How was he ever supposed to understand these people when they kept changing the rules? Ronon huffed, went to say something, but then…what was the point?
“I’m sorry.” Keller touched a hand gently to his arm and he pulled back.
“Don’t say that when you don’t mean it. I don’t need your pity.”
“It’s not…” Now she huffed, mirroring his own frustration and he tasted acid in his throat. “I don’t pity you, Ronon. I never have. I thought…” He looked at her, knew too much emotion was overflowing from him, and her words faded. It wasn’t as though there was anything else to say, so he turned on his heel and left.
He didn’t want to go back to his quarters to mope. It would only highlight to him again how alone he was in a city surrounded by people. People who were other, who couldn’t understand the complexities of the heart. The true heart. The Satedan heart. Satedan culture was lost on them. Satedan culture was lost, period. Along with anyone with any capacity to feel deeply, to have the desire to create something bigger than they were. These people looked the same, well, most of them looked a little soft around the edges—Satedans were firm bodied, angular, with deep, soft hearts for family—but at times like this, when it really mattered, these Earthers were so alien it cut Ronon to the bone.
He passed them in the corridors going about their business, flirting, laughing, talking with gravity, and tried to tune it all out, tried to remember the warmth of his mother’s home, the lightness in the joy of gathering with friends before the war, before everything was gone. But seven years was a long time and those memories had faded, all he could picture now were the ruins of his city and the desolate wasteland with no signs of life. He fought back the urge to punch something, to hammer his fists against the metal walls until they bled, to find something, anything, anyone, who could help him feel alive again. Feel whole.
And of course, the gods would laugh at him, tease him by placing the one person Ronon knew had a heart as deep as his own, who had the capacity to reach beyond the superficiality of his own people and be elevated to the level of a Satedan warrior--Sheppard.
“Hey, big guy, what’s with the thunder face? Jennifer bail on you again for some sickly pup?”
“She bailed on me for good this time.” It hurt, looking at him. Telling him. Ronon was sure Sheppard hadn’t liked that Ronon was with Keller, that maybe there was a part of him that had wanted Ronon for himself and Ronon had tried. He’d tried to engage Sheppard that way, in conversation, in sparring, but had come up empty and hurting.
Sheppard stilled, cocked his head in that way he did when he was trying to understand something. “She…she finished with you?”
“Yes. So, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll go pummel some marines.” Ronon made to walk off.
He sighed, pausing his stride. He really didn’t want to do this. Not here. And certainly not with… “What is there to say, Sheppard? You have too many words that mean nothing and none that hold value.”
“That’s a little harsh. But, hey, come on, what happened?”
“Who knows. Who the hell cares?” And wasn’t that the truth? “I’m too much, not enough. I have no idea. She wants me to share, she doesn’t want me to share that… I’m done with all of you. You people make no sense to me.” And then he walked away leaving an eerie silence in his wake.
John seethed quietly. He hated seeing Ronon so lost and angry. He deserved better, he deserved more. It was none of his business what had gone on between him and Keller, but he was going to damned well make it his business. Nobody messed with his team without him coming down hard on them. No one.
He made his way to medical, hoping Keller would be there without actually being on shift. Of all the people to screw over. Ronon still found it hard to trust, to let people in, and she’d…well, he didn’t know what she’d done. It was bad enough he’d had to sit back and watch their fledgling little thing get off the ground, but knowing Ronon was finally happy, that he wouldn’t be alone anymore, that was worth the heartache. But to watch it crash and burn and Ronon become even more withdrawn…to think Ronon could actually leave Atlantis all together? Unthinkable. Not going to happen. Whatever it took, however painful it would be to think of Ronon behind closed doors with someone else…he’d do it just to have him here. To know he was safe and happy. And safe. Seven years. How did anyone survive that?
Medical was quiet. John found Keller in her office sifting through paperwork. “Got a minute?”
She looked up, surprised. No sign of having just broken up with a significant other. “What can I do for you, John?”
“Ronon.” With that one word, her whole demeanour changed.
“What could you possibly have to say to me about Ronon?”
John opened his mouth to speak but paused as her words sunk in. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Her sigh was heavy. “Never mind. Say what you’re here to say.”
“I’m not…I just wanted to find out what happened, see if you two can’t straighten things out.”
