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Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 12:32 am
My thanks to the 25 authors who collaborated to write 27 stories for Cam Alphabet Soup: Penknife, MacBeth, Camshaft, Traycer, Redbyrd, 11am Street, Jedibuttercup, Gategremlyn, Hummingfly, Skieswideopen, Aelfgyfu, Da Angel, Campylobacter, Fig Newton, Staranise, Kayim, Crazedturkey, SG_Wonderland, Cleo the Muse, Magistrate, Gingasaur, Madders Ahatter, Sid, and Stringertheory. Special thanks to our new cooks: [personal profile] sid, [profile] madders_ahatter, [personal profile] camshaft22, [personal profile] rinkafic, [personal profile] kayim, [profile] gingasaur, [personal profile] magibrain, [personal profile] skieswideopen, and [personal profile] stringertheory, and to MacBeth for writing a backup letter at the last minute!

Enjoy some 21,000 words of Cameron Mitchell! Story lengths range from 150 words to just under 3,000. Ratings range from G to PG-13. Expect spoilers throughout the entire series, including canon (AU) character deaths.

Story text is as written by the authors, but minor HTML coding has been changed (removal of smart quotes, for example) and scene breaks have been altered to allow for more uniformity in page style.

Readers are strongly encouraged to follow the links to the authors' individual journals and leave feedback.

A is for Antarctica
by [livejournal.com profile] penknife

The thing Cam remembers most clearly about Antarctica isn't the actual crash. He remembers trying to eject, wrestling with the controls as they went down, but the transition from crashing to crashed is lost somewhere, a black box he can't open.

He remembers thinking that somebody should close that goddamned window, and then understanding that the front windshield of the F-302 was broken. He remembers he kept trying to move his legs. He remembers pretending that it wasn't important that he couldn't; it was an ice field out there, where was he planning to go?

He remembers that eventually it really didn't seem important anymore. He'd stopped feeling so cold, and even though he knew that was bad, he was tired of shivering, so he wasn't complaining. It seemed like the best thing to do might be to just close his eyes, except for the radio chatter that kept waking him up, reminding him that he hadn't finished the job.

He remembers when he understood that the radio chatter had changed: They're coming from the surface. I don't know what they are. They're cutting the enemy fleet to shreds! My God! It's beautiful!

They're Ancient weapons. It's SG-1. They found what they were looking for!

The enemy ships are being destroyed! They're just exploding everywhere we look!


He remembers his satisfaction then: they won, so it was all worth it. He understood perfectly well that he was going to die -- he didn't feel cold anymore, didn't feel anything -- but that didn't seem scary anymore. It was easier than he'd ever imagined. So this is how you do it, he thought; you just close your eyes and say goodnight.

Later, when they're camped out on PX4-665, which is cold but not that cold, Sam tells him about the time she and O'Neill were trapped in Antarctica after the gate malfunctioned.

"I was pretty sure we'd had it," she says.

"Based on all the mission reports I've read, I think the lesson is basically that we should never go to Antarctica," Cam says.

"Unless Anubis invading and there's no other way to save Earth," Daniel says.

"Anubis is dead," Teal'c points out.

"Unless someone is invading."

"People invade Earth all the time," Cam says. "I'm just saying I'm in favor of pursuing non-Antarctica-based solutions."

"I'll drink to that," Sam says. She clanks her coffee mug against his. "Although I'm not really sorry it happened. It was a serious lesson in never giving up, no matter how bad things look."

"Not a lesson I expect Mitchell needs," Daniel says lightly.

"I think I've got that one down," Cam says. He's not sure if he had a choice about dying, but he knows now what he would have chosen if he'd known he was going to wake up in the hospital to hear that he wasn't going to walk again. Better to be alive. And where there's life there's hope.

"Not every battle can be won," Teal'c says.

"I think we all know that," Sam says. "But that doesn't mean you should give up."

"Indeed not," Teal'c says, and he and Sam toast each other in lukewarm instant coffee. Outside the wind is howling angrily against their tent, and they're facing a long hike in the snow when the sun comes up. When they get anywhere near the gate, people are probably going to start shooting at them again.

"This isn't Antarctica," Cam says. "So there's no reason this mission won't turn out fine."

"No reason at all," Daniel says, and Cam holds out his mug so that Daniel can pour him another cup of coffee while they wait for the sun to rise.

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B is for Boondocks
by [personal profile] lolmac

It was Cameron Mitchell's twenty-third trip through the Gate, so the number wasn't anything special or different. What was different was the landscape.

Teal'c looked impassive. Carter looked distracted. Jackson looked annoyed. Cam looked around and drew a nice deep breath, full of the smell of green grasses and dusty earth. Under the wide empty sky, rippling waves of grass ran out to the horizon in every direction from the Gate, a lone point of stone and metal in a sea of green and brown and bronze and gold.

Carter pulled out her compass and the widget-o-meter she'd developed for calibrating terrestrial compasses to work with extraterrestrial planetary magnetic fields. Teal'c began to wade through the hip-deep grass, heading unerringly, Cam assumed, for the spot where the UVA had splatted when its instrumentation was knocked out by that same unusually strong planetary magnetic field. Jackson and Cam followed the clear trail of bent and crushed grasses to where the MALP had gotten stuck.

Cam gave a cursory glance at the wheels and couldn't see any reason for the breakdown. Well, as long as the planet wasn't hostile, Landry would send out technicians and retrieve the Air Force's Very Expensive Property. He got a good hold on the flanges, scrambled and clambered on top of the thing and looked around.

Jackson squinted up at him. "See anything?"

"Nope." Cam pivoted slowly. "Nothing but miles and miles of . . . miles and miles."

"No trees, huh?" Jackson's grin had that private, in-joke look to it.

"Trees?"

"That was a joke of Jack's. I don't think he ever put it in the reports." A shrug. "Nothing at all? You'd think there'd have to be something . . . I mean, there's a Gate, so . . . "

Cam finished his pirouette and pointed. "Over there. Long way off, but there's a kind of a shadow. That's trees. In country like this, where there's trees, there's water. And where there's water, there might be a settlement."

Jackson brightened, then narrowed his eyes. "How far off?"

"Bit of a walk. Nice day for it, though."

"Are you always this cheerful?"

"Hell, it could always be worse. Like I like to remind myself," Cam said as he hopped down off the MALP, "at least I'm not in Kansas any more."

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C is for Chinese
Understanding
by [personal profile] camshaft22

Cameron Mitchell, leader of SG-1 leaned forward and pressed the elevator button, feeling exhausted and irritated. The IOA was really starting to piss him off and they didn't even realize what utter fools they were. He stepped onto the elevator just as the Chinese IOA representative Chen Xiaoyi entered.

"Colonel," she greeted.

"Representative," Cam told her politely.

All of a sudden, the power flickered off and the elevator stopped. Cam rolled his eyes, annoyed at the universe.

"It should be ok. They'll have everything back to normal soon, Representative."

"I hope so, Colonel."

Cam nodded and looked at her. He took a deep breath and started speaking in Mandarin. "我知道都不会有问题,尤其是你,但你所说的是非常粗鲁,非常不专业。我能讲流利的普通话和流利的广东话和您的建议,我是白痴,不适合我的位置Jackson博士是多余的."

She looked briefly surprised. "你有我真诚的道歉,上校。我不会再次犯这样的错误."

Cam nodded as the power came back on and they rose to the surface.

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D is for Destiny
Patterns of Destiny
by [personal profile] traycer

History used to be important to Cameron Mitchell. His whole world was shaped by past events that played out in the books he had to study in school. Christopher Columbus, John Hancock, Adolph Hitler and Theodore Roosevelt were just a few of the names he remembered - all people who played a part in the historical flows of time. But now, as he stood on the threshold of a new era, history seemed to be a moot point. Some of it hadn't even happened yet.

He stared at the bombers that lined the tarmac, waiting his turn to take a spin, wondering at the irony of his life. He was a still a fighter, no doubt about that, but on a whole different level. Where before he was fighting aliens and soaring through the galaxy, now he was reduced to flying bombers preparing for a war only he knew was coming.

Things could be worse, he told himself for what seemed like the thousandth time. Ba'al could have succeeded in his plan to change history. Cam smiled grimly at that thought. That was a great victory in his mind. Ten years of his life spent preparing for that moment and revenge really was a sweet feeling, especially after wiping the arrogant smirk off the Goa'uld's face just before he put a bullet in his brain.

The last of the Ba'al's was dead, but Cam was now trapped here in a past that he had no wish to be a part of. He sent a half-hearted salute to his friend Ben who then took off down the runway, engines roaring as the bomber lifted its nose toward the heavens.

History be damned, Cam thought, as a thrill of adrenalin rushed through him. The bombers were antiquated compared to what he was used to flying, but at least he was still flying. Can't beat that.

He watched, his eyes squinting as sunlight shone through the sunglasses he wore, until Ben was out of sight. Being a part of the past sometimes had its advantages, Cam thought with a grin. His friend talked occasionally about his son, George, and even though he could never come right out and tell him, Cam would always have one up on Ben Hammond.

***


Cam learned to get past the feelings of displacement. He survived the Second World War, getting through the worst of it with the same determination that saw him through the skirmish in the Arctic airspace when SG-1 found that outpost. He blended into the past by dressing the part, talking the talk and working hard to earn a living in an era that demanded that the men be the breadwinners.

But sometimes at night, when the wind whistled through the trees outside his bedroom window, he would remember everything he left behind - his friends, family and even the modern devices he had taken for granted when he lived in that faraway time. And sometimes he wondered what his parents were doing at that moment, even going so far as visiting the family in Kansas once, awkward as that was. He never went back, settling instead in California, where the land by the coast was still cheap and the vastness of the ocean reminded him of the galaxy he used to navigate.

And always, history rolled past, leaving its imprint on Cam, who watched events unfold with impassioned eyes, knowing the outcome yet keeping silent for fear of being labeled insane. Frustration ate at him sometimes, but he knew from experience the reaction he would get, so he kept silent, taking comfort in knowing that he wouldn't be able to change history no matter how hard he tried.

That thought sometimes helped him to cope with the past he found himself in.

***


Life had been good to Cameron Mitchell and retirement suited him well. He sat on a lawn chair with a glass of lemonade in his hand and stared out at the ocean as a breeze sailed past. A lifetime of chances and here he sat in a home that was paid for, a loving wife that put up with him for over twenty years, two grown sons and several grandkids who loved to come over to hear his "fairy tales" of traveling past the stars through a portal. The stories kept him grounded in a reality that was once his, even if he did elaborate far too much to keep the interest of the young.

He was alone for the moment, save for the sun, the wind, the ocean and the seagulls that flocked on the beach looking for stray breadcrumbs. Cam watched them flounce about, his thoughts still on his life an how he ended up here in the California sunshine, far from the Kansas farmlands of his youth. He thought of his parents, as he often did on his birthday, and wondered if they were at the hospital yet. He looked at his watch, then shook his head with a grin. What did it matter? History never let him down before, it wouldn't now.

He ran his fingers through his hair, gray mixed in with the brown, and leaned his head back to look up at the sky. How he wished he were flying right then. A pang in his chest made him frown, but panic set in as the pang turned into a burning pain that seemed to sear across his entire body.

"Mary!" he called out in anguish. Not now, he thought. Not today of all days. "Mary," he said, this time in a near whisper. The pain was crushing him, and he turned his eyes once more to the skies, understanding in a flash that this was meant to be and he knew without looking at his watch what the time was.

***


He died under the California sun, hundreds of miles from a small Kansas town where an infant screamed in protest as the doctor cut the umbilical cord that was his lifeline while in the womb. The nurse bathed him and wrapped him tightly in a blanket, shushing him as she carried him to the waiting room where his father paced in anticipation of the arrival.

"It's a boy," the nurse said. She smiled softly at the baby's father. "You have a son."

"A boy," Frank Mitchell said with awe. He held out his arms and smiled at his son while the nurse helped him to cradle the baby. He looked up to thank her silently, then back at his baby, admiring the soft hair and the frown lines that marred his forehead. "Cameron," Frank told the nurse proudly. "His name's Cameron." She nodded with a smile, but it was apparent that Frank Mitchell didn't even notice. He was back to staring at the child in his arms, thinking of all the things he would teach his boy.

And so it begins again, a never ending cycle that transpires across time, leaving traces of history as it overlaps and twists throughout Cameron Mitchell's lifetime. From the infant nestled in his father's arms to the old man sitting in a lawn chair overlooking the sea, life rambles on. A constant pattern that will always be Cameron Mitchell.

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E is for Exertion
by [livejournal.com profile] redbyrd_sgfic

Mitchell's legs burned with fatigue and buckled as he tried to force them to move, but he was pushing himself up again, even before the physical therapist could say, "Let's try once more, Colonel." He'd always been pig-stubborn, as his granma used to say, but since the crash he'd found reserves of obdurate will that sometimes surprised even him. 'Adversity builds character' he thought. 'And why do we need character? To cope with adversity.' His dad had told him that once. He grasped the bars and tried to force his shaking legs to move, accepting the pain. Pain was good. Far better than the terrifying lack of sensation after the accident- he pushed thoughts of the past behind him, and focused forward. His left foot moved, dragging and he shifted to put weight on it, looking past the end of the parallel bars. He had O'Neill's word- "Get well soon. And when you do, you can do anything you want, and I mean… professionally… anything you want." Bastard probably thought he was safe making that promise. He remembered the doctor telling him he was unlikely to walk again. O'Neill must have known that. Weren't they both going to be surprised...

