Pairing: John Sheppard/ Cameron Mitchell
Disclaimer: I didn't really hit the fire hydrant. It looked like it...but it wasn't me.
Author's Notes: My recipient requested John/Cam...well, far down her list of wants, she did...and I enjoyed writing it for her. Sadly, she's going to have to porn-it-up in her imagination later.
Summary: Sheppard looked directly at him, catching his smile and smiling ruefully himself. "Welcome to Pegasus," he said. "Someone always wants to paint someone or slaughter the ritual chicken-ish bird or something."
Cameron tensed. He'd been thru the gate literally hundreds of times but he'd never been comfortable when the natives started touching. Still, the old woman holding Sheppard's right hand in hers seemed harmless enough, speaking a lilting language the translation matrix struggled to decode. She turned the hand in hers over, stroking down the strong, masculine fingers, her eyes never leaving Sheppard's as she spoke.
John seemed relaxed, unconcerned. He smiled at the woman, indicating with his free hand that he couldn't understand her, making the old woman smile even wider. Cameron flinched when another, younger woman entered the courtyard, stopping just short of reaching distance from Sheppard.
"She says you have the hands of a lover, as well as a warrior," the younger woman said. "She says that the two sides vie for supremacy, but that if you allow her to paint the holy runes she will tell you about your future so as to see which side will end up the victor."
"That's alright," Sheppard said, gently disengaging his hand from hers. "I'd just as soon find out my future when it happens." He smiled at the woman in front of him, trying to ease any sting his pulling away might have caused. "Thank her for me, though. It's a nice thought."
The old woman reached out to recapture the hand, pulling it to her. She traced down the creases in John's palm, clucking her tongue. She turned her attention to the younger woman, speaking rapidly to her, gesturing with their joined hands to John.
The young woman laughed softly. "Madra says you have sadness she can alleviate if you allow the runes. She's going to be hurt if you don't, you know. Visitors usually agree to allow her the honor. She'll think you do not like her."
Sheppard flicked a glance at Cameron. He addressed the younger woman again. "My name's John, this is Cameron. We're peaceful explorers and haven't been told about your holy runes before. I don't have anything against Madra, here...I'm sure she's great...but I don't know what the significance of painting these runes on me would be. It might be something I can agree to, maybe not. Why don't we have a seat and talk about it?"
Cameron was unwillingly impressed. General Landry's instructions had been to keep Sheppard out of trouble until they could palm him off on Area 51 to wait out Atlantis' return to Pegasus. But it seemed like he'd learned something about diplomacy while he had been away. He seemed to be handling the potentially volatile situation with aplomb and a good deal of charm. He watched the old woman's fingers stroke over Sheppard's for a minute. He did have masculine hands. Cameron pulled his gaze away before Sheppard noticed his interest.
"My name is Bettule. This, as I've said, is Madra. She believes the Old Ways. The ways of the ones that came before. There are runes that are drawn on the hand," she gestured towards Sheppard's right hand, still held fast by Madra, "that follow the lines of Life and Blood. Those runes read the lines of the hand, telling the skilled reader about the person who has earned them."
She smiled again as the old woman spoke. "She says not to be afraid of the runes. You are brave, strong, and desirable. What could they tell you that you do not already know?"
There was a moment of quiet while Sheppard seemed to absorb what he was told. "And if she doesn't like what she reads?"
"The reading is only for the one who has earned the lines. There is nothing for any other to do." Bettule seemed genuinely confused by that. Cameron thought it might even be the truth, but both men had been in enough situations to be wary. Off-worlders tended to get unhappy over seemingly simple things.
"The marks will fade in a short span; usually disappearing completely within twelve suns."
"Like henna," John said. Cameron nodded, though no one was paying him the slightest attention.
"So what would Madra be getting out of this exactly?" Cameron felt the need to ask. He wasn't eager to report back to Landry that he'd let Sheppard get into trouble after all.
Bettule laughed. "He will make an old woman happy, no more. We greet very few new visitors. There are so few left that believe the Old Ways. The Wraith have seen to that."
John smiled at the two women. "Sure. She can paint runes on me and read my future as long as no one comes at me with pitch forks afterwards."
Madra must have understood John's willingness because she smiled again, pressing a chaste kiss to the palm of the hand she then released. She hurried towards the first building they'd passed coming into the square, turning and gesturing for the three of them to follow.
Cameron smiled. He'd worked with Sheppard briefly on Atlantis but this was their first excursion together since the city returned to Earth. Landry's orders were clear. Check up on the allies the expedition had been forced to leave behind, reassure them that Atlantis would be returning soon and keep Sheppard and his team from getting into trouble. The General was worried that Sheppard would make matters into his own hands about the timing of that return...hell, he'd already done that once before...and had Cameron babysitting to ensure that didn't happen again. He knew John was pissed about it, but orders were orders. To Sheppard's credit, he hadn't taken his unhappiness out on any of the teams assigned to him.
Sheppard looked directly at him, catching his smile and smiling ruefully himself. "Welcome to Pegasus," he said. "Someone always wants to paint someone or slaughter the ritual chicken-ish bird or something." He dipped his head, looking at Cam through thick, dark lashes. "Makes me kind of homesick." Sheppard gestured for Cameron to enter the building where the women waited, his warm hand resting briefly on the small of Cam's back.
He managed not to press back into the light touch. It was hard.
The room seemed dark after the bright sun they'd left behind. Cameron blinked rapidly a few times to help his eyes adjust to the gloom. Madra gestured impatiently for them to draw closer to where she waited with a small jar of her ink. She smoothed her gnarled fingers over the brush she held, shaping the bristles into a tight point. She patted the stool that was next to her for Sheppard and spoke rapidly to Bettule again.
