Something, John's body tensing up beside him, wakes Cam up. He hears immediately what had John spooked. It was the gate. Someone was coming. Their camp was hidden out of sight, built behind a wall of rock and vegetation. Someone would have to know of its existence in order to know where to look for the entrance.
John holds up four fingers. Four chevrons left. They reach for their guns lying beside the bed. There isn't enough time to strap on the holsters so they just pull the guns and let the leather fall on the floor as they stand ready. Cam grabs up a crossbow they have in case they need to dispatch their trespassers quietly.
Each taking a different direction. By time the event horizon had settled Cam and John were watching, hidden. A man steps through the gate. He's big and dressed like anyone else they've met in the last two years. Leather and homespun is all the rage with the kids these days. He's also very familiar and Cam shakes his head because its not possible for that person to be standing in the field below. He and the rest of Atlantis had died after a downed hive ship had crashed into the center spire and sunk the city back to the bottom of the ocean. This time for good. Cam and John had listened to the Queens of the other hives gloat over the city's death over and over again before shoving trackers next to the men's spines.
Cam noticed movement across the field, coming down the small hill. John with his gun hand at his side instead of pointing. Apparently, the stranger really is who Cam thinks it is. Ronon. It's not possible. They felt the concussion blast from the Stargate exploding. At least that's what they thought it was. If it had just been the other hive exploding in orbit the ship they were on would have to have been on top of it.
"Is it you?" John asks, the sound carrying easily. Cam stands up and makes his way through the brush to join them.
"Is she… Is everyone else still…" John's voice cracks and goes silent. Cam gets it because they had stopped allowing themselves to even think about Atlantis and her occupants a long time ago.
Ronon gives his head a slight tilt in Cam's direction before nodding. "We're still standing. Everyone thought you two-"
Cam interrupts him, "Well, we're not. We dialed home. You didn't answer. Fuck, the call wouldn't even go through after a while and we believed those bitches that said you exploded and sunk."
He's mad, and Cam can see that John is too from the tensed lines of his body as John asks, "How did you know to come here and why didn't you come before?" John is standing almost nose to nose with Ronon as he finishes.
Ronon doesn't flinch at having suddenly a face full of John Sheppard. "Old friend of yours. We found him just before he died of starvation. Someone had cut off his feeding hand."
John takes a step back in surprise. "Todd? I haven't seen him since we killed the replicators."
The weird relationship that John has - had - with the wraith always freaked Cam out. He once called it Stockholm Syndrome in front of John and it was the one of the few times they'd fought. There was more to the compromises they both made for each other. Maybe it had to do with John's exposure to the iratus bug and retrovirus, or maybe it Todd giving John his life back had linked them in more than one way. John would deny any of it but he still looked like his damn puppy had died at the news that Todd was gone for good.
Ronon stared at John, barely flicking a look in Cam's direction. "He didn't actually say your name but he mentioned someone putting the hurt on the different Wraith alliances, that it seemed familiar to him. You ready to come home yet?"
Cam moved to stand beside John, he could feel John practically vibrating. "Take us home. We can finish story-time there."
Cam is braced for a big welcoming committee when the three of them emerge through the gate, but the room is dark and almost empty. There are four people at the top of the stairs and one of them is dead. Both he and John have their guns out and pointing at the group and covering Ronon.
"What the fuck is this? Whoever you guys are you screwed up," John shouted, "Re-dial the gate back to the planet we were just on. Now!"
Sam Carter takes a step down the stairs. "Cam," she says and he could swear that its really her when her voice cracks just the way he expects. "Please, its safe. You're both safe now."
"Oh shit, you think…" Rodney McKay's voice echoes as he practically shouts. "It's not a trick. This is really Carson. Just let us explain."
"Screw that. Dial right the fuck now!" Cam answers. It takes him a second to realize that the whine he hears is from an energy gun just as John pushes him aside and a bolt of red flies past him.
"Godammit, Ronon, stand down!" The guy that looks like McKay rushes down the stairs hunched over to make himself look less like a target. Cam sees John hesitate even as he lays a bead on the man. McKay pushes Ronon's gun to the side. "I know you mean well and that thing is set to stun but remember the way you more like a feral cat after running for so long. If they want to go-" McKay sighs as he looks at the two of them sadly. "We let them go."
