It was a gradual thing, their coming together.
To John's shameful relief, Ronon's relationship with Amelia Banks petered out in little under a year. It made him feel like the smallest, pettiest man in the world, but John couldn't help it. He wanted Ronon to be happy, but he'd missed the big guy.
Ronon still practised kick-boxing with Banks a couple of times a week, but with their romance out of the way, he had time for John again. That he spent most of that time beating the crap out of John and running him ragged on the Atlantis catwalks was a small price to pay. John just wished Ronon would stop trying to set him up on dates. Ronon meant well, but John just wasn’t ready for the Atlantis meat market. Frankly, it surprised him that Ronon wasn’t trying to find a woman for himself. He knew that Ronon wanted to settle down, and Atlantis certainly had no shortage of women (and men) who’d give their right arm for a chance with Ronon Dex.
They were winding down in the awesome Ancient steam room after an especially gruelling sparring session when things came to a head. They'd been sitting there in companionable silence for a while, both of them leaning back against the backrest of the sinfully comfortable bench and just letting the lightly eucalyptus scented steam work its magic on them, when Ronon broke the silence.
“What about nurse Stevens?” He sounded just as clear-headed and alert as he always did, not at all as drowsy and cotton-headed as John felt, but when John opened his eyes and looked at him, what little he could make out appeared to be completely at rest.
“What about her?”
“She likes you.” Ronon's face was hidden by the steam, but John could hear the grin in his voice.
He sighed. “That's nice.”
“Gonna ask her out?”
Christ, Ronon was relentless.
“No,” John said, hoping that would be enough.
It wasn't, of course. People thought John was stubborn, but he had nothing on Ronon. There was a reason he'd never given up the fight during those long torturous years when he was the Wraiths' plaything.
“Why not? ‘Bout time you broke your dry spell.”
“It's not that simple,” John said.
“Why not?” Ronon asked, and, god help them all, he sounded contemplative.
If this had been Rodney pestering him about how he should stop chasing space bimbos and settle down already, John would just have given him the silent treatment until Rodney's need to be acknowledged made him get bored and change the subject, but no one could out-silence Ronon.
“I'm done with dating,” he said instead.
“You're still pining after Teyla?” Ronon said, sounding very understanding.
“What?” John practically squeaked, which was embarrassing, but understandable under the circumstances. “I'm not pining after Teyla. Where did you even get that idea?”
“You love her though,” Ronon said reasonably.
Of course John loved Teyla. She was one of the best friends he'd ever had.
“Like a friend loves another friend,” John said.
“Like you love McKay.”
John hadn't even realized Ronon had remembered that little exchange. It'd been three years – Ronon must have the memory of an elephant.
“Yeah, like that,” John said. Then he decided that the time for strategic retreat was over.
“I love you too, you know. Like a friend loves another friend.” He was glad of the steam, because he was sure his face was had turned beet red at this moment.
“I know,” Ronon said. “It's pretty obvious.”
John was saved from saying (or doing) something he’d regret by the PA system calling him to the gateroom. One minor (by Atlantis standards) disaster later, he'd almost forgotten his and Ronon's conversation in the steam room. He certainly hoped that Ronon had forgotten about it, despite his freakish memory.
Ronon hadn't, which became obvious a couple of weeks later when he kissed John.
They'd been out on their usual morning run in the empty parts of the city, and just as they were about to go their separate ways, Ronon bent down and planted a kiss on John, just like that; like it was a completely normal and everyday occurrence for them.
John took a step back and stared up at him. Ronon wasn’t looking apologetic or sheepish or nervous or any of the other things John would have if he’d been the one to kiss his best friend. His eyes weren’t even bugging out a little bit, whereas John’s felt like they were about to fall out of their sockets. “What the hell was that?”
“Just trying something.” He shrugged. “Now I know.”
“Know what?” John felt like he was trapped inside some funky dream. Maybe someone had touched another one of those crystal beings, only this time it wasn't so much psychopathic as benignly psychedelic. Maybe it was the hippie version of the crystal beings – this was Pegasus, anything was possible. John had certainly fantasized about kissing Ronon before, but his dreams generally never provided anything more pleasant than reminders of fallen friends.
“That you don't mind when I do this.” And then Ronon leaned into John and kissed him again, only this time it wasn't nearly as chaste as the first time.
The first kiss had been a peck, jolting only for how natural and easy it had felt, but this kiss was real, it was passionate, it involved Ronon's tongue in John's mouth, Ronon's hands on John's waist, and, before he even noticed, John's hands were tangled in Ronon's dreads.
“So this is something we're doing now?” John asked once they broke apart.
“Yeah.” Ronon was grinning, looking as happy as John had ever seen him. If kissing him was all it took for Ronon to smile like that, teeth showing and eyes crinkling happily, John would kiss him a lot more often from now on.
“Cool.” John suspected he was grinning pretty widely himself.
Things mostly stayed the same after that. They'd been friends before, and now they were simply friends with benefits.
It wasn't until they'd seceded from Earth – and hadn't that come as a surprise for everyone involved, but there was no way that John and Woolsey were going to accept Atlantis being recalled to Earth again, let alone permanently – that they moved in together. It seemed like the reasonable thing to do. Woolsey had grand plans of creating a galaxy wide coalition of soldiers and scientists that would eradicate the Wraith once and for all, and John figured they'd need the room for a new resident, or maybe for storing Wraith stunners or field rations or that blanket Teyla had made him that John didn’t want to admit that he’d spilled tomato soup on.
When John tried to explain his very reasonable and altruistic motives behind asking Ronon to move in with him, Ronon looked like he had some doubts about John's intentions, but he agreed, on the condition that they'd use Ronon's bed. John had no problem with that, because altruistic or not, his old bed really sucked.
To the surprise of everyone but themselves, they never married. Not because they didn’t love each other, because they did. Not because they weren’t committed to what they had, because they were. And not even because they didn’t expect to last, because they did. A relationship that could survive one partner getting hooked on Wraith enzyme and attempting to kill the other could survive anything.
And, with Sateda in ruins and Earth light years away it wasn’t like there was a legal reason for it. Neither of them was interested in the other trappings of marriage, John because he already knew first-hand how badly pretty words spoken in front of friends and family stood up to the trials of everyday life, and Ronon because he thought marriage was old-fashioned. He and Melena had been common law spouses.
“My mother was pretty disappointed,” Ronon admitted the one time they talked about it, “but she understood. All those meaningless ceremonies, it didn't feel right. What Melena and I had was too special.”
Before that, John had just assumed that Ronon shared the same values as the agrarian cultures they usually dealt with. Now he realized that Ronon was a bit of a hipster. It certainly explained the hair.
Never the less, John understood Ronon’s feelings. He'd believed in the ceremonies, and in the end all it had gotten him was their shared record collection (and he only got that because Nancy was upgrading to CD).
This time, he was placing his trust in Ronon.