blue flamingos

Falconry for Beginners

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Slash, NC-17

Year/Length: 2007/ ~3622 words

Pairing: Rodney/John

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

Summary: You named a golden eagle Fluffy? (Falconry AU)

Author's Notes: Written for [info]anotheratlantis

Beta: by [info]domtheknight

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


Rodney's two weeks into his research at Pegasus Falconry Center when he arrives to take more readings and is told that Evan Lorne, the handler he usually works with, is running late.

"Late from where?" he asks. It's three in the afternoon, a perfectly reasonable time to expect someone to be at their job, in his opinion.

Laura shrugs. "Do I look like his personal assistant? He rang, said he'll be another hour or so." She pulls a large leather diary from under the counter. "You want to rearrange?"

"No," Rodney says with a sigh. His week is booked up until his next appointment in three days, but the rest of his *day* is actually pretty much empty. "I'll wait. I don't suppose you've got somewhere I can plug my computer in and do some work?"

"Nope," Laura says cheerfully. Rodney suspects she enjoys being able to thwart him – he likes imagining one of her falcons getting tangled in her hair during one of her displays, but the truth is that, like most of the birds at Pegasus, they're far too loyal to her and the other handlers to even think about it. "But there's a display starting in ten minutes, why don't you go and watch?"

"Because I've got more important things to do with my time?" Rodney suggests.

"Yes, but no facilities for doing them," Laura points out. "Come on, Dr McKay, you might even enjoy it. You spend all this time here, you should see one display. Anyway-" she lowers her voice and gives him a sultry smile – "John just got back from Las Vegas, and he's really something to see."

Rodney doesn't blush, more through force of will than anything else, because he knows just what she means when she says that. "Just because you want to spend all of your time ogling your male colleagues –"

"And the female ones," Laura assures him. "I'm an equal opportunity ogler." She leans slightly to one side, looking round him. "And you're blocking the way for paying customers. Go on, shoo. I'll send Evan to find you when he gets back." She makes a little shooing gesture at him, and Rodney makes a face at her, but he goes.

It's the middle of summer, so of course the center is full of small children in ridiculous bird masks that they've just conned their gullible parents into buying for them, running into people's legs because the eye holes are too small.

The square outside the main building is mostly taken up with the aviary cages, which Rodney ignores, since he's seen all of the birds in there with Evan already, making his way to the hedged-in field where the handlers run the displays. The bench in the shade is already fully occupied with two adults and five or six small children, so Rodney takes a seat on the other side and reaches for his sun block. He'd lay money on being one of a small minority of people who actually bother, and most of the ones who do probably aren't wearing anything even close to strong enough, but really, more fool them, because he may be pale now but at least he won't have skin cancer in his old age.

He contemplates getting out his PDA and going through some of the data, but with the reflection of the sun on the screen, it'll be nearly impossible to read anything. He might as well accept his fate and watch the display.

A fate that's just become a lot more appealing, he thinks, when the handler, dressed in a black Pegasus Falconry Center t-shirt and washed out jeans, comes round the hedges with a bird on his glove. He's squinting in the sun, a pair of sunglasses pushed up into his thick, dark hair, and he's tanned and muscled and quite possibly the best looking thing Rodney's seen in weeks, if not months.

"Afternoon, everyone," he drawls, and oh god, even his voice is hot, slow and lazy. "We're about ready to start, so anyone who thought they were here for the hedge laying demonstration, now's the time to leave." Most of the adults laugh, even though it's not that funny, and Rodney wants to glare at them for flirting en masse with the hot handler.

"Okay, if you're all staying, let's get started." He stands in the middle of the horseshoe of benches and holds his arm out to one side. The small brown falcon on the glove tilts its head to look at him. "This is Rita, she's a Saker falcon, traditionally used for hunting deer, believe it or not." A ripple of surprise goes round the group. "She's actually one of the largest of the falcon family," John tells them with a smile. "So she needs a wide, open space to hunt, and generally goes for her prey horizontally, unlike most other falcons, moving at around 200mph." The bird shifts on John's glove, restless. "Do you want to see her in action?"

The kids all chorus yes, predictably, and John smiles again. "Okay, here we go." He pulls his hand back slightly and casts her away. Rodney watches for a few seconds as she beats her wings and climbs up and up, over the neighboring field, then looks back to John, who's unwinding the string on a lure. "So, Sakers are built for horizontal hunting," he repeats, wrapping one end of the string round his fingers and setting the lure – a cloth shape with chicken fixed to it – circling slowly. "We can get Rita in chasing this; she'll think it's a pigeon, or a small mammal, which is typical hunting food for Sakers in the wild." He spins the lure a little faster. "Come on, Rita."