“Right. Of course, you are.”
“No, John, you look. I don’t care what you think you are here to do, but there is nothing to fix, okay? Things were…nothing ever got off the ground, not really, so it’s not as though I’m actually ending anything.”
“You weren’t dating?”
“We were, but he, we didn’t ever…”
“You dumped him because he didn’t put out? The man was completely alone for seven years, Jennifer. You couldn’t give him a little time to get used to the thought of being intimate with you?”
“What? No, god, no, you…” She paused to look at him. Really look at him, and he felt his skin itch as she tried to see beyond what he was willing to share. “You don’t know, do you? God, you come here to lecture me about what I should and shouldn’t do, and you have no idea.”
“Why don’t you enlighten me?” His voice was tight, he knew it, but he didn’t care. He’d had enough of that tome from Nancy in the last days of their marriage to put up with it from a colleague.
“I don’t want to be a Lifeline Lover, John. Do you understand that at least?”
“I…no, I don’t”
“You don’t understand that isn’t enough, or you don’t understand what it is?”
“Both, I guess.”
“Then you need to speak to Ronon. Satedan culture is rich and complex. They feel deeply.” She waved her arm in the air. “And not enough. There is no point us continuing this conversation if you don’t understand the concepts that led to my decision. Hell, we shouldn’t be having this conversation anyway. It would be bad enough for anyone to call me on my decision, but you…you have no right given the circumstances.”
“Ask Ronon. Ask him about how Satedans categorise love, and lovers. Then come and tell me I made the wrong choice.” She turned back to her paperwork, leaving John staring at the back of her head.
He was numb around the edges as he wandered the corridor towards the gym. Ask him about how Satedans categorise love, and lovers. What the hell did that mean? But that wasn’t really the issue. John could occasionally be honest with himself about the deep shit that haunted him in the night. It wasn’t that he didn’t know what it meant. He was more concerned he knew exactly what it meant, and in that case, did he really want Ronon to explain it to him. Because the one thing he knew for sure, was that he couldn’t lose Ronon. Wouldn’t want to be the cause of him leaving Atlantis and going it alone. Again. For all his steadfast, immovable bluster, the man was a big bucket of goo. Feelings that ran so deep most people failed to see them at all. But John saw them, oh yes, John saw them, felt them, mirrored them, and that’s why Keller had been…necessary.
He rounded the corner to the sparring room to find Ronon slumped against the wall alone. “Where is everyone? I was expecting to see blood on the floor.”
“Yeah, well, they took one look at me and all headed for the showers.”
John sat next to Ronon, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, and felt the shudder run through both their bodies at the proximity. “So,” John said carefully. “You want to talk to me about Lifeline Lovers?”
Ronon snorted a laugh. “You actually went to see her, didn’t you?” He shook his head. “I don’t get you, Sheppard. Why would you try to fix it?”
“Forget about that for now. I want to hear from you. Tell me about Sateda, Ronon. Talk me about how your people love.”
“How we love? Are you sure you want to know, because I’ve had one person bail on me already after sharing this.”
“Yeah, well, there’s nothing to bail on, is there. We’re friends, Ronon. I want to understand more of what’s going on for you. So I can be there for you. You don’t have to go through everything alone, and despite what you may think of us as a people, some of us can understand big feelings.”
“I don’t doubt you understand them, John. It’s what you choose to do with them that baffles me.”
John instinctively pressed closer to Ronon at the use of his given name. He was pretty sure it was the first time he’d heard Ronon say it, and it felt good hearing it in that deep, rounded timbre of Ronon’s voice. “Lifeline Lovers, Ronon?”
Ronon sighed, deep and sad. “On Sateda we knew how to love completely. We would give of ourselves. Our lives, our hopes, dreams, our every breath would be for our True Love. When you find your Truest Love, Sheppard, nothing and no one else matters. Do you understand that?”
“Yes, I do.” There was a pause, a fraction too long as Ronon took in a shuddery breath. “Melina was your Truest Love?”
Ronon nodded. “It’s not like on Earth, not transitory like your marriage, it’s for life.” Ronon picked at a bead in his hair. “I’ve heard your people talk about soul mates, and I guess it’s similar except, in death…let’s just say if your lifetime is longer than your lover’s you don’t wither away waiting to join them in the afterlife. In a universe with Wraith, life is for living while you have it.”
