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There Beside Me

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Ronon was on Torren-watch, so that was why he woke.

The sounds were similar to the snuffles and whimpers Torren made when he was working up to a really good scream, and Ronon was trained now, waking at the first warning noises before Torren could let rip with a full-bodied wail.

In the semi-dark, Ronon couldn’t tell where the sounds were coming from for a moment, but he blinked awake and realized Torren’s cot was quiet, the baby sleeping. Beside him, John snored softly, used to Ronon getting up and down to tend to Torren, just as Ronon was used to John doing the same when it was his turn.

Ronon found his gray sweats on the floor by the bed and pulled them on. John had slid them off him earlier, eyes dark in the light of the flickering candle on the bedside table. Ronon’d been reading before John joined him. His book—one of Teyla’s about identifying wild mushrooms—lay splayed on the table, face down. John had gotten caught up playing chess with the new guy, McKay—best of five games, which apparently he’d won, much to McKay’s consternation.

They’d given McKay bedding to bunk down on the couch in the other room, but the walls in Teyla’s rec center apartment weren’t thick, so they had to be quiet. It was weird having someone else there, not that either of them tended to be loud, what with Torren. Different, though, keeping quiet so as not to wake the baby, and keeping quiet so McKay wouldn’t…what? Be embarrassed? Feel left out?

Weird and kind of hot, and Ronon’d had to jam his arm in his mouth to stifle the groans, John’s mouth even more talented than usual, his tongue relentless, dark head bobbing between Ronon’s thighs. John had felt it too, he reckoned, moaning around Ronon’s cock and grinding his hips into the bed. He’d come just from sucking Ronon, like he used to when they first hooked up in the old days, before the rapture. Ronon made him sleep in the wet patch for that, but keeping the sheets clean didn’t matter any more—they were leaving in a couple of days, heading north to Colorado. They wouldn’t be back.

Anyway, Ronon didn’t think there was much risk of embarrassing McKay. He’d caught the guy eyeing him hungrily, like he was a burger with extra cheese. Mmmm. Ronon licked his lips: he really missed burgers. McKay watched John like that as well, open longing on his face until he realized he’d been caught out and looked away, ducking his head and flushing. It was kind of amusing. Ronon didn’t mind—hell, he liked watching John as well.

He slipped on a tee John had given him last year for his birthday. It had a picture on the front of the Lion King, which had led to some memorable bedroom antics at the time, with growling and holding down and John writhing under him. Ronon shook his head slightly to clear it: the sounds from the other room had nothing to do with good times.

He padded over to the door and opened it, pausing for a quick recon from force of habit. All quiet, main door locked, nothing pinging his radar. Just McKay on the couch, bent over with his arms propped on his knees, face buried in his hands, weeping quietly.

Ronon pulled the bedroom door shut then crossed the room, sinking down onto the couch alongside McKay, not quite touching. “You okay?”

McKay gave a start—not that Ronon’d been loud; he’d practically been whispering—then lifted his head and sniffed, wiping his nose on his sleeve. He was trying for acerbic, but his voice was too hoarse and clogged—he just sounded sick and fed up, like he had a head cold. “What does it look like? Which is to say: no, of course I’m not okay. Fuck.” He dropped his head back into his hands.

“Wanna talk about it?” Ronon offered. McKay seemed like he was a talker.

“Not really…it’s just…sometimes I think about Jeannie. My sister.” Ronon nodded but McKay was already continuing. “I don’t. I don’t usually let myself. Couldn’t lately, when I was stealing the Humvee and driving here. Just had to keep going, concentrate on staying alive.” He screwed his balled fists into his eyes, then wiped his face on his sleeve. “Maybe this is, um, reaction, or something. To being safe.” He pulled a face. “Well, safer.

“Tough to have family out there,” said Ronon, knowing the chances of them actually being out there were pretty low, all things considered.

McKay clearly realized that as well. “It’s the not knowing,” he said in a small voice. “And Madison was only four. I don’t know what’s worse—that she might have been taken, or that she might have been left behind, like Teyla’s kid.”

“Torren,” said Ronon. It wasn’t that he avoided talking about Teyla, but the grief still blindsided him sometimes. He swallowed.

“Oh, crap,” said McKay beside him, his voice thick with tears again. “Teyla.”

“Yeah,” said Ronon roughly, and he put his arm around McKay and pulled him into a one-armed hug.

The door creaked, and Ronon looked up to see John, in a black tee and shorts, coming towards them, Torren against his shoulder. The baby made a restless, protesting sound but John rubbed his back and he subsided.

“Sorry,” said Ronon. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”

“’s okay,” John whispered, rocking Torren a little to lull him. He reached down and handed the baby over. Ronon accepted the surprisingly heavy bundle, and John sat down beside him, leaning in. Torren’s cheeks were pink and sleep-flushed but he wasn’t feverish when Ronon rested a hand on his brow. Just the teething, then. One of his hands was free, lax on the blanket.

Ronon nudged McKay, then passed Torren across. On his other side, John tensed briefly, then Ronon felt him make himself relax. McKay was tense at first, too, peering down at the baby and biting his lip. He relaxed gradually, brushing a wisp of soft hair back from Torren’s forehead. McKay touched the baby’s hand and the tiny fist closed around his finger reflexively. “Oh,” McKay said, the tears gone from his voice. He sounded awed.

Ronon put his arm around John and pulled him in, doing the same to McKay until they bracketed him warmly. He slid a hand into John’s tousled hair, and John made a small noise in his throat.

Torren snuffled faintly against McKay’s chest and McKay bent down and sniffed the baby’s head. “He smells good,” whispered McKay, his nose grazing Torren’s soft hair.

“Yeah,” agreed Ronon. “Smells like home.”

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