It started on P2S-14A when McKay's face lit up at the sight of the nysa plant. Ronon's childhood experience of the plant was vivid because of its medicinal properties; he'd needed it more than a few times for broken bones and deep gashes, a combination pain killer and antibiotic. He was certain, however, that McKay didn't know anything about this plant.
"Do you know what this looks like?" he asked, beaming.
"It's a common fern," Ronon said. "Not sure what you think it is, but on Sateda it was called a nysa plant."
McKay stared at the plant again, then clipped one of its blossoms.
"Actually, you should probably take some to Keller. She'd be interested in it."
"It looks like mistletoe," Rodney exclaimed, ignoring Ronon's suggestion. "And with Christmas approaching, it'll be perfect for my plan."
If Ronon didn't ask, McKay would tell him anyway. At least if he engaged McKay, he could direct the conversation instead of getting lost in it.
He took a step closer to McKay. "What plan?"
"I'm going to hang this in a heavily trafficked area, and then wait for Colonel Carter to approach. Then, I'll catch her when she walks under it."
"You mean like a trap?"
McKay sighed. "No, not a trap. I'm talking about a kiss. It's an Earth tradition."
Ronon grinned. "For Carter, that would be a trap."
Whenever McKay's plan failed to produce the desired result, he came to Ronon about it. As if they were mistletoe buddies or something.
The first attempt ended in a brush-off, with Carter completely unaware the mistletoe was even there, hanging innocuously above her head in the mess hall doorway.
"She has a city to run," Ronon said. "She's busy."
"True, true," McKay lamented.
The second attempt--the second one Ronon knew about--Carter saw the offending plant hanging off the balcony in the Gateroom and sidestepped it.
"She saw me coming!" McKay wailed.
Ronon finished off his tea. "Don't you think you should take that as a sign?"
"A sign of what, exactly?" McKay asked, arms crossed in defiance.
Ronon scooped up his food tray. "That she's not interested," he replied in parting.
The third attempt, Carter eyed the mistletoe, gave McKay a smirk as she paused beneath it, and then walked away without a word.
"Now she's just messing with me," McKay said with a chuckle. "She's playing hard to get."
"There's usually a good reason why women play hard to get," Ronon mused.
"To make us miserable?"
"To not get caught," Ronon replied.
Despite the reluctant humor he'd found in the situation every other time, at Ronon's last words, McKay looked crestfallen.
By Ronon's understanding, it shouldn't have been surprising news--to hear it told by Carter about their back-and-forth, she'd always made it clear that she wasn't interested. In that moment, it seemed McKay finally understood that Colonel Samantha Carter was out of his league.
"I'm going to, uh... head back to the lab," McKay mumbled.
Ronon watched him shuffle out of the mess hall as Sheppard and Teyla approached the table.
Sheppard hitched a thumb back at McKay. "What the hell did you say to him?"
Ronon didn't answer. He wasn't exactly sure himself what just happened, but he felt strangely guilty about it.
McKay eventually dropped his pursuit of Carter, which was expedited by the passing of the Earth holiday that gave the mistletoe its meaning. He didn't get a chance the following year because Carter went back to Earth, to be replaced by Richard Woolsey, so Ronon thought it would be good for McKay to move on.
Which was why, when McKay assumed Ronon was interested in Keller, Ronon lied to him and said he was.
"May the best man win," McKay said.
Ronon didn't reply as he shook his friend's hand.
He admired McKay for not stepping aside, for putting up a fight for something he thought worthy of pursuit. He figured it meant he wasn't the same cranky scientist Ronon met hanging from his trap three years before. He wasn't sure if Keller was even interested, but it didn't matter. All that mattered to Ronon was that his friend was happy.
"You got something on your mind, Chewie?" Sheppard picked himself up from the gym floor, working the shoulder Ronon had virtually crushed with his bare hand.
"Stop calling me that," Ronon said.
"Yeah," Sheppard said, passing him a water bottle. "Sure thing, buddy."
They sat in the quiet a moment as their breathing evened out.
"When do we head back to Pegasus?"
Sheppard shrugged. "Paperwork's processing. Just a matter of time now."
"Anybody staying here?"
"Just a couple of the new kids. I think McKay ran them off."
They shared a chuckle over that, and then Ronon frowned.
"Look, I think I know what this is about," Sheppard said.
"What what is about?"
"This, uh..." Sheppard gestured vaguely with his water bottle. "This thing. You're still pissed about Keller. That why you turned down Amelia?"