“So, you have Lifeline Lovers, for when your Truest Love is gone?”
“Yes. And no.” Ronon straightened his legs and rubbed strong hands over his thighs. He was nervous. Why would he be nervous? “In our culture we had four kinds of lovers. Your Truest Lover was your first choice, your everything.” More deep breathing, and now John was nervous. “When your Truest Love wasn’t… When they died, or weren’t interested in you…”
“Wait, not interested in you?”
“You must realise some love is unrequited, John? You could have a deep, lasting love for someone who barely knows you exist in that way,” he met John’s gaze.
“Would you pine away for them, or get on with your life in the best way you know how?”
“In that situation, you would take up with a Lifeline. They will never be your all, or your everything, but they keep you grounded and functioning, they give you focus and purpose.”
“But they aren’t the one.”
“Exactly. From what I see of your people, this is the most common love you have. It is the love people expect in life. It is often transitory for you, but for Satedans it would still be lasting. We love one person at a time. We share our bodies with one lover at a time.” Ronon quirked a smile. “Most of the time, unless there is a mutual need to… Anyway,” he shifted where he sat, and the warmth of his body made itself known in John’s.
“And the other kinds of lovers?”
Ronon looked at John again, deep and searching. “Battle Lovers. As it sounds. In the heat of war, when everything is shot to shit, as you would say, when you aren’t at home in towns and communities but stranded on battle fields far from home… then there are Battle Lovers. You keep each other strong, focused, determined to love another day and bring the war to and end. You love to distraction, rid the body of tension making it free to fight, and fight, and fight. But is exists only in war. There is no place for it in a home. In a township.”
John picked at imaginary lint on his BDU’s. “Is that what we would be?” His words were so quiet he barely heard them over the thump of his heart.
“What did you say?”
“And the last type of lover?” John asked, ignoring the fact he’d voiced his deepest fears, that Ronon would see him only as means to release tension in the midst of battle.
Ronon narrowed his gaze for a moment but then continued. “Day Lovers. Akin to your people’s one-night-stand. Very rare with Satedans, but in the absence of any of the others if too much time passes.”
“Too much time?”
“Not like your people, who need to fuck every week or so. But if years pass and you are yet to find a Lifeline, well, it is healthy to maintain some kind of connection to love, to the pleasures of the body.”
“Right.” Day Lovers. Since Nancy, and before Nancy, that had been all John had known. And now, whether he cared to admit it or not, he was faced with the truest of True Loves there could ever be in his world, but it was unrequited. Ronon may only think of Keller as a Lifeline, but in the absence of Melina what else was he to do? Keller should be happy to have Ronon’s commitment to a life together. “And you told Jennifer she was a Lifeline?”
“She isn’t. Yet.” Ronon shifted to face John. “You realise we aren’t lovers, right? We have never been…together.”
“But you thought she may become a Lifeline?”
“Yes.” Ronon sighed deeply and the sound tore at John’s insides. “That is what we discussed when she ended things. And I don’t understand, Sheppard, because that’s all you people ever seem to search for. When somebody is looking for a soul mate, a deeper connection, you people, you make fun of them, call them dreamers. I thought she would understand what I was offering.”
“I don’t think she does understand.” John pushed himself to his feet. “I’ll talk to her. Help her to see what you…”
“That’s what you want?” Ronon’s voice was edged with anger. “After everything I’ve just told you, you would want to see me with Keller?”
“What I want, Ronon, is to see you happy.”
“Yes. Focused, grounded. Isn’t that what you said you thought you could build with her? That’s what I want for you.” John could see Ronon grinding his teeth, but he said nothing, so John left him as he’d found him and headed back to the medical bay.
“I don’t want to hear what you think about it,” Keller said as John tapped on the door frame to her office.
“You told me to come back when I understood. Now I do, and you’re making a mistake.”
She spun around, all fire and fury. “I’m making a mistake? How dare you stand there and say that to me.”
“Jennifer, he’s offering you a lifetime commitment. What more can you ask of him?”
The anger drained and her eyes narrowed. “Oh, my god. You still don’t get it, do you?”