The trees were wobbling gently somewhere past his feet, and someone was prodding him in the ribs with a stick. Staff. Jolan. Sodan warrior. The last few days came swimming back. The fight at the Gate. Learning the Sodan fighting style. Or not. He rolled away from the stick, feeling the bruises where Jolan had thrown him down and came to his feet. "Show me that one again," he said, in his breeziest and most annoying tone. The trees gave a final lurch and his vision sharpened. Not concussed, just knocked silly for a moment, he judged.

Jolan frowned. "You are slow and weak."

Mitchell smiled. "But persistent." Mitchell knew that the advantages were all with the Sodan, and that his best chance lay in talking his way out of this, not fighting. But continuing to fight meant the opportunity to talk. And also--Mitchell had never been a believer in odds. Time enough to deal with failure if he failed. It was balancing act- stay flexible, choose a course, then pursue it without holding back. PT, qualifying for gate travel, putting the band back together- poor odds had never yet stopped Mitchell from trying. He was determined that Jolan was going to become another of the long list of people Cameron Mitchell had surprised in the past. "Show me that one again," he repeated, and shifted his weight to block the Sodan's attack.

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F is F-302
by [livejournal.com profile] 11am_street
Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell would never forget when his first briefing on the Stargate Program. He has just recently returned from a particularly horrible mission, which had resulted in a terrible injury for one of his friends and was, once again, considering resigning from the Air Force.

Mitchell recalled his amazement upon being briefed on the project, on the variety of missions the SG teams had gone trough from first contact with new races to finding or even creating new technology to fight against a powerful enemy. Cameron particularly remembered reading about SG-1 and thinking how he would love to be part of that team. However, it was when he saw the F-302 fighter-interceptors that Mitchell felt he found his true calling.

And, as he lay broken in the cockpit of the F-302 crashed on the ground in Antarctica, he couldn't help but think: "It was worth it."

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G is for Gate
The One, Two Story
by [personal profile] jedibuttercup

One, Cam thinks with a touch of wonder, as he steps for the first time into the shimmering disc of an event horizon.

He's read about it. Seen pictures, in files husbanded for self-reward after endless rounds of physical therapy. Heard stories from those who've taken this step before him. But none of that compares to actually making the journey: to crossing millions of miles in the time it takes to take one breath.

He shivers as he steps out the other end, drinking in the air of an entire other world. He might as well have put on a pair of seven league boots; it's that magical, and that much a fulfillment of an impossible dream. Even if he's not so much on SG-1 as he is SG-1 at present... he's just stepped through a Stargate to the cradle of an entire alien civilization. How amazing is that?

He takes a moment, staring around at the ornate columns of Dakara and the robed Jaffa with the gold tattoo waiting for him, taking a mental snapshot for posterity. Teal'c, in his native setting: somehow even more impressive than he'd seemed in camo and Kevlar back on Earth. Though there's nothing even remotely yielding about him, despite his nod of welcome-- yeah, Cam's not going to get the answer he wants from him today.

But that's all right. Cam knows better than anyone the value of persistence; he wouldn't even be there if he didn't. Showing up is about affirming his intention, not winning. It would have been nice, mind you; but he's just spent two years living life one milestone at a time, commemorating each setback and success with inches forward on his mental metric. It's nothing new.

He enjoys the conversation as long as it lasts, then returns to the Gate and watches the event horizon whoosh into being.

"Two", he murmurs, remembering the way it felt under his hand: warm, living metal, relic and symbol of a civilization long gone to dust.

The journey of a thousand miles. He smiles wryly to himself and crosses into the blue.

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H is for History
by [personal profile] gategremlyn

The Odyssey was a big ship, a damn big ship, but not big enough that he couldn't hear Jackson complaining about his ill treatment all the way back to the infirmary. Cam covered his smile with his hand, not sure if he was allowed to smile at a general even if it was General Jack O'Neill.

"Daniel, get your ass back into bed."

"I just got out of bed."

"Which is why you now need to get back in it."

"Which is why-- That makes no sense, Jack."

"Mitchell?" General O'Neill turned around and Cam straightened up, wiping the smile off his face.

"Yes, sir?"

"Did I put you in command of SG-1?"

"Yes, sir." Cam wanted that to be a question, but under the circumstances he kept it a statement.

"Are you now or have you ever been in charge of SG-1?" O'Neill put up his free hand--the hand not currently keeping Jackson from escaping. "Let me rephrase that. Have you ever managed to be in charge of Doctor Daniel Jackson?"

"Jack! Leave the poor guy alone. You make it sound like he's my jailer."

"No, sir," Cam said. "I have never been in charge of SG-1 except on paper. And I've definitely never been in charge of Doctor Jackson. I don't think he's listened to a single order I've given since I started." That was no lie.

"Good," O'Neill said. "I'm glad it's not just me. I'd tell you to post a guard outside the infirmary, but I don't think we have the staff for it at the moment." With Cam's help, and with Jackson complaining every step of the way, they got a pale and shaking former prior into bed. O'Neill pulled up a chair and put his feet on the mattress. "Relieve me in four hours."

"Oh, for the love of.... Mitchell, he's kidding."

"I am not kidding. Now go get some shut-eye and a shower. We'll be here when you get back."

Cam kept a straight face and even managed a salute before he left.

***


The Odyssey was big but not so big that he couldn't hear the giggling coming from the corner of the mess hall. He wanted a coffee to sustain him during his bedside vigil. Correction, he wanted two coffees: one for him and one to keep Jackson quiet for five minutes. He may be the new guy, but he knew all about Jackson's caffeine addiction and his penchant for long, long conversations. Even Grandma's St. Hilda's Church of the Grand Epiphany hadn't prepared him for that. He poured the coffee (cream double sugar for Jackson) and listened to Vala and Sam. He'd never heard Sam giggle, or Vala either for that matter. Somehow it didn't seem right that Samantha Carter, the SGC's premiere astrophysicist and a person who'd saved the world on countless occasions giggled. But you learned something new every day, and that was certainly true for Cam Mitchell, new guy and odd man out.

"I punched him," Sam said proudly, "right in the face." She held out her now-healed knuckles as proof.

"I wish I'd been there to help," Vala said. "I would have punched him much sooner--and much harder." She patted the hand. "Well done, Samantha. We wouldn't have been able to dial out if you hadn't found the... whatever it was you found... with the dialing program thing."

"Do you know what Teal'c said?" Sam asked. "He said that Ba'al and I worked well together." She stood and pulled Vala up with her. "Does he have any idea how insulting that is--Ba'al and I work well together? Really!"

"At least you didn't have a widget left over," Cam said.

"A what?"

"Vala put together the anti-Ori device, but I think she had a widget left over."

Vala linked her arm with Sam's. "I most certainly did not have a widget left over. I put the device together just like Daniel told me. If it didn't work, it's all his fault."

They walked past him, arm in arm. Over her shoulder, Sam said, "Cam, I'm going to give Teal'c a break on the bridge--although I shouldn't after the way he behaved. You'll need to relieve me at the helm in few hours."

"Got it," Cam said. Yep, he didn't command anybody, certainly not those two. Hell, Sam should have been in charge of SG-1; she was just way too smart to actually want to do it. She commanded just by being there, and he got stuck with all the meetings. Vala, on the other hand, had never been commanded by anybody and never would be. As for him, he just behaved as a good little lieutenant colonel should and did what he was told.

***


The Odyssey was big, but nothing was big enough to hold Teal'c.

"Colonel Mitchell."

"Hi, Teal'c." Jackson was asleep and General O'Neill had gone to grab dinner and forty winks as well. Now Cam was taking his shift in the infirmary before relieving Sam on the bridge. General O'Neill would take his spot on the bridge after that, and Teal'c would spell him in the infirmary.

They functioned like a well-oiled machine, the new SG-1 and the old. Cam had wanted to be on SG-1 when SG-1 didn't exist. He'd wanted the band back together and ended up with an extra backup singer. He'd wanted the original members (no matter how reluctant) on the team. He'd begged and pleaded; he groveled; he'd finagled. He'd even thought for all of maybe five minutes that he'd really be in charge of something. All he got was the paperwork. But how did General O'Neill, way back when he was Colonel O'Neill, get SG-1 through all the crap they went through--and Cam really had read every mission report--if he wasn't in charge of his team? Maybe that was the way of the world. Maybe everybody pretended to be in charge of something but nobody really was. They could have let him in the joke, though.

"Is all well, Colonel Mitchell?"

Cam jumped. He'd lost track of the big man who hadn't moved a muscle since he'd come in to the infirmary, the man who'd come back to the team "only to aid Daniel Jackson," the man who'd hit him-- in fairness, it was the other Teal'c from the alternate universe had hit him--without even stopping to think about it. "Things are great, Teal'c. Other than the fact that we're sitting in an almost empty spaceship in the middle of the galaxy waiting for the war to end all wars." Ouch. Was that whiny voice his?

"We had little choice."

"I know." Cam shifted on the chair. "I get the 'choiceless' thing. Been there, done that." Far too many times. Still felt that way.

"Choiceless," O'Neill said as he walked in the door. Cam stood and was waved to his seat. "We've been choiceless before and come out the other side okay."

"There are always choices." Jackson's voice was sleep-roughened and soft. "We just make the best choices we can at the time. And then we accept the consequences."

"Damn big consequences," Cam said. "And I thought you were going to go get some sleep, sir? Jackson, you're supposed to be resting, too."

"I came back for my Hockey News," O'Neill said.

"And I've slept enough, no matter what Jack tells you." Jackson sat up and looked around. "You didn't really bring Hockey News with you?"

O'Neill grinned. "Sure, Daniel. I had it in my back pocket when you beamed me up."

Daniel folded his arms and leaned back. They all ignored the wince as he did so. "You are such a pain in the ass."

"Takes one to know one." O'Neill pulled up a chair and sat. "Mitchell, you're going to be fine. You are fine."

"I've always thought he was fine," Vala said.

"What is this, a party?" Daniel asked. "Who's flying the ship? More importantly, is that coffee I smell?"

"Samantha asked me to check on all of you, and I knew you'd all be here." She slid onto the end of the bed, ignoring the "Ow!" from its occupant, and passed Daniel the coffee from the table.

"I don't think," Jackson pushed his feet down, trying to dislodge her without spilling anything, "that Jack's talking about the way he looks when he says fine."

"Well, he looks fine, too, but that's not what I was talking about." She patted Cam on the shoulder before she winked at Teal'c. "Don't worry, Muscles; he'll never take your place in my heart."

Teal'c bowed and smiled. "I am most comforted to hear that, but I also think Cameron Mitchell is fine."

Teal'c's fine had Jackson spewing his coffee and O'Neill pounding him on the back.

"Gee, Teal'c, you coulda told me sooner, and without an audience." Cam winked at Teal'c as well. "But General O'Neill beat you to it. He told me I was fine a long time ago; he even took me up in a fighter jet to do it."

"Actually, I said, 'you're gonna be fine, Mitchell.' I don't think I said you were fine per se."

"But the word fine did crop up?" Daniel asked.

"Don't worry, Daniel. He'll never take your place in my heart either."

Vala poked Daniel's leg through the covers. "Is there going something going on here I should know about?"

"One little 'sleepyhead,'" O'Neill ruffled Jackson's hair while Jackson swatted the hand away, "and everybody thinks there's a thing between us."

"There's a 'thing' alright," Jackson growled."Now the two of you keep your hands to yourself."

Watching them, Cam burst out laughing. He laughed so hard, he had to wipe away the tears in his eyes. Kids, they were kids both of them just waiting for an audience.

Soon the mood changed. O'Neill put his elbows on the bed and Vala tucked a leg under her. Teal'c slid over a stool when Jackson pulled a piece of paper from the bedside table and spread it on the covers saying, "Here's what we've got so far." Cam listened to the conversation, which had moved from bawdy innuendo to an intense discussion of battle strategies against the Ori, and wondered again about the burden of command.

He didn't command these people, he realized. Even Jack O'Neill had never commanded these people; they commanded themselves. They simply let themselves be placed under his leadership. SG-1 had a past, a history: Jackson and O'Neill going all the way back to the beginning of the program, Sam and Teal'c soon after. The had a past that covered life, death, and everything in between. He and Vala, the newcomers, had to earn their place on the team.

Command was never about giving orders, not with this team; it was about building a history and being a family. The original SG-1 had history that spanned a decade; a weird and kind of twisted history sometimes, if the mission reports were to be believed, but a history, nonetheless. He was damn proud to be a part of that history now. Jackson was right: you made your choices; you lived with the consequences. His choices had led him to a ship preparing for war against the Priors of the Ori. His choices had led him here with SG-1--all of SG-1.

Daniel looked up, sliding the paper toward him. "Cam, what do you think?"

He leaned in to join the conversation.

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I is for Improv
by [livejournal.com profile] hummingfly67

"Improvise," Jackson's panicked voice hisses in their ears.

