake no more than an hour later. Sheppard’s not moving, not thrashing, but his face is pressed into his elbow, and he’s – moaning is the wrong word, but he’s not screaming, not yelling. Cam swings his legs over the side of the bed and hesitates, debating.
“Sheppard,” he tries, then again, louder. “Sheppard.”
Sheppard breaks off mid-sound, but his face presses more closely into his elbow. Cam stands and walks to Sheppard’s bedside, reaching out to gently touch his shoulder. “Sheppard.”
Sheppard gasps awake, throwing his head back and staring up at Cam. His eyes are a mixture of hurt and revulsion and resignation, and he slowly turns onto his stomach, reaching for his waistband with shaking hands.
“Jesus, Sheppard – no, stop – what the hell…” And realization blinks on like a light bulb in Cam’s head. Of course that’s what he’s going to think, being woken in the middle of the night by a superior officer, by a Fourth Trainer, of all people. He takes Sheppard’s wrists as gently as he can. “Sheppard. Look at me.”
Sheppard’s face stays resolutely buried in the pillow. His hands are shaking even worse now than they had been a moment ago.
Cam sits beside Sheppard on the bed and sighs. “Sheppard.”
“Just do it,” Sheppard rasps out, like he just wants it to be done and over, like he’s five seconds from breaking.
“Sheppard,” Cam repeats gently. “Look at me.”
Slowly, Sheppard turns on his side, curling his knees up towards his chest. His arms have returned to their place around his chest, holding so tightly that Cam wonders if he’s trying to keep Cam away or keep himself from falling to pieces. He figures it’s probably a bit of both.
“I’m not going to rape you,” Cam says, low and level. “Not now, not tonight. Not later. Not ever.”
“That’s your job, sir,” Sheppard says, and it’s blankness forced over terror, matter-of-fact staving off panic. “It’s why I’m here.”
Cam ignores the twist in his gut because it’s technically true, even if that’s not how it’s billed, not how it usually plays out. “My job is to get you fit for duty again. There’s more than one way to do that, Major.”
Sheppard reacts like he’s been electrocuted, jerking back into the wall and breathing quickly. Cam wants to smack himself. Of course his rank would be a trigger here.
“Look, Sheppard,” he says calmly. “Part of being what I am means I know about this kind of stuff, okay? Forcing myself on you isn’t going to help anything. It’s only going to make things worse.”
Sheppard is still pressing himself into the wall. His eyes are squeezed shut, and his breathing is carefully too even, like he’s trying to get it under control. Cam waits until Sheppard forces his eyes open.
“Things can’t get much worse,” Sheppard tries. “I’m pretty fucked up.”
“Things could get a lot worse,” Cam contradicts, but doesn’t elaborate. “They’re not going to, though.”
Sheppard laughs again, that same bitter sound from earlier in the day. “The stupidest part about this whole situation is that I actually believe you.”
“Good,” Cam says, rising from the cot. “I’m going to sleep on the couch the rest of the night.”
Sheppard rises halfway. “Don’t,” and his voice is scratchy, somewhere between begging and terrified. “Just – I’ll be fine.”
Cam slowly sits back down. “Tell me what you need right now.”
“I don’t know,” Sheppard says. “I just – I don’t know.”
“Okay,” Cam replies simply. “I’ll sit here, okay? Until you need me to move.”
Sheppard nods, his eyes flicking around the room. He glances once more at Cam before shutting his eyes and faking sleep.
Cam can tell he’s not actually asleep but lets him pretend anyway, closing his own eyes and leaning against the wall. Sheppard’s eyes snap open for a split-second, taking in the change, before sliding shut again.
Sheppard eventually drifts off to sleep, but Cam stays awake the rest of the night, thinking and observing.
Sheppard’s a tall guy, but he curls into himself while he sleeps, making him look much younger, more frail. Cam suspects that it’s a defense mechanism of sorts, keeping him in a position from which he could easily protect himself should someone attack him. It’s just as telling as the rest of what he’s learned about Sheppard, and Cam wonders exactly how broken this man is. Helping him is going to take a long time, and Cam makes lists in his head while Sheppard sleeps.