Rodney's not at all sure she can hear him from that distance, but she turns and comes towards them, swooping low over the hedge and diving for the lure, then sweeping back up to the trees when John swings it away to impressed noises from his audience. "Try again," John says, and speeds up the lure, bringing the bird diving back for it.

He repeats the trick a half dozen times, making occasional comments and obviously having fun, then lets the bird catch the lure and bear it to the ground, ripping into the chicken. "Of course, Sakers are particularly rare in the wild," John says, digging into the bag at his waist for more chicken bits. "They're predicted to become extinct within the next fifteen years, so we're hoping Rita's going to breed with our male Saker, and you guys can come back next year to see the babies."

Rodney groans – more children, how lovely – and John must hear it, because he catches Rodney's eye with a slight smile. Rodney can't help grinning back.

"Okay Rita." John puts a bit of chicken into his glove and crouches down, the bird looking up at him. "Time to go home now." He slides the glove over the lure and waits for the bird to step onto it, then gathers the lure and stands up. "Say goodbye to the nice people."

He gets a round of applause and disappears behind the hedges.

He brings out an eagle owl next, fluffed up and orange-eyed on his glove, and the children coo over it as John walks it slowly round the horseshoe, talking about its lineage and reminding them that fingers and beaks don't mix, so no touching. He finishes up where Rodney's sitting on the end of the bench and steps in close, his eyes dark and his smile wicked. "You want to touch?" he asks, too quietly for anyone else to hear.

"I actually need all of my fingers, thanks," Rodney snaps, ruffled. He was watching John, not the bird, John's thick, messed-up hair. "I might be bitten."

"Only if you want to be," John says, and steps away before Rodney can say anything else.

This time, he comes back with a smaller bird, maybe 30 centimeters, with almost blue wings, and a spotted chest. It screeches every few seconds, its eyes on John, who runs a finger lightly over its head, murmuring something inaudible and feeding it bits of chicken until it quiets. Rodney finds himself smiling indulgently at John's obvious affection for the bird. "Does anyone know what this is?" John asks the group quietly, and grins proudly when one of the children offers, "American kestrel."

"Yep. It's one of the smallest falcons in North America. This is Falstaff, he's one of our youngest, and we keep him just for flying." John walks slowly round the horseshoe again, obviously showing off this time. "When you see birds hovering sometimes, looking for their prey, kestrels are one of the most likely suspects, though they usually only do this when they can't find a better perch." He moves back to the center of the horseshoe and flings the bird from his glove.

It sweeps low and fast over the field, then up to land in the trees, just visible on the sky line. "See?" John says. "Perfect perch." He reaches into his bag and holds up a chicken piece. "Come on, Falstaff." There's a moment's pause, then the bird launches itself from the tree and dives back towards them, fast and sleek, and lands neatly on John's glove, gobbling down the chicken. "That's it," John says quietly. "Nice job. Again?"

He casts the bird into the sky again, and this time, Rodney watches John as he shades his eyes and squints into the sun; he sees a flicker of something that might be longing on John's face, before it's replaced by smiling affection. John holds the chicken up long enough for the bird to leave the tree, then throws it, letting the bird catch it in mid-air and return to his glove to swallow it.

He runs the kestrel for longer than he did the other two birds, but finally ties the string to her leg again as she pulls apart a last piece of chicken, and looks at his watch. "Okay, great, we've got time for one more." The kestrel bites into the chicken and something wet squirts over John's ungloved hand and his shirt. "Thanks, Falstaff, brain juice, lovely." He makes a face, making the kids laugh, but Rodney thinks he sees genuine revulsion somewhere under that. "Don't go anywhere, I'll be right back."

When he comes back, he's got his glove stuffed in his belt, though he's still wearing the food bag. He gets to the center of the horseshoe and waits, hands on his hips. Nothing happens for a moment, and the kids giggle.

