|And If The Answer's No, Can I Change Your Mind?
Follows There's A Girl Going Crazy About You (And I'm Not Far Behind) by three months; set between Girl Going Crazy and Valentine the Destroyer.
Carter is scraping dirt into vials and Jackson has wandered off somewhere with Teal'c -- Cam wasn't listening to Jackson's babbling when they left, and the thing that nobody told him about SG-1, the thing that's turned out to be both blessing and curse, is that they've all been doing this for so long that a CO is sort of a formality. He's almost not the new guy anymore, but even if he's not the new guy, Carter and Jackson and Teal'c have got the whole thing down to a science.
And nobody ever tells Cam where they're going, unless he asks. Sometimes he wonders if he should be asking, all the time, whenever Jackson wanders off somewhere off-world -- O'Neill told him that it was his job to make sure Jackson didn't get into any trouble.
Cam hasn't been very good at that, but to be fair, most of those times weren't really his fault. Much.
So Jackson is wandering around with Teal'c and Carter is talking to her dirt, and Cam is sitting on the gate platform with Vala, working on his tan. At least the weather's good -- sometimes he's not sure why else he comes along on these missions, except to watch the sun bring more freckles up on his arms while he sits around. He's ignoring Vala mostly because she keeps staring at him and he can't figure out what she wants, and there are bugs biting the back of his neck even though he put a shitload of bug spray on before they left and after they got here.
Carter is digging around like a six year old in a sand box and Cam is being molested by extragalactic mosquitoes. It's not the worst mission they've been on, but it's definitely bottom ten.
He smacks a mosquito off his cheek, and Vala says, "I think you'll do."
"What," Cam says. "Like I'm a dog you're going to take home from the pound?"
"What?" Vala says.
"Never mind," Cam says.
Carter stops talking to the dirt and Jackson and Teal'c come back. Jackson is still yammering away happily and Teal'c's expression is inscrutable to Cameron, but Cam thinks that Teal'c conceals boredom better than Cam or Vala ever could. Cameron watches Vala instead, because she's watching Daniel with her cat-who-got-the-cream expression, and he's still trying to figure out what his part in this whole crazy shenanigan is.
Jackson and Vala aren't any different -- they still fight all the time, and she'll steal anything that's not nailed down, and some stuff that is. She watches Jackson like a hawk, and so Cam does, too. He doesn't know what Vala is looking for, but Cam is looking for an answer to questions he won't let himself ask. He's figured out how he fits on SG-1, the team, and he's still trying to figure out where he fits with all of them, individually, outside of that -- trying to figure out where he fits into the Jackson-and-Vala puzzle. Trying to figure out where he fits with Vala, and with Jackson.
It's the same, and it's different, and Cam spends a lot more time watching Jackson closely than he did before. Jackson is inscrutable. All of them are inscrutable, in their own way, and Cam has the feeling that if someone asked Carter, or Jackson, or Vala or Teal'c, they would say the same thing about him.
Cam watches him in case Jackson gives anything away; he doesn't know what he's waiting for Jackson to give away, but something. Anything. He's getting eaten alive by mosquitoes on an alien planet waiting for a sign from an archaeologist who's been dead a couple of times. Waiting for a sign from an intergalactic space thief who accidentally birthed a destroyer of worlds.
Waiting for a sign from both of them -- a sign that maybe he won't have to be alone for that much longer.
Cam's life is nothing if not weird, but he isn't sure he'd change it if he could.
Carter takes her dirt home and Jackson has an hour's worth of video footage of some place that he thinks an archaeological team should go back to, but he doesn't seem excited about it himself. Cam stays late to catch up on his paperwork, and by the time he signs out of the Mountain and heads home, Jackson and Vala are long gone -- and together, by the log book at the exit.
Cam goes home and eats four slices of cold pizza and drinks a beer, standing up in front of the sink, because eating cold pizza at his kitchen table, alone, seems sort of more pathetic than he's willing to admit his life is. He falls asleep in front of an Air Force basketball game, halfway through another beer, and wakes up when he rolls over and falls off the couch onto the floor. The phone is ringing, which is clearly what woke him up, and when he squints at his watch, he notices that it's almost 3 a.m. No good news ever comes when a phone rings at 3 in the morning.
The phone stops ringing, electronic secure voicemail courtesy of the SGC picking up, before Cam can get his legs working well enough to get up off the floor and find wherever he threw the portable handset when he finished talking to his roommate from college the day before yesterday. He lets his head thump back down on the floor, and tries not to think about Jackson and Vala sleeping somewhere, together. Cam wants someone to share a bed with -- someone who steals the covers and snores, someone to keep him warm in the night.
