Chapter 1: The Best I Can
-The second one might be profound-
Teyla Emmagan ran her hand along the edge of the old work table, then lifted it and inspected her fingers. Bright light filtered in through the windows in the wooden shop doors, and the second story ones overhead catching on the odd dust moats floating in the air. Still, there was hardly a speck of dust on her fingers; she wiped her hands together anyway. She turned when she heard her cousin's heavy tread on the stairs leading up to his loft bedroom.
“I’ll be just a minute, and we can go,” he said.
Teyla returned the younger man's infectious grin and nodded.
She watched as he disappeared above with an arm full of clean white sheets, her attention again surveying her surroundings. She smiled wistfully. Teyla always forget how rough and deep his voice was, but she could remember just how he sounded when his voice had just started cracking with clarity. She also knew he was a full foot taller than her, but she forgot how significant that height difference was until she was standing beside him. In some ways, he would always and forever be the stubborn boy six years younger than her; with that bright, winsome smile, dancing eyes, and mischievous nature. No one could ever stay truly mad at him, even if they tried. It was easy to forget he was a man grown, but she had left when he was sixteen, and when Teyla moved back for a few years, he was already gone.
Teyla continued to look around the space, several other workbenches sat about, along with tool boxes against the wall opposite her. Ronon kept his area neat, and most of the wood shavings cleaned up off the floor. Truthfully the place reminded her of their grandfather's shop; Grampy Kia always kept his workspace neat as well. Not obsessive tidy but neat like this. He didn't leave things scattered about and disorganized. And she rather liked the old brick walls and industrial lighting; the entire place seemed to fit Ronon’s personality well. It was unadorned and straightforward and made so much more sense now that she knew what he was planning.
Teyla was not surprised to find Ronon shared so many character traits with their grandfather: the man was the primary male influence in Ronon’s life. Kai ’Akimu was nothing if not a plain-spoken man who simply was what he was and nothing more or nothing less. As for aunt Kat, she would be glad to know Ronon at least kept a spare set of sheets and remembered to change them when company came. That wasn’t the only thing that had stuck: Ronon refused to let Teyla help remake his bed. At home, Aunt Katherine never would either. Guests-even family-didn’t do such things unless they were long term guests.
When Teyla's favorite auntie called with concerns about her only son's new living arrangements, Teyla said, she would come to see him. Ronon never told his mom why he was living in an industrial shop space only that he was. He didn’t want his mom or their grandfather to know he planned to start building furniture like their grandfather had done before his arthritis and a lifetime spent as a fisherman made his hands cramp. In truth, he already was and had sold some pieces.
Her aunt's concerns were justified as far as Teyla was concerned, though their grandfather was sure ”the boy,” would be fine, once he found his feet again. Kat was his mom, and Ronon was so shiftless over the last four years. Teyla personally was glad to hear he wasn’t sleeping on someone’s couch or camping somewhere. But Katherine Dex only saw that her baby seemed to move from one upsetting place to the next. One of her latest worries was about his choice of employment. When Ronon left the navy subcontracting job in Texas, her aunt had been anxious, but then he took a temporary welding job here in Colorado Springs or The Springs, as Ronon would say. The post turned into a bit more than the first six months, and he stayed employed with the crew for a year or more. Then he just quit. He said it was because they wanted him to cut his dreads, which Teyla could see that his employers might want him to, but Teyla figured it was more of that restlessness of spirit. He let his hair grow long when he was still living in Texas, but the dreads came after he left. Teyla actually expected to hear he was moving on again, not that he was working in a coffee shop and a comic book store.
When her aunt called, Teyla instantly said she would come. She had only seen him once since he left Texas. She found a cheap enough flight from Reno to Denver, Ronon picked her up there earlier today. She made a pretty good living managing the Athosian Room at the Atlantis Casino in Reno, but she still wasn’t seven hundred dollar plane ticket rich unless she was going home. The ticket into Denver saved four hundred and fifty dollars.
“You ready?” Ronon asked as he jogged down the stairs, effectively ending her thoughts.
Teyla nodded once. “Yes,” she said. They stopped by the coffee shop earlier today so he could introduce her to his boss. Teyla had instantly seen why Ronon got a certain tone to his voice when he mentioned Jeanie Miller. Teyla was expecting to find some gorgeous women, given Ronons taste. Silently, Teyla was happy at the thought. She wasn't sure, but she didn't think there had been any long term women since Mel either. The women, Teyla met was attractive, but she displayed such a warm, friendly nature Teyla instantly knew why Ronon gravitated toward her. She was married and motherly. There was something in the warmth and friendliness that Jeanie displayed that felt familiar and reminded Teyla of home, and she invited them all out for dinner tonight. She actually insisted.
“Are you sure, you don’t need to change or make yourself pretty?” He asked, his eyes dancing.
“I’m quite ready, Ronon,” Teyla assured him.
Ronon pulled his keys from his pocket. His smile grew at his cousins monosyllabic answer. Teyla was one of the nicest most friendly people you would ever meet, but at the same time, sometimes her answers felt short. Ronon made his way to the door, holding it open for her. Teyla stepped past without looking up, Ronon poked at her elbow anyway.
The much shorter woman looked up at him smiling.
Locking the door once he stepped through, Ronon turned looking down at his cousin again, following her to his truck.
When Teyla had called with an unexpected self invitation to visit, Ronon had been surprised, though he hadn't minded that she was coming. In his family, there was a pretty open-door policy, and they didn’t stand on ceremony. He had actually been excited-and luckily-Jeanie had worked with him. She had only asked she get to meet this cousin of his.
However, he had known there was a catch in there somewhere. He loved Teyla, and she was unarguably his favorite of the older cousin save her older brother Solan, but she was not the “just drop by” sort.
It hadn’t taken him long to get the truth behind her carefully asked questions and concerned gaze. His mom was worried. That was why Teyla Emmagan had made the trip to see her younger cuz.
