blue flamingos

Field Work

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis/Stargate SG1

Category/Rated: AU, Slash, PG

Year/Length: 2009/ ~4500

Pairing: John/Cam (Lorne/Ford)

Spoilers: no spoilers for either series

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: There are weirder ways to meet than via mating grouse, broken trucks and possible serial killers. John's life just doesn't include them

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

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John's hands have long ago turned numb, even with two layers of gloves, and he's eighty percent convinced he's seeing things, as evidenced by the fact that two of the last three times he activated the trap there was nothing in it. He's seriously starting to regret ever taking this job, whatever Professor O'Neill said about it being useful experience for his thesis; John's had a week with no-one to talk to other than a few minutes on the radio every evening, and he's come to the conclusion that O'Neill was just trying to get John out of his hair for a semester.

Either that, or John did something truly heinous in a previous life and twelve hour days staring at snow and listening to grouse hoot at their prospective mates is his punishment. It's a toss up.

He digs under the close fitting sleeves of his jacket to get a good look at his watch. Only another ten minutes till Evan's due to come and replace him in their ancient off-roader with heat and possibly even coffee. Just the thought of it makes John feel better. He peers out of the hide, but there're only shadows; even the grouse have decided it's too cold and gone to nest.

John's coasting on dreams of his room at the lodge house he shares with the five other field assistants, right at the bottom of the mostly empty ski slopes, of a warm shower and blankets on a real bed, not a sleeping bag, when the radio crackles into life. "John?" Evan's voice says, and John fights the urge to groan. If he has to spend another night up here, he's going to scream, and then it'll be even more of a waste of time, cos he'll scare all the grouse away.

"I'm here. Please tell me you're coming to take over up here."

"Ah, John, you know how I feel about lying," Evan says, sounding like he's laughing. "I'm really sorry. The car won't start; Laura's trying to fix it, but it's going to be a while. Elizabeth said you could wait or you could walk down. The paths are pretty clear down here."

Which is hardly a surprise, since base camp is down in the valley and John's up on the ridge. "I'll walk," John says. Even if he ends up sliding all the way down the ridge, he's not spending another minute freezing his ass off in a hide. "Save me some coffee."

"Will do," Lorne promises, and the radio goes quiet.

It takes John less than five minutes to pack up his kit, then he waves goodbye to the grouse, who ignore him, and sets off down the main path, flashlight beam bobbing ahead of him. It's slippery, but John's got decent hiking boots, and plenty of experience on icy paths, and it's better than it has been. He's been on the project four weeks now, and it snowed every night for the first three: beautiful to look at in the sunrise, but also the least fun he's ever had on a field exercise, which usually happen during the summer.

Yeah, he's still kind of bitter at O'Neill for insisting this would be a good way to fill his practical experience requirement. If John didn't see O'Neill with one of the archeology professors every lunch-time, he'd think this was all some scheme to get into Elizabeth's pants, because she was desperate enough for field assistants to take grad students who were too poor to say no.

Just for this, John's turning in the thesis proposal on the aerodynamics of flight, which O'Neill has already said, three times, that he hates the idea of.

He's abruptly pulled out of his thoughts of revenge by the sound of an engine, cutting through the quiet of the forest. He thinks for a moment that it's Evan, except the noise is coming from back the way he came, and he's the only one this side of the lake this week, Ronon and Teyla at sites on the other side.

He turns round anyway, holding a hand out, hoping it's one of the park rangers, who can usually be persuaded to give him a ride back to the village, especially after dark.

When the car pulls over, it turns out not to be one of the rangers' trucks after all. The guy who winds down the window isn't familiar at all; he's maybe a couple of years older than John, wrapped up in a thick, khaki coat and looking at John with blue eyes gone eerily pale in the headlights.

"Can I help you?" John feels like an idiot doing it, but he stays on the edge of the path anyway; just because the guy doesn't look like the kind of person who'd abduct hapless field assistants, doesn't mean it isn't weird for him to be driving through the park right now.

The guy grins, amused. "Thought I'd be the one asking you that question," he says. "Or were you just stretching?"

"I –" John shoves his hands into his pockets, pretty sure he's being laughed at. "I thought you were someone I knew."

"Okay," the guy says, like he's willing to go along with John's nonsense if he has to. "So, you want a ride, cos it's getting cold in here with the windows open."