He isn't jealous that Jackson has Vala -- he's jealous that they have each other.
Underneath the couch, the phone cheerfully beeped its almost-out-of-batteries noise at him, and Cam closes his eyes. He falls asleep on the floor without listening to the voicemail -- because if it's that bad, they'll call back -- and sleeps dreamlessly. He wakes up with the sun on his face, light streaming through the windows, alone.
The voicemail is from Jackson's cell phone number, the robotic recorded voice tells Cam, but it's Vala's voice on the message. Cam knows that Jackson keeps odd hours -- when he inherited SG-1 from General O'Neill, O'Neill told Cameron to make sure that Daniel ate, slept, and remembered to take showers; Cam hadn't asked why a grown man needed to be reminded of those things, but he'd wondered, and then he'd actually met Jackson -- but Jackson mostly keeps odd hours at the Mountain, not at his apartment.
If Jackson can be pried away from his work, mostly he sleeps like a normal person -- or, really, like a normal member of SG-1, which means on the couch in front of the television.
Cam knows that Jackson watches a lot of History Channel, just to make fun of the programming, and he knows that Jackson would rather stay in the Mountain than go home to an empty apartment, but those two things seem like pathetic drops in the ocean that is Daniel Jackson's personal life. Nobody talks about anything, and the things Cam's figured out from the mission reports have only left him with more questions.
Jackson goes home a lot more, now that he has Vala. Cam doesn't blame him -- he'd go home a lot more, instead of just wandering around the Mountain looking for Marines to play basketball with, or reading his way through SG-2's mission reports, or sleeping restlessly in his on-base quarters, if he had somebody like Vala to go home to.
Cam thinks that he'd go home more if he had somebody like Jackson to go home to, too, and he startles himself so much, thinking that, that he hangs up the phone and stands in his living room for a minute, trying out the idea. He thinks about Vala saying that he'll do, and he thinks about Jackson without Vala. The mental picture is fuzzy -- Vala without Jackson is something Cameron knows, but Jackson without Vala is an alien entity, and not one that's entirely bad, in Cameron's head.
Vala calls him, but he thinks about Jackson. Half the time Vala seems like a fantasy out of some bad sci-fi movie (Cam's whole life is a bad sci-fi movie), and Jackson is annoying and cranky and he keeps getting kidnapped and making Cam worry about him, but he's real. All the things that Jackson does that make Cam crazy are normal human habits.
Cam thinks, maybe Jackson isn't such an unknown quantity, after all.
When he listens to the voicemail again, Vala's voice, tinny on the voicemail and with some quiet murmuring noise in the background (that might have been the television, might have been the stereo, might have been Jackson talking to himself), says, "Cameron, I think you should take me to a basketball game." There's a pause, and Jackson says something indistinct in the background, and Vala says, "Please. I think you should take me to a basketball game, please."
Vala loves television, in a way that Cameron thinks that only aliens can. Jackson says that Teal'c was the same way, when O'Neill hauled a television into the Mountain for him, six or seven months after Teal'c came back to Earth with O'Neill and Jackson and Carter. Cameron can't remember the last time he tuned his own TV to anything other than ESPN.
He stands in the living room, holding the phone -- the robot voice says, message saved. There are no more new messages, and clicks off. ESPN is predictable: Carolina wins, the Yankees win, the Patriots win. Cameron's neck hurts from sleeping on the floor.
Cam's out of coffee because he lives by himself and no one reminds him to buy more. Standing in the kitchen, staring at the coffee maker, he realizes that he can't remember the last time he went to the grocery store -- it's the second week of February, and he thinks that it was maybe sometime right after Christmas (spent off-world, eating bugs with friendly native-types on a planet covered in rainforests) and right before New Year's (resolutions made: remember to go to the grocery store, have sex with someone other than Jackson and Vala or his own right hand).
Jackson is sitting in the commissary when Cam gets there. There's a plate of scrambled eggs, congealing fast, sitting in front of him, and an empty coffee cup across the table. Jackson has a coffee maker in his office and it's rare that anyone sees him before noon, unless they have off-world plans. Cam almost drops his coffee cup, he's so surprised to see Jackson in the commissary -- and pleased to see him, and surprised by that.