He got her as soon as they were in his truck at the airport. He had put his truck in gear, and looked over his shoulder as he backed out. “So,” he began nonchalantly, “not that it isn’t great to see you, cuz. It really is. But why don’t you tell me why you suddenly decided to come see me? Just a couple of months ago you said work was keeping you so busy you probably wouldn’t have any free time until late fall?”
He met her gaze, a slight smile on her lips.
“Fine,” she conceded with a nod. “Aunt Kat is a little concerned.”
Ronon hated knowing his mom worried about him. Though he was aware, for someone that didn’t like to make their mother worry, he had certainly done enough of that very thing over the last few years. But he wouldn't lie to her either. He just didn't want her or his grandfather to know what he was trying to do until he saw if it was going to work. That was largely because he knew how much seeing him shift through life lately had bothered them both.
Truthfully, as much as it bothered them both, it had bothered him more. He also knew how worried Mel would be. He had always thought it was stupid when people said someone would roll over in their grave or a dead person would want you to do something different. It didn't matter; the dead were dead. Even if you believed in a hereafter, they were no longer here. Still, he knew Melena would want more for him.
In the very beginning, he had barely clung to the light of day without her.
Ronon actually felt like things were right for the first time in a long time. Like he was in a good place, a place where very soon, his mom could stop worrying about him.
Thanks for reading!
Chapter 2: Sure Be Cool If You Did
Jeanie plans a get together so everyone can meet Teyla and because she thinks of Ronon like he is family.
Rhea shifted into first as she pulled into the parking lot of the Nox Family Fun Center. Her attention drifting over the brick building facade. The place was packed like it was whenever she drove by on a Friday night. Rhea still found a parking spot reasonably easy; she pulled in beside an old Harley. She was no expert on bikes, though Rhea did know some. From a strictly artistic point of view, these old bikes were works of art in the truest sense of the word– especially –ones like this: unadorned and free of chrome, and plunging fenders. A saddle seat, similar to an old bicycle seat, sat high along a sloping tank, a set of old school handlebars set on the steering stem above it, below the seat gave way to an abrupt drop to the rear wheel and fender, lending to the raw simplicity and beauty. When you thought about the ingenuity and stroke of genius that sparked this idea, it was indeed amazing. These sorts of bikes built today were generally covered in chrome and flash and showed little of the grace of their early predecessors. Her big brother was the bike aficionado, however. Though his tastes ran more to crotch rockets, he had just recently bought a fifth-generation GSXR. Clive would still know the exact year of this bike, however, and this one was well maintained and by the looks of it old. She’d say the forties probably.
Eyeing the bike for another moment, she turned the key, pulling it from the ignition. When Jeanie called her at work earlier and asked if Rhea minded if they switched their plans from dinner at The Avalon to dinner here. Rhea had been surprised. They did girls night twice a month and had been for close to a year now, and Jeanie had wanted to go to the Avalon for weeks. Sometimes they ate at some nice place, like The Cattlemen or Avalon, but it was usually a place like O’Malleys or some other such establishment. That was mainly because Rhea refused to let Jeanie pay for every meal, and she couldn't afford to frequent such places. But they never went to places like this. Jeanie said the idea of girls’ night was to get away from family.
Rhea opened the door, sliding her leather jacket on over her shirt, she pulled the long end of her ponytail from under her coat. She had brought clothes to change into after work but figured tight dark washed jeans and Mary Janes she had worn today was good enough for this - though, she had put on a little make-up as she had intended.
Jeanie had only said; she had an unexpected friend visiting from out of town, so this was it. Jeanie wanted to bring Kaleb and their Maddi along as well. Rhea had said she would just go home, but unsurprisingly Jeanie Miller was not taking no for an answer. She treated her friends like they were her family; she was kind to everyone; that’s why people liked working for her. Her brother had the exact opposite effect on people. Sometimes Rhea found it challenging to stay in the comic book shop for more than a few minutes.
The late evening sky east of The Springs, had been alight with one of those spectacular thunderstorms the area was known for when Rhea left work tonight. It had been moving this way, and they grew even more dramatic as they danced along the mountains. Rhea hurried toward the door just as the first drops fell, part of her feeling bad for the poor bastard who'd ridden the Harley.
Rhea hurried inside and made her way across the entry, the sound of pinball bells, bowling balls hitting pins, and people filled her ears. Jeanie had said they'd be getting food, so Rhea made her way across the busy lobby toward the sign that said food court. Her stomach growled as the smell of pizza, greasy food, and French fries filled her nose.
Rhea stepped through the arched doorway into the food court and paused, looking around for Jeanie when a familiar voice called her name.
She turned, more than a little surprised to see John Sheppard sitting at a table about halfway across the busy space. Madeline Miller, Jeanie’s four-year-old perched on the stool beside him, waving her chubby little hand. John helped the toddler down, and she hurried toward Rhea.
Rhea lifted the bubbly little four-year-old when she reached her.
Smiling down at her round-cheeked little friend, with hair the same color as her mom, Rhea scrunched up her nose and puckered her lips. ”Where’s your mommy?” She asked.
Maddi giggled, scrunched up her nose in answer, and shrugged. She grabbed Rhea’s cheeks, squeezing them so Rhea would make a face, giggling again. Maddi stuck the end of one pudgy little finger on the small stud on the right side of Rhea’s nose. ”Ouch?” Maddi said.
”Nope, no ouch,” Rhea said.
Rhea tickled her, and Maddi squealed with laughter. Maddi had accidentally hit Rhea in the face a couple of weeks ago and caught her tiny stud in the process.
Out of the three little kids, Rhea saw the most; Miss Maddi was the youngest, then Cassie, and then Ry. Ry was her little gentleman, Cassie was her creator, she was always making something, and Madeline Miller was her partner in crime. They’d stolen many a cookie when her mom wasn’t looking.