“Sure, I do. You want to be his Truest Love, but he knows he can only offer you his life and his love, not his heart and soul.” Why couldn’t she understand that? It was simple even to John, and he wasn’t exactly great with the emotional stuff.
“John, it’s one thing to be second fiddle to a dead wife, most of us can live with that. But I’m sorry, I’m not going to build a life with a man knowing his heart and soul belongs to someone he sees every day. I’m not strong enough for that, and quite frankly, it’s completely inappropriate for you to expect or even ask that of me. And for what reason, your own hang ups?”
John sighed. “You’ve lost me again.”
“Of course, I have. Because you are both completely oblivious, and utterly ridiculous. You, John, are Ronon’s Truest Love. He belongs to you. We could build a life together, and possibly learn to be happy, but it wouldn’t change the fact he loves you. He wants to be with you. His heart and soul, as you said, are with you and always will be.” John stared, mouth open. “If you want to find someone to blame for Ronon’s loneliness, look in the mirror. Now, please, leave me alone.” She didn’t wait for him to leave and instead brushed past him disappearing from sight. Her words echoed around his head. You, John, are Ronon’s Truest Love. No. it couldn’t be. It wasn’t possible.
But it was possible. It was so possible, John wanted to kick himself for refusing to see it sooner. Refused to see it because there wasn’t a damn thing in this universe or the next, he could do about it without being court-martialled and given a one-way ticket back to Earth. Anger welled up in him at the realisation that outdated military protocol was shafting them both, and Ronon hadn’t even signed up to it. At least John had known. He knew before he finished college his tastes ran easy in both directions, but he’d wanted a career in the military, so he’d squashed half of himself, silenced it. And it had worked just fine until Ronon crashed into his life. There was only one thing for it. He needed a drink. A real goddamned drink in a real goddamned bar.
The Gate room was quiet. “Dial Midway,” John said to Jazelyn at the controls.
“But we don’t have any scheduled…”
“Just do it.”
“Yes, Sir.” She dialled the Midway station and Shepard waited for the ripples to settle before walking though the gate and allowing his body to be torn into atoms.
At Midway, John looked to the control desk. “What can I do for you, Colonel?” John didn’t recognise the guy, and he didn’t really care who it was anyway.
“Dial Earth. I have a few hours R&R and I have something I need to do back home.”
“Uh, I’m not sure…”
“It’s an order,” John said, raising his voice.
“I get that, but I can’t let you go back to Earth wearing the Atlantis Insignia.” The guy pointed to John’s sleeve.
“Damn it.” He hadn’t even noticed. Was so used to wearing the uniform, even on his days off. He stripped off his shirt and flung it to the ground leaving him in just a black tee. “Satisfied?” At least there were no further arguments and the Gate sprang to life. He was going to be in so much trouble for leaving Atlantis without telling Wolsey, but he just didn’t have the strength left in him to care.
This time when he stepped out of the Gate, there was a buzz of activity. “Colonel Shepard, is there a problem?” General Landry looked down his nose at John’s lack of uniform.
“No, sir. I, uh…I have a couple of hours and I…”
“You’ve wasted serious military resource for an afternoon jolly?”
Anger flared deep in John’s stomach. “I haven’t taken a holiday in almost five years, General. I think the least you can do is give me access to a decent bar to get drunk when the need arises.”
“I see.” General Landry gave him an appraising look. “I trust Wolsey knows of your departure?”
“Absolutely.” Not. But I don’t give a damn.
“In that case,” Landry looked around. “You, Lt. Mendez, escort Colonel Shepard to the nearest bar and wait for him to…do whatever it is he’s here to do.”
“And for goodness sake get him a jacket. It’s Winter, Colonel, you’re going to freeze to death out there.”
A couple of hours later, John was feeling warm and fuzzy but emptier than ever. The knowledge that Ronon was a whole galaxy away hurt like a bitch and his vision was going cloudy around the edges. John looked around. “Mendez,” he said, waving at the soldier waiting patiently by the door. “Mendez, come here.” He watched the young guy wander over. “What do think about it all? I mean, it’s not right is it, not really?”
“I have no idea what you mean, Colonel.”
“No, no, I mean, why would you, I bet the girls go crazy for you right?”
Mendez quirked a smile. “I do okay, I guess.”