The calendar turned over six weeks ago, and somewhere in the last three years (or six months, or six weeks, Cam isn't sure), Jackson and Carter and Teal'c and Vala got to be more than just his teammates. Some of them more more than others, he thinks, and watches Jackson for a minute, because he can, and because Cam has learned that Jackson gives more away when he doesn't know anyone's watching.
"Morning, Jackson," he finally says. Most of the time he comes to the commissary to eat breakfast, because he canceled his subscription to the newspaper after six months of being on SG-1 and eating Cheerios alone in his apartment with no coffee and nothing to read is just another depressing thing about his life right now, but he rarely sees any of the others while he's there. Carter is packing up her office in between missions, getting ready to head to Area 51 for 18 months of scientist exchange program, no time for team breakfasts or lunches or anything. Teal'c apparently stopped eating breakfast when O'Neill left and stopped bullying SG-1 into eating breakfast.
"Mitchell," Jackson says, without looking up. He's got the cover of whatever he's reading folded back so it's not visible, which mean it's probably one of the pulpy mysteries that Jackson devours in his time off and refuses to own up about. "Have a good night?"
"Fell asleep in front of the TV, got a phone message where Vala said please," Cameron says, and Jackson looks up, his expression shifting strangely like he's seeing Cam for the first time. Jackson shoves the scrambled eggs out of the way, marks his place with a receipt from Starbucks and drops the book, cover down, on the table, and Cam knows it's an invitation. "So a little normal, a little weird."
Jackson shifts awkwardly, like he knows a little weird -- as though Vala has said something to Jackson that she hasn't said to Cam, as though Jackson knows something that Cam hasn't been told yet. "Mitchell," he says.
"Save it, Jackson," Cam says, because yeah, he's entertained more than a few thoughts about Jackson and Vala since their spectacular public seduction act, and even stranger he's entertained a few thoughts about actually having more than just sex with one or the other of them, but of all the places in the world -- the commissary at Cheyenne Mountain is about the last place he wants to talk about that.
A shrink's office is a more likely place -- because he's always, always thought he was straight, but more often than not, Jackson's replaced Vala in Cameron's fantasies, and he just doesn't know how to deal with that.
Vala's easy -- Vala is gorgeous and curvy in the right places, and she says what she wants and what she needs. Jackson is complicated and complicating, and most days Cam feels like he needs a translator just to deal with the guy. Jackson, though, is the one who Cam seeks out -- who Cam surprises himself by seeking out. Vala is a fantasy come to life, but Jackson is real and too good to be true, too strange to be normal, all at once.
Cam doesn't know why it's appealing, but it is.
"Sure," Jackson says easily. "I'm sorry she called you in the middle of the night. I should know better than to have taught her how to use the DVR and the speed dial, and I should know better than to fall asleep while she's got the remote control in her hand."
"At least you didn't wake up watching porn," Cam says, because it's true, and because he actually wouldn't mind taking Vala to a basketball game, which is as surprising to discover as her request to be taken.
"That's happened before," Jackson says darkly. It's been almost four months since Jackson and Vala started up whatever this was that they're doing, and the fact that Vala wants to watch porn and Jackson doesn't comes as no surprise to Cameron. "She found ESPN Classic last night, and they were showing some game with Michael Jordan from the 80s. Now she thinks he can fly."
Cam was at State when the legacy of Jordan was still very much present at Carolina. "He kind of could," Cam says. "You ever hear that joke about Jordan in college?"
Jackson looks at him blankly, a little pointedly. Cam says, "Who's the only man who ever held Michael Jordan to less than 20 points a game?"
Jackson says, "I have no earthly idea."
"Dean Smith," Cam says, and Jackson continues to look blank and polite. "Coached Carolina for years, he was big into being a team player. Jordan probably never passed as much as he did the three years he was at Carolina."
"Hmmm," Jackson says.
"Yeah, yeah, I know you don't care."
"I'll buy the tickets if you'll take her to the game," Jackson says.
They don't have conversations about the big things -- the way that Jackson was missing for almost a month, before they got him back from the Orici and the Priors; the way that everything normal, all the boring routine of their lives, is always hanging in a constant terrifying balance against things that could literally end the world. They don't talk about the way that Vala was frantic with grief while Jackson was gone, the way she trailed Cameron around the Mountain like a silent shadow, just to be close to someone for comfort. The way that Cam felt almost as destroyed as she looked, and the way that his feelings, his worry, his fear, ran deeper than just fear for a teammate. The way, when they got Jackson back, that Cam had to stop himself from mapping every inch of Jackson's body with his hands, just to make sure that Jackson was really alive -- the way he didn't think that urge was weird until much, much later.