Rhea reached the table, her attention moving past John to the unfamiliar women sitting across from him, she smiled.
”Hey?” Rhea said to the dark-skinned woman.
“Hey,” the other woman said with a friendly smile.
”Hey, kid, your hair looks good,” Sheppard said, drawing her attention.
“Thanks,” Rhea replied, placing Maddi back to the stool as she looked around for any sign of Jeanie or Kaleb. Before Rhea could say more, John was speaking again.
”This is Teyla,” he said, pausing for a half a second before he went on. “She’s Ronon’s cousin.”
Rhea opened her mouth, closing it just as quickly. She was confused for half a second, several things computing at once. For one thing, this meant Ronon was here. This woman was his cousin. She knew Jeanie's nature, and this was the friend. A heavy feeling settled into the pit of her stomach. ”Hey,” She started again, with a polite smile. “I’m Rhea.” She continued as she offered the other woman her hand across the table.
Dropping the other woman’s hand, Rhea said. “Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too,” the older woman said.
Rhea turned her attention back to John. ”Have you seen Jeanie?”
”Yeah, she went to get another…”
”Rae,” an all too familiar voice said, interrupting Sheppards words. Rhea turned her head meeting his gaze, a touch of the uncertainty she felt was reflected in his hazel eyes.
“Ronon,” she said, absolutely sure she should not be here. She was incredibly glad there were others present. She knew if there wasn’t, the awkwardness she felt would manifest into her stumbling through an excuse for being here.
“Jeanie invited me,” Rhea heard herself say. She flushed slightly, apparently determined to be awkward anyway.
Ronon’s gaze drifted over Rhea's face like he was searching for something before that friendly, almost smile he seemed to wear most of the time appeared. “The more, the merrier,“ he said, pausing for half a second before he went. “Did you meet my cousin?” He asked next, turning his attention to the woman sitting beside him.
“Yeah.” She said softly. “We met.”
A shroud of awkwardness settled around her again, and neither said anything.
Thankfully, Jeanie appeared beside her, her hand wrapping around Rhea’s arm. “Oh, good, Rhea! Come, help me.”
“What’s going on?” Rhea asked as her friend pulled her toward the bar.
When they reached the bar, Jeanie dropped Rhea's arm and stepped up to the counter. “I need ten fountain cups, a kids chocolate milk, and two pictures of beer.”
Rhea looked back over her shoulder toward the table. Ten cups seemed like a lot, Kaleb, Jeanie's husband was there now, as was Rodney but no one else was present.
“I invited a few people,” Jeanie said, bringing Rhea's attention back to her. “Hey Rae, don’t be mad,” Jeanie said earnestly. “I know I should have told you what was up, but I knew you wouldn’t come. Teyla is Ronon’s cousin, she’s only in town for a couple of days, and I wanted to do something nice.”
Rhea nodded, glancing back over her shoulder at the table. Her eyes alighted on Ronons broad shoulders and the back of his head. He leaned against the table by his cousin, laughing loudly at something that she said, and her eyes twinkled in response. If anyone else had done this to her, Rhea would be furious, but she knew Jeanie didn’t have an ulterior motive. Well, Sheppard, probably could also, though Rhea would never want him to know that. Jeanie was just a good person. Rhea still had no idea why Jeanie thought she should even be here. She may be endeavoring to be nice like Sheppard suggested a few days ago, but she and Ronon barely got along, and Rhea would have understood if Jeanie had told her.
Jeanie looked at her younger friend, imagining what was going through her head. She had known Rhea was going to be unimpressed, but she and Ronon were both important to her. She had found an unlikely best friend in Rhea, and Ronon she thought of as family.
”C’mon, Rea, I invited half of the damn building. I’m sure you two can get along for a few hours, ” the blond encouraged, knowing Rhea was caving. ”Besides, Teyla is really nice.” Jeanie kept to herself that she had also been relatively sure Ronon would like the two women to meet. Though she knew Rae would never admit it, Jeanie had always suspected there was more to it than Rhea just loving her coffee that kept her coming in when Rhea claimed to dislike Ronon so vehemently. Despite the friction between the two, she’d also seen them gravitate toward each other on more than one occasion. They both always seemed to be aware of the other when they were in the same room also.
There was another couple here that seemed to have the gravitating issue as well, but right now, Jeanie just wanted Rhea to stay. “Maddi will be mad if you leave now,” Jeanie threw out there.
“Blackmail?” Rhea asked, eyes twinkling. She knew Rhea couldn’t say no to her daughter.
Jeanie just shrugged.
Rhea sighed dramatically. “Fine. So, how did you get your brother to come?”
“I reminded him that he is a person.”
Rhea smiled, wishing for just a moment that she had been there for that particular conversation. They might be siblings, but they were different as night and day. In Rhea's limited experience, Rodney simply passed out edicts and expected people to follow them.
Rhea refrained from pointing out that Jeanie could have left her from the guest list, and no one would have found it odd, because unlike her brother, Jeanie Miller was one of the best people you would ever meet.
Rhea dropped her napkin on the table and adjusted Maddi in her lap. Jeanies ten guest had added Walter, Aidan Ford, and Elizabeth Weir to the party if you included Maddi, the number was actually eleven. Liz sat on the stool to her right between Rhea and John. Ford sat on the other side of John, next to Ronon and his cousin. Liz leaned closer, smiling at Maddi before her warm eyes met Rhea’s. Rhea smiled in return. Rhea liked the reticent med student a great deal, despite suspecting that the other woman wasn’t so sure about her yet. Rhea watched as she Liz’s attention turned to John, her smile growing bigger as he smiled at something, Ronon said. Rhea had no idea what Ronon had said, but the way John looked at the brunette sitting between them was why Rhea liked her so much.
“So, what was Ronon like as a kid?” Sheppard asked, eyeing Ronon. The younger man just continued to eat his slice of pizza.