"I'm not pissed about Keller," Ronon said, which was only a half-lie. Truth was, she reminded him too much of Melena, and he couldn't go there again. There was too much pain in those memories.
He wasn't angry about McKay getting Keller; he'd realized too late that he was angry about Keller getting McKay.
"Then what the hell is it?" Sheppard said. "Homesick?"
Ronon glared at him.
"Look, I miss Pegasus, too," Sheppard winced. "We'll get back soon, I promise. Even if I have to steal the city to do it."
Ronon nodded. Sheppard was only trying to help. It wasn't his fault Ronon would never tell him why he was distancing himself from McKay.
A few days later, Atlantis was finally given the green light to return to Pegasus. That was the good news.
The bad news was that it would take them five weeks to get there. The cobbled-together wormhole drive would likely not make it for another trip, and even using it halfway would strand them in parts unknown if it failed mid-journey.
Teyla, Ronon and Sheppard occupied themselves with sparring sessions during whatever downtime they had.
"Has Dr. McKay seemed different to you?" Teyla asked Sheppard after one of their fights.
Ronon smiled. She always had a way of getting to someone when they couldn't escape her piercing queries.
"Different how?" Sheppard asked.
"He does not eat with us during meal times as often as he once did," Teyla said simply.
Sheppard scoffed. "We are talking about the same person, right?"
"Ever since my conversation with Jennifer the other day, he has been avoiding us," Teyla noted.
"I fail to see a problem here," Sheppard said as he opened his bottled water. "You know he works himself into the ground. And he's kind of keeping us space-worthy right now. That's a high-concentration, highly important task."
"I am not arguing against the importance of his job," Teyla soothed him. "But he must take breaks, or he could fall ill. How would that help him in his highly important tasks?"
Sheppard glared at her.
Ronon cleared his throat. "I got it," he said, fishing a towel from his bag to wipe down his face. "I'll check on him."
He left the gym without another word.
Apparently, McKay was hiding from everyone. Ronon checked the main lab first, of course, but he wasn't there, and Zelenka didn't know where he was at all.
So Ronon checked the auxiliary labs, and then he checked the Gateroom, but no McKay. He went down a level to the chair room, then further down to the sub-level, but McKay wasn't to be found among the city's utility systems either.
Ronon checked the mess hall and the Jumper bay, the brig and the infirmary, and even the holograph room. With every other McKay-free zone he encountered, Ronon tried to raise the man over the radio, but there was no response.
His thoughts turned from "Maybe McKay's avoiding everyone," to "Maybe McKay's hurt somewhere," and he really didn't like that thought.
It became obvious to Ronon that he should've checked Rodney's quarters first, so he found the nearest transporter and headed for the residential area of the city.
For a solid minute, Ronon's knocking on Rodney's door went unanswered. He wondered if he was missing something, if maybe Rodney had moved in with Keller when he wasn't paying attention.
No one answered her door either.
He swore under his breath, despite the fact that he always swore in Satedan and no one in Atlantis would understand what he was saying. They’d understand enough, he figured, by the way he said it.
Heading back to his own room, he decided to drop off his sparring gear and grab a quick shower before doing the entire search over again. He hoped he was just missing Rodney in passing; they were flying through hyperspace, so it wasn't like anyone could simply board the city and cause trouble at the moment. Still, Ronon was feeling unsettled, and he didn't like the feeling.
When he palmed open the door to his quarters, Ronon's bag slipped from his hand and fell to the floor with a thud.
Rodney sat up quickly at the sound, turning over on Ronon's bed and rubbing sleepy eyes when he realized that it was Ronon standing there, that he was safe.
Ronon kicked his bag into his room and closed the door behind himself as he entered. He grabbed the wheeled chair from beside the desk he rarely used and rolled it over to the bedside. Rodney looked a little sheepish, but no more worse for the wear than usual.
"Wanna tell me what's up?" Ronon asked. Rodney wouldn't meet his eyes.
"Sorry, I, uh..." he stuttered, making a vague gesture at the bed.
"Something wrong with your own room?"
"What?" Rodney finally looked up at Ronon, then shook his head and waved off the question. "No, my room's fine," he said. "Except that everyone knows to look for me there."
Ronon nodded. "Who are you hiding from? Zelenka?"
Rodney shook his head. "No, I'm hiding from..." Rodney winced before continuing. "I'm hiding from Jennifer, if you must know."
"Hmm," Ronon mused. "Why?"
"Well, I'd say, 'Remember that time at dinner when she was trying to get Teyla to "connect" with her over how "men are such jerks" while I was sitting right there only Teyla wouldn't talk about Kanaan behind his back?'--except you weren't there because you've pulled this sort of hermit-caveman-disappearing-act lately."