Cam is sure that his wrist is broken judging by the knot rising up under the skin; he tucks it against his stomach and leans against the wall grateful that it's his left wrist. John is sitting with a ripped piece cloth from his uniform pressed against the gash behind his ear. They were more beat up from the hive ship bouncing them around than they were when they woke up in the cell. A broken wrist and a concussion is going to make it a lot harder for them to escape than they first predicted.
The expected tramping of heavy boots finally arrives and they both stand up, trying not to look as pathetic as they feel.
"I was starting to think you'd forgotten about us," John quipped, standing in front of Cam. He would have been irritated by that normally but John knows the wraith more than Cam and if he thinks that Cam shouldn't been seen as weak with his wrist pressed protectively against his body then he wasn't going to fight it. No need to use up whatever reserves he has left just because of his ego.
Cam had seen the drones and the higher caste Wraith (he still couldn't figure out how they ranked themselves and a part of him regretted not asking Atlantis' Anthro dept. But he'd never encountered a Queen before. To be perfectly honest he'd never wanted to meet one either. The reports were enough to give him a few bad dreams when he'd been given TDY in Pegasus.
He was in for a treat because when they arrived in the Queen's chamber there was not one, but three, Queens waiting for them. The fear that John quickly shut down on his face was all the indication Cam needed to know just how fucked they were before being shoved down to his knees. John went down a little more smoothly. Too much damn practice at this scene.
It's strange how just a little bit of hair coloring can make them look even more frightening than the males, Cam thinks as the Queens approach. The one in the center with the blue hair must belong to this ship because she takes the lead and runs her hands down the sides of both Cam and John's hair.
"Clever, Lanteans, but not clever enough. You may have destroyed several of our hives this day but we were still victorious. Your city is no more."
John subtly moves his head away from her hand as he glares up at her. "Good try but you'll have to find some other poor schmuck to buy that."
Cam is jerked up to his feet by the drone behind him and drug over to one wall that begins to melt away. The view is distorted by the thin membrane that separates them all from hard vacuum but they all can see the destroyed hive in the water near what looks to be one of the piers. It doesn't take long before that last piece of the city sinks below the surface. The city, their friends, the family they'd made are all gone. The dead pieces of wraith hive prevent the water from going still but Cam cannot stop from searching the water for some sign of human survivors. Please, god, one jumper of people at least, Cam prays to himself before a hand his pressed to his chest and all thought of his friends and Atlantis are subsumed by the pain of having is life ripped away.
He wakes to John sitting over him, holding his head in his lap. When Cam holds his hand up to his face, he's shocked to not see wrinkles and liver spots. "Why ain't I dead or old?" he asks.
"Because we want to have a little bit of fun with you both before we take our fill. We want to see how clever Lanteans can really be without the might of the City of the Ancients behind them." Red Queen says beside Blue. The one with Black hair doesn't look too happy about the idea but doesn't say a word in front of the kids.
John stands up silently, helping Cam up to his feet. Cam notices that his left wrist isn't hurting anymore and rotates it slowly. "Yeah, they healed that up when they gave everything back to you," John said pointing at the wrist.
"I honestly don't know what to say to that." Cam looks from one Queen to the other, waiting for the shoe to drop. It doesn't take long when they're manhandled out of the room and shoved down onto tabletops, their backs exposed to knives and warped pieces of medical equipment shoved into their flesh before the wounds are finally closed again.
-- end of flashback --
"Rodney, you can't really serious about letting them go back," Carson said forcefully, pointing at the two of them with their guns unwavering. "They look half-starved."
McKay rolled his eyes. "Are you kidding me, they've both always looked like they were in serious need of a cupcake or two." He faced John. "I don't care what Carson says, we're going to let you go but you have to tell us if you need anything. We'll take this slowly."
"Who died and put you in charge?" John asked him.
"No one but I don't want you to disappear on us again. We need you to come back home."
John takes a step back from McKay. "We'll think about it." They both wait for Ronon lower his gun before dropping theirs at the same time.
No one says a word until McKay clears his throat and asks. "You are going to get some haircuts while you're here, right? Because those ponytails on the two of you are freaking me out."
"Dr. Rodney McKay, the voice of peace and reason," John mutters under his breath.
Cam almost laughs. "Now I'm really scared."
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