Teyla was quiet for a moment, surveying her cousin. ”Ronon wassss, ” she trailed off as if looking for the right word. ”Difficult.”
“Really?” Sheppard questioned a broad cat that the cream smile appearing on his lips. He dropped his pizza crust onto his plate, one brow slightly lifted, his attention shifted to Ronon for just a moment. ”How so?”
”He hated doing his chores.”
“Do tell?” Sheppard encouraged.
”Aunt Kat told him to do the dishes, and he refused. He said if she made him, he was moving out.”
”And did he?”
”Indeed, he did,” she confirmed with a nod of her head. “He went to his room, packed a bag, and away he went with his sleeping bag under his arm.” She paused for a moment before she went on. “Aunt Kat is a most patient person; she just let him go.”
“Huh, imagine it taking patients to deal with him,” John observed.
”Sometime around sunset, he snuck in and stole the cookie jar.”
”I was hungry, ” Ronon defended, speaking for the first time.
Teyla gave him a doubtful look. “Finally, Aunt Kat sent my older brother to get him.”
“Really? How’d that go?”
“Solan brought back a black eye and a kicking and screaming Ronon. Ronon spent the rest of the night sitting on a stool in front of the sink. The dishes were still dirty in the morning, and Ronon was still angry.
Sheppard asked. ”Did he ever wash them?”
”When Aunt Kat called grandpa Kai, Ronon washed the dishes.”
”Stubborn, bullheaded, immovable. Sounds like nothing much has changed.” Sheppard observed. “How old was he?”
Teyla looked over at Ronon. “Seven, maybe,” she said in askance.
”Eight.” Ronon corrected a broad smile on his lips and dancing in his eyes.
Rheas' smile grew as their eyes met, and she shook her head. She knew he was almost disturbingly handsome when he smiled like this; wings fluttered unbidden in her stomach as she watched him a moment more unable to look away. The feeling suddenly changed, turning into something else as a lead weight settled into her gut.
”Why don't we go rent a lane?” Kaleb suggested, drawing everyone’s attention. His arm wrapped tighter around his wife's shoulder; he placed an affectionate kiss on her forehead.
”I'm not bowling; there are two ma….” Rodney scoffed.
His sister cut him off, a hint of thin patience in her voice.”You don't have too, Mer.” She quickly followed up her words with a suggestion. “You can keep your niece company in the arcade.”
“Okay, okay, I will play,” he said, defeated and surprisingly quickly.
Rhea glanced up at Ronon again; her stomach knotted more tightly. His big smile had faded somewhat, but his eye still danced, a smile played around his lips. Again, Rhea felt those wing flutter. The feeling grew as she continued to watch him.
Remembering herself, Rhea stood and let out a deep breath, sitting Maddi in her seat. ”I will be right back,” she said to John when he looked up at her, she gave a half-hearted smile to the table in general. Rhea suddenly needed something a little different from the soda in her glass.
Get a hold of yourself; Rhea silently chastised as she made her way to the bar. She had no idea what had just happened a moment or so ago, but it wasn’t the first time tonight, watching him like this had… she didn’t know. It was like she felt a slip in herself. She had never even tried to deny even to herself that there was something ludicrously attractive about him, and she knew she wasn’t the only woman to see it. Thought it wasn’t just how hot she regrettably found him that had her feeling off, it was seeing him like this. Let's face it, she caught glimpses of this, but Rhea rarely stayed long enough to get caught up in it. He was obviously so happy his cousin was here, she hadn’t been able to help but be charmed.
Rhea glanced back over her shoulder as she waited for the bartender. He was standing by the table now, his back to her like earlier when she looked back at him. Rhea made herself turn away. Just as she turned, someone bumped into Rhea, and she stumbled forward. Rhea found herself pressed firmly against the solid wall of someone’s chest.
“Whoa, there,” a masculine voice tinted with a midwestern twang said as hands wrapped around her arms and helped her stand up straight. The man she had fallen into stood, and he helped her.
“You alright?” He asked, pale blue eyes traveling over her face. His hands fell away from her, and he sat back down on his stool.
Rhea blushed crimson. “I’m so sorry, someone just, knocked into me and…” She turned even redder under his amused regard.
“If you wanted me to buy you a drink, there was a much easier way to go about it then that,” he teased.
Rhea opened her mouth to protest, closing it just as quickly.
She watched him closely for a moment; nothing irritated her faster than a man who thought he had a good line. All she saw was amusement dancing in his gaze.
“Well, ma’am, why don’t you let me buy you a drink?” He asked, his powder blue eyes holding her green.
”Ma’am?” Rhea asked. She was certain no one had ever called her ma’am before, in all her twenty-three years.
“I don’t even know your name,” Rhea said, laughing silently.
“I think we’re a little past introduction,” he replied, a hint of playful charm wrapped up in a midwestern twang. “Don’t you?”
Rhea laughed outright this time.
”Come on? What are you having? Besides, girls like you never pay for their own drinks.”
Hands slipping in her back pockets, Rhea studied him for a moment. Usually, if a man said something like that to her, she would be sure there would be some comment about astronaut pants or if it hurt. But something told her this wasn't just his best line but maybe his only line if it was a line at all.
She bit her bottom lip lightly, her attention moving to the bartender waiting behind the bar. She nodded. ”Bud bottle.”
”Hm, ” her new friend said, lifting his own bottle of Budweiser just to his lips. ”A girl after my own heart.”
Rhea took her beer from the bartender, studying her companion. His attention returned to her, and he lifted his bottle again, tapping it against Rhea’s. ”Cam.”
“Ah!” He said, holding up a hand, waving at her to stop. “I prefer a little bit of mystery, pretty lady.”
”Thanks for the drink, Cam,” Rhea said, still smiling, “it was nice to meet you.”