The way that Cameron wants them both and thinks he could maybe have them, and the way that he doesn't really know what to do with that knowledge -- more questions he doesn't know how to ask, more things about his life he didn't expect SG-1 to change.
The thing is that Cameron's life is so weird -- weird beyond explanation, most of the time, and it's become normal. Weird is the new normal, and Cam's life is the epitome of weirdly normal.
"Sure," Cameron says. "Air Force is actually really good this year. Is she going to freak out when she figures out these guys can't really fly?"
Vala has swung, faster than a pendulum and not nearly as evenly, from rage to pleasure to frustration in the six weeks that Jackson has been back. While Jackson was gone, too, but she was Cameron's duty then, and since Jackson has been back, he's taken over talking her down, talking her up, talking her out of whatever has sent her mood spinning out of control. She scares Cam a little, like this, but he can't say that he didn't spend most of the month that Jackson was gone terrified out of his own mind, and he understands it.
Jackson shrugs, and stares at a spot over Cam's shoulder that suggests yes, she probably will.
"Don't worry about it," Cam says. "I'll take care of her."
"I know," Jackson says, which is just cryptic enough that Cam doesn't understand what he means, and which is just personal enough that he won't ask about it in the mess. Story of Cameron's life with SG-1, when you get down to it, and Jackson stands up, claps a hand on Cam's shoulder and drifts off, mystery novel and coffee cup in hand, without another word.
Story of Cam's life -- the stuff he wants is the stuff he doesn't get, and the stuff he could have is the stuff he doesn't want. Once in a while, Cam would like a happy ending -- a happy ending to anything at all. Jackson's still walking around like a ghost in the hallways, shattered almost to pieces by the things that Adria did, and Vala is a volcano getting ready to blow. Carter stayed an extra month while Jackson was missing, but she's leaving as soon as she can -- the plans went back into action as soon as she thought he was going to be okay (Carter's definition of Jackson's "okay" is different than Cam's, but he guesses she knows more about Jackson than he does; or she thinks she does, Cam's not sure which), and Teal'c is on Dakara doing his Jaffa thing.
They all got what they wanted -- Jackson back safely -- and it's not a happy ending at all.
He leaves his coffee cup by the cold scrambled eggs and follows Jackson out. When Cam gets clear of the clutch of Marines hovering by the door, he looks for the path Jackson's taken, but he's gone.
Cam takes six steps in the direction of Jackson's office, and then he stops in the hallway and tries to figure out what he'd get if he tracked Jackson down, now -- what he wants to get. More conversation, maybe, and Cam just -- likes the guy's company, because he's Jackson, not because he's Daniel Jackson, Hero Returned From The Dead And/Or Supposedly Dead And/Or Evil And/Or Supposedly Evil.
Cam turns around and goes back to his own office instead, and looks up Air Force basketball tickets on the Internet.
Clune Arena is loud, and hot, and Cam tugs at the collar of his Class Bs, wishing he'd decided to take Vala anywhere else; anywhere he didn't have to wear his uniform. All of the cadets around him look so young, and they keep saluting him when they see his rank; what seemed like a good idea when Jackson asked the favor seems like the worst idea Cameron's ever had right now. He wants to go home and take off his pants and sit on the couch watching UCLA destroy some hapless Pac-10 team more than he ever has before.
But he casts a glance Vala's direction, and she's fascinated -- she's clutching a bucket of popcorn and a program and a Coke the size of her head, and she's practically vibrating with excitement watching all the people. He thinks about how pleased she was when they let her start playing two-on-two with them on base, and he wonders why no one thought to take her to a game before this.
Cam has a sudden flash that they've been going about this all wrong -- trying to convince these other worlds, other people, that the Ori are to be feared and fought against, with talk of morals and saving the world. They've always meant their world -- help us save Earth -- as much as they've meant the rest of the galaxy, and who wouldn't? It's their home. Help us save our home. Even sweaty and uncomfortable and miserable, he thinks that they should just have brought everyone ever to a college basketball game and the whole galaxy, the entire universe, would realize why life was worth saving.
He doesn't think that Landry or the Joint Chiefs or the Pentagon or the President would approve that expense request, though, and so he watches Vala, entranced by everything around her (everything that's making Cam so claustrophobic, so itchy, so totally freaked out), and knows that even without the happy endings, the fight is still worth the trouble.