John weighs it up for about 0.3 seconds before deciding that even if the guy *is* a serial killer, at least John will die warm. "I'm staying at one of the lodges in the village."

"No problem." The guy pops the passenger door, nudges it open. "Hop in."

John does, sinking gratefully back into the passenger seat and pulling off his gloves so he can hold his hands to the heating vent. The guy laughs again, but when John looks over, he's smiling sympathetically. He has a nice smile.

"There's a flask on the floor somewhere, might be some coffee left," he offers. "Doubt it's hot though."

John's already fumbling between his own feet with half–numb hands. The coffee's barely lukewarm, but it's still the best thing John's had all day, warming him from the inside out. "Thank you."

"No problem," the guy says again, then holds his hand out. "Cam Mitchell."

"John Sheppard." John shakes it, Cam's hand burning against his. "Damsel in distress."

Cam's eyes flicker down to John's lap for a second before he catches himself, meeting John's eyes again. "You don't look distressed," he says, breaking eye contact and putting the truck in gear, moving off carefully.

"You suggesting I look like a damsel?" John asks, drinking some more coffee. He's half–tempted to wrap his hands round the flask, even if it really isn't that warm, but he's not quite that far gone. Not yet, anyway.

"You said it," Cam points out. "You're lost?"

John shakes his head. "My ride's a no–show. Was going to walk down."

"Long walk," Cam says idly, braking for a tight bend. "What're you doing up here?"

It occurs to John, later than it probably should have, that it's possible he's not the only one wondering if he's completely safe with a stranger in a dark and empty place. "Field work. Grouse, mating habits thereof."

There's a long pause, and when he looks over, Cam's smiling like he's trying not to. "You're up here in the dark and the cold watching grouse have sex?"

"I wouldn't put it quite like that," John says, not sure if he's amused or insulted. Maybe both.

"Obviously," Cam says, the smile evident in his voice as well, and John can't help laughing with him. It sounds pretty dumb, put like that.

They lapse into reasonably comfortable silence, and John, drugged out by the warmth and the quiet, dozes against the window, coming awake a little every time the truck goes round a turn or slows down. He still starts when Cam shakes him awake, close enough to make John blink when he opens his eyes. "We're here," Cam says quietly, jerking his head in the direction of the lights and the lodges. When John looks over, he can see Evan and Laura leaning into the open engine of their truck, not looking like they're getting very far.

"Thanks," he says. "I'm over there, we've got hot coffee if you want."

Cam looks torn for a minute, then shakes his head slowly. "I'm the other side of the village, and I've got an early start."

John swallows down his disappointment, reaching for the door handle. "Thanks for the ride."

"Sure," Cam says. "Couldn't leave you up there with only the grouse."

"Yeah. They can get real snippy about having an audience." John hops out of the car on that closing line and Cam's soft laughter, the packed snow hard under his feet. He watches Cam drive away, raises one hand in a wave, and the brake lights flash in what might be a response. He waits for the lights to disappear, then goes looking for actual hot coffee.

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John has five days down at the lodge with Teyla and Ronon, while Evan, Aiden and Laura take over the three trapping sites, and he only gloats a little bit when it snows on the second day. They spend the mornings and evenings at the kitchen table, tapping away at their laptops, updating the database and writing up their notes, and the afternoons skiing. Well, Teyla spends them skiing, flying gracefully down the slopes; Ronon and John, who's learning to snowboard on the assumption (wrongly, it turns out) that it can't be that different from surfing, spend most of their time sliding through the snow on their butts. It's still more fun than John's had in a while. He kind of wishes he could take the two of them back to UC Santa Cruz when he goes, but they've both finished studying already, and Dr Weir's keeping them behind for the next stage of the study when she sends the rest of them back to college.

"We will visit you there," Teyla promises, walking back to their lodge, with the same formality she always has. John thought it was standoffishness when he first met her, but she's still like that after all the time they've known each other, so he's chalking it up to cultural differences between America and her home country. "You may teach me to surf."

John's not sure his ego – or his surfing skills, if he's honest – are up to that, but he nods. "Sure. We'll have you hanging ten in no time."

"I shall look forward to it," Teyla says solemnly, nudging Ronon with her ski pole when he smirks. "You may teach Ronon as well."

"I already know how to surf," Ronon says. "Learnt when I was a kid."