Later That Night
”It would seem, you have been most fortunate in your friends, cousin,” Teyla said. The cool night air was surrounding her, her attention still in the faint flashes of light in the sky to the west.
Ronon turned his head, looking over at her. “Yeah, ” he rumbled.
After they had left the others, Ronon had asked Teyla if she wanted to see the best view in Colorado. She had thought Ronon must have meant a lookout or mountaintop somewhere. What he was talking about was the roof of his shop. He grabbed a couple of old blankets and led her up here, laying them out on the still damp roof. He said he couldn't see the stars from up here but came up and watched the storms as they passed by.
”So, tell me about you and the girl?” Teyla asked nonchalantly. ”Rhea?”
Ronon snorted softly, looking over at Tey before he looked up again. “There is nothing to tell.” For just one instant, the image of Rhea watching him and smiling filled his head, but then the look he had seen her give the guy at the bar came to him.
“Is that nothing because you want it to be nothing or nothing because there really is nothing?”
“There’s really nothing between Rae and me; she doesn’t like me very much.” Ronon ignored the twisting in his stomach. Like an idiot, he had started to follow her to the bar.
The way she had looked at him right before she went to get a drink had had him following her. Fuck, he’d known how stupid it was, but he couldn’t help it. He had caught a small glimpse of the girl he had first met. He had made the excuse of getting beers for him and Teyla, but he had wanted to see Rhea alone. He just wanted to know how she would react if they were alone if he could get her to look at him that way again. She was not precisely friendly over the last few days, but she was different. Jeanie had had him help with inventory, and she was cleaning out painting and installing new shelves in the storage room, so Ronon hadn’t personally waited on Rhea since the day he put the Andes Mints in her coffee. But she hadn't looked at him like he could get run over by a semi-truck, and she wouldn't care for a few days. That wasn't to say she was friendly, but if their gazes met, the worst he got was a flat look.
“Has there really been anyone since Mel, Ronon?”
Ronon shook his head, ”Nah, not really.” There had been a few women over the last few years, but he honestly hadn't been looking for anything. ”Nothing serious.”
”Do you still miss her?”
He did. Not like he used to, but he had been thinking about her so much lately. ”Yeah.”
”I'm sure you always will,” she said. ”But you should find someone, Ronon. If your business plans work out, aunt Kat will start worrying about other things like you needing a wife and grandbabies.”
As uncaring as her words may sound, given the question she had just asked moments before, Ronon understood she was not dismissing his reply. As much as their childhoods had taught them the importance of family and remembering the past, they had been taught to not live in it. Teyla was gently reminding him she felt he should start moving on.
”So, what do you want to do tomorrow?” Teyla asked, changing the subject.
”I was thinking we could go see some of the sights.”
”Like?” She asked.
“There’s a lot to do. The falls, Garden of the Gods, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.”
“The first two sound good. I’m don’t really like seeing animals in cages. Could we also go see your furniture?” Teyla asked of the pieces he said he’d just taken to a store that took his stuff in the old part of the city.
Thanks for reading!
Rhea tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, checked the time on her watch, and straightened the cuff of her sweater. She made a cursory sweep of the space around her; and brushed a piece of lint from her gray bootleg pants. The call for this job interview had come as a surprise for two different reasons. One, it was a Saturday morning, could you be here by the eleven-thirty call. Secondly, Rhea had applied almost five weeks ago, and when she called in to check on her application, the manager told Rhea they had filled the position. Cha… Rhea had absolutely no idea how to say the ludicrous name. Shaking her head, she read the first few letters individually, C h a l huitilce.
Sighing, she went with the second half of the name Vault Zero. She was most definitely going to have to ask Daniel how to pronounce the first part of the name again.
She tried to sound it out the word Chal hiut ilce.. She couldn’t remember precisely how Daniel said the word, but she knew it sounded nothing like you’d think.
The image of his puckered brow when she had asked him how to pronounce the word before, brought a smile to Rhea’s lips. The man had one of the most animated faces Rhea had ever seen. He had told Rhea that the name was that of the Aztec water Goddess or She of the Jade Skirt as she was otherwise known. As far as Rhea was concerned, She of the Jade Skirt or just The Jade Skirt would have been a better, more interesting name. The other one was pretentiously ridiculous and could say volumes about the owner. But many of the artsy community could be a little self-obsessed, at least in Rhea’s educated opinion.
She would ask Daniel later; she had a book on reading Egyptian art, one of her professors had given her, and she intended to pass it on to Daniel anyway. After all, he had just recently developed this new obsession with Egyptian Culture and Mythology.
The click-clack of high heels across the flagstone floor brought Rhea from her thoughts. She looked up, meeting the dark, almond-shaped eyes of the women who had introduced herself as Kali earlier. Her long dark hair was pulled back severely from her tanned face, highlighting emotionless features.
”Follow me.” She said. ”Nirrti will see you now.”
Rhea stood, following the taller woman, her attention traveling over the space. Everything in the store was handmade and mostly by local artisan; a handful of her classmates, along with one of her professors, had pieces here. A store like this would never make on the west side of Detroit. It was more Birmingham speed, which was the upper crusty corner of the Motor City with nice big homes and lots of money.
Here it wouldn’t matter where it was the place would always busy; it catered to tourists and the people with summer homes, cabins, and lodges in the mountains, and Rhea knew they were always looking for more pieces.
Rhea followed the tall, dark-haired woman down a long corridor to an office doorway. The moment Rhea stepped into the sterile white room with modern furnishings, she understood the pretentiousness of the business name. While the store itself had a rustic Colorado appeal, you might expect with open rafters and stone floors; this room spoke plenty about the owner. The floor was made up of large black and white tile, a pair of uncomfortable-looking white leather and metal chairs set in front of an open front desk made of concrete. A single folder lay in the center of it, a pen laying neatly lined up with it edge beside it. A large white leather desk chair sat vacant behind it.