Cameron blinks once, thinking rapidly, and does as the man said. Hauling Vala into his arms, he ignores her indignant huff and plants his lips on her mouth. He shifts his weight forward to push her back into the rough stone wall they had been loitering near as they surveilled the drinking establishment their targets had entered several minutes ago. She responds immediately and enthusiastically, body suddenly pliant, yet Cameron senses no ulterior motive, merely co-operation and obedience. And most likely, a healthy dose of preservation.

One of her hands lands at his mid-back, the other chastely at his waist, and it takes him a chagrined second to realize she has cleverly positioned herself to be able to grab his gun if necessary. His own hands are nowhere near her gun. With a shift of his hips, he rectifies the matter, feeling Vala's lips twitch against his.

God knows he thinks of her as more of an annoying little sister than anything else now, but damn the woman can kiss. He is only human, and certain her instincts have long been to use all the weapons in her arsenal. It's quite the arsenal.

"ALL CLEAR! ALL CLEAR!" Jackson sounds peeved and slightly scandalized, and Cameron suspects the buzzing in his ear had probably been their teammate's call to stand down. Unintentionally ignored.

Cameron pulls away, not embarrassed to admit to himself it is a bit reluctantly, and meets Vala's laughing eyes.

Flashing him a flirty, wide-mouthed grin, she murmurs, "Someone's cranky."

***

Later, when the dust has settled and the bad guys are rounded up and dealt with, they head to the rendezvous point. Sam is all business as she helps ready their gear, but the little twist of her lips tells the real story. Teal'c is taciturn, as always, but Cameron senses the big guy is equally amused.

"What…what was that all about?" Jackson's face is red as he blusters at them, his hands on his hips.

Cameron wants to laugh, but restrains himself. "You said improvise," he responds affably, shrugging. "So we improvised."

With a guileless blink of her eyes, Vala loops her arm around Cameron's bicep and leans into him with easy familiarity. "Cameron is a talented performer."

Jackson gapes at them, fish-like, before recovering to snark, "Vala, as far as harebrained ideas go, that one takes the cake. Your old standby of sex as a weapon is getting stale. It would be in everyone's interests, including your own, for you to read up on diversionary tactics. In fact, I've got a military manual in my office that devotes several chapters to just that topic."

Feeling Vala bristle against him, Cameron interrupts before this can devolve into one of their infamous shouting matches. He'd rather not be anywhere near her line of fire. "Not that this matters, Jackson, but for the record, it was my idea," he says, one eyebrow cocked slightly in a silent message to Jackson to cease and desist. "There were no casualties, we got our intel. No harm, no foul."

Jackson huffs, but for once says nothing further, turning away to join Teal'c and Sam by their gear. Cameron shakes his head slightly and at Vala's squeeze of thanks to his bicep, meets her gaze.

"SG-1 don't need no stinkin' manuals. We got improv!"

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J is for Jello
by [personal profile] skieswideopen

SG-1 has a thing about Jell-O. It takes Cam a while to catch onto this, and longer still to decipher it--Teal'c's references to Jell-O wrestling don't help there--but he thinks he eventually figures it out, even if he doesn't quite understand it.

It starts with Teal'c looking at him disapprovingly when he sits down with his lunch.

"What?" Cam asks, a little defensive because Teal'c's disapproving eyebrow-raise is intimidating even when you know he won't actually do anything. Probably. (Cam still finds it kind of awesome that he's having lunch with SG-1--with the real SG-1--but there are days when they leave him wanting to tear out his hair.)

"Is that not the last bowl of blue Jell-o, Colonel Mitchell?"

"Maybe?" Cam wasn't actually paying that much attention; he'd mostly picked blue because there wasn't any green and he'd had red yesterday. Military food was nothing if not predictable.

"Sam likes the blue," Jackson explains, spoon paused halfway between soup and mouth.

"Okay." Cam makes a mental note of that, because he's quite happy to eat red Jell-O two days in a row if it keeps Sam happy. However... "But Sam's not due back until tonight."

Teal'c's glower intensifies, and Jackson's looking at Cam like he's a particularly slow student who just missed a question because he hadn't done the readings.

"She sometimes comes down for a snack at night when she's working late."

"Right. Midnight snack." Cam risks another disapproving look by stating the obvious. Again. "Isn't someone else probably going to eat it before then?"

"I doubt it," Jackson says, and Cam catches the 'they wouldn't dare' tacked onto the end of that. Feeling a little awkward, he gets up and returns the blue Jell-O. He decides he doesn't really need dessert today anyway; his annual physical readiness test is coming up soon, and he's probably better off without the extra calories on his waist.

Jell-O keeps reappearing over the next few months. Cam discovers that Jackson's favourite is orange, but he tends to skip dessert most days--when he remembers to eat at all. (Which is more often now that Cam's there to drag him out to meals.) Teal'c cycles through all of the flavours steadily, but only at lunch. Sam, as reported, likes blue, and Cam notices people always steer around the last serving even though Sam doesn't eat it more than a couple of days a week.

The first time Cam winds up in the infirmary--a minor scuffle with some stunner-armed locals who hadn't taken kindly to visitors--he wakes to find his team beaming at him over a rainbow of Jell-O. He accepts the gesture for what it is, and doesn't have the heart to tell them he'd rather have a burger. (Or his mother's pie, if that weren't five hundred miles away.) It's a measure of acceptance, and he figures knowledge will come later.

Cam's not especially hungry the night he and Teal'c get back from the Sodan homeworld. Memories of ruined buildings and ruined bodies--and hours of burying people he'd come to consider friends--have killed his appetite. His team accepts his rejection of their dinner invitation with sympathetic nods and a pat on the arm from Sam. After they leave, Cam hits the base gym, running laps and lifting weights until he can barely move. That and a shower are enough to put some distance between him and the scene in the village, and he heads down to the cafeteria to see what he can charm out of the staff. It's officially a 24-hour facility, but Cam knows from experience that selections during the off-hours tend to be limited, so he's not expecting too much. A sandwich and stale coffee if he's lucky. Maybe some fruit. Instead, he finds a plate of roast beef waiting for him.

"Leftovers from lunch, sir," the server says cheerfully as she reheats it for him.

"Leftovers? Of roast beef?" Cam's been asking for roast beef for ages without luck and this looks good; he's seen far less appealing food disappear far faster than this. He'd wonder what was wrong with, except there's clearly only one serving left, and he knows from experience how fast word spreads if there's food that's better avoided.

"Yes, sir." The server hands over the tray with a smile.

"Right." Still a little puzzled, Cam continues down the line to grab a drink. When he gets to the desserts--mostly a sad selection of stale cake and cafeteria pie--he spots two bowls of blue Jell-O waiting, surrounded by a sea of red. Smiling, he takes one.

J is for Jogging
by [personal profile] skieswideopen

When Teal'c finally spills a few details about their fifty years aboard Odyssey--not many, mind you, and none of them the things Cam really wants to know, but he's curious enough that he'll take what he can get--it doesn't surprise him to learn that he spent a good chunk of time running through the empty corridors of the ship. Cam's always been a runner, always in motion. Running to think. Running to not-think. Running to escape whatever happened to be troubling him at the time. Except that there was no escape during those years on Odyssey, and Cam knows from experience that you can't really run on a ship anyway--too many sharp turns to get up to a proper speed--so he figures he really spent fifty years jogging.

He shudders at the thought. Five decades when jogging through dull grey metal corridors was the only forward movement he could get. Five decades of walls closing in tighter and tighter while he jogged and jogged and went nowhere, and he can imagine the slow suffocation of that experience, can feel those walls closing in on him day-by-day until he can't breathe, sensations so strong enough that he wonders whether his alternate-future self hasn't somehow transmitted those memories backwards through space and time.

He suspects he must have lost it eventually during those fifty years, and Teal'c's too kind to tell him that part.

Cam thinks about it again when O'Neill makes him the offer. It's not really a surprise--the SG-1 he'd fought to join is gone now, scattered across two galaxies, and Sam's had her own ship for six months. It's the natural next step if he wants to make general. And he does. Most days.

But narrow grey corridors crowd his thoughts when he looks at the paperwork, and it takes a long moment and a couple of deep breaths before he can bring himself to accept the offer.

The next morning, Cam takes his Mustang out of the city limits, west to Green Mountain Falls and open air and tree-lined trails.

He brings his running shoes.

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K is for Keraunophobia
by [personal profile] rinkafic

When he was a child and a storm came in the night, Cameron's mother would come to his room and hold him. Momma would cuddle him and sing his favorite songs until the thunder and lightning stopped, or he fell asleep. On those rare occasions when he was still awake at storm's end, she would tuck him in and try to comfort him with stories of angels bowling in heaven. But the next time a storm came, he would cry for her again. Even the humorous image of halo-wearing, toga clad angels frolicking at a bowling alley didn't ease his fears.

When he got to middle school and he still huddled under the covers or in a corner quaking with fear at the first crack of thunder, his mom and dad took him to a psychiatrist to try to help him. With the doctor's patient help, he slowly learned ways to cope with his fear, ways to carry on through the storm without running and hiding. But the fear never went away. He was always nervous in a storm.

The big test of his fairly well honed coping mechanisms came when he got to basic training after college and had to be out marching with his squad in a downpour. Savage and dangerous lightning flashed across the sky and thunder bouncing off the mountains that surrounded the camp. He managed to hold it together. Thankfully, his squad was off duty the next day and he was able to settle his nerves that night by tossing back more than a few brewskis.

Once he became a pilot, being closer to the storm, flying through them, and especially being able to fly above them helped to settle his fear. Slowly over his time in flight school and his early years in the Air Force, he was able to cope with the stress brought on by storms without the need of alcohol to dull his nerves. No one suspected he had once been debilitated by a little light and noise.

He still didn't like storms. Not at all. But he could deal with the fear.

Then he joined the SGC, and his life changed in many ways.

He became a Snakeskinner, flying F-302s and helping protect Earth from real, honest to goodness aliens bent on the subjugation of the planet.

Plain old thunder and lightning took a back seat to the sound of alien weaponry and the flash of laser-light mere inches from his cockpit.

With the Snakeskinners, he heard noises louder than thunder, worse than thunder. The sound of his 302 going to hell under him was far, far worse than any storm he had ever huddled under his blankets listening to. As hard as he had once prayed for the thunder to pass, he prayed for his ship to hold together under him. He managed to get the F-302 down to the ice field of Antarctica, wrecking it in the crash. The sounds of the battle raging over him followed him into unconsciousness.

By the time he led SG-1 through the Stargate to a world plagued with endless storms and lit by streaks of constant electricity across the sky, he had conquered things far worse than a little atmospheric pressure; he'd survived a ride through flashes worse than lightning.

Cam Mitchell was no longer afraid.

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L is for Learning
by [personal profile] aelfgyfu_mead

The infirmary hummed quietly--not at all the level of noise Cam would have expected with every bed in sight filled. He wanted noise--something, anything to pull him back from remembering how the whole mission went to hell from the moment he pushed what he thought was just a damned light switch. The low voices and occasional groan acted as a soundtrack to his mental replay of everything that happened after Khalek fell out of the stasis pod, every wrong choice he'd made, every opportunity he'd missed. He still felt dizzy from being thrown into a wall, but vertigo and nausea weren't enough to distract him.

"You need this bed," Cam tried when the doctor finally reached him. "You don't need to have me laying around the infirmary when you got all these seriously injured people."

He wasn't sure if she actually corrected him to "lying" before Lam looked up from his chart, or if his concussed brain just imagined that bit.

"Nice try, Colonel," the doctor told him humorlessly. "You need this bed as much as anyone else in this area, and more than the people I've let go. You're staying here, under observation, until tomorrow morning."

"Hey, I was in good enough shape to shoot the bad guy!" Was he trying to convince her, or trying to convince himself he'd done enough?

"I heard that Khalek stopped your bullets, and it was Dr. Jackson's that took him out." He got the hint of a smile this time, which normally would have cheered him.

Cam went through the motions of playing along with humor. "Naw--once Jackson hit him the first time, he couldn't stop me any more. Landed every shot, right in his chest."

"Chest?" Lam looked genuinely surprised, even lowering his chart. "You were at point-blank range against a nearly ascended being, and you didn't take a head shot?"

Huh. She had a point there, Cam had to admit. Then again, Jackson hadn't gone for the head, either. And why was the doctor asking him this?

"When did you get to thinking so military?" he blurted.

Lam narrowed her eyes at him, and he just raised his hands in surrender.

"You got me," he said. He didn't want to stay, but he didn't want to argue either. "I'll spend the night." There ought to be some good joke there, with a doctor that pretty, but his battered brain wouldn't supply it.

"Good," the doc answered. She still looked suspicious, but she made a couple more notes on his chart, then handed it to a nurse before moving on to another bed.

"Hey," a voice said to his other side, and Jackson was standing right there. "I was gonna see if you needed a ride home, but I guess not."

Cam frowned at Jackson. How long had the man been standing there? How'd he miss him? Jackson frowned back. Did he come to chew Cam out? No, he'd been talking about driving him home.

Cam went to rub the back of his head, but he stopped immediately. A touch hurt even through his hair. "You're offering me a ride?" he reiterated, trying to be sure he'd heard right.

"Not after I heard you're spending the night."

"I heard about what you said to Woolsey," Cam told him.

Jackson just frowned at him some more. Cam really ought to give up on this conversation and get some sleep. He might have exaggerated his readiness to go back on active duty after the whole bonding-with-Sodan-warriors thing anyway, and the concussion wasn't doing him any favors.