"She asks if it is a woman or a man that waits for you," Bettule began. "It matters, you see, in the interpretations she makes of what she reads."
Both Cameron and Sheppard coughed. Sure, Don't Ask Don't Tell was gone, but the years of careful responses...no matter your preferences...didn't die so easily.
"There's no one waiting for me, at least not like she means." John smiled. Cameron thought he looked a little sad. "At least not any more."
Madra reached over and ran her fingertips over Sheppard's lips. Cameron shifted, suddenly aware that his BDUs were feeling a little tight. Sheppard had full, sensuous lips for a man. Not that Cameron was looking. That would just be torture, and Cam wasn't into torture.
Sheppard cocked his head, looking over at the old woman crooning something to him. "What's she saying?" he asked.
"She is sorry that you are lonely, she says. She says he was a fool...and it will end badly for him and then he, too, will be alone." She looked over to where Cameron was trying to keep his mouth closed and blinked innocently at him. "She says you have other ones to choose from; ones that could give you the satisfaction you deserve."
Sheppard barked a laugh. "Well, that would be nice. Let's see what the runes tell us, why don't we?" He shot a look at Cameron that was difficult to interpret. Embarrassed? Some. But there was something more. He'd been neatly outed by Madra...Cameron had taken note that Sheppard hadn't corrected her assumption it had been a man he'd been involved with...but didn't seem concerned. Cameron tried not to read too much into that.
The old woman motioned for Sheppard to remove his jacket. John gamely stripped off his TAC vest and jacket, handing them over to Cameron along with his P-90. "There's a Life Signs Detector in my vest pocket, Colonel. If you hand it to me I'll initialize it and you'll be able to watch for...visitors while I get painted."
Smiling, Cam found the small tablet and handed it over, brushing his fingers against John's on the hand off. Madra smiled slyly at the by-play, gesturing and speaking rapidly to Bettule.
"She says that this one is a wiser choice than your feckless love. This one would happily bed you and bring you satisfaction." She smiled at Cameron, clearly aware that the words embarrassed him and was amused by that.
John looked at Cameron for a long moment. Cam felt a blush creep up his neck at the careful scrutiny. "Would he now," Sheppard murmured.
In point of fact, Cam would like to bed Sheppard. Hell, who wouldn't? Before it had seemed an impossibility but now things were looking up. He raised his eyes to Sheppard's. "Yeah," he croaked. Clearing his throat he tried again, "yeah, he would."
Madra cackled her sly laugh again, reaching over to pat Cameron's reddened cheek. Taking John's hand back into her own she dipped the brush into her ink and began to paint. Fine, curling tendrils of brown, swirling from his knuckles, over the back of his hand, circling around the surprisingly delicate knob of his wrist.
Cameron's mouth was dry with want. He forced himself to keep an eye on the LSD even as he watched as Madra dipped her brush again and again, working until the whole of Sheppard's hand was covered with her work. With one last swirl across the lifeline on John's palm she laid aside her brush and held his hand near her face. Carefully examining the painted surface she turned his hand this way, then that. Running a finger over the dried ink to follow the lines drawn, she nodded. She turned to Bettule and spoke for several long moments.
"Madra repeats that you have two natures. The warrior you most definitely are vies against the lover you wish to be. The warrior is cold. Efficient. Deadly. The lover is soft, tender, sensual. The lover has needs that the warrior ignores. Madra says this must stop. There is no reason the lover cannot be satisfied even as the warrior rules your dual nature." She waited while Madra spoke again. "She says you must chose a lover for yourself that shares your desire to see justice for the afflicted. One with strength enough to force your warrior nature to submit to a lovers embrace. One that will fill you as you deserve...as you need to be filled."
Madra spoke again, gesturing at John as she did so. Again, Bettule translated. "She says that the holy runes have spoken clearly to her. More clearly than in many years past. You can trust what the runes say. You will pick a new lover. One that will be constant. One that will give you great pleasure. You will begin to know that pleasure this night." Bettule bowed slightly to Sheppard. "You have given Madra a gift by allowing this. She says that this clear, bright telling of the Writings will give her a peaceful passing when her time comes. Thank you." She bowed again, and turning, bowed also to Mitchell. "Mind what the runes have told you. What they have told you both." Then she helped the old woman gather her things and left the two men in the hut.
"Well, howdy." Mitchell blew out a breath. "My momma never told me there would be days like this!"
John shrugged, "well, you know. When in Pegasus?" He gave a half-hearted shrug. "It's not a big thing, Cam. One more Pegasus weirdness. You get used to it after a while."
"Do you?" Cam asked.
"Get used to it?" Sheppard looked confused. Confused and just a little wary. This could still end badly.
"Do you want someone to submit to? Someone to use their strength to make you submit?" Cam studied the pretty blush traveling across John's cheeks. "Because I'm pretty sure I'm the man to do it, if you do."
Sheppard blinked at Cam, without words for the first time since passing through the 'gate. Cam tilted his head, letting his eyes travel the length of John's body with blatant want. "Unless you don't think you can handle it. I wouldn't want to scare you."
With an oath, John pulled Cameron to him. "You're not too much for me to handle, Mitchell. I think I may be too much for you, though. After all, I'm the one that's all deserving here. You're just along to keep me out of trouble."
Cameron laughed. "Yeah. Did a good job, too." He lifted John's painted hand and ran his thumb over the lines drawn there, drawing a gasp from Sheppard. "Let's finish up this meet and greet and get back to Atlantis. Then we'll see how much trouble I'll let you can get into, okay?"
John closed his fingers over Cam's. "Yeah. Okay."