“And men, do you do okay with the boys too? I bet you do, you look the type.” To John’s surprise, Mendez laughed.
“I see some action now and then. I hope that’s not a proposition though Colonel, that really wouldn’t be appropriate in your condition, or with me on duty.”
“Right, right. Wait…you wouldn’t mind?”
“Well, it’s not as though we have DADT to worry about anymore. It’s still not common place, but there are a number of personnel in same sex relationships these days.”
“There are?” John’s head span and he grabbed the bar to stop him slipping off his stool. Mendez grabbed him to stop the slide and straightened him up.
“Guess you’ve been out of range a while, huh?”
“You could say that.”
“DADT was repealed more than six months ago, Sir. You can love who you want in the military nowadays.”
“I can? I mean I do anyway, they can’t take it from you even when they say it’s not allowed, but I didn’t know…I didn’t know I could, you know.”
“Oh, right. Well. You can. I mean lots of guys always did, you know?”
“But…” John slumped into Mendez’s shoulder. “I’m a virgin, Mendez,” he whispered. “He’s not going to want a blushing virgin, is he? Not one as old as me.” John realised his face was wet. God, he was crying. Could he be anymore pathetic?
“Okay, I think it’s time to get you back to base, and back to wherever in the universe you’re supposed to be.”
“Not even in this one,” John whispered again. “But don’t say I told you.”
“Right.” Mendez hooked John’s arm over his shoulder. “Time to pay your tab.”
John patted his back pocket, then slapped his hand to his forehead. “Shoot. I didn’t…I forgot to bring my wallet. The excursion wasn’t exactly planned, and I don’t need US dollars where I’m stationed, if you know what I mean. I’ll pay you back,” he said, going for a smile. “I could pay you back in kind, maybe?”
Mendez plopped him back on the stool and dug out his wallet. He threw some money on the bar then lifted John again and half dragged, half carried him back to the jeep.
“So, you want a blowjob or something?”
“Colonel. You need to save it for whoever you’re on your way back to. And for the record, being a guy’s first is hot.”
“It really, really is. And you’re not old. You’re actually kind of perfect, if I’m honest. If you weren’t so wasted, I would not be saying no.”
John grinned. He still had it, even when he was shit-faced. “Good to know.”
“You should close your eyes and sleep it off for the drive back to base. Gate travel is no fun drunk.”
“Good idea.” John settled into the seat and pulled the jacket he’d borrowed around him. No DADT to worry about. Just him and Ronon. And a bed. A bed would definitely be necessary. And nakedness. Lots and lots of nakedness for as long as they both shall live.
“Are you sure you’re up to this, Colonel?” John looked at Landry through the one eye he could keep open without feeling dizzy.
“I’ll be fine. It’s no different to going through with a concussion.”
John attempted a salute before ambling through the gate. He regretted the advice not to wait a few more hours immediately his stomach was ripped from his body and his head shoved metaphorically up his ass. He lurched into Midway, staggered a few paces and collapsed. He was sure he saw Ronon’s face swim into view just as his vision blacked out.
John could hear rumbling dulled voices. His throat was parched, and his brain felt like it was trying to escape through his eye sockets. “How long have I been out?” he managed to say without bothering to open his eyes or sit up.
“An hour or so.” Ronon’s deep base sounded good even with the rumba going on between his ears. “You’re an idiot.”
“So it seems.”
“What the hell were you thinking?”
“I kind of wasn’t. Or rather I was thinking too much and needed to find the antidote.”
“What happened to not bailing on me?”
That got John’s attention, and he opened his eyes to search out Ronon’s face. “I didn’t bail on you. Is that what you think?”
“You were gone.” His face was blank, but his eyes couldn’t hide the hurt. Hurt John had put there. “Not just from Atlantis. You left for another universe, John. What the hell am I supposed to think?”
John forced himself to sit up. Whoever Ronon had been talking to when he’d first come around had disappeared and they were alone. “You’re supposed to realise I was conflicted because I love you.”
“Conflicted? How much did you drink?” The bitter edge to Ronon’s voice broke John’s heart.