"Which bit did you hear?" Jackson asked before Cam got any farther in his thoughts. "The bit where I said that Khalek was dangerous? That the IOA didn't understand the risks?"

Shut up! his injured brain screamed, but his mouth said, "The bit where you wouldn't forgive him."

"Oh. Did I say that?" The scholar shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, looking down at the infirmary sheets for a moment, then back at Cam's face. "Or, more to the point, did Woolsey tell you I did?"

"You know how it is. Somebody overheard it, and he told somebody else, and he told--"

Jackson nodded impatiently, cutting off what could have been a long recitation.

"Okay. Maybe I shouldn't have said that. Or maybe I should have made sure we were both in the elevator first, so the whole base wouldn't know. I don't see what that has to do with giving you a lift."

"You're angry at Woolsey because he tried to stop you closing the barn doors, but half the horses were already out."

The disgust on Jackson's face should have been funny. "Am I going to get farm metaphors from you like I get sports metaphors from Jack?"

Cam couldn't keep up. "What?"

"Never mind. Can you get to the point, or should I come back when you can think?"

Cam could hear a hint of acid in Jackson's tone, but he wasn't sure it was aimed at him. He really, really ought to tell Jackson to come back tomorrow, but he didn't know how he could sleep with all this hanging over him.

"I pushed the button. I authorized bringing the guy here."

"Landry had to sign off on that--"

"I should have suggested the Alpha Site. I had my boots on the ground; Landry just didn't belay my order to bring him here. We should never have brought him to Earth. And when he blew up the monitor all over Altman and busted free, I should have emptied my whole clip into him." Cam had enough control to keep his voice low in the crowded infirmary, but just barely.

Jackson waited a moment, then blew out some air between his lips. "You done?"

"Two men died, another's probably paralyzed from a spinal injury, we have two TBIs, and a bunch of lesser injuries! I could have prevented all this."

"Yeah," said Jackson. "And so could I, by putting him right back in that pod, or shooting him on 584. Or Teal'c could have done it. Or Sam. Do you blame us too?"

What was Jackson thinking? "I was the one in charge. And I screwed it up first. How can you blame Woolsey and not me?"

Jackson actually sat on the edge of Cam's narrow infirmary bed. He looked tired, Cam realized. Not just one-day tired, but years-tired.

"You were right, back at the start. I pushed a button; you pushed a button." The corners of his mouth turned up just a little. He looked at Cam out of the upper part of his glasses, his head down a bit. "You have no idea how many wrong buttons I pushed when I was a new guy, but we were all new guys then."

Jackson didn't stop there. He seemed to be warming to the topic; his hands came off the bed and started waving in the air. "You screwed up. So did I. So did we all. But Woolsey thought he knew better than we did. You never thought that. Woolsey sat behind bulletproof glass while you were right there in the room with Khalek."

Cam had his mouth open, waiting for words to come out to answer Jackson somehow, but the other man continued, "And you shook off a concussion and provided the distraction I needed to get in there and land a bullet."

Jackson let his hands fall onto the bed again, shrugging a little. Cam didn't let on that the slight impact bothered his head.

"And now you're learning, if you hadn't before, that you can't really shake off a concussion. And you learned something about pushing buttons: namely, don't." Jackson stood.

"So if you're asking if I forgive you"--and Cameron wasn't asking, he didn't dare--"then yes, I do." Jackson set his jaw and shoved his hands in his pockets, looking a little like he expected an argument.

Cam relaxed a little. It didn't take away all the guilt; he'd be seeing those dead men in his dreams, and maybe the injured too. But it helped to know that Jackson wasn't holding any grudge. He should have known--but then, he'd have expected Jackson to forgive Woolsey, too.

"Get some rest. And stop playing the 'what if' game. It'll make you crazy." Jackson turned to go.

"You too, Jackson."

He watched Jackson take a couple of steps, noticed the slump in his shoulders, and then the words came out of his mouth before he'd thought them through: "You forgive yourself yet?"

Jackson only turned partway back towards him. "I'll let you know after I've had some sleep. Or after you've had some sleep. One of us, anyway."

Jackson raised a hand in a sort of wave even as he turned back towards the door and left.

It was too bad he couldn't jump forward in evolution like Khalek had done. Or maybe it wasn't. Cam was learning things the hard way. At least, he thought, as he let his eyes close, he was learning.

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M is for Mortality
by [livejournal.com profile] da_angel729

One, two, three, he counts every scar on his skin, and wishes there weren't so many.

The biggest is a jagged thin line down his leg, from knee to mid calf. He hates it and loves it, and it is both his worst scar and his best.

It nearly ended his career, and his life. And it got him into the Stargate program.

It doesn't cause him pain, now. It did, before the therapy, and the surgery, and he--and his doctors--are still surprised he regained the full use of it.

Cam just smiles when people see it, ignores the looks, the whispers, and doesn't say anything. Doesn't admit that he knows he's lucky to be walking, and alive, after that crash.

He loves the Air Force, and the SGC, and all it represents. Can't imagine being anywhere else. He doesn't mind seeing the scar, or when others notice it.

It reminds him he's alive.

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N Is for What Do You Call Him?
by [personal profile] campylobacter

"Spearhead member, I did not copy your last." Reynolds moans and sets down his radio. "Can't get a twenty on any of my team through this EM interference. And when I can pick up anything, everyone sounds like a prepubescent robot low on batteries."

"Lemme give it a shot." Cam adjusts his earpiece and thumbs on his radio. "Sierra Golf Uno, this is your leader. Report."

Leave it to the OCD types to twitch whenever he bends protocol. Colonel Reynolds isn't that type, but SG-1 hadn't been apprised of the whole Spearhead Leader-Spearhead One-Two-Three protocol before backup arrived.

(Something) Cam, can't disable (something something) worse (something something) over. Even through the static and distortion he can tell whose voice it is; she's the only one who usually calls him Cam.

"Sam, advise you hold tight and we'll send Sierra Golf Three. Repeat, hold tight, sending backup. Over."

I copy that, Cam.

"Colonel Carter's stationed here," Cam points to a meander in the river on the hasty map printout from the UAV.

Reynolds nods and clicks on his radio. "Spearhead One, eighty-six the northwest route and head south for the cliff overhang. Repeat, cancel northwest route, head south..."

(Something something) ambush (something) cluster(something) some help, Mitchell. The voice is deep and slow, like it's being delayed by a black hole, but with weird, fast whines on random syllables. Yet only one SG-1 member calls him the same thing General O'Neill calls him.

"Jackson's in trouble." Cam shakes his head; he thought he'd stationed the archaeologist at the safest vantage point. "T-man, you got a clear line on Jackson's hostiles?"

Cameron (something) Muscles hostage (something something something) half klick downstream.

No mistaking who transmitted that. "Princess, what's your twe--"

Samantha and I (something) going sniping (something something) silent. Over and out.

"Jackson was checking out some crazy totem pole thing on the east bank, while Vala was keeping watch thirty meters north of him. If she and Jackson confirm that Teal'c was taken hostage in an ambush around here," he says, his finger pointing to a small sand bar on the map, "you and I can head off his captors in ten, maybe five minutes just south of the oxbow lake."

"We might even beat Captain Gonzales on the opposite bank," Reynolds chuckles, standing and checking the cartridge of his P90. "If we haul ass."

***


They hear gunfire about a hundred meters before they reach the doughnut-shaped lake, and curse the underbrush for slowing them down. Cam also curses the pin in his leg. "Don't wait up for me," he gasps as he slows to a limp, waiting to ride out the cramp before sprinting again. Reynolds nods and pushes onward. The forest, although sparse and mostly trash pine, has enough brambles to hide several platoons of snakes and boars. Gunfire must've scared them off. Cam takes a deep breath and jogs on.

When he arrives, he feels like he's unforgivably late to a funeral. Gonzales presses a bandage soaked in blood to Lieutenant Singh's neck, while Vala and one of Reynolds' Marines are holding five surly female warriors at gunpoint. Two of the warriors lie bleeding on the river shore as Reynolds kicks away their knives and axes. Teal'c's lying on the silt, soaking wet. Sam's giving him chest compressions while Jackson blows air into his mouth.

"Aw damn, Teal'c." He doesn't want to see this, but he can't look away, which is just as well, or he'd have missed seeing the Jaffa suddenly gasping and coughing up water.

Sam bites back a sob of relief. Jackson slumps and tosses away a chunk of severed, thick rope. There's more of the same coiled around Teal'c's ankles. Cam approaches, and with his knife cuts free the rest of the bonds.

"I'm a day late and a dollar short, but I sure am glad to see you, brother."

Teal'c's in no condition to reply.

Jackson however, is -- and winks at Sam. "Mitchell is never going to be a favorite colonel of mine, but I love to see his enthusiasm."

Well, at least he's stopped calling him New Guy.

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O is for Optimism
by [personal profile] fignewton

Cam turned off the engine of his faithful, battered truck, listening to the usual grumbling rattle until the engine deigned to shut down completely. He cranked the window down another inch for more air, then slowly rubbed sweating palms against the hot plastic of the steering wheel.

Forty years of waiting, down to just a few days. If his memory still served him, after all these decades, today -- or tomorrow, or the day after -- he would finally get the proof he so desperately needed that they'd won.

Cam had always been grateful that optimism came easy to him. Training as a cadet, leading his squadron in battle, the dogfight over Antarctica, the grueling months of rehab, rebuilding SG-1, facing the Ori... He'd embraced every challenge with the confidence that he could succeed, that he would somehow fight or finagle his way to victory. His team, he knew, had looked at his buoyant attitude with a mixture of bemusement, amusement, and -- well, yes, irritation. But his unquenchable optimism had kept them going in some of their most desperate moments.

Cam had long since acknowledged that without that optimism, without the belief that they had reset the timeline, that they did bring reality back on track, he would've despaired long ago. Ten years of waiting to kill Ba'al, and then... nothing. No sign, no hint. No way to tell if time would unspool along well-trodden lines instead of caroming off some quantum disturbance and veering away from the future so many had labored so long to create.

He was an old man now. This was his last chance to find out if his dogged hope would be proved right.

He remembered Sam and Daniel arguing late into the night, on some quiet planet all those decades in the future, talking about time travel. Back then, he'd still been enchanted at the thought that time travel was not only more than theoretical, but he also had teammates who'd actually experienced it. Sam scribbled equations on the next blank page of the journal she snatched from Daniel's hands while Cam listened quietly to talk of temporal paradoxes and locked time loops.

"I've sometimes wondered," Daniel said at one point, hugging his knees and starting into flames tinted slightly purple by the alien driftwood that fueled it, "if we're already part of a tampered timeline."

"We know we are," Sam said reasonably, even as she turned over a page and continued her calculations. "General Hammond sent that note because he knew we would need it. There must be a closed time loop somewhere, somewhen, where that didn't happen -- but it's not ours. And how about the note we never wrote that warned us away from the Aschen? Or the ZPM we sent to Atlantis, with that videotape we never made?"

Daniel's brows drew together. "I'm thinking a little bigger than that." He released his grip on his knees to wave one hand in a vague circle. "Maybe we're in the middle of a great loop right now, and we have no idea what catalyst is going to go and make some change in the past that will make our very lives a possibility. It might not be us, of course. It might not even have something to with the Stargate. But if we've managed to twist time, who's to say that someone else won't do it? Or maybe this is a closed loop that can't survive, and something will wipe us out in an eye blink by changing enough of the past to make it impossible for us to exist."

Sam stopped scribbling and blinked at him. "You're very cheerful tonight."

Daniel looked a little sheepish. "Yeah, okay. Maybe there's a timeline where I brought enough coffee with me and we never had this conversation."

"But not this one," she said sympathetically, patting his knee companionably. "We'll ask Teal'c when he gets back from patrolling the perimeter. He sometimes has some extra coffee with him."

"It sounds to me," Cam interrupted, "that you're both suggesting that we can't change our destiny. That we're locked onto a path by someone else, and nothing we do matters."

"I don't believe that," Sam said immediately, her voice firm. "And not just because the math disagrees... oh, stop that," she snorted at Daniel, swatting him as he feigned shock at her words.

"I don't believe it, either," Daniel agreed, turning sober. "The Ancients, for all their power, don't dare try to tamper with reality. There's strength in the choices we make in our lives. I'd rather be human, and mortal, and have the ability to do."

"The Ori use that power, though," Cam said quietly, thinking of the Priors and the plagues they'd unleashed.

Daniel's eyes darkened a little, but he shrugged. "And we'll continue to search for the ability to stop them. Because we're human. And we can."

Sam nodded. "As human beings, we live one day at a time. We'll get there, Cam."

"Yes." Cam smiled. "I think we will."


Despite the heat, Cam shivered a little at the memory and all that had happened afterward. Teal'c had lived fifty years in a fraction of an instant, and now he'd had forty years of his own to contemplate the nature of time and the possible futility of trying to keep going on a hamster wheel. History seemed to be following its course, and the echo of Sam's voice in his head had robbed him of any temptation to try and change the tragedies of the era. He'd even wondered, in some of his bleaker moments, if he ought to kill himself to avoid inadvertent tampering with the timeline. But he clung to hope. It wasn't in his nature to despair.