"This is phenomenal," Vala says, nudging Cam with her elbow and spilling popcorn onto the floor. "All these people come to watch a game?"
"Yep," Cam says.
"Thank you for bringing me," Vala says, and it's the third time in two weeks that he's heard her say something that surprised him.
You'll do. Please. And thank you.
Cam doesn't know what's going on -- he doesn't know how to ask the questions he wants the answers to -- but it seems normal, right there in the middle of taking-an-alien-to-a-college-basketball-game weird.
"You're welcome," Cam says. "You know they can't really fly?"
"Yes," Vala says. "I'm not stupid."
And she isn't, Cam knows this. She's smarter than the rest of SG-1 put together, really, even if her smarts aren't textbook. Vala knows exactly how people work -- she just doesn't always care. Cam has to give her credit for that.
"This should be a fun game," he says. The thing about working at the SGC is that favors called in go up a lot higher, and he'd scored a pair of seats three rows back from the Air Force bench. He got Vala and her popcorn and her enormous Coke settled, and leaned back to check the place out. Smaller than Reynolds, smaller than Cameron, and not nearly as loud as either of those places, but a pretty decent little court for the Academy, and especially for a team like this one that was going to surprise a lot of people in April.
"Did you play in college?" Vala says, through a mouthful of popcorn.
"What?" Cam says. "God, no."
"You play now," Vala points out.
Cam says, "For fun. The school I went to, basketball wasn't just for fun. It was for blood, and money, and bragging rights in the state of North Carolina." He pauses, because State when he was there was thin on the ground, trying to find someone to replace Jimmy V, and he says, "Mostly because I was too short."
The game is good -- Air Force jumps out to a big lead over Brigham Young, and the whole second half is skinny white boys with shaved heads dunking and flinging behind-the-back passes all over the place. Vala claps wildly; when one big forward tries to throw down MJ's signature 360 dunk and it ricochets out of the rim, shooting into the crowd, she laughs so hard she has to lean against Cameron's shoulder, her whole body shaking with hysterics.
He puts an arm around her and she presses her face against his throat, and all the noise in Clune fades out to a dull roar -- everything in the place distilled down to Vala's face against his throat, the silence so loud he can hear his own heartbeat.
"That was wonderful," she says against his skin. Her breath is hot, and Cam has only really know that he's been in big, big trouble two times: when he figured out that the SG-1 he was joining wasn't that SG-1 at all; and now, his arm around Vala, knowing that she was the one he wanted first, and knowing that whenever he thinks of her, he thinks of Jackson, too. Vala's smooth skin against his throat, but Jackson's stubble rasping across the back of his neck, as well -- Vala's curves, and the broad muscles of Jackson's shoulders underneath his t-shirts.
She pulls away just enough to meet his eyes, one hand resting on his thigh and the other still fisted in his uniform, and says, "You like me."
He doesn't know if it's a question or a comment, so he says, "Yes." He does. He thinks she's funny, and sexy, and she can shut Jackson up faster than anybody else in the galaxy. He likes Jackson, too, for all Jackson's single-minded determined-to-know-everything nature gets them into trouble -- Jackson is slyly funny, too, and generous, and he was kind to Cam even when he was saying no about coming back to SG-1.
"You like Daniel," she says.
"Yes," Cam says. "I like everybody on SG-1."
"You like him more," she says, and he wants to ask -- more than what? More than you? More than General Landry? More than the Final Four? "You'd look after him."
"Come on," Cam says, because he almost has an inkling what she's saying. He took care of her while Jackson was missing, and even though Carter sat in the mess with Cam a dozen different late night, talking him through keeping the team together while someone was missing, he doesn't even want to have to do it again. He knows he will, but that doesn't mean he has to like it.
There's plenty already that he doesn't like about his life, starting with the fact that he's alone.
"Cameron," she says, and one of the skinny cadets throws down another rim-shaking dunk and the arena erupts around them.
"Of course," Cam says, because he'd have to -- if Vala left, Cameron would be the only one who could look after Jackson. He has no idea how to look after Jackson, but he's figured tougher problems out. He could figure Jackson out, maybe, if he tried, and he'd be willing to try. He would want to try. "You know that."
Clune is screamingly loud, the cadets practically dancing in the stands as Air Force shoots the lights out on their way to 21-3, but Vala's face is serious and she curls her fingers into his jacket, right over his heart. "It's not that easy," he says.