John sighs. "Puddlejumper," he calls, and a black vulture rounds the hedge and runs over to John, stopping at his feet and looking at him. "It's about time," John says darkly, but he smiles and leans down to feed it some chicken. "This is Puddlejumper. Puddlejumper, this is everyone." The bird looks at the crowd and makes a low noise. "I'm sure they're glad to see you too," he assures the bird. "Vultures, in case you're worried, only go for dead flesh, so there's no chance of him trying to bite at any of you – ow!" He glares down at the vulture, who looks at him innocently for a moment, then starts chewing at his boot laces. "I'm not dead," John says exasperatedly, shifting slightly from one foot to the other. "And we've talked about shoe laces before."

The audience laughs, and John gives them a rueful smile. "We're having a few communication issues right now," he says dryly. "Puddlejumper doesn't belong to the center, any more. She's been bought by the Las Vegas police department, but we're training her up for the moment." The bird makes another try at John's leg through his jeans and John takes a small step to the side. "She'll be the first vulture ever employed by the police, and she's going to work for them on tracking dead bodies in the desert around Vegas, try to help catch some criminals."

One of the kids behind Rodney mutters, "cool," and Rodney has to admit, John seems kind of proud of the bird, even though it's obvious he's the one doing most of the work, at least for the moment.

John walks the vulture round the horseshoe, taking care to keep him away from any small feet, then encourages him up to the post in the middle, and feeds him chicken.

"All right, guys, thanks for coming to watch, but we're out of time now. We've got another display at 4.30, with the lovely Laura and some different birds, including the golden eagle, so stick around for that if you can."

John's surrounded by small children and their parents as soon as they finish applauding, though a few do drift off to look in the aviary. Rodney waits as patiently as he can for them all to disburse, and for John to shoo away the last remaining stragglers, then goes up to him. He's feeding the vulture chicken, but he looks up with a grin when Rodney gets close. "You enjoy the display?" he asks.

"I did," Rodney says, surprised to find he's not really lying. "Very impressive. You must have been doing this for a while."

"A while," John agrees. "Pays the bills, you know?"

It's obviously more than that but Rodney does, contrary to popular opinion, know when not to push. Mostly. "Where did Puddlejumper come from?"

"The name, or the bird? We bred PJ here, and he was the smallest of that year's vultures. Couldn't fly very far, so Puddlejumper." John coaxes the bird down and starts walking towards the aviary, the bird following at his heels, slow enough for Rodney to realize he's meant to join them. "What brings you here today?"

"Waiting for one of your colleagues." Rodney shifts his equipment to his left hand and holds out his right. "Dr Rodney McKay. I'm a physicist."

"John Sheppard." John holds his hand for longer than strictly necessary, and it sends a rush of warmth down Rodney's spine, even if his palm is damp with something Rodney doesn't want to think too closely about. "What are you doing here if you're a physicist?"

"Study of bird flight," Rodney says. He's found that there's usually not a lot of point explaining the intricacies of his work to non-specialists, and even to a lot of self-proclaimed specialists, so he doesn't.

"Flight, huh?" John steps over a wooden barrier and opens one of the cages. "In you go, PJ." He throws a piece of chicken in and the bird flaps in with much ruffling of feathers. "You work for an airline or something?"

Rodney laughs, can't help himself, even when the tips of John's ears flush. "Physicist, remember, or is your memory impaired by all that hair? I work for the university."

"Oh. Sorry." John stays on the other side of the barrier, walking along the row of large cages until he reaches the end and leans on the wire front. "Hey, Fluffy," he calls.

"Fluffy?" Rodney asks, surprised, as a golden eagle appears from behind one of the branches. "You named a golden eagle Fluffy?"

John makes a face. "That's what happens when you let the deputy director's child choose the name," he says dryly, then ducks back under the barrier, coming out very close to Rodney, who's suddenly very aware of the sweat running down his spine in the heat. "So, sorry if I was out of line with what I said earlier."

"No!" Rodney says quickly. "No, not at all, you were completely..."

"In line?" John offers.

"Yes. Exactly. Or, not exactly, but –" A hand on his shoulder cuts him off, and he turns to see Evan looking at him from under his Pegasus baseball cap.

"Hey, Doc, sorry I'm late. Traffic." He leans round Rodney to shake John's hand. "Good to have you back, John."

"Good to be back," John says. "I've just been showing Puddlejumper to Rodney here."


"He's very impressive," Rodney says stupidly, with no idea whether he means John or the bird.

"Great. So, you want to get going?"

Rodney does, but he kind of wants to stand close to John for a bit longer, smelling his sweat mixed with aftershave Rodney doesn't recognize and feeling his body heat. "Yep. I don't really want to spend my evening here."