And now, now he might just get the chance to see actual, physical proof that his team hadn't died for nothing, that he hadn't spent forty lonely years in false optimism for the chance to see the bright future of a free galaxy.

The right year. The right month. The right place. And, hopefully, the right day and the right hour.

Cam waited.

The sun was starting to dip toward the horizon when he finally saw it: a lumbering bus, painted in psychedelic colors. The driver, a bearded man with long, blond curls, pulled the bus into the parking lot just outside the best diner on this stretch of Route 66.

Cam held his breath as the doors opened and the passengers emerged.

Yes.

Jack O'Neill, his hair more brown than gray. Sam in a long, flowing skirt. Daniel's hair matched the pictures he'd seen of SG-1's earlier years, but Teal'c, instead of the smooth skull he'd expected, sported an unruly wig with a bandana tied across his forehead to hide his tattoo.

It was them. Traveling a loop within a loop, leaping lightly across thirty years and bringing proof to an old, tired man that the future he'd hoped to save was really waiting for him in a time he wouldn't live to see again.

Blinking against the tears that blurred his vision, Cam watched them walk across the blacktop towards the diner. He fixed their images in his mind: young, healthy, hopeful. He would savor this picture of them and use it to replace his anguished mental snapshots of a dying Sam and Daniel and Teal'c, aged and bitter yet determined to erase Ba'al's twisted timeline.

They'd given up everything to send him back to fix their present. Their presence now was the final confirmation that their sacrifice -- both their deaths and his lonely, empty life -- had all been worthwhile.

"Thanks, guys," he whispered.

Then, swiping a hand across his eyes, he turned on the motor, shifted the truck into gear, and drove away.

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P is for Pie
by [personal profile] staranise

"It's a pastry blender, Daniel," Cam said.

Daniel gave the device one more slightly-dubious look, then set it back in the baking drawer. After a minute he dislodged a spatula from a jumble of cookie cutters and passed it over to Cam.

"Point of a pastry blender," Cam said, as he poured the wet ingredients into the flour and attacked them vigorously with the spatula, "is to introduce the flour and butter thorough through the mix, but not enough to make dough. That way you don't get pie crust that tastes like leather." He paused for a minute to wipe sticky dough off the spatula with a butterknife. "Unlike this bad boy, which is leavened. I really don't recommend pizza on pie crust, come to think of it."

"Cereal grains have ten thousand years of history," Daniel said casually, as Cam worked. "Though the ancient Greeks considered pastry a guilty pleasure, if they ate it at all. There's a disparaging reference to the Thracians in the fourth century BC as 'butter-eaters'. It was a barbarian's dish, probably due to the difficulty of keeping butter in the Athenian climate."

"Huh." Cam put a wet cloth over the bowl of pizza dough and set it on the windowsill. "So much for baklava. Guess there's something to be said for civilization after all. When's Teal'c showing up? He said his--ah--that thing has to go in the oven by four, and I've got a pecan pie in the freezer that I want to put in after it."

"Ansciaphras," Daniel said smoothly. "Pickled leaf vegetables. Quite tasty, actually. We got the recipe from the Argosians. Trips there are much less eventful when we know what they're cooking in the food."

"Well," Cam said brightly after digesting that for a quiet moment, "More dishes the merrier. It's nice that he wants to contribute."

Daniel folded his arms on the counter. "Mitchell, I worry about you sometimes."

"Don't know if you've noticed yet, Jackson," Cam said conspiratorially, leaning over, "but unlike you, I was told to keep my lip buttoned as a child. You dazzle 'em with brilliance, sure, but you'd be surprised as hell what you can get out of people with niceness and a little pie."

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Q is for Quiet
by [personal profile] kayim

For the most part, Cameron Mitchell hates the quiet.

Silence reminds him being in the hospital, after the F-302 crash. By virtue of his rank, he was given a private room. By virtue of the extent of his injuries, he was given a wide berth. Doctors and nurses came in like clockwork, prodding and poking, offering reassuring lies, keeping their whispered doubts to themselves. Occasionally a friend would visit, but conversations hung awkwardly in the air between them -- how do you reminisce about old football games when one of you may never walk again?

But in between those visits, there was quiet. Just him, alone with his regrets and fears, the memories of the crash keeping him awake in the dark.

And then, after barely making it through that with his sanity in tact, SG1 came into his life, completely and utterly shattered the silence around him.

Sam, with her constant theorising that goes way above his head. Jackson, with more knowledge than any one person should ever have. Vala, who just never stops talking. And Teal'c. Okay, so maybe Teal'c's not so much with the silence-destroying, but his presence is enough to fill the empty void.

The sounds of gunfire and yells for cover. Alarm bells and warning klaxons. The unmistakable music of the Stargate dialling.

He can't imagine his life without the sounds of them.

Except for those precious few moments when he is inside the wormhole. Complete nothingness, for less than a single breath, but pure, unadulterated silence. A perfect instant. No memories, no regrets, no fears. Just quiet.

It's hard to come by, and he can't help but appreciate it, but still, for the most part, Cameron Mitchell hates the quiet.

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R is for Running
by [livejournal.com profile] crazedturkey

Slap, slap, slap, slap.

There were days when that would be the only sound Cam would hear.

It would echo down the hallways, bouncing off the metal ceilings, almost seeming to come up behind him on the endless circuit.

Slap, slap, slap, slap.

When he was younger, sometimes Cam felt bad about the running. There was his dad, stuck on the porch in that horrible chair, unable to feel let alone move his legs.

It was a complicated guilt that Cam still hadn't reconciled even many years later. But it disappeared when he was on the road. Somehow when he was on the road, everything dissolved. Everything reduced. Everything centred to just that sound.

Slap, slap, slap, slap.

The time in the hospital was like torture. Cam was terrified, petrified, that he would lose it, lose the road. Lose the rhythm.

Outwardly he was the picture of calm, the model of an active, engaged patient. Working hard on his physical therapy. Positive about his recovery.

Inwardly he was certain he would end up like his father.

The day he finally pulled on his trainers and hit the road again was the best of his life.

It was slow, it was shuffling, but it was home.

Slap....slap....slap....slap.

From that day forward, every day for the next two years, Cam found the time to run. No matter what the exotic world, alien virus or entrapment, there was always space.

It wasn't always on a road.

It was always relaxing.

Slap, slap, slap, slap.

Then suddenly it wasn't.

Now the rhythm only echoed down the relentless metal corridors. It did nothing to ease his mind, instead it reminded him of his entrapment.

Where once his run was the soothing end of a day's work, sometimes his run was all of his day's work.

Day after day, year after year.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

Now when his world centred to that sound, as it did so mind numbingly often, all Cam could feel was an unending hate.

Slap.

Slap.

Slap.

Slap.

The worst rhythm in the galaxy.

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S if for Neither Stars Nor Bars
by [personal profile] sg_wonderland

Cam could have flown home; in fact, he very nearly did. But there was something about that flat open road that called to him. His dad used to joke that it was the 'prairie boy' in him; that somewhere deep within, he still held a genetic stamp of bravely crossing those Western plains in a Conestoga wagon. If it had been summer, he would have taken the bike but he settled for his Mustang with the windows wide open and the heat turned up, his foot so heavy on the accelerator that he was a state trooper's dream-come-true. Even at that speed, he felt like he was standing still or, worse yet, losing ground.

He didn't know if he was racing toward nothing or in a head-long rush to get away from something.

***


He embraced the normalcy of his family farm almost desperately; Kansas seemed a million miles away from the SGC. Relaxing into the quiet, he let his mother fuss over him, let his dad beat him at poker, took long walks through the barren fields. In no time, the fragile wheat and corn would be planted, would poke through the earth to seek the sun.

"So, are you going to tell me what's wrong?" Cam squinted up as his dad worked his way through the dusty barn to sit on the bench seat salvaged from a long abandoned truck.

"Sounds like you need to change the air filter," Cam shifted the Tootsie Pop in his mouth as he tinkered with the car.

"Not the car, son. What's wrong with you?" He gave his son a stern look. "You haven't started smoking again, have you?"

Cam toasted him with the lollipop. "That's what these things are for. And there's nothing wrong with me."

"You drop in unexpected. You're not eating, you're not sleeping and you've walked from here to Omaha and back." His voice softened. "Talk to me, boy."

Cam started to deny it again then dropped his head onto the car. "Something happened, Dad. Something really, really bad."

"Tell me what you can." Frank patted the seat beside him.

He flopped down beside his father, giving his dirty hands most of his attention. "We lost a guy."

A soft oath escaped his father. "Dead?"

"We don't know. He….we were trapped, he was on our six, he engaged one of the enemy, gave us time to get away. I thought he'd be right behind us, he said he'd be right behind us! I ordered the team to retreat and he….they must have overpowered him. We made it home, Dad, and he didn't."

"You don't know if he's dead, then?"

"MIA is the official line. I think…at least one of the enemy would like to get their hands on him so there's a chance he's still alive, just being…" Cam choked on the words, felt his dad's large hand on his knee.

"I'm sorry, son. It's a hard thing to lose a man. I think it might be a harder thing to not know."

"The worst thing, Dad, is that he wasn't a soldier, he was a civilian. I took an oath to protect him in the field and I couldn't do a damned thing! It's not right!"

They sat in silence for a few minutes. "You think it should have been the other way around? You should have sacrificed yourself to save him?"

"Yeah, that's what I think."

"Sacrifice is a funny word. Rolls off the tongue pretty easy but it's damned hard to live up to. Don't make light of his decision, son. It's not the stars and bars that make the man; it's what's inside. Just because he didn't wear the uniform doesn't mean he didn't know the risks." Frank slid his hand around his son's back. "I know you're not supposed to get attached to the guys you command but it's inevitable that you come to care about them. I don't know what kind of man he is but, evidently, he thought the team was worth the sacrifice." It was a question that deserved an answer.

"Lose one, save four." Cam tossed the oily rag at the car, appreciating that his father had referred to Daniel in the present tense, that he hadn't automatically slotted him into the past. "He would have thought those were acceptable odds."

"Then he made the right choice. Ask your mother to say a prayer for him if that'll make you feel better."

Cam dug in his pocket for another lollipop. "Actually, that sounds like a pretty good idea."

His dad deftly tweaked the sucker from his hand as he stood. "Ruin your supper with all this candy."

"I'll be there in a minute." Cam nodded as he hesitated. "I'm fine, Dad, really. Tell Mom I'll be right there. I'm just gonna finish her car then I'll be in." And standing there in that golden Kansas sunset, Cam added a little prayer of his own before he stuck his head under the hood.

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T is for Top Gun
by [personal profile] cleothemuse

"I mean, what are the odds of that, huh?"

Major Cameron Mitchell waved at the bartender, signaling for a beer for his buddy. "You got me, Red. Maybe the brass just decided to draw names from a hat, or threw darts at a personnel listing." He grinned to show he was joking, but the truth was, he didn't really care.

What indeed were the odds that they would end up being recruited for the same top-secret training mission in Colorado? Cam and James "Red" Redmond had been classmates in Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base, and were fierce competitors in an already highly-competitive program. Adding to their rivalry were their differing branches: Red was Navy, while Cam was Air Force. By the time they'd earned their wings, the two men had become good friends, and celebrated their new postings by getting rip-roaring drunk the night before Cam left for advanced training in Arizona, and Red for the same in Mississippi. They didn't expect to see one another again.

A little over a year ago, Cam was involved in a mission over Afghanistan that had ended in disaster due to faulty intelligence. Having been the man to drop the bomb on a convoy later reported to have been full of refugees, Cam had been tempted to resign. After a long talk with his dad, he decided against leaving the Air Force outright, but put in a request to transition to a test pilot program.

A week later, Cam accepted a position in a new program codenamed "Kipling", but it was a year and a promotion later before his transfer orders came through, during which time he had been convinced funding had failed to surface. The same day his papers arrived, he received a call from Red, who'd tracked him down to tell him he'd been reassigned to Peterson Air Force Base "to show you plumbers what a real stick looks like." They compared notes and discovered they were both on Kipling, though neither pilot had been told anything about the new program other than when and where to report.

So, here they were, the Saturday before the start of Kipling, and both had already put away a number of drinks swapping stories. They were dressed in street clothes, but the bar they were recommended was a common hang-out for off-duty military personnel, and half the room had the sort of regulation haircuts that identified them to the mostly-female civilian barflys. With Red now plied with enough liquid courage to chat up the cute brunette who'd just squeezed in next to him, Cam slid off his stool to check out the action at the pool tables.

A statuesque blonde was holding court, with a stack of bills piled on the edge of the table while she bent over, carefully lining up a shot. Ignoring the leering comments her shapely posterior was earning her, she broke the rack expertly, sending both a stripe and a solid into pockets. With the table still open, she then lined up her next shot, pocketing two more stripes. Three decisive shots later, all of the striped balls were cleared, and she was calling a corner pocket for the eight ball, before banking it twice and sinking it, too.

"I should've known better," moaned one of the guys standing near the table, shaking his head and hanging up his own cue.

"I did warn you, Captain," the blonde grinned, folding her winnings and jamming the cash into her jeans pocket.

"Yes, ma'am," he answered meekly, letting his buddies lead him off with good-natured jibes.

Cam laughed, having had enough beer already he was feeling loose and comfortable. "Hustling the crowd?"

"Proving a point," the blonde answered. "Never challenge a physicist to a game of eight-ball."