John looks over at Ronon, surprised: Ronon never says much about his childhood, so John assumes it wasn't too great, but he looks faraway and happy. Teyla nudges John with her other ski pole before he can say anything, and they walk the rest of the way back to the lodge village in comfortable silence.

They're passing the tiny general store when the door opens and Cam comes out, head turned to call something back into the store. He's got a camera bag over one shoulder and a brown sack in his arms, and it's only Teyla's hand on his arm that keeps him from colliding with them. "Thanks," he says when he turns. "Sorry. Oh, hey, Teyla, how's it going?"

Teyla takes her hand away from his arm and smiles at him. "Very well, thank you. I wasn't expecting to see you here for another week."

Cam shrugs, not looking at John or Ronon, and John fights the urge to shuffle his feet, draw attention to himself, when Cam's clearly far more interested in Teyla. "Finished stage one early," he says. "We moved the last of the equipment over here a couple of days ago, so it looks like I'm sticking around. You'll have to come for dinner one night. Bring your –" He looks over, finally, and stops, eyes fixed on John. He blinks, then smiles, warm and pleased, and John can't help smiling back.

"John, this is Cam, a friend from CSU."

"We've met already," John says.

"I was his knight in shining armor," Cam adds.

"He gave me a ride back the other night," John corrects.

Ronon's looking between the two of them like they're both crazy. After a moment, he shrugs and holds out his hand. "Ronon Dex."

Cam shakes it amiably. "Good to meet you." He looks down at his watch, frowning. "I gotta get going, my supervisor's supposed to call in the next half hour. Seriously, Teyla, come round for dinner some time, bring your friends." His eyes slide over to John as he says it, and John fights not to look away, knowing he's being really obvious with his attraction and not quite caring.

"Thank you," Teyla says noncommittally, but smiling, and then Cam's heading one way and they're heading the other.

"He didn't mention he knew you," John says when he's out of earshot.

"Should he have?" Teyla asks.

"No," John admits. He can't remember Teyla mentioning knowing anyone else working in the park right now either, and she knows him a lot better than Cam does.

"So, then," Teyla says dismissively. "I doubt he would have realised we worked together unless you got to discussing the wider project with each other in such a short journey."

"Not so much," John says. He looks back to the way Cam went. "What's he working on out here?"

"He is part of a study looking at flight patterns in different birds," Teyla says, catching John's elbow as he nearly trips on a patch of ice, not watching where he was going.

John gently slides his arm away from her, feeling Ronon watching him. "Cool," he says, not sounding quite genuine to his own ears.

"You are very curious about him," Teyla says, teasing. "Perhaps we will accept his dinner invitation after all."

Ronon laughs, then laughs more when John flushes.

hr

They don't have time for accepting any invitations before the three of them are back at their posts trapping and tagging grouse. When John gets back at the end of his five days, last of the three of them, Dr Weir informs him that they've all been given a week off, before disappearing in her car, looking stressed out. John pokes around the lodge and finds that Ronon and Teyla have gone to visit a friend of Teyla's, Laura's gone to see her girlfriend, who's got a couple of days off from the hospital, and he, Aiden and Evan are the only three left.

"Right then," he says, and boots up his proposal for his dissertation. He might as well get the first few arguments with O'Neill out of the way at a distance.

He's cursing their not–terribly–reliable wireless connection when someone rings the doorbell. He waits for Aiden or Evan to open it, but there's a noticeable lack of any sign of movement from their rooms. "That's fine," he says loudly. "I'm not doing anything important. You guys stay in bed."

"Thanks," Evan calls, followed by two voices laughing from the same place. John shakes his head and opens the door.

When John opens the door, Cam's leaning against the doorframe, hands shoved in his coat pockets.

"Hi," John says blankly.

Cam grins. "I was hoping you'd still be here. Come on, grab your coat."

"Why?"

Cam's smile softens into something John can't quite figure out a name for, but it makes him smile back, feeling warm, even with the cold air swirling round him. "Well, it's cold out here, and Teyla would probably hurt me if I let you get frostbite or something."

"She can be over–protective," John agrees. "Where are we going?"

Cam shrugs, looking almost awkward. "Teyla said you might be willing to come help me out for the day. We're just starting stage two of the project, down by the old creek bed –"

John nods. "You were saying, to Teyla."