"Okay. See you at the field in five?" Evan wanders off to pick up their research subject for the next couple of hours, leaving Rodney alone with John again.

"So –" he starts, but this time it's John who cuts him off.

"I got to get back to work," he says. "But maybe – you want to have dinner with me tonight? Talk some more about... birds?"

"Dinner sounds great," Rodney says fervently. "Do you know anywhere good around here?"

John smiles, a long, slow smile, full of promises, most of them dirty. "I do a pretty good stroganoff," he offers and Rodney's powerless to do anything but nod in agreement.


John offers to give him a ride from the center, so they're both still hot and sweaty from an afternoon in the sun when John lets them into his tiny apartment. It's almost military neat, nothing out of place, until John tosses his light jacket over the back of a chair and kicks his boots into the far corner of the lounge. "You want to take a shower?" he offers.

"Yeah. If you don't mind." Rodney's well aware that he doesn't smell great after an hour and a half in a shadeless field under the burning sun. "You want to go first?"

"Nope." John steps up close, slings his arms round Rodney's neck and kisses him, long and slow like his smile, stroking his tongue over Rodney's and sucking on Rodney's lower lip. "I want to share," he says when he eventually pulls away.

"That's, ah, very environmentally conscious of you," Rodney offers, feeling a little dazed. He slides one hand up under John's shirt, pressed against sun warm skin. "Conserving water."

"I like to do my bit," John agrees, kissing along the line of Rodney's jaw. "One of Pegasus's aims is to build a more sustainable environment."

"Well, we can't argue with that," Rodney agrees. John's jeans are loose, so he figures he might as well take advantage of that, and slides his hands down to cup John's ass through his boxers. John groans, a puff of hot air on Rodney's neck, and pushes his hips forward, already getting hard, then pulls himself away.

"Come on. Shower."

John climbs into the shower while Rodney's still undressing, completely unselfconscious, and when Rodney opens the door to step in with him, he's covered in shower gel foam, smelling of something earthy and lazily stroking his hard cock.

"You started without me," Rodney accuses him, but he doesn't give John a chance to answer, pushing him back against the tile, pressing his own body against John's and kissing him, the water cascading over the two of them as he licks into John's mouth and touches everywhere he can reach, John's hands matching the movements on Rodney's own body, until they're both hard and gasping, thrusting into one another.

"Do you – where's your lube?" Rodney asks, feeling breathless, reckless, and a little dizzy with sheer want. John's all hard muscle under golden skin and Rodney wants to taste every inch of him.

"Later," John says firmly, and Rodney definitely agrees with that, definitely later, then John reaches down to wrap his hand round Rodney's cock and Rodney pretty much loses interest in any further discussion. He groans and kisses John, pushing into his grip again and again, John giving a wicked twist with every stroke, until he comes with a drawn out moan of pleasure, all his bones melting at once and leaving him leaning hard into John, kissing sloppy and damp.

"Thanks," he says, when he eventually gets his speech back on line.

"Welcome," John says. He strokes Rodney's soft cock one more time, making Rodney hiss at the sensation, just this side of irritation, then shifts his hand to rub comforting circles on Rodney's hip, sliding over water slick skin. His erection's still pressing into Rodney's thigh, although John's obviously doing his best not to move, beyond an occasional aborted thrust.

He sinks to his knees with more grace than he can usually manage, and only remembers when he's down there how much his knees hate this. "You better hope this doesn't do permanent damage to my knees," he says, and swallows John's cock down in one movement, sucking hard, already tasting John's pre-come, bitter on his tongue.

John's hands come up to tangle in his hair, not pulling or guiding, just holding on, his breath coming in rough pants, and Rodney barely has time to get into it before John's coming, hot pulses in Rodney's mouth.

He gives John a minute to recover, then slowly lets John's cock slip from his mouth and hauls himself up John's body to kiss him, John licking carefully round every inch of Rodney's mouth until all he can taste is the gum John was chewing in the car.

"You want to get out now?" John asks eventually. "I've got a bed, food..." He kisses Rodney again, all sweeping tongue and lightly scraping teeth, and when he pulls away, his eyes are slightly glazed. "A bed," he says again, breathless and grinning.

"Bed sounds really good," Rodney agrees. "Plus, I'm kind of turning into a prune."

John laughs, like he wasn't expecting to, and Rodney thinks it's a sound he could get pretty used to.

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