"Well, I won't challenge you, then, but could I buy you a drink?"

She hung up her cue before turning around to look at him with her head cocked sideways. "My friend went to get drinks a few minutes ago, Mister...?" She trailed off, waiting for a name.

"Major, actually. Cam Mitchell."

"Sam Carter. Pilot?"

"How'd you guess?"

"You seem like the type."

"Charming? Good-looking? Won't take 'no' for an answer?"

Sam rolled her eyes. "I haven't said 'no' yet, have I?"

"Well, don't. If you say 'no' to a drink, then I might have to go all Top Gun on you and start singing. And trust me, nobody wants that."

She laughed at that, shaking her head and pushing away from the pool table. "How can I say 'no' now? "

Cam grinned, somehow certain that the beautiful woman didn't relax and have fun as often as she should. "After you, ma'am."

"Just 'Sam'... I get enough 'ma'ams' and 'majors' during the week."

He wasn't surprised to hear she was military, too, what with the assured grace with which she carried herself. "Yes, ma'am... er, Sam." They pushed their way back to the bar, where Cam discovered Red and the tiny brunette still chatting.

"Having a good time, Janet?" Sam teased, causing the short woman to look her way.

"Sam! Sorry, I got distracted." She smiled sweetly at Red, who looked positively smitten. "Lieutenant Commander Redmond here is a fish out of water."

"Don't let him fool ya," Cam chimed in, "Red loves hangin' with real flyboys."

"Ha ha," Red smirked. "Although, I have to hand it to the Air Force: their female officers are much prettier than the Navy's."

"Charmer," Janet scoffed playfully. "Well, once we're all acquainted, why don't we grab a table somewhere?"

Quick introductions were made between Sam and Red, and Cam was introduced to Janet Frasier. The tall Sam and her petite companion were as much the odd pair as rangy Cam and stocky Red. Cam ordered another beer for himself, promising to get Sam's next refill, then the quartet made their way over to an empty booth at the back of the bar.

"You ladies assigned to Peterson, Schriever, the academy...? Or Fort Carson, if I'm barking up the wrong branch?"

"Janet keeps an office at the Academy Hospital," Sam answered, shaking her head, "and I occasionally guest-lecture for the physics department, but we're both based out of Cheyenne Mountain."

"NORAD?" Red guessed.

"Deep Space Radar Telemetry."

Cam took a swig of his drink. "Whoa, like SETI?"

"Something like that."

Red looked skeptical. "No way."

"Well," Janet began, leaning in to the center of their group. "We could tell you, but then we'd have to kill you."

She looked deadly serious, but her brown eyes twinkled with humor, and Cam gave a short laugh. "That line ever work for you?"

"Sometimes," she answered, grinning at Sam. "What about you boys? Passing through or settling in?"

Red shrugged. "We'll find out this week. Orientation's at Peterson on Monday, but then it's probably off to Nellis or Wright-Patterson."

"Nah, I'm thinking Edwards, first. I was applying for the test pilot program when I got picked up for this." Cam grimaced. "My dad was a test pilot."

"Really?" Sam asked, intrigued.

"A crash ended his career when I was a kid. Didn't stop me from wanting to fly, though, and didn't stop him from encouraging me to get up there."

Their talk went from there, hitting on childhood dreams and the differing places they'd all grown up. Janet was the only one of them who wasn't a military brat through-and-through, but her family had moved quite a bit anyway as her father set up stores for a retail chain. In swapping stories, it turned out her family had been in Sumter, South Carolina at the same time Cam's dad was working out of Shaw AFB. At around the same time, Sam's dad was stationed at McGuire AFB in New York, while Red's Army dad was assigned to neighboring Fort Dix.

The drinks kept flowing as the conversation did, and Cam had the opportunity to buy Sam more than just the one he initially promised. Finally, as Cam was starting to feel he was dangerously on the border between buzzed and stupid, Janet--who'd stuck to iced tea the whole evening--announced she had a teenager she needed to make sure made it to bed before the sun rose, and the two women bid their farewells, but not before giving the men their phone numbers. Cam and Red hung around a little longer to finish their drinks, then took a cab back to their hotel.

The next morning, after showering and getting his fuzzy head clear, Cam briefly considered calling Sam to see if she wanted to hang out again. When a few of the other Kipling pilots threw together a game of basketball, though, he decided to hold off on trying to get in touch until he knew whether or not he'd be transferring to another base. He'd liked Sam, and was hoping for at least a few months in Colorado to try to get to know her a little better.

Oh-eight-hundred sharp Monday morning found Cam, Red, and the rest of the Kipling pilots in Peterson's in-processing. Unlike most transfers Cam had been through, this one involved a full physical and enough blood drawn to start a Red Cross chapter. From getting photographed for their new ID badge to lunch at the Aragon DFAC, the pilots were escorted by armed guards at all times, which drew some curious looks from the airmen regularly stationed at the base.

After lunch, they were ushered onto a bus along with the gear they had been permitted to bring with them, and the ride was a surprisingly short one, ending at the Air Force Academy. Their gear was packed off to a small bunkhouse on the base, while the pilots--ten men and two women--were led off to a classroom building nearby. Just as curiosity was beginning to win over their ingrained hesitancy to question orders, a mousey-looking civilian entered the classroom and introduced himself as Doctor Lotus.

"'Lotus' isn't actually my real name" he confessed as he began to arrange his papers on the lectern, "but it was chosen because the planet I'm from actually uses a much more complex family-name system."

It took a moment for what he'd said to actually sink in, but then the snickers and guffaws started. Cam couldn't help himself, either, and coughed an "E.T." under his breath that had Red snorting.

The projector screen abruptly changed from the standard Air Force Academy seal to a video of the President of the United States. "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen," the President began, "and thank you for your service and dedication to our country. Doctor Nyan Lotus is, in fact, from another planet--one we call 'Nefertem'--and from a country called Bedrosia. I trust that he now has your full and undivided attention, and I wish to welcome you all to Stargate Command orientation."

From there, it was a whirlwind of information, history, language, and science, most of which made Cam's head hurt like an ice cream headache. A space-travel device underneath Cheyenne Mountain? Parasitic snakes that could take over a person's body? Ancient societies from Earth that had been transplanted across the galaxy?

The cherry atop the whole cake was when the pilots were told to what they had applied: Earth's first-ever squadron of space-fighters. On top of the packets of classified data they'd already received regarding Stargate Command itself, the pilots were handed another folder containing information on the F-302 "Mongoose", then dismissed for the day.

Dinner was served in a small mess hall within the bunkhouse, and their orientation leader--a limping semi-retired colonel named Feretti--insisted they were free to talk and ask questions. The first question asked, of course, was something along the lines of "Are you kidding me?!" to which Feretti aired his own bona fides as one of the only three remaining survivors of the initial Abydos mission.

The colonel paused in his retelling, then added with a grin, "Well, I'm not sure if Doctor Jackson counts as a 'survivor', since we only just got him back from the dead. Again."

Again? Cam mouthed to Red, still unsure if this whole thing wasn't some big elaborate joke.

"...all of his memory back yet, so he won't be leading any of your briefings," Feretti was saying. "However, Colonel O'Neill will be heading up your F-302 orientation tomorrow, so you'll meet him then."

"Darn," muttered Red. "I was hoping for a Top Gun moment."

Cam blinked. "What?"

"Cheyenne Mountain, Cam... it's where Sam and Janet said they work." He grinned. "There you were, chatting up the pretty blonde in the bar, and it turns out she's Kelly McGillis, and she'll be teaching our class?"

"Funny, Red. Real funny."

The next morning, the pilots were given unit patches that identified themselves as the "1st SFW"--Cam's guess was that it stood for Space Fighter Wing--and herded onto yet another bus, this time taking them to Cheyenne Mountain itself. Colonel Feretti handed them off to an energetic young airman, who gave them a tour of the facility. Feretti excused himself from the tour on account of his bad leg, but promised to meet up with them again for lunch.

To Cam and Red's delight, Doctor Fraiser was in the infirmary when they made their stop there, but other than a small smile in their direction, she otherwise didn't acknowledge she knew them. Her part of the tour apparently involved telling them about some of the more bizarre medical afflictions the SGC had encountered since their inception, and followed it up with a frank accounting of the base's casualties over the years. It was a sobering and staggering number, which she then softened by adding that the effective casualty rate was much lower now than it had been in their earliest years, thanks to better medical technology, intelligence, preparation, and training.

Their tour hit all of the important locations: the science labs, where they were treated to a demo of Goa'uld weapons technology by Doctor Lee; the anthropology department, where Doctor Lindsey explained the importance of her team's work in everything from translating historical documents to establishing long-term relationships with alien cultures; and the gym, where they met their second alien and first non-human, the Jaffa Teal'c. Their last stop was the Stargate itself, and watching a team embark on a mission had Cam pretty well convinced that this place was well worth having stuck around in the Air Force for the last year.

After lunch in the base's commissary, Feretti led them to a small classroom, then apologized for a change in plans. "Colonel O'Neill had a, um, an incident over the weekend, and is unable to lead the briefing. However, his co-pilot on the F-302's most-recent mission, Major Samantha Carter, will be heading up the briefing in his stead."

Red sniggered and started to sing, "You've lost... that LOVing FEEling..."

"Shut up, Red," Cam groaned.

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U is for Undefeated
by [personal profile] lolmac

In 1934, Glenn Cunningham was the fastest man alive.

In 1908, Cunningham was a bed-ridden cripple, both legs fire-shriveled, one foot toeless.

Cam thinks about Cunningham a lot. Mostly in the mornings, during the part of the morning when he has energy to spare for thinking.

Cam's gotten very good at focusing. It's become his most important survival skill. He likes to focus on the heel of his left foot, because by 10 am, that's the only part of his legs that doesn't hurt.

For as much of the day as he can, he focuses. He focuses on the end of the treadmill, walking and running and hobbling towards it. He'll crawl if he has to. He'll get there. That's where the Gate is. He focuses: he puts the Gate at the end of the treadmill. Unlike other treadmills, he knows he's going to get to the end of this one. He just has to keep moving, keep pushing. When the pain and exhaustion darken the room in front of his eyes, when he can't see the Gate any more, he keeps on moving towards it anyway. He knows it's there.

Like Cam, Cunningham was from Kansas. They get some crazy storms in Kansas, summer and winter. Cam's seen some amazing rainbows there, blazing across the sky after a bad storm. Pots of gold. There's a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. And by all the gods of brutal pain and sacrifice, he's going to get there.

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V is for Video Games
by [livejournal.com profile] gingasaur

It is by no means a difficult game. Cute, cuddly animals ripping each other's throats out in crimson showers of pixelated blood is bizarre, but it doesn't take an engineer to play it.

So why does Cam keep watching his fuzzy boxing hare get pummeled by unblockable kicks to his sweet little face?

It isn't simply loss at this point: it's a systematic disassembling of all his hard-earned credibility. How is he supposed to get any kind of respect around here when he can't even coordinate the proper punches to take the evil Mr. Bunnykins' head off?

"You're supposed to play Teal'c when?"

"Thursday."

Siler laughs, perhaps louder than he meant to. He clears his throat. "Sorry, sir."

Cam waves a dismissive hand. "No, I deserve it after that thrashing. How the hell did you make those energy beams-"

But Siler just shrugs helplessly; he'll be overdue for a scheduled maintenance if he stays any longer.

"Good luck, Colonel," he says on his way out.

Cam rubs a hand over his face. Time to go back to training mode.

***


He hones his skills against fluffy computerized combatants, but these battles against artificial intelligence just don't compare to human unpredictability. He needs another person to play with him or the precious remnants of his ego will be smeared across the floor come Thursday.

Luckily, he knows two surefire ways to get Sam out of her lab: by dragging her, or by simply pushing her buttons.

"I'm not afraid you'll beat me."

Bingo.

"Well then," Cam taunts. "Come play."

Sam glares at him. "If I do, you have to leave me alone for the rest of the day."

"Done."

"I mean it. I'll eat dinner when I'm ready."

"You got it," Cam assures her. "Let's go."

He's practiced his heart out. He's ready for this. Sam's declaration that she hasn't played in a long time is comforting, too.

"Ready?" Cam asks.

"Ready," Sam sighs.

They begin.

And then they end, within ten seconds of starting, because Sam's big-eyed, bushy-tailed bunny beats the stuffing out of Cam's with a dazzling flurry of punches that not only activates that energy beam thing, but knocks his rabbit clear across the stage and back again. He settles in a smoking heap in the center of the screen while Sam's rabbit wiggles her nose triumphantly.

He's half-joking when he asks her if she hacked the game, but when her cheeks flush, his mouth drops.

"You hacked the game?!"

"I didn't hack it," Sam insists. "I just… peeked at the programming code." When Cam doesn't respond, she adds, "To determine which moves are most effective against which bunnies."

Cam groans.

"It's pretty transparent when you take a look at it," Sam continues, only a little bashfully. "The variations are subtle, but they're actually-"

"Go away from me," Cam says, throwing up his hands.

Sam gives him two firm pats on the shoulder and leaves him to his loss.

***


He stares at the screen in disbelief.

"You cheated."

"I did no such thing!"

Cam rests his forehead in his hands. "You can't just spam the same move over and over again. That's cheating."