"It is," she insists, and maybe it is -- Vala has made a habit of moving on when she thinks it won't be easy. He's never asked her if leaving a dozen places she might have called home has been hard. He's only counted one place in his life as home, and he hasn't lived there for a dozen years, and it's still hard.
"This isn't," Cam says, and he doesn't know what it isn't. It isn't a lot of things, but it is something he wants, and in between the speakers thumping and the backboards rattling and the cadets dancing like maniacs, it almost feels like something he could get.
Vala says, "Don't be so scared, Cameron," and the final buzzer goes, drowning out the sound of Cam's heart beating heavily in his chest.
Cameron could make a list of all the things in the world that it's worth being afraid of: start with the Goa'uld, end with the Ori, slot his grandmother's disappointment in him somewhere in the middle, but Jackson and Vala are nowhere on the list, and Cam doesn't think that finding a little human comfort is on that list anywhere, either.
The cadets are still celebrating -- Cam reads the papers, and Wisconsin is spiraling downwards, which means this victory puts Air Force firmly in the top ten come Monday -- when they force their way out of Clune. The air is cold and clean, and Cameron takes a deep breath as soon as they step outside. Vala presses against his side, and when he looks down, she's still clutching the game program that he bought her.
He didn't think she was attached to material possessions, except as a status symbol -- as a way to have enough money to escape when she needs to, but when she climbs into the car, she spreads it out in her lap and smoothes her hands over it, and she smiles a tiny, private smile before looking up and smiling at him, completely open and unguarded. It surprises him so much that he throws the car into third gear instead of first, and the engine sputters and cuts out.
"Thank you," she says.
"My pleasure," Cam says, because it turns out that it was.
She's quiet on their way home, except to say, "Daniel's apartment, please, Cameron," which just drives home some point that Cam doesn't understand. She goes home to someone warm and real -- she goes home to Jackson -- and he goes home alone, again.
When he pulls up in front of Jackson's building, she climbs out while he sits in the car with the engine idling, and then Vala leans back in the open door. "Come upstairs," she says.
"Is that an order?" Cam asks, halfway sarcastic and halfway honest, because turning off the engine and stepping out of the car is crossing into territory he's thought about in vague, smeary watercolor terms, and it's terrifying.
"Do you need it to be, Colonel?" Vala says, sounding playful, leaning down so her cleavage displays. He rolls his eyes at her, and she smiles, easy and open, and he thinks that this unguarded smile is something that she's learned from Jackson. Jackson is inscrutable, except when he smiles, and from the very beginning, Cam's been able to see everything Jackson feels written all over his face when he smiles.
"No," Cameron says, and she slams the door and he throws the car into neutral and kills the engine. Cam sits and stares at the steering wheel for a long moment, and thinks human comfort, and not sure what I'm getting into, and if she leaves. He thinks about the way Vala is warm and sexy and funny. He thinks about the way Jackson looks when he crawls out of the tent in the mornings when they're off-world, and the way Jackson looked when they got him back from the Orici. He thinks about the way Jackson was the first one to come back to SG-1, even if he dragged his feet.
Then he opens the door and climbs out.
Jackson lives in one of the swankiest buildings in Colorado Springs, but if you're making what Cam knows the SGC pays Jackson, plus you have a houseful of priceless ancient (and Ancient) artifacts, you can pretty much live wherever you want. Jackson is sacked out on the couch when Vala opens the door, the only light in the place a table lamp behind his head, reading something that Cam would bet doesn't feature pictures of naked girls (or boys).
"Hi," Jackson says. "You have fun?"
"Yes," Vala says. "I brought Cameron home."
Jackson takes his glasses off and squints at Cam, like he's not sure Cam is actually real, and Cam almost turns and flees in that minute, but he's made a choice, and he doesn't back down when he's made a choice. He never has. "Hey," Jackson says. "Took you long enough."
Cam doesn't know which of them Jackson is talking to -- him, or Vala. He doesn't know if it matters. He doesn't know what it means, either, but it almost sounds like welcome home, and somehow that's exactly what he's expecting to hear.
He closes the door and steps into the living room, and Jackson smiles at him, and Cam can see answers written all over Jackson's face. This is weird, and it might get weirder, and Cam is okay with that.
author's notes: title and summary from the killers. ezand d. did beta duty -- d. in particular asked the right questions, to help me go from the first draft to the second -- and maggie answers all my stupid military protocol questions. all remaining mistakes are mine.