“I’m serious, Ronon. I had to get away to think about what you’d said. Keller said…Jennifer thought…thinks you’re in love with me, like True Love in love.” Ronon looked at his boots but gave nothing away. “I was…angry.” Ronon’s gaze snapped up. “That we could both love each other that way but not be allowed to be together because of stupid military rules.”
Silent standoff. They were both wary, and John hated it. Hated they were trying to hide from each other.
“Is there a but?” Ronon said, eventually.
John reached out and took Ronon’s hand. “I realised I don’t give a flying fuck about Earth rules.” He tugged at Ronon’s hand, bringing him closer to the bed, and lifting Ronon’s hand to kiss his fingers. “And then I found out it didn’t matter anymore anyway because those rules are now obsolete.”
“You say so much without actually saying anything.” Ronon was hovering dangerously close to John, tendrils of hope seeping out of him, and John reached up to cup his face.
“I love you, Ronon. I want to be with you. What more do I need to say?” and he pulled Ronon down into their first kiss. Soft, gentle, and god damned perfect. Something clicked into place inside John’s chest that he hadn’t known for sure had been missing.
When Ronon pulled away his gaze stayed with John’s. “You really mean that?” There was a hint of playfulness around the corners of his eyes and John relaxed a fraction. “Because I’m Satedan, John. I don’t do that transitory, maybe a decade crap you Earthers seem to go for. I’m all or nothing.”
John smiled. “Well, I can’t say you’re still going to feel that way in a decade when I’m old and chubby.”
“Growing old together is a gift from the gods themselves in this universe, John. It’s not something anyone takes lightly.”
The sound of his name on Ronon’s lips was too good, and it stirred things deep in places he’d kept hidden for too long. It made him brave. Brave enough to say the things he normally never could. “I can’t ever imagine a time when I won’t want to be with you, Chewy. A decade is nowhere near long enough. I’m not even sure a lifetime will do it.”
Ronon kissed him again. Slow and easy, like they had forever. “Get some rest because you’re going to need it later.” He quirked a smile.
“About that.” Ronon raised an eyebrow. “I, uh…” John wanted to crawl away and hide. The room was suddenly hot and lacking air, his brow prickled with sweat. “I’ve kind of never…you know, with a guy before.”
“We have the rest of our lives, John. We don’t have to everything today.”
“Oh, we do. I’ve waited too long to take a chance you’ll change your mind.”
“Not going to happen.” Ronon brushed the pad of his thumb over John’s jawline and John shuddered. “Ever. And I may have a little more experience. Not much, I admit,” he shrugged, “but it’s still been almost ten years for me John, with anyone.”
“Wow, that is…Mendez was right, that is so hot.”
“Who the hell is Mendez?” The jealous growl made John smile.
“Someone who helped me see what was right. I didn’t touch him, I swear. From now on, I’ll never touch another.”
“That’s more like it.” Ronon kissed him again, the lightest touch of lips, and turned to leave.
“Ronon?” He turned back, and his smile blinded John momentarily. “Why were you at Midway?”
Ronon grimaced. “Wolsey sent me to wait for you.”
“Ugh, is he pissed?”
“Worse. He’s disappointed. Upset you’d leave Atlantis without talking to him. He was wearing his kicked puppy face.”
“Oh, god.” John cringed at the thought of having to explain the situation to anyone, let alone Wolsey. The man looked ready to burst into tears if someone farted wrong. “I’d rather have a new one ripped by Landry than deal with a disappointed suit. Is that who you were talking to earlier?”
Ronon nodded. “He said for you to call in when you’re feeling up to it. He was all understanding and shit.”
“Crap. Well, that’s going to be never.” Ronon chuffed a laugh before turning to leave. “Where are you going?”
“To make preparations.” John blushed. “For us to move into shared quarters, John. We’ll need a large bed, more space.”
“A bigger bed will definitely be a good idea.” He pushed back the covers, but Ronon held up a hand to pause him. “I want to help.”
“You’re seriously dehydrated.” Ronon motioned to the drip John hadn’t consciously noticed he was attached to. “You need to rest. I’ll come back for you when everything is ready. To take you home.”
“To our home.” He watched Ronon leave with what was almost a spring in his step and John lay back in the bed and closed his eyes. Wolsey was a bit of a thorn in his side but the rest of it? He shuddered at the memory of Ronon’s lips on his. Oh, yeah, the rest of it he could definitely get used to. He may think twice before going through the gate drunk again, but a few hours in medical at the other end…all worth it to be able to call somewhere home. Someone home. Truest Love. Soul mate. Ronon.