”Sit,” the woman named Kali said, her gaze running over Rhea.
Rhea sat, the click-clack of the other woman’s shoes as she walked away filled Rhea's ears. Rhea looked around the sparsely decorated room and wondered how long she would wait now.
She didn't wait long at all, and another set of footsteps filled her ears. These were different lighter taps like maybe the person wore soft-soled shoes. The woman stepped past Rhea, not even glancing at her; she rounded the desk. She wore a pale blue and silver sari, draped over her body, and a skirt of the icy color — a jeweled headband of hair jewelry set atop a head of bobbed dark hair.
The woman took the seat opposite Rhea.
Rhea began to stand up and offer her hand; the brunette didn't even look up; she just picked up her pen and opened the folder.
”So, Rhea? It is Rhea correct?” she asked, still not looking at her.
Rhea nodded, ”Yes.” She was reasonably certain she had never had an interview start quite like this.
”You're resume says you are in your third year of design school correct? The woman inquired, sounding almost bored.
”So you have one more left. It says here; you plan to do video game design. It also says you have an interest in art history?”
Rhea nodded her head a second time.”Yes.”
“Are there any particular areas you find interesting?” Her disinterested tone belied the legitimacy of the question just as it had before.
Rhea answered anyway. “Recently, I have been reading about ancient Egyptian art.” Rhea wasn’t entirely sure if that wasn’t because of Daniel Jackson; she had noticed his interests seemed to rub off on her. Daniel got so caught up in his interests, and it somehow became contagious. “But if you mean in a broader sense, my choice to study art history was for what I can learn about the past. Two of my favorite things have always been history and art. All works, even if they aren’t to my taste, tell their own stories.”
Rhea stepped out of the building twenty minutes later, a little uncertain, what had just happened. She knew she got the job; she started Monday afternoon, that part was clear enough. At the same time, Rhea also felt a little….. violated? She was not sure that was the right term. Dissected, maybe? Analyzed? Studied? Shaking her head, Rhea put her sunglasses on and made her way down the sidewalk to her car. But it was safe to say she wouldn't have said yes to the oddly creepy and off-putting woman's job offer if she didn't really need the extra income. Especially not when she looked down her nose at Rhea’s sweater and pants and condescended that she hoped Rhea had nicer clothes to wear than that. Dungarees, as she put it, weren't allowed. They weren't actually dungarees; they were vintage wool tweed trousers, and Rhea wore them to work at Yu’s gallery all the time, but Rhea kept that to herself. It was apparent to Rhea that her new employer was not a fan of the gallery owner.
Ronon got out of his truck and walked around the front, he stepped up onto the sidewalk, waiting for Teyla to get out. His attention passed over the old storefronts and busy sidewalk beside him. Teyla opened the door, bringing his gaze back to her.
“This is the place?” She questioned, her attention moving toward the blue awning that spanned the sidewalk.
“Yup,” Ronon said. ”They have the best bacon cheeseburgers in this part of town,” he assured her as they started moving down the sidewalk.
”I see,” Teyla said.
The Alchemy Pub did have better than average burgers, but truthfully, the main reason Ronon had brought her here was he needed real food with a decent portion size after hiking all over the Garden of the Gods this morning. Not smaller portions and salads. He would probably just have stopped at one of the truck stops, but he brought Teyla to the old city so he could show her the bench and chair set he had recently finished. He paused, damned if he still didn't know how to say it. Cha whatever or Vault Zero as he always referred to it.
Ronon was glad the manager hadn't been around, honestly. The one called Kali was off-putting enough, the boss lady was even worse. He always felt as though she was watching him through a microscope. Analyzing his every movement and not in a checking him out sort of way either it was in a creepy vaguely scientific method, one might watch a mouse in a cage. Honestly, he never put his furniture there if he didn't know it could open the door to other things he wanted.
Ronon grabbed the door pulling it open; he let Tey step past him. The hostess met them at the door, leading them to a booth.
”Can I bring you drinks to start?” The girl asked as she handed them their menus.
Ronon nodded, “Dr. Pepper.”
Teyla followed quickly with, “ice tea, thank you.”
Ronon opened his menu, already knowing what he wanted. He made a show of reading it anyway. “So, what are you going to tell mom?” He asked, meeting Teyla’s gaze over the top.
Teyla shrugged. “That grampa Kia is right, you are going to be fine.”
Eyes twinkling slightly, he went back to look at his menu. ”You really think so? I haven't lost all sense and decided to settle for being a barista?”
”Ronon,” Teyla admonished. ”To be fair, you did have us all a little worried.”
”I know,” he admitted. And he did know. All too well, really. He had walked away from a career most wouldn't because he hadn't been happy anymore. Though he didn't think it was that that had his mom worried. He also doubted it had anything to do with him pushing thirty. Katherine Dex had always stressed she only wanted him to be happy. The problem was more that he hadn't even been home in six years and she couldn't see for herself he was actually okay. Tey had brought that up last night as well, but going home wasn’t always so easy for him since he left to go back to school.
Maybe it would be crazy to some that after all these years, he still shied away. The last time he had been there, Mel’s memory had proved to be much fresher than he had expected. As had the guilt he still carried for not being there. If he had—
The waitress arrived with their drinks, and to take their orders, interrupting his thoughts.
They had no more than finished ordering, and Teyla nodded to something over his shoulder. ”There’s your friend?”
Ronon turned, the edge of his lips pulling a fraction upward, a little surprised. Rhea was sitting there, doodling away contentedly, on a sketch pad. Discman out, she was wearing the little headphones that slipped in the ear. She paused, twirling her pencil between her fingers on her left hand for a second before she turned her tablet and started drawing again, from a different angle. She turned her head just so revealing a smudge of black on her cheek.