"Right. And the guy I work with has been called away for the day, so I thought maybe..." Cam trails off, looks down at his boots then back up to John, still smiling that weird smile. "Wanna come with?"

John's already going to say yes, but it doesn't hurt that the brief pause before he does is punctuated by Aiden's low moan. He catches Cam's eye without meaning to, and then he can't help cracking up. "I'll get my coat."

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The walk from the parking lot to Cam's site doesn't take long, cutting between the trees. If it wasn't for the equipment they're both carrying, John would feel like he's in some kind of fairy tale film, everything still, the trees loaded with snow from the brief fall in the night, so bright under the sun that it doesn't seem real. Other than the occasional bird song and the crunch of their boots in the pine needles and snow, it's absolutely silent. Plus, not a grouse in sight, mating or otherwise.

They come out of the trees at the low end of the creek bed, right before it bends behind the hills again, or would have, before the river dried up. Now, there's nothing but more snow, gradually climbing up the other side until the tree line starts up again. Somewhere beyond that is their own site. John drifts over to the edge of the cliff, half–listening to Cam fiddling with cameras and computer equipment. High above the other end of the creek bed, there's a black dot, circling up and up on the air current, and John can't take his eyes off it. It's probably a hawk, there's plenty in the forest, but he's not looking for identifying features, just watching the bird reach the top of the spiral, and glide, endless and smooth, down the creek bed towards him.

It's the kind of moment that makes him think he maybe understands a little of where Teyla's coming from when she talks about meditation and inner peace. He feels like the moment could go on forever, and it should be jarring to have it broken, but Cam says his name so softly that he barely registers it.

"Yeah?"

"Are you ready?" Cam asks gently. John blinks, and Cam's standing close to him, watching him. It should be uncomfortable, but it's not, the same way he fit with Ronon and Teyla the moment he met them. Maybe it's just knowing where this is heading for once that makes it easy to relax and let it happen.

He nods, turning away from the gliding dot. "I'm good," he says.

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Six hours later, he's standing outside the lodge, leaning in the open window of Cam's truck and wondering if he's ready to invite Cam in for coffee again, expose him to Aiden and Evan, and himself to the resultant teasing.

"I had a good time," he offers.

Cam grins. "Yeah, six hours of note–taking in the freezing cold, what's not to like?"

John smiles back, but feels compelled to say, "I did. Really," which, to his surprise, makes Cam duck his head like he's embarrassed or something. "Your colleague's back tomorrow?"

"Not for another couple of days, but I'm not out tomorrow. Day off to work through all the data from the last few days."

"Sounds like fun," John says dryly.

Cam shakes his head, then reaches out with one hand and touches his fingertip to John's nose. It burns the same way Cam's hand in his did the day they met, except now he doesn't have the excuse of cold hands. "Caught the sun," Cam says.

"Sun screen next time," John says, then, before he can lose his nerve, "You want to do something tomorrow?"

"You just want an excuse not to work on your proposal," Cam accuses. "I'm on to you, John Sheppard."

"Nothing gets past you." John turns his head slightly, enough to make Cam's hand fall away, feeling weird. "No, just – I was thinking of going hiking, up near hangman's bridge, if you wanted a break from paperwork."

Cam looks at him for a long moment, then nods. "Pick you up at 10?"

John watches him drive off then makes his way into the lodge. Aiden's sprawled across the sofa, watching a re–run of an ice hockey game on TV.

"Good day?" he asks when John sits down next to him and starts fighting with the laces of his boots.

"Yeah, actually." John keeps his eyes on his boots and doesn't mention the shower running. "Let me ask you a question."

"Okay."

"You've been here longer than me. Are we allowed, you know, guests?"

"Guests?" Aiden asks with a raised eyebrow. "Like your sister?"

"I don't have a sister." John's going to hit him in a minute, no matter how much he likes him and Evan. "And no, not like my sister. More like..." He trails off, wishing he'd never started this.

"Naked guests?" Aiden asks, his voice bright with amusement at John's expense.

"Hey, at least I'll be courteous enough to ask mine to keep it down. I don't need to know that much about your sex life. Or Evan's."

Aiden laughs. "I'd accuse you of being jealous, but..." He looks at John then and sobers up. "As long as the rest of the house agrees." He holds his hands up placatingly. "Fine with me. I'm sure Evan will say the same."