Ronon had been gifted with so many riches in his life. Sure, people looked at him and saw loss and desolation, and yeah, he felt that loss deep in his bones every hour of every day, but it didn’t take away the good memories. He’d had a full life before the war kicked up a notch. Friends, family, a career. It was funny, really, nobody here, no one who knew him now considered him as anything other than a warrior, some caveman soldier. But he’d had a life outside the military. He’d had friends, family, nieces and nephews he taught to hunt and fight. He had hobbies and interests that extended beyond killing Wraith. He liked to cook, to craft with wood and leather, to build homes for his friends, and he loved to write, to play music, to travel his world from the highest mountain peaks to the deepest lakes and valleys. John saw that side of him even if he didn’t know the detail. John had always been able to see through the tough outer skin to the soft underbelly of Ronon’s being. That’s how Ronon knew John was worthy of his heart. That’s how Ronon knew he was ready to build a new life, a new home, a new family.
He looked around the room, the largest of the collection of rooms he would now share with John. It was sparse, but comfortable. A blank slate for them to grow into together. The walls were warmer here in the family designated area of the city. He could hear the echo of children’s laughter in these halls, unlike the cold functional area of the city taken up by military personnel. The allocation of such a large unit had been a gift in itself. Unnecessary, but Wolsey had insisted. John was the Military Commander, he’d said, and as such should be rewarded for his commitment to Atlantis. He’d also talked about setting a good example, putting down roots, moving on from single, transitory quarters to something that showed everyone in the city things here were permanent. Wolsey had talked at length, as he often did about anything and everything, about wanting to make Atlantis more homely, to encourage its new inhabitants to think of it less as an expedition, and more like a lifelong colony. Ronon had listened. For once Wolsey’s ramblings spoke to something deep inside him that longed for those days gone by of late-night laughter and family gatherings, of celebration, and passion, and a life full of promise.
Sateda had been one of the few largely industrial planets in the galaxy. The people had refused to allow the threat of Wraith culling to dampen their spirit, their creativity, their drive for a better world. From what he had seen of Earth, their communities had been similar. Sure, Sateda was smaller, with a population less than a single country in John’s world, but they functioned in a similar way with technology, hospitals, even holidays. Things Teila’s people had never known. Would possibly never know.
He walked through to the bedroom for one last look before collecting John from medical. The large bed was dressed with crisp white sheets and a handful of colourful blankets he’d collected during trading missions to various worlds. He hadn’t wanted to pack up John’s room for him, but he had brought the book from his nightstand and his alarm clock, a collection of music cd’s with the player, a handful of John’s favourite films, and some clothes. The stage was set. His heart hammered in his chest thinking of what would unfold here later that evening. He’d stocked their private kitchen with ready prepared food from the mess, beer, some wine, which Ronon preferred and John always teased him about. It wasn’t quite a home yet, but there was promise. Promise of a future together, a promise to each other that they would finally allow themselves to explore, to map each other’s bodies, to find heights and depths of pleasure at each other’s hands.
Ronon shook himself out. Pressed a firm hand against the thickening length in his pants and closed his eyes briefly. It had been a long time. Too long. If John hadn’t been one of the first Lantean’s Ronon had met, he’d have been tempted to find a Day Lover or two to tide him over, to remind him of how good his body could feel in the hands of another. But something in John had called to Ronon that very first day. Something in the casual way he’d dealt with being held captive, the way he’d fought for his team, worried for his fallen comrade addicted to the Wraith enzyme, the way he’d bartered for Ronon’s freedom without even knowing him because it was the right thing to do. John may be from Earth, but he had a Satedan heart. Ronon had taken time to watch, to catalogue, and finally to accept that John was worth a lifetime of waiting. He’d thought he’d lost him along the way, caught up in rules and obligations Ronon didn’t understand and he’d allowed John to push him towards Keller. His heart had never been in it, and she knew. She knew with the very first kiss Ronon would never be hers. He needed to thank her for being strong enough to stand up for what she deserved. What they both deserved. Without that, without her calling time, refusing to ignore the obvious…well, it wasn’t worth thinking about. Time to go collect his prise.
