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Linger

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John poked at his forehead, wincing as his fingers made contact with the tender skin around the cut from the rod hitting him earlier. Still, better the rod than what had been on the other end of it. This was a bit less permanent.

"Don't worry about it. Won't last," Ronon said, echoing his thoughts. McKay and Dex had been drinking from a bottle of something that smelled violently alcoholic, though not enough that McKay would risk the germs and drink it straight from the bottle. John hadn't taken any yet: he wasn't sure that it was the best idea for him to be drunk as well as on a little boat in shark-infested waters. Any one of the combination was enough to make him nauseous, especially after the appetising meal of canned stew.

Ronon pulled his dreads aside to reveal a scar right below the hairline. "This one lasted. Guy in a bar hit me with a chair."

McKay snorted. "I can beat that. Check this out." He pulled his sleeve up and displayed a small circular pink mark on his inner forearm. "My sister Jeannie bit me when I used her doll's head as bait."

Ronon grinned, wide and full of teeth, flinging his arm down on the table with a thump and a rattle of the mugs. John rested his hips against a cupboard and settled down to watch them, the roll of the waves beneath them and the creaking of the pilothouse bringing back a fleeting memory of the porch swing he'd sat on almost every evening the summer he was ten.

"Can't extend this one all the way. Arm-wrestling competition. Semi-finals, little guy - almost couldn't reach the table - just slammed my arm right over."

John couldn't help but smile when McKay and Ronon started laughing. Surreptitiously, he pulled his shirt up a little and looked at the scar from where he'd had his appendix taken out ten years ago. Deciding against mentioning it, he pulled his shirt back down and looked up in time to see McKay shuffle along the bench and awkwardly pull his right leg up onto the table, scrabbling at the fabric of his pants leg. A long, white scar trailed down his calf, and a big pink one overlapped his knee. John found himself leaning forward, strangely fascinated.

"Bull shark scraped me while I was taking samples," McKay said, smug grin sloppy and tilted to the side as he pointed at the long scar. "And this one here was from a Moray Eel. Bit me right through the wetsuit." Ronon laughed low and patted McKay's leg.

"That's nothing. See here?" Ronon threw his leg up over McKay's, rolling up the grubby fabric of his pants to show off yet more scar tissue.

"Thresher's tail; felt like someone took a grater to my skin."

McKay lifted his mug in a tipsy salute to Ronon. "I'll drink to your leg."

Ronon looked really amused by McKay, lifting his own mug with a nod. "And I'll drink to yours."

John smiled quietly to himself, calm for the first time in days as if being confronted by scars made him realise that as terrifying as the threat lurking in the dark waters outside was, this, too, would pass. It might leave a mark on him, but maybe he'd be wiser for the experience. Maybe the next time he felt sure of something in his gut he'd act like a police Chief and lay down the law, no matter how bad it would be for tourism or his career.

"I got the cream of the crop, right there," McKay said, voice piercing John's introspective haze. John looked over to see McKay pulling his shirt open at the collar, baring the unblemished left side of his chest. John exchanged a bemused look with Ronon, not sure whether to blame the alcohol or just McKay's own weirdness.

"Right there," McKay repeated, gesturing at the area around his nipple with a flapping hand. "Samantha Carter broke my heart. Let's drink to Sam Carter."

Ronon and McKay raised their mugs, and John mentally raised one to broken hearts everywhere. The worst scars were never physical.

END