"If it was cheating, wouldn't the game have stopped me?"

"No, but-"

"There, you see?" Vala says with a huff. "I did nothing wrong."

"No, listen to me." Cam can really feel that headache now. He sets his controller down carefully. "You can't just use the same exact move ten times in a row. It's bad form."

"Why does it matter how I won? I beat you fair and sphere."

Once upon a time, Cam was a sane man, but now the rational parts of his brain slowly ooze out of his ears. "It's fair and square," he corrects through clenched teeth. "And no, nothing about that was fair."

Vala looks at him, her lips pursed.

"Jealousy's an ugly color on you, Cameron."

Maybe he can just hide the Xbox before Thursday.

***


"Hey, Jackson. You play that fighting game of Teal'c's?"

Daniel looks up from an old, tattered book. "The one with the bunnies?"

"That's the one."

He grimaces and returns to the dusty pages. "No."

Cam counts that as a win.

***


"Are you ready, Colonel Mitchell?"

Oh, he's ready. Ready and standing tall to face his fate, whatever that may be. If he's going down, it's going to be with the fight of the century.

Teal'c handles his Xbox with great care, something that makes Cam grateful he didn't throw any controllers around in fits of frustration. It's almost like watching a sacred ritual, and Teal'c has clearly done this enough that it's practically become one: he wipes some dust from the top of the console with a soft cloth, turns the system on, then the TV, and hands a controller to Cam as he sits beside him.

Teal'c is silent, and it's enough to freak Cam out just a little bit.

"This is one weird game you've got here," he says. "I kind of thought we'd be playing some Madden."

Teal'c smiles. "The rabbits' unassuming faces mask their hidden ferocity. They are capable of killing despite their harmless appearances. Is this not a valuable lesson to remember, that one should never underestimate the strength of their opponents?"

That's a startling amount of depth to attach to a game about maiming bunny rabbits. Cam doesn't ask any more questions, though. He just holds his controller and waits.

"Are you aware," Teal'c says eventually, "of the reason Colonel Carter delved into the game's programming?"

Uh oh.

"No," Cam responds hesitantly.

Teal'c's smile grows. "She was infuriated by her inability to win against me."

Dammit.
Before Cam can do anything to stop him, Teal'c presses Start.

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W is for Wait What
by [personal profile] magibrain

They gathered in the briefing room with no idea what to expect, hoping it would be news about Vala. Landry strolled in with a stack of folders as they were getting situated, looking like he knew something the rest of them didn't. As per usual.

"General," Daniel greeted. "What's this about?"

Landry took his seat, and tapped the edges of the folders against the table. "While the SGC is continuing to look into the whereabouts of Ms. Mal Doran, SG-1 has something somewhat more immediate to take care of," he said.

"More immediate," Daniel said. Landry looked at him.

"Much as I wish I could give you something constructive to do regarding Vala's disappearance, all our leads have gone cold," he said. "So, yes. More immediate. I need you to patch up a rather large potential embarrassment for the SGC."

Sam raised her eyebrows. "An 'embarrassment', sir?"

"Potential. Probably just a misunderstanding. It has to do with Colonel Mitchell," Landry said, and looked across at him. He didn't seem overly concerned, though. More... quietly amused.

Cam, who had been idly toying with a wooden pencil, looked up. "Me? Why? What did I do?"

"There have been certain aspersions cast on your appointment to lead SG-1," Landry said, with an expression that said Someday, we'll look back on this and laugh. Well, you'll look back on this and laugh. I'm already laughing. "You know, the usual. Nepotism. That sort of thing."

"Nepotism?" Daniel asked, before Cam could say anything. Landry held up a hand.

"Hear me out," he said. "A couple of the lab boys have been spending their time mapping out the genomes of everyone in the SGC." He flipped the folders onto the table. "And apparently, they started with all the members of SG-1." He gave a quiet, curtailed chuckle. "I think the rationale was, 'they're all freaks and mutants anyway.'"

"Charmed," Cam said, and took one of the folders. "What's that have to do with me?"

"Well, take a look," Landry said.

They did.

Daniel paged through a couple of sheets, then paused. "Wait a minute, why is Jack's information in here?"

"Members of SG-1, past and present," Landry said. "Apparently General O'Neill left a few vials of blood in Infirmary storage when he left for Washington."

"Uh-oh," Sam said. Cam glanced at her.

"'Uh-oh'?"

"And, she gets it," Landry said, and raised his eyebrows at Cameron. "Colonel Mitchell, you may want to compare your own record with General O'Neill's."

"Okay," Cam said, and pulled out the relevant pages. "And what am I looking for?"

Then he trailed off.

Teal'c, beside him, arched an eyebrow.

"For those of you who skipped out on your highschool biology," Landry said, "what you're looking at there is two distinctly related individuals. Colonel Mitchell? If our lab was certified by the AABB, that right there would be admissible in a court of law as evidence that Jack O'Neill was your father."

No one knew what to say about that for a moment.

Then Cam flipped his folder closed. "General." He pressed his fingertips into the briefing table. "My team already pulled this joke on me once. I'm not going to fall for it a second time."

"Unfortunately, this stuff is a little higher-grade than wool," Landry said. "It's also rather concerning to the IOA, and could be quite a juicy little bit of data to certain enemies of this program who would like nothing more than to uncover a hint of corruption."

Cam watched him for a moment. Then, flatly, said "You can't be serious."

"Oh, I can be," Landry said. "And at this moment, I choose to be."

"Colonel O'Neill did not approve of any of us exploring the nineteen-sixties unaccompanied," Teal'c said. "I do not believe he would have had time to father a child in that era without any of us noticing. Nor do I believe he could have returned to the nineteen sixties at any point following."

"Well, that's reassuring," Cam said. His tone, on the other hand, said I'd like to stop having this conversation right about now.

"Well, that's good to know," Landry said. "Unfortunately, DNA testing doesn't lie. Which is why I would like you, SG-1, to get to the bottom of this."

They looked at each other.

"Okay," Daniel said. "I'm... fairly sure we can do that. Does Jack know about this?"

"Oh, he's being contacted," Landry said. "If you listen very closely, you might be able to hear the awkward silence coming from the direction of Washington."

In was Teal'c who interjected, with remarkable aplomb, "This will be a refreshing change from the usual 'spin'."

Everyone stared at him for a moment.

"Anyway," Landry said, "you have your work cut out for you." He pushed himself away from the table. "Best of luck."

He walked away.

Sam, Daniel and Cam stood, more following on the General's example than actually raring to go, and paused around the table. "Okay, wait, did we just have the conversation I thought we just had?" Daniel asked.

"I believe we discussed the possibility that Cameron Mitchell is General O'Neill's illegitimate son," Teal'c said.

"I am not," Cameron started, and Daniel cleared his throat and spoke right over him.

"Right. So assuming this isn't all some sort of wacky dream..."

"What's going on?" Sam finished.

"I'd like to know," Cam said. He crossed his arms. "Speaking of things I'd like to know, weren't you supposed to back me up, there?"

Daniel looked at Sam.

Sam looked between the two of them, and drew back. "I'm not a geneticist!" she protested.

Cam turned to her. "Sam. Come on. You know this is ridiculous."

Sam shifted uneasily. "I don't buy it either," she said, "but you have to admit -- well, there have been times when--"

"That was once and he was drugged," Daniel said.

Sam shifted a bit more uneasily. "...and Edora," she added.

"Stuck on a planet for three months. I think you're officially allowed to become antsy after the fifth week of 'no hope of returning home'."

"Okay, I know that isn't a regulation," Cam said. Daniel shrugged.

"Well, there seem to be a lot of things you don't know."

Cam glared.

Daniel took a breath, and turned to Sam. "Wouldn't that have serious repercussions on our timeline_?" he asked. "I mean, wouldn't there be a paradox, or something we would notice?"

"What, like we'd all be speaking German?" Cam asked.

"Well, paradoxes don't really work that way," Sam said, and then everyone was looking at her.

"Really," Cam said. His voice could have been flatter, but not without an industrial press.

Sam looked at him. Then at Daniel.

"...I'm going to go do some calculations. In my lab," she said.

***


Saturday brought with it light drizzle, a working weekend, an SGC CMO who was doing an admirable job at not looking bewildered or amused, and one very annoyed Brigadier General, fresh-picked from Washington.

"All right," he said, as they settled in around the briefing room table. "Now that I've come all the way back here, I would like one of you to explain what's going on. Preferably in a way that makes a little sense. Carter?"

Sam, who'd just sat down herself, gave an incredulous look to the group at large. "Why is everyone looking at me to solve this? I don't have any idea what's going on!"

"Well, come up with something, could you?" General O'Neill asked.

At the head of the table, Landry cleared his throat. "We have gone back through the original mission reports from the P2X-555 mishap," he said. "So far as we can reconstruct, Teal'c is right -- no member of SG-1 was ever unaccounted-for for any significant period of time." He tapped the sheet of paper in front of him. "Except for one hour in which Dr. Jackson and Captain Carter were speaking with Ms. Langford, and Teal'c had apparently decided to catch up on his kel'no'reem."

"For crying out loud," General O'Neill growled. "You cannot possibly think I went out, found a woman, seduced her, and had a -- a dalliance all in the space of -- what? What was it? One hour?" He looked at Landry.

"Of course not," Landry said. "That would be ridiculous. But it is the picture we're pretty sure the IOA is going to draw."

"Because none of them have any conception of how this world works," Daniel muttered, beneath his breath.

Cam made a small, amused noise, but it really wasn't as amused as it was annoyed.

"So we need to present a plausible alternate explanation," Sam said.

Landry nodded. "You've got it. Anyone have an idea?"

A beat of silence passed around the table.

Cam looked to Carolyn. "Okay, I know it doesn't work this way, but could this be some sort of weird case of convergent evolution?"

"Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way," Carolyn said.

"Of course it doesn't," Cam said. "Anyone else have any ideas?"

Carolyn looked to Landry. Landry looked around the table. Daniel headdesked. So did General O'Neill, and at almost the exact same time.

Sam frowned at the files. "Hang on a second."

General O'Neill picked up his head and said, in a low sing-song, "This is why we pay you."

Sam cast him an annoyed look, and said "It's only a theory."

"Which is?" Cam prompted.

"Well, sir," she said, looking to General O'Neill and clearly not wanting to broach said theory. "There have been people... interested in your genetic structure before."

It took a moment.

Then Daniel raised his head, looked at her, and said "Loki?" in the tone he used about Vala, half the time.

"Wait," Cameron said. "The Asgard who--"

"Yes, that one," General O'Neill growled. "Carter..."

She shrugged helplessly. "It does make a certain amount of sense, sir."

Cameron suspected, and suspected strongly, that buried behind the acute discomfort of explaining to a one-star General how his genetic code might have been spread across the United States, Sam was a lot less helpless and a lot more laughing at him than she was letting on.

"So, you think that Loki broke out his chemistry set, stole some of General O'Neill's DNA, and made a little baby boy who just happened to go into the exact same profession and wound up taking over the exact same command?"

The discomfort, though, was probably not feigned. Sam sidled. "That's... not exactly what I think."

Daniel headdesked again.

"Loki tends to do things in sets," he said, words muffled by the briefing room table. "Where there's one, there's probably more."

Sam made a What he said gesture at him.

"All right. I've heard enough. More than enough," General O'Neill said, standing. "Excuse me. I'm going to make a very annoyed phone call to a little grey man."

***


"Phone call", in this case, was more like "Trip to Cimmeria, where Thor didn't pick up, followed by a trip to K'tau, where Freyr took an extremely annoyed message and promised, with strained goodwill, to see if the Supreme Commander had 'time to address the extremely peripheral concerns of the Earth administration'". Which only meant, fortunately, six or seven hours where General O'Neill stewed and Cam beat up an unsuspecting punching bag and Sam retreated to the MALP bay before Landry came onto the base intercom and said, "Colonel Mitchell, General O'Neill, you're needed in the briefing room."

Where, when they assembled, they found a hologram of Thor sitting at the head of the table.

"Thor. Old buddy," General O'Neill said, though his voice was not as buddy-friendly as his words might lead one to believe.

"O'Neill," Thor said. "General Landry has informed me of your situation. I have taken the liberty of having Loki's files searched."

"And?" Cam said.

Thor looked at him for a moment, then back to O'Neill. "There is some indication that he was performing experiments with recombinant human DNA in the time period you indicated," he said. "His notes referred to a promising specimen whom he was unable to locate after his first extraction."

"Because you were no longer in 1969 by the second time he looked," Cameron guessed.

General O'Neill shot a look at him, then at the hologram. "Thor," he said, with the light edge to his voice that said If we weren't old buddies, this conversation would be taking place on significantly less friendly terms. "I thought you put a marker in my DNA to prevent this sort of thing from happening."

Thor's eyes half-closed. "Yes," he confirmed. "Unfortunately it was not until after your assistance extracting Heimdall from his genetics lab that I was able to persuade the Asgard High Council that your genetic code required safeguards. Loki was not forthcoming with details of his prior indiscretions, or I would have alerted you."

"Can we not call those 'indiscretions'?" Cam said.

"You have my apologies," Thor said. "If you prefer, we can scan your world for further evidence of Loki's genetic recombination program. Any additional chimeras could be located and dealt with."