John’s legs were shaky as they left the transporter. “Where are we, exactly?”
“North citadel. We have a great view of the city from the balcony.”
“We have a balcony?”
“A big one. And several rooms. Our own kitchen. Do you cook?”
“Can’t say that I do.” He slowed to a stop, whether it was anxiety or adrenaline, he couldn’t tell.
“What is it?”
“Ronon, you have to know I want this, but isn’t this all happening a bit fast?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Yesterday we were skipping around each other, and you were dating someone else. Now we’re moving in together?”
Ronon edged closer, all endless patience and understanding, and John wanted to punch him. “This is one of those Earth things, isn’t it? What did McKay call it…fear of commitment?”
“I’m not afraid to…when did you speak to Rodney?” John huffed. “It doesn’t matter, that’s not it.” Not all of it, anyway. It was part of it, John could occasionally be honest with himself. “But, hell, we haven’t even had sex yet. What if we don’t like it?” Ronon laughed. Actually laughed. And John wanted to punch him again. “Yeah, ha ha. I don’t know what to do, Ronon.” He hated how silly it sounded, but it was the truth, and it worried him. He couldn’t afford to mess this up. Not with Ronon. Not with the one person he didn’t doubt he loved with every ounce of himself. “I don’t know how to be with you. And I don’t just mean in bed.” He sighed. There was so much he wanted to say but he didn’t know where to start. If he should even try. “I’ve been married before, remember. It was a disaster. I don’t,” John felt a tide of emotion welling up. “I don’t want us to ever be like that. I don’t ever want to be like that, not with you, Chewy. I can’t…”
“Hey, hey…” Ronon wrapped John up in strong arms and nuzzled into his neck. “We can take this a day at a time, John.”
“But it’s not a day at a time, is it? This is like a huge deal for you, and I want that, I do, I just don’t know how to…not mess it up.”
Ronon stepped back, his expression considered. “I think you’re looking at this the wrong way.”
“There is nothing to mess up.” Ronon ran a finger over John’s cheek and smiled. “It’s a done deal as far as I’m concerned. Non-negotiable. Like being born Satedan. You can’t mess it up. You can’t do something stupid one day and you’re not Satedan anymore.”
John thought about that for a moment. He’d done plenty of stupid things in his life, would any of them have risked the complicated mess of feeling and emotion he had for Ronon? No. so why had it fallen apart with Nancy? Because she didn’t know him, didn’t want to know him, expected things he didn’t have the capacity to give. Had Ronon ever done that, ever hinted at any of that? No. “Okay, I can work with that, I guess. But it doesn’t change the fact I don’t know how to…” he waved his arms in Ronon’s direction, “make you feel good.”
Ronon stepped in close, pressing John lightly against the wall, breathing into his neck. “Sure you do, John.” He took hold of John’s hand and placed it on his own hip before dragging it over his crotch, down to his thigh and back. John shuddered feeling the bulge in Ronon’s pants, and his heart thumped a little faster. “You’ve had lovers before, John. You know how to make a lover feel good, how to read their body. From what I’ve heard of your reputation, you have always been very...thorough, an accomplished lover.”
“Who told you that?”
Ronon smirked. “And you have a cock of your own, so I know you know what feels good when you touch and stroke one.”
“That is true.” A very fat, heavy, trapped cock, that was more than a little interested in every breath, every touch of Ronon’s hands.
“So what are you worried about?”
“I don’t want to disappoint you. I…”
“Not going to happen.” Ronon kissed along his jaw to the corner of his mouth. “Not even possible.” And he dived in for a deep, dirty kiss, full of teeth and tongue, and John couldn’t hold back the whimper, or the automatic reflex of his hands over Ronon’s body, a hand in his hair pulling him down, and one on his ass, pulling him closer. Ronon chuckled against him. “I don’t think we’re going to have a problem, do you?”
“No,” John grinned despite himself and his nerves, “definitely not.”
“So, can we go home now? There is a very nice meal, and a very large bed waiting for us.”
John felt himself flush, his face burning with anticipation and just a hint of embarrassment. “Do we have to take it in that order?”
“We can take it anyway you want to, John. Anyway at all.”