”I am going to use the facilities,” she said, leaving Ronon alone to watch Rhea. He continued to do so, wondering if she'd feel someone watching her and look up. Her gaze lifted almost on cue, a distracted stare on her face; she didn't even look in his direction. He liked watching her when she was like this, so lost in what held her interest; you could see whatever was feeling written all over her face. Right now, she dragged her teeth across her bottom lip, her brows furrowing thoughtfully. A piece of hair slipped from behind her ear; she caught it tucking back where it belonged. She returned her attention to her project.
Ronon stayed put for a moment more before he made his way toward her. He
slid onto the stool opposite her, set his drink down and leaned on his elbows on the table, his white t-shirt pulling tightly across his shoulders and arms. Rhea stopped sketching and looked up at him. There was a brief flash of surprise then that flat look; she pulled her earbuds from her ears.
Ronon grinned more. “Rae.” He resisted the urge to reach out and wipe the smudge of charcoal from her cheek. ”You got a little something,” he said, eyes shifting the mark. She grabbed her napkin, wiping it from her face. His impulse to do it for her had more to do with wondering how she would react if he touched her more than anything. And it was far from the first time he had had that impulse. As if to tempt him further, that piece of hair fell free again, slipping along her cheek.
She blew it away this time, leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest, oblivious to his thoughts. She lifted her brow. “Ronon,” she said, levely.
Ronon beamed at her across the table. There was his little Rae of sunshine. He just held those green eyes of hers.
After a moment, she spoke, impatience sparking her voice. “What’d you want, Ronon?”
Ronon ignored her question; his attention dropped to the sketchbook on the table. ”What’s that?” He asked, with his attention drifting over the intricately drawn tangle of loops and curls; they resembled primitive snakes woven together. Truthfully, Ronon already knew what had inspired them. Jeanie had bought Kaleb an antique Isle of Lewis chess set for their anniversary and had it delivered to the coffee shop. The pieces were so detailed and beautifully carved. He had gone home and started carving a few pieces of his own.
Rhea hesitated for a moment, a biting remark on her tongue that, for some reason, didn't come out. ”Scandanavian Knotwork,” she replied.
Ronon looked up at her, surprised. He expected to get told to get fucked, like usual.
“It’s really good, Rae.” The words were earnest; she was talented, very much so. Though, he rarely had a chance to share that sentiment with her. He braced for her response.
”Thanks, it’s not right, though,” she said after another pause, awkwardness settling around her. Rhea’s gaze dropped. She wished he would stop looking at her like that.
“Looks good to me,” he said, after a moment, leaning his elbows on the table again. He’d been waiting for her sharp tongue, not that simple normal reply. ”Maybe a bit more shading,” he continued, thoughtfully his attention on her sketch pad.
Surprised by his observation, Rhea didn't say anything.
”That chess set was pretty amazing, wasn't it?” He said next.
”Yeah, stunning, really.”
Again the neutral tone made him pause, but it also made him a little suspicious this time.
”Cousin,” a new voice interjected, pulling Rhea’s gaze from his. The other woman gave Rhea a friendly smile.
Rhea smiled in return, though it was tighter than it strictly needed to be. ”Hey.”
Realizing she had just been rude, Rhea followed up with, ”how are you enjoying your visit?”
”Good,” She replied with a warm smile and nod.
”That's good.” Rhea smiled in return, as the women went on, an affectionate smile curling up her lips.
”Yes, Ronon is fun.”
Rhea noted the woman's somewhat odd speech patterns again, but it wasn't that held her attention. Ronon tucked his chin and returned the look his cousin gave him, and Rhea felt that flutter again just as she had last night. It grew slightly as his smile burned brighter.
”We are going to the Manitou Incline after lunch. We went to The Garden of the God’s this morning,” Teyla shared next, effectively distracting Rhea.
“Really?” Rhea asked, surprise in her voice she looked at Ronon, completely ignoring the second part of Teyla’s statement. His eyes twinkled. “The Incline...is ambitious?” Rhea said, her words coming out like a question as she thought about the mile climb that took the walker another two thousand feet in elevation.
”Ronon said it's a nice walk.”
Rhea couldn't help it; she snorted a little, clearing her throat as she met Ronon’s amused gaze again. ”Walk?” she asked, her attention shifting back to his cousin. ”I suppose it is if you call gaining two thousand feet in elevation in a mile a walk. One part I'm pretty certain is a sixty-eight percent grade.”
”Ah, I see,” the older woman said, cocking one brow at her cousin. ”Have you done this…. Walk, as Ronon put it?”
”Yeah, three or four times.” The last time had just been a couple of weeks ago with Graham. ”He probably didn't tell you the Army does basically this same climb with guys in full gear as part of their training maneuvers, right?” She had dated a Special Forces guy who had done it.
”No, he did not.”
”Tourists and locals do this side of it all the time, but it's still a gnarly beast of a climb.” Though, she had caught that Teyla lived on the high desert last night, so the altitude might not get her quite so bad as it did some, and she was obviously as fit as Ronon. “You might do alright with it, though. It generally kicks my ass, and I run almost every day.” She had actually seen people running up it, though she was not likely to try that anytime soon.
”You could join us if you like?” the other woman suggested.
Surprised by the offer, Rhea opened her mouth, uncertain of what to say. Her attention darted to Ronon, who was as surprised as she was. What was even more surprising was that she wanted to say yes; she saw curiosity underlined with a hint of something similar reflected in his hazel eyes.
”I would, but I have to work,” Rhea said, surprising herself again with the truthfulness of her reply.
”Well, then join us for lunch?”
”Thanks,” Rhea began, confusion welling inside her. Her attention shot to Ronon, then dropped for half a second. ”Sure. Let me put this stuff away,” Rhea said, standing and grabbing her bag from the floor, she slipped her sketchpad and other stuff inside. She put her bag down on the stool to her right and retook her seat.
Their waitress arrived at Ronon and Teyla’s booth with their food and Ronon excused himself.
