Word Count: 1,251
Rating: PG/complete and utter crackfic.
Notes: I'm really sorry about this. Um. There's pretty much no excuse. I spent my entire lunch break writing this, and... yeah. Ever since I wrote that one line about John and the pebble... yeah. This is penguin crack. I'm so sorry.
Cam met John during a migration.
It was the beginning of the harsh part of the cold season, where they all had to move inland to protect the eggs until they hatched. Cam didn’t have a mate; he told his friends that he was looking, that he had some nice stones in mind for when he found the right penguin, but he wasn’t looking all that hard. He didn’t really want cygnets, honestly, but saying that to Ferguson had caused the other penguin to break into a fit of squeaks so loud that it had disturbed a nearby nest, and they’d ended up waddling away at top speed.
“Hey,” a penguin said, sidling up to him as he migrated with the herd. “Lose your mate?”
It was casually worded, but Cam knew a loaded question when he heard one. He fluffed the feathers on his neck. “Nah. I’m by myself.”
“Me too,” the other penguin replied, flapping one wing in a casual doesn’t-matter gesture. “John.”
“Cam,” Cam replied, turning to look at the other penguin for the first time. John was tall and on the thin side, with a few spiky black feathers sticking up on the back of his head. Not a bad-looking bird, Cam decided. “Nice to meet another unattached guy. You wouldn’t believe the ribbing I get.”
“Wouldn’t I?” John’s eyes seemed to open a little wider, and his head tilted a little to the side, and okay, he probably knew exactly what kind of ribbing Cam got. “Please. I once told my buddy McKay that I didn’t want cygnets-”
“-and he laughed you right out of your nest?” Cam nodded. “Ferguson.”
John squawked in response. “Yeah. It gets old. You start picking out rocks for show, y’know?”
“I know,” Cam agreed. And he did.
That migration was pretty tough, as migrations went. The wind started before they got to the plain, and it was a struggle to get everyone where they needed to be. Cam and John stayed to the outside, directing stragglers in. They didn’t have eggs to protect, after all, so they didn’t need to be near the middle of the pack. When the females left, John and Cam pressed to the outside of the group, huddling in for warmth.
“Okay, there’s a plus to cygnets,” John gasped one day when the wind was worse than usual. “Middle of the pack.”
“Yeah,” Cam agreed, shuffling a little closer. “C’mere.” He huddled into John, pushing him into the outside of the pack and covering him as well as he could, shielding him from the wind.
“Thanks,” John chittered at him. “It’s cold here.”
“That it is,” Cam replied, because it was.
John warmed up after a while, but Cam stayed snuggled into him like a living blanket. “So you stay warm,” he explained, but John didn’t try to wriggle out.
John got cold a lot, Cam noticed. Pretty soon, Cam was crowding into him every day, just to keep him from shivering and shaking all the time. The other guys at the edge of the pack were starting to give them weird looks, but Cam pretty much ignored them, because John was freezing to death, couldn’t they see that?
“Just give him a rock already,” one of them muttered one day as he walked his egg past. Cam whipped his head around to chitter noisily, but the guy had blended into the pack already. When he turned back around, John wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“Sorry,” Cam fumbled, waddling back. “I’ll just – go be over here, or something.”
John squawked indignantly until Cam stopped retreating. “What, and leave me here to freeze to death?” Cam cocked his head to the side, considering, and shuffled back slightly. John burrowed into him. “There’s a reason I don’t want cygnets, Cam, and it’s not because they smell funny.” He paused. “Okay, so that’s part of it.”
Cam chuffed and nipped at one of John’s spiky feathers. “Yeah.”
And that was their cold season. Cam and John snuggled into the edges of the pack, moving around to avoid the stares and angry chittering, and when spring rolled around, they made their way back out to the bluffs.
“So, I was thinking,” Cam said as casually as he could while they were waddling back. There were cygnets everywhere, tiny feathers coating the path ahead of them, and Cam had to raise his voice to be heard over the din of tiny squeaks and cries. “My nest is up near the big pink rock with the white spots on it. Where’s yours?”
John tilted his head to the side. “Nowhere near there,” he said, a little disappointed. “I’m over by the cave near the big tidal pool.”
That was… quite a hike, Cam realized. That’s probably why they hadn’t met before. “Oh.”
“Hey, no, I’m totally up for-” John broke off and worried at the feathers under one wing. “Um.”
“Yeah?” Cam asked, trying not to sound as thrilled as he felt. “It’s a decent sized nest, quiet neighbors, not too many with cygnets this year so it should stay that way-”
“Cool,” John interrupted Cam’s rambling, sounding like he meant it. “I’ll swing by my old nest, grab a couple of things I’ve got stashed, okay?”
“That works,” Cam replied, trying to stay casual while he felt anything but.
“Cool,” John said again. He cocked his head to one side. “This is my turnoff.” The line ahead of them was splitting, some going on ahead while some split to the right.
“Oh,” Cam said. “Um. See you soon?”
“Yeah,” John said, ducking in to nip at the feathers on Cam’s head. “See you soon.”
Cam waddled home a little faster, making sure things were still in order back at his nest before John showed up. It was a few hours before John made his way up the side of the bluff.
“Hey,” Cam said, trying to hide his relief that John hadn’t just been humoring him and wasn’t going to move to the other side of the continent just to get away from Cam.
“Hey,” John said back, his tone saying pretty much the same thing. “So this is home, huh?”
“Yeah,” Cam said. “I sleep over there, under the bit that sticks out, and this is where I stand to look out over the water.” He nipped at his feathers, slightly embarrassed. “That’s pretty much it.”
“It’s great,” John assured him. “Really. Much nicer than my old pile of feathers.”
“Cool,” Cam said, echoing John from earlier.
John tilted his head to the side and studied Cam for a minute. “What?” Cam asked finally. “Do I have fish on my face?”
“No. Um, okay, so I was thinking.”
“Okay,” Cam replied slowly. John waddled over and rolled something that Cam hadn’t seen before from his feet to Cam’s.
It was a pebble, smooth and shiny, a lovely ivory color. Cam stared at it in shock for a minute before he realized that John was chittering on about something.
“-won’t be upset, you know, you can just give it back if you don’t want it. It’s not anything big, I know, but it’s the one I’ve been saving for-”
Cam squawked loudly and John stopped. “Idiot,” Cam huffed fondly as he leaned over to nip at John’s ruffled feathers. He waddled over and put the pebble in the sleeping area, right where everyone could see it.
“No cygnets, though,” John said warningly. “I’m not adopting.”
Cam chuffed loudly. “No cygnets,” he agreed.