"Sorry," Ronon grunted, and he felt it again, that odd sort of guilt that something he did had let Rodney down. "I didn't think you'd miss me that much."
"Didn't think...? What is that, some sort of joke? You're part of my team, of course I missed you!"
Ronon pushed his chair back a bit.
"I'm sorry," Rodney said, throwing his hands up as if to pull Ronon back towards him. "I didn't mean to yell at you like that, I just... Look, I couldn't hide out in Teyla's room because she's got Kanaan and Torren now. And I couldn't hide in John's room because she'd know to look for me there. So I came here. She'll probably still come here, anyway."
"Because I'm team?"
Rodney looked at Ronon with a funny, curious expression. "I wish she knew to find me here," he whispered.
"So you want her to find you?"
"No, not really," Rodney said, looking flustered and returning to his more animated gestures. "I just think... you and I, we're friends, right? I mean, I know we don't really have all that much in common, me with the science and you with the formidable warrior skills, but... we're friends. Aren't we?"
"Yes, we're friends," Ronon said. He stood from the chair and grabbed his bag, heading for the bathroom. "I'm gonna hit the shower. Sparred pretty hard with Sheppard and Teyla." He paused in the bathroom's doorway and gave Rodney a piercing gaze. "You don't have to leave, if you don't want to."
He shut the door and listened for a minute, smiling when he heard Rodney settling back into the bed.
When Ronon opened the bathroom door and let all the built-up steam escape, he looked through the slight haze to see Rodney laying stone-stiff on his bed, face-up, staring at the ceiling. He followed Rodney's stare and swore to himself when he remembered what he'd hung there years ago.
"You have a nysa plant on your ceiling," Rodney observed simply. "Did you know that?"
"Yeah," Ronon said, crossing the room to his dresser. "I knew."
He pulled on a shirt and dropped his towel as he pulled on pants as well, then turned to find Rodney watching him.
"So earlier, when you were sitting in that chair..." he said, pointing up to the plant, "we were under the nysa plant?"
"Yep," Ronon confirmed. He stepped over to the bed. Stealth in battle was a desirable skill, but he found human relationships usually required full disclosure. He sat down beside Rodney, who sat up, watching Ronon's movements. "And we're sitting under the nysa plant right now," Ronon said.
"This isn't a heavily trafficked area," Rodney said, his eyes wide as Ronon laid a hand on his knee.
"Good," Ronon said, and Rodney's hands moved up Ronon's arms as they both shifted to accommodate each other. Ronon captured Rodney's lips with his own, surprised when Rodney let him.
"How long?" Rodney said between kisses.
"Long as I can remember," Ronon replied.
"You should have said something!"
"When?" Ronon asked, pausing. He felt a little thrill when Rodney tried to re-close the distance between them. "When you were chasing Katie Brown, Sam Carter, or Jennifer Keller?"
"When I was--wait, you wanted Keller, too!"
Ronon shook his head and turned away. "I let you believe that," he said. Then he shrugged. "Putting up a fight for something looked good on you."
"That is so... very confusing," Rodney stated.
Ronon chuckled. "So what now?"
"Oh," Rodney said, his mouth drooping. "We aren't... I mean, there won't be more..." He gestured between himself and Ronon, then sighed. "Yeah, I guess not."
"Wait," Ronon said, placing a hand on Rodney's arm to hold him back. "What I mean is, I won't do anything behind anyone's back."
Realization filled Rodney's eyes. "Yes. Yes, of course. Well, then. If you'll excuse me, I have a girlfriend to break up with." He headed for the door. "Thank god."
Ronon caught up with him before the door slid open and pinned Rodney against the wall with his body before leaning down to claim one more kiss. Rodney pushed his hands under Ronon's shirt, warm on Ronon's shower-cooled skin, and tilted his head to give Ronon a better angle.
"I'll be waiting beneath the mistletoe," Ronon whispered into Rodney's ear. He stepped back, gently prying Rodney's hands from his hips, and smiled as Rodney palmed open the door before stumbling out into the hallway with an endearing grin, the bright red flush of his cheeks more apparent under the corridor's lights.
Then he frowned a bit. "This might take a while," Rodney admitted, folding his arms protectively around himself.
"I'll wait as long as it takes," Ronon said, which seemed to light something in the other man as he drew himself up straighter before heading for the nearest transporter.
When Rodney was out of sight, Ronon shut his door and propped himself against it. His eyes returned to the nysa plant hanging over his bed, and he smiled.