”So, you're an artist?” Teyla asked, sitting down on the stool next to Rhea’s.
Rhea laughed loudly at that. She hated that word; it felt entirely pretentious to call herself an artist. ”That's what they tell me.”
”I take it you don't agree?”
Rhea smiled brightly at the older woman. ”No. Not particularly.”
“Ronon says you are very talented.”
He and Teyla had talked about her? The thought brought an unexpected rush of fluttering to her stomach again.
Ignoring the instant welling of confusion inside her, Rhea said, “Really?”
“Yes. He says you're more talented than him.”
”Talented? How so?” Rhea asked curiously.
”He is a bit of an artist himself,” she said just as Ronon returned. ”Isn't that so, Cousin?”
”What?” Ronon asked, handing Teyla her food and her drink he had somehow managed to carry also. He was already shoving French fries in his mouth as he sat back down.
”I just told Rhea you're an artist, also?”
Ronon snorted, laughing around the food in his mouth. He didn’t respond to Teyla's statement, just lifted his enormous cheeseburger in both hands, and took a bite out of it. Either ignoring or unaware, both women watched him. He took another bite of his burger before he looked up.
”I’m hungry,” he explained to them both after he swallowed.
Rhea snorted herself this time, a slightly bemused smile playing about her lips. ”Really?” she asked, watching as he attacked his burger again. ”Are you sure that's going to be enough?”
“Ronon has never had very good table manners,” Teyla said, drawing Rhea’s gaze from him.
“Really. Why am I not surprised,” Rhea questioned. There were a few things she would add to the list; John had started last night. Untame, uncivilized, uncouth, all of which she was very aware were synonyms. There was also annoying, irritating, obnoxious. Rhea’s lips twitched a fraction upward. ”Ronon Dex, uncivilized, and without proper table manners? Nah, no way.”
Their eyes met, and he watched her closely for a moment like he didn't know if she was serious or not.
”Hey!” he warned after he finished chewing. ”She didn't say uncivilized.”
Rhea’s own smile grew as their gazes held. ”I was reading between the lines.”
”Just like a woman, thinks she knows it all.”
Rhea leaned more heavily on the table; everyone's lunch long since finished. They’d been sitting here talking for quite some time. ”So, you work at a spa?”
”Yes, I managed the Athosian Room at the Atlantis Casino.”
”Tey’s always been weird and into all that new age, yogi, enlightened crap,” Ronon interjected, drawing both women’s attention. Rhea bit her lip lightly as she watched the cousins. Ronon’s eyes twinkled like normal, but his cousin didn’t take his very obvious bait. Honestly, that was one feat Rhea had yet to fully master herself, at least as of yet. She couldn't seem to walk away from it.
His eyes shifted to her, and Rhea smiled softly, shaking her head.
”Some of that ”new age, yogi, enlightened crap” as you put is actually really beneficial,” Rhea said, her eyes beginning to twinkle as she added, ”I’ve taken my fair share of yoga classes.” She would be willing to bet he had no idea.
His facial expression confirmed her suspicions. ”Why am I not surprised?” he questioned, arching one eyebrow. He folded his thick arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair.
There had been a few times in Rhea’s life, she wished she could arch her eyebrow, but as she sat there watching him, this one slid right to the top of her list. She leaned back in her chair, mimicking his posture, and gave him a dirty look. ”I am absolutely sure, I really, really do. Not. Like you.”
Ronon threw his head back and laughed.
”I thought we had already established that sweets,” he said a moment later.
Rhea stared at him flatly, tamping down her smile. Him calling her sweets annoyed her, which is why he said it, today all she wanted to do was laugh. ”Yeah, there is that,” she replied, smiling despite her best of intentions.
”We are going to the…” Teyla interjected, a moment later pulling their attention from each other. She looked at Ronon in askance.
”Pikes Peak Brewery,” Ronon supplied, his attention moving back to Rhea. The way he watched her held Rhea there for a moment. He was curious, but there was something else there also, something that made her heart pick up ever so slightly.
”Yes, a brewery,” Teyla began pulling Rhea's attention back to her. ”We are going there later on if you would like to join us?”
”I would, but I can't. I need to get going, actually,” Rhea said, glancing down at her watch. Fuck, she did need to get going, they'd been sitting here for an hour and a half, and she had to be to work in twenty minutes. ”I have to get to work, and then I have something I have to do afterward.” It was the truth; she had promised Ry they could work on Teal’c’s birthday present tonight. Still, she felt the need to add, ”it's a friend's birthday in a few days, and another friend and I are helping his son make his present.” She glanced at Ronon before she went on. ”Otherwise, I, for sure, would.”
Rhea stood, grabbing her messenger bag from the empty seat between her and Ronon. She pulled some money and a piece of paper and a pencil from one of the front pockets and quickly jotted down her email address, handing it to Teyla. ”That’s my email address, get a hold of me when you get home.”
Rhea reached for her bill only to have Ronon grab it first. ”I got it.”
Rhea opened her mouth to protest, and he cut her off. ”It's just eight bucks, Rae, it's fine.” He arched an eyebrow and shrugged. ”I suppose if you want to pay me back, we can discuss it later.”
Maybe Teyla’s ability to ignore him rubbed off. Rhea slipped the strap of her bag over her head and offered Teyla her hand.” I'm glad we ran into each other today,” Rhea said, and she was. She could honestly say she liked the woman.
“Me as well,” Teyla said with a slight incline of her head, she dropped Rhea's hand.
Looking over at Ronon, Rhea felt an antsy sort of energy fill her stomach. “Bye, Ronon,” she said, holding his gaze.
After a pause, he spoke. “I’ll see ya soon, Rae.”
Rhea pulled her attention away from him; a slight flush slipped across her skin. She smiled at Teyla, waving slightly. “See ya,” she said, stepping away.
Thanks for reading!