Sheppard shifts and his legs uncurl a little, and Cam feels Sheppard’s feet touch his leg through the blankets. Cam stays still and Sheppard relaxes a little further, the lines smoothing around his eyes, his breathing deep and even.
He doesn’t wake again until 0700, when Cam stretches and stands from the bed. Sheppard’s eyes blink open, and he focuses on Cam, who’s walking to retrieve a change of clothing from the dresser. “Did you sit on the end of the bed all night?”
“I told you I would.”
Sheppard half-sits. “Did you sleep?”
“No.” Cam hopes that Sheppard’s clothing has been delivered. It should have been, by now, but they didn’t ring the chimes to bring it in, so it might just be in the hall. “I’m going to catch a shower. Check outside the door, see if they brought your things by.”
“Sure,” Sheppard yawns, before his eyes unfocus and cloud over. “Yes, sir,” he corrects himself. Cam stops in the doorway to the bathroom.
“Okay, change of plans,” he says, and Sheppard looks at him. “Cut that out.”
Sheppard raises an eyebrow. “Cut what out?”
“We’re not standing on ceremony in private,” Cam decides. “Call me Mitchell. Or Cam.”
Sheppard stares. “Why?” he asks bluntly.
Cam tosses his clothing onto the counter and walks back into the bedroom, sitting on his own bed. “Look, Sheppard, I know you don’t trust me, but I’m here to help you. You’re clearly not the stands-on-ceremony type, so if it’s going to make you more comfortable, we’re chucking it out the window.”
“So you’re, what, my therapist now?” Sheppard’s giving him a guarded look, but he doesn’t appear to be overly distrustful. Just… cautious, and Cam supposes that’s a good thing. He shrugs in response.
“Close enough to,” he tells Sheppard.
Sheppard nods slowly. “I do.”
Cam blinks at him for a moment, but Sheppard’s eyes are fixed somewhere near the ceiling, and Cam can’t for the life of him figure out what he means. “Um,” he says eloquently. “Is that a good thing?”
Sheppard’s mouth tilts up a little at one corner, like he can only convince half of his mouth to be happy, and his eyes snap to Cam’s. “Trust you.”
“Oh,” Cam responds, because he doesn’t have a clue what he’s supposed to say to that. “Good, then.”
“I don’t know why,” Sheppard continues. “I know, logically, why I was sent here and what you’re supposed to be doing, but for some damn reason, I believe it when you tell me you won’t.” His voice gets quieter as he speaks.
“Good,” Cam repeats, rising from the bed and heading for the bathroom again. “That’s a start.”
He showers quickly, and when he exits the bathroom Sheppard goes in. Cam gets one of the Marines posted at the end of the hallway to bring some food up, and by the time Sheppard appears in the living area, there are two trays laden with an assortment of breakfast foods on the coffee table.
“You expecting company?” Sheppard drawls, looking like he wants to hesitate before dropping into a seat without asking. It’s odd, Cam thinks, that when he’s supposed to ask he refuses, but when he’s given blanket permission he hesitates instinctively.
“No, but I did make the mistake of asking a Marine to grab breakfast,” Cam replies with a grin. Sheppard gives him that little half-smile again, but there’s a spark of amusement in his eyes.
They eat in relative silence, conversation no more involved than asking for more bacon or to please pass the orange juice, and when they finish, Cam gets the Marine to take the trays back to the mess. The young man looks curiously at Sheppard until he catches the heat of Cam’s pointed glare and hurries out.
“He thinks you should be making me do that,” Sheppard observes.
Cam just nods. There’s no point in denying the truth.
Sheppard sighs. “He’s right, too.”
“I’m more than willing to let you get the food from now on,” Cam counters, “if you’re that eager to do it.”