"Great," John says, and decides right then that there's no way he's bringing anyone back here.

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Cam looks doubtful when John points out where to pull off the road, and even more so when John walks into the trees, rather than towards the trail path that's sign–posted not far away, but he still follows.

"If you were thinking of dragging me down here to do away with me," he says after a few minutes, walking behind John, "I should warn you that my room–mate knows I'm out with you."

"But not where we are," John points out.

"She could still have you arrested."

"You'd still be dead."

Cam laughs. "Cheerful."

John grins over his shoulder at him. "I try."

"Is that what it is?" Cam asks, but he walks up close behind John and rests one hand on his back for a second. John's pretty sure he shouldn't be able to feel it through his coat.

"I'm not bringing you out here to kill you," he feels compelled to say, even though it sounds stupid out loud. "This way."

There really is a legitimate hiking trail up to the old bridge, but the first five miles are boring, flat and winding, so John feels totally justified in short–cutting through the trees. It only takes twenty minutes for them to come out at the bottom of path he wants anyway. Cam stops, looks up the slope, which really isn't that steep, then back to John. "So much for a gentle stroll," he says dryly.

"This'll be more fun," John promises.

He's seriously considering revising that theory a half hour later, when he loses his footing on the icy trail for the third time, barely catching his balance on one of the endless trees that grow alongside it. It doesn't help that Cam's watching him and grinning, or that he's got some preternatural skill at choosing the safest places to step. "Shut up," John says, straightening up.

Cam grins, and offers John his elbow. "Need a hand?"

John doesn't stick his tongue out, but he comes close. "I'm good." He misses the summer, with surfing and rock–climbing, and no treacherously icy paths when he wants to go hiking.

"So," Cam says, falling into step next to him as they start up the rise again. "What happens when you finish your degree?"

"Assuming Professor O'Neill doesn't kick me out next time we argue over my thesis."

"Assuming that, yeah," Cam says brightly.

John shrugs.

"At the risk of sounding like my father–" Cam starts.

John rolls his eyes. "As long as you're not going to start sounding like mine," he mutters.

Cam ignores him. "You must have some idea."

John shrugs again. No–one believes him when he says he really has no clue what he wants to do when he finishes his degree, but it's true. He's a classic example of people who drift into academia for want of an actual desire to do something else, except that he's got no intention of doing another four years to get a PhD. He just... doesn't know what he's going to do instead. "I've got a year to decide," he says, trying not to sound too defensive.

"You can always come work with us," Cam offers lightly, looking over at John, but before John can say anything else, Cam yelps in surprise, and loses his footing. He grabs for John, John catches his arm, and like a bad romantic comedy moment, they end up in a tangle of limbs in the middle of the frozen path.

"Ow," Cam says, sitting up carefully and rubbing his elbow. "That path's harder than it looks."

"Yeah," John agrees. The trail's not slippery enough to make standing up actually difficult, but he still feels off–balance when he gets back to his feet. Cam's standing very close, face flushed, eyes bright, looking at him.

"Here," Cam says softly, reaching out to replace John's dark, knit hat and straightening it above his eyes. John waits for him to step back, but he doesn't, sliding one gloved hand down to cup John's cheek. "This is where you were going with this, right?"

John nods, and then it's easy to lean in slightly, Cam's mouth pressed cool and dry against his. He feels like a teenager, kissing like this, almost chaste except for how Cam's hand against his cheek feels ridiculously warm for being through a glove.

"Yeah," he says when they break apart.

"What?" Cam asks, looking confused and pleased.

"Yeah, this is where I was going with this." He hesitates, then adds, "Except I was going for a spectacular view, rather than, you know –"

"Bruises?" Cam suggests. He tilts his head to one side, half–smiling. "Well, not under these circumstances, anyway."

John flushes helplessly, and laughs. Cam kisses him again, quickly, and John has the alarming impression that Cam thinks him blushing is cute, which isn't quite what he was hoping for.

"So, were you really set on showing off the view?" Cam asks, still leaning into John. "Cos if not, we should retire somewhere warmer. For... coffee."

"What about your room–mate?" John asks. He has enough to worry about with his own, without adding Cam's into the mix.

"Don't worry," Cam promises. "I'll make sure she goes out."

Standing this close to Cam, in the cold where the most they can reasonably do is kiss, it's really not a decision. "Lead the way," John says.


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