Cam stepped forward. "And by 'chimeras' you mean people like me, don't you?" It wasn't exactly a question. More like a subtle reminder that he was standing right there.

Thor didn't seem to care. "We could likely restore their original DNA without alerting or damaging the human subjects."

"That might be nice," General O'Neill said.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Cam said. "You're talking about altering my DNA. The DNA I've grown up with. I mean." He glanced over at the General. "I know it's his DNA, but shouldn't I get a say in this?"

Thor's eyes widened.

General O'Neill turned away from the hologram. "Colonel," he said.

"No, I know," Cam said, holding up a hand. "And -- believe me, sir, I find this just as weird as you do. But I'd also find--" he turned to Thor. "--restructuring my DNA just a little bit weird."

"Colonel," the General said again. "This is the easiest way to get rid of a liability."

"Yes, sir, I know that," Cam said. "And you can say that because it's not your DNA being altered."

"We have already altered O'Neill's DNA," Thor said.

The General shrugged. "Yeah. See?"

Cam pointed at Thor. "You're not helping."

Landry, who'd seemed content to let Thor take on the burden of explaining, looked up from his seat at the table. "Colonel, obviously I'm a little fuzzy on exactly how authorized I am to order you to alter your own DNA, but..."

"But, you'd appreciate it if I took one for the team," Cam said.

"Yeah," General O'Neill said, and shrugged. "For the team."

Cam groaned.

He closed his eyes for a moment, tried to summon up the serenity of mind to say a Hail Mary or a Lord's Prayer or even just count to ten a couple times, exhaled, and did what any self-respecting member of SG-1 usually wound up doing: choose to damn the consequences and take the leap.

"Fine. Fine." He opened his eyes, and looked at Thor. "Just so I know, I'm still going to be -- well, me, right? After you do this thing?"

"Your physical characteristics, specialized skills and knowledge, and personality will remain as they are," Thor said.

"All right." Cam exhaled. "Now, seeing as you're already messing with my DNA, I don't suppose you could throw in the ATA gene? You know. As compensation."

Thor considered.

***


The meeting concluded with promises of an Asgard science vessel coming "as soon as one became available." Which apparently didn't mean anytime that night, and Cam grumped his way into the commissary the next morning before just about anyone else was awake. He hadn't slept much, anyway.

He found General O'Neill there, sitting alone by a corner, and decided to get his breakfast and join him. Couldn't have said why. It seemed like the thing to do.

"Mind if I join you?"

The General glanced up, and motioned to an empty seat.

Cam sat.

And they sat in silence for a minute or so.

The General was glaring down at his blueberry pancakes, and Cam was toying with a cinnamon roll and glaring at everything indiscriminately. "Work here long enough," the General said, flicking a blueberry at his coffee mug, "and you begin to get the feeling that we're like very complicated fish to the Asgard."

"I am not a fish," Cameron said.

O'Neill stared at him for a moment. "You're missing the point."

"The point," Cam said. "The point where we're free-range guinea pigs?"

"Yes. Or that," the General said.

There was silence for a moment longer. At least it was a companionable, if grumpy, sort of silence.

"Sir?" Cam asked. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I am really glad we're not related."

"Could have been awkward," the General agreed.

"And -- no offense -- but I like my parents just fine, the way they are. Who they are."

The General took a drink from his coffee. "No offense taken."

Cam spun his roll on his plate.

"So," he said. "We just have to wait until the Asgard think it's convenient to pick me up for this little operation?"

"Yeah, the Asgard prefer it when we don't call them, they call us," the General said, and checked his watch. "I wouldn't worry too much. They may be small, too smart for their own good, and annoying from time to time, but if nothing else, they tend to have a great sense of--"

Cam disappeared in a flash of white light.

"--timing."

Jack watched his empty seat for a moment, then reached over and took the roll.

"Godspeed," he muttered, and bit in.

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X is for X-ray
by [livejournal.com profile] madders_ahatter

"Hold still, I just need to take a couple more," Dr Lam instructed Cam as she adjusted the x-ray machine.

Holding still wasn't a problem. It was moving that hurt like the devil, but he wasn't about to tell her that.

"What's the matter, didn't you get my best side?" Cam gave her his most charming smile.

Carolyn shot back a smile of her own. She wasn't entirely immune to the colonel's charisma, but neither was she about to let him get the upper hand.

"I didn't think you had a 'best' side, Colonel Mitchell," she countered, with a slight quirk of her eyebrows that led him to wonder if he'd just been complimented or insulted.

She finished up and gave him a nod. "Okay, you can relax. I'll just check these for secondary injuries."

Cam tried, but relaxation didn't come easy. He allowed himself a grimace while the Doc was distracted. Even so, he was counting his blessings. He'd been through far worse than this and come out okay. He cast a glance at the pink scar tissue on his left side, a souvenir from his near-fatal run in with the Sodan. He could feel the familiar aching in his legs that returned every time he remembered how close he'd come to being crippled for life. A deep breath banished the memory. The ache would fade momentarily.

"At least it's a clean break," Dr Lam commented, carefully easing him into a figure of eight wrap to support the injured arm and help it heal neatly.

"You can put your shirt back on now," she told him. "Just don't try to raise your right arm."

Cam resisted the urge to ask her why not. Did she think he was stupid? Or a masochist?

Cam struggled into his shirt and fumbled with the buttons, feeling annoyed with himself for his helplessness. "Dammit," he swore under his breath as he realized he'd put a button in the wrong hole.

Carolyn's offer of assistance was met with a stern look and a slightly less than polite refusal. "I can manage," he insisted.

"Alright, Colonel, but you've stalled long enough. You haven't been off world in days. I want to know exactly how you came to fracture your clavicle."

Cam looked away sheepishly. He should've known he wouldn't be able to keep it a secret. Heck, it was probably halfway round the base already. He didn't think his sparring-partner was the sort to boast about sending him to the infirmary, but he couldn't be sure. Which was why he'd refused the offer of being seen safely there.

"Someone asked me to teach them a little Kendo, along with a few moves I picked up from the Sodan. I made the mistake of underestimating my opponent."

"I know for a fact Teal'c isn't here right now. Besides, you already know how good he is." Carolyn was more or less thinking aloud. "Ronan isn't visiting from Atlantis is he?"

Cam shook his head, unwisely as it strained his injury.

Carolyn was curious as to who the mystery combatant could possibly be. It had to be somebody pretty athletic and well trained; a skilled fighter, yet someone Cam had been confident of beating. By his coyness, perhaps it was Teyla. Dr Lam stifled a grin. Teyla's reputation as a strong and capable warrior was well known even on Earth. Yes, she'd bet it was the Athosian woman. No wonder his male pride was wounded.

"Would it have been Teyla, by any chance?" Carolyn asked mischievously.

"Oh, no. Someone far more formidable! It was Jackson. I'm pretty sure I could have taken Teyla," Cam shot back, a little too quickly. He colored. He'd just confessed not only that the archaeologist had got the better of him, but also that he pretty much considered Daniel his toughest adversary to date. Why hadn't he just claimed it was a lucky shot, that he was distracted? Everyone would believe that, probably even Jackson himself.

"Uh, how about we pretend I didn't say that?"

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Y is for YouTube
by [personal profile] sid

It's the nature of the internet. You surf, you click, you follow so many links you're not sure how you wind up wherever it is you find yourself. Cam starts out his Sunday morning reading the front webpage of his hometown newspaper. Maybe something there made him nostalgic (go figure) and so he searches YouTube for some favorite old songs. Nearly an hour later, coffee mug long empty, Cam clicks a vid link almost at random.

He nearly falls out of his chair.

That's Jackson. Different glasses, longer hair, more-than-mildly inebriated. Singing karaoke. And that's not even the wildest part.

He's not alone. There's Teal'c. In a cowboy hat. Getting down.

"I am hallucinating," Cam announces to himself. He looks accusingly at his empty mug. He looks at the monitor. He hears a very familiar voice coming through his speakers.

"Shake it, Daniel!"

"Ah!" Cam looks to see who posted the video. He busts out laughing. "Astrosammiekins?"

He's still laughing as he cranks up the volume and leans back, hands clasped behind his head, to enjoy the show.

Won't you take me to… Funkytown?

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Z is for Zero
by [personal profile] stringertheory

Some cultures don't have a zero, don't have a concept or a signifier for nothing. Cam remembers reading that somewhere, or seeing it in a documentary. Or maybe it was Jackson who first told him.

Jackson had said something about a culture -- the Babylonians or the Persians or some long-dead society on P-whatever (or, hell, maybe all three) -- not having a zero. It had been interesting, but considering that he'd brought up the fact while they were battling a deceptive countdown -- "...which may or may not have a zero -- based on the markings, this society appears to be related to the Babylonians, who had no symbol for zero -- so either we have five or four--" "Jackson!" -- interest had quickly evaporated in favor of self-preservation.

The memory rushes back to Cam as he shifts his grip on the yoke, tension coiled in every square inch of his body. Around him, the Odyssey crew stands in tense silence as the ship glides toward the tiny speck of white that is Sam, hanging in space near the Supergate. With one eye on Sam and the other on the gauges in front of him, Cam tries to imagine having no way to name the entire concept that zero defines.

Zero. Zilch. Zip. He cannot calculate his life without zero.

He'd been a good kid, though a wild streak near the end of high school had tarnished that reputation. His mother's heavy sighs and shouted warnings hadn't done much to tame him; the call of his last carefree days was too tempting in light of everything that was looming ahead of him. But his father met him on the front porch in the dark of a Thursday morning and gave Cam the one bit of advice that could turn him around.

"The Air Force has a zero tolerance policy, son," he said quietly while they sat in rocking chairs, the porch boards creaking beneath them and the crickets singing like the church choir.

That conversation helped Cam stay centered for years, kept him from pushing back when authority pushed him on. The finality of zero tolerance was a warning siren against bad decisions, resounding inside his head in his father's voice. It kept him focused on his dreams instead of the heady lure of recklessness that sometimes rose inside him, usually at the worst times. Even today, the de facto leader of the world's most elite military team, traveling through space and time and whatever else there is to travel through, sitting at the controls of the most expensive aircraft ever built, the warning of zero tolerance still echoes in the back of his mind.

Out in the black, Sam hovers in the air like a dust mote, dwarfed by the Gate nearby. She is frighteningly small through the Odyssey's windows, and Cam clamps down on the wave of terror that rises in him. With no planet to anchor the view, the vastness of space becomes overwhelmingly present, and he narrows his focus to the Gate and Sam to hold himself steady.

He can imagine what Sam is feeling, held in place by zero gravity, unable to help herself or even move. He's never been a fan of zero gravity himself, though he knows people who enjoy it. One of his friends from Academy went on to join the space program and loved to brag about his training. They still keep in touch periodically, and Cam amuses himself imagining what his friend's reaction would be if he cut into stories about trips to the space station to talk about trips to other planets. Cam prefers to travel in ways that don't involve him losing control of his own body. He doesn't like the feeling of weakness that comes with zero gravity. He'll take the Odyssey's artificial gravity and Gate travel over the weightlessness of the comparatively rickety ISS any day.

Sam's voice crackles to life on the comm, and he can hear her fear and uncertainty. He reassures her as best he can, trying to convince himself that he completely feels the confidence in his reply. He checks the gauges, slowing the ship's velocity as much as he can manage. The indicator barely clears the zero mark, but on a ship the size of the Odyssey, even the smallest movement requires significant force and he knows he's flying much faster than he'd like.

In space, there's no altitude. With no reference point, no gravity, there's nothing to be "above." Though the Odyssey is meant for space flight, she routinely enters atmosphere and therefore comes equipped with an altimeter. Cam glances at it, unsurprised to find the reading flat. Zero altitude, pushing for zero airspeed. A trickle of sweat slips down the back of his neck and the memory of his first emergency ejection pulls him in.

He'd been coming in for landing during a training exercise when his engine caught fire. At such low airspeed and altitude, he had no time to contemplate his options, and he hit his zero-zero ejection a split second before control ordered him to. His parachute opened just before the engine failed completely and the plane hit the ground. He floated above the burning wreckage, his heart hammering in his chest and his hands shaky on the chute controls as he guided his way back to earth.

Zero-zero got him home safely. Zero took him to the stars and to the other side of the universe.

A Zero Point Module brought him into the SGC. Colonel O'Neill's quest, SG-1's trouble, Cam's role in the fight over Antarctica and everything that followed -- it was down to a ZPM. A ZPM gave them Atlantis, gave them a home far, far away from home. He has stood on a planet in another galaxy, under unfamiliar stars above a floating city-spaceship. All down to zero.

Sam disappears from view as the ship closes in on her position and Cam turns his full attention to the gauges in front of him.

There's no room for error. There will be no opportunities to try again, no do-overs. Zero tolerance.

The gauges hold even, zero bank angle, zero angle of attack, heading unchanged. Cam feels the entire ship hold its breath as they reach the final moments of the insane maneuver he is attempting. The whispers of long-ago aerodynamics lessons, the voice of flight instructors, the memories of the ridiculous maneuvers he somehow managed to pull off in the past crowd the back of his mind, a murmur. Cam shuts them down and focuses on controlling the ship, on the sound of Sam and Kvasir on the comm, on the feel of the yoke in his hands.

Zero second chances. Zero room for error.

He holds his breath until he gets the call that Sam has landed safely.

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