Sheppard shoots him a glare, then seems to catch himself. Cam rolls his eyes. “I mean it, Sheppard. Give it a rest.” Cam hesitates. “Pretend I’m just another buddy of yours, and we’re hanging out in the barracks in that sandy little hellhole you were in.”
Sheppard actually snorts. “It wasn’t sandy, I didn’t live in the barracks, and I’ve never been much for hanging out with buddies.”
Cam gives up. “Then do whatever you want,” he says. “Come on. We’re going to talk to the General.”
Sheppard immediately clams up, almost physically drawing back into himself. “General Landry,” he recalls. “He didn’t like me.”
“You didn’t like him either,” Cam points out mildly. “And he may be one of the most laid-back commanding officers in the game, but even he draws the line when you look like you’re about to kick your feet back onto the desk.”
“I’d never,” Sheppard gasps dramatically, all mock-outrage to cover the fact that he’s curled his hands into fists against his thighs. He wasn’t this tense yesterday, Cam thinks, but then again, maybe he was. Maybe the laziness is, at least in part, just a cover for Sheppard, a defensive shield. Terror masked as incompetence or disrespect.
“Come on,” Cam repeats, standing. Sheppard rises slowly but follows him obediently down the hallway to the elevator. Cam can almost see the difference slide over Sheppard as they descend, the nervousness draining, the slouch intensifying, and by the time they reach Level 27, Sheppard’s back to the insolent fuckup that he appeared to be when Cam met him.
Cam sighs but doesn’t push it. If it’s going to help Sheppard get through the meeting, he’ll take it.
“General,” Cam says as he walks in, saluting. Landry stares and Cam knows he’s probably waiting for Sheppard to do the same. Cam gives a tiny shake of his head, and Landry seems to shake it off, gesturing to his desk.
“Colonel Mitchell,” he says. “What can I do for you?”
They spend the next hour or so hashing out the details of Cam’s altered schedule at the SGC. Landry’s not from Disciplinary, doesn’t quite get what it is that Cam has to do, but he knows enough to give Cam the freedom he’s going to need. Sheppard sits in the same chair as yesterday, hands laced over his stomach, the picture of nonchalance. Cam can tell that he’s listening to every single word.
They leave and head to Cam’s office, where they grab two stacks of files before heading back to his quarters. He’s off of the Gate team until further notice, which might hurt a little but will be for the best in the long run. He doesn’t need to be leaving Sheppard by himself at this point, and the last thing Sheppard needs is for Cam to get laid up with some head wound and be transferred to some other Trainer. So for now, at least, Cam’s going to be riding a desk. Sheppard has been technically assigned as his office clerk, which Cam just knows he’s going to regret.
Sheppard slumps into the sofa as soon as Cam shuts the door. He’s curled into it so well by the time Cam sets the files down and sits near him that his head is halfway into the cushion.
“Okay,” Cam starts reasonably, trying to fall back on what he’s been taught to do, coming up blank, and deciding to just dive in headlong. “Talk to me, Sheppard.”
“Go away,” Sheppard mumbles into the arm of the couch.
“I don’t think so,” Cam responds. “We’re in my quarters, for one.”
Sheppard readjusts himself so he’s on his side facing the wall. “He didn’t like me, either,” he says blandly.
Oh. Cam isn’t quite sure how to respond to that. “Landry’s safe.”
“Yeah,” Sheppard says, “that’s the kicker. Logically, I know that.”
“But it’s hard to believe it,” Cam finishes. “So is it all superior officers who don’t like you that trigger it?”
Sheppard’s mouth twists into something that’s half grimace and half smirk and entirely pained. “No.”
“What is it?” Cam presses. “His age? His demeanor? His name, his hair, his voice, what?”
Sheppard shakes his head. “It’s not just the ones who don’t like me.” Cam exhales and slides away from Sheppard, who stretches out his legs to bump his feet against Cam’s thigh, as he had in his sleep. “Not you, though, and I can’t figure out why.”