Elizabeth sometimes trails a soft flowery smell. Ronon likes it. He relied on scent in his running years to hunt for food, and learned to smell when other humans were nearby. He hadn't been taught that, but had had to learn on his own, out in the wild.
But smelling Elizabeth didn't produce food, or even guarantee safety. Smelling her brought pleasure, but also discomfort; he wasn't sure he was supposed to notice. Maybe these people from a different galaxy exuded scent for private reasons. Some days the scent was stronger than others, and it was always stronger in the mornings than the evenings. In the evenings, especially after a difficult day, when her hair fell into her eyes, she smelled very different: sweatier and more real. Certain times of the month there was another smell that conflicted with the morning flower smell; those times made him nervous. He avoided her in the mess on those days.
But this morning, standing with his team, listening to her last minute cautions and concerns, he sniffs deeply and appreciatively. When she's finished talking, looking wide-eyed at them, he pauses to let the others leave first, then leans over her.
"You smell good," he murmurs, watching her carefully. Her eyes widen even more, and her face turns a soft pink, as pink as the flowers she smells like.
"Thank you," she finally says. He nods, and follows his teammates down the stairs. Sheppard gives him a look, but he ignores it. Sheppard has his own interesting smell.
Teyla moves quietly and smoothly, unlike McKay and Sheppard. Her hyper-vigilance is familiar to Ronon; it's obvious to him that she's from a world not too dissimilar from his own. She's spent her life outdoors, venturing through the stargate, looking for trade. She's good at what she does.
The others are noisy compared to her, even Sheppard, who is a warrior in his galaxy and the leader of this team. The flagship, Ronon's heard it called. He's had to learn a new vocabulary since moving to Atlantis; little Zelenka showed him how to look up words on one of the many laptops in this place, so he knows that "flagship" means the biggest or most important, which he thinks is cool, to use one of Sheppard's words. He'd looked up "cool," as well, but there had been too many definitions. Cool was Sheppard to Ronon, and since he leads the flagship team, it works.
Teyla is cool in a different way, he'd discovered. Or the same way but more. Her ferocity pleases him, as does her grace and her proclivity toward silence. That's another difference between the people of Ronon's galaxy and the others: they have little appreciation of quiet. At least the ones on Atlantis show no such interest.
Teyla does. She understands silence, how it can speak more clearly than words, that it's a tool as much as his stunner is. She wields it well, even wittily at times. Ronon likes that. He likes it a lot.
She looks back at him, one eyebrow elegantly lifted, and he hurries to catch up, moving quietly through the thick brush of this world.
Zelenka has been kind to Ronon. He taught Ronon how to use a laptop, and requisitioned one for his own use. Ronon didn't accept it; he prefers to come to the labs and use Zelenka's, who always makes time for him, nervously pushing up his glasses, running his fingers through his thinning hair, speaking a mixture of languages that would confuse Ronon if he listened to it.
He always thinks of Zelenka as Little Zelenka, though he doesn't actually call him that. He's not sure whether Zelenka is really little or if he is just really big, but the difference in their sizes amuses Ronon. He likes to stand as close to Zelenka as he can, or lean over him to peer into the computer's window. At first, Zelenka seemed to find this intimidating, but Ronon is always careful in his movements and gestures, and, with time, Zelenka relaxes. Sometimes he even leans against Ronon in his excitement to show him something. He tugs at Ronon's vest, takes his wrist to pull him across the lab, pats him on the back. They have an involved discussion about the maintenance of Ronon's dreads that ends with them staring into the reflective surface of some kind of Earth equipment to compare their hair. Little Zelenka keeps pulling at his wisps, making Ronon laugh as Zelenka says, "It's Rodney, you see, that does this to me; I have photos to prove this fact."
Ronon takes a bead from one of his dreads and threads it onto a lock of little Zelenka's hair. "There," Ronon says, tugging it lightly. "To remind you."
"Of what?" little Zelenka asks him. "Of what should this remind me? You?"
"Whatever you like. Not to let McKay get to you." He bares his teeth at little Zelenka. "Or me."
"Both, I think. Yes, both." To Ronon's surprise, little Zelenka reaches up and hugs him. "Thank you."
It's been a long time since anyone hugged Ronon, and for a moment he forgets what to do. Then he remembers, and hugs him back, carefully but firmly, nearly lifting him off his feet. It feels nice.
He'll remember that hug, he knows. Like a different kind of bead, he will finger it in his memory.
Rodney is unlike anyone Ronon has ever known, or heard of. Some days he's not entirely sure that Rodney is human; maybe he's another form of the computers that fill Atlantis. Ronon's nervous around Rodney at first. He's so loud, and Ronon's learned to distrust loud. Rodney snaps his fingers, shouts at people, talks while walking away from people; he even types loud. He talks fast, too, and, like little Zelenka, speaks a different language than Ronon.
Later, Ronon is irritated by Rodney. His lopsided mouth -- is he smiling? smirking? grimacing in anger or disgust? -- and his way of standing with his arms folded defensively across his chest, head pulled back and up, and that look on his face: Ronon doesn't know how to interpret Rodney's body language, and that also makes him nervous. Eventually, Ronon realizes that Rodney is always about two years ahead of everybody in the conversation and is impatiently waiting for those two years to pass so they can catch up, which irritates Ronon in yet another way.
He keeps an eye on Rodney. In the field, of course, because at any moment he might have to fling himself over Rodney to protect him from the Wraith, a pissed-off villager, an adoring child, or a pollen-bearing bush. But he also keeps an eye on Rodney in Atlantis. Rodney is -- worth watching. Rodney is scary and funny and he lives life harder and more fully than anyone Ronon has ever known. Rodney is present; not the way Teyla is, calm and cool and meditative, but violently here and violently now.
"What? What?" Rodney snaps at him, rolling his pale eyes to express some emotion or other, Ronon's never sure exactly which. "Do you need something?"
Ronon would just hitch a hip against one of the lab benches, cross his arms, and watch. Rodney would give him the stink eye before turning back to work, but by then Ronon had learned that that particular slant of Rodney's mouth meant he's amused. Eventually little Zelenka or Sheppard would pass the door and then another round of "What? What?" would start up. Watching Rodney keeps Ronon amused for hours.
Sheppard smells like human male, and he sounds like quiet tension, and he feels like keep away, and he looks like he would have been trouble in Ronon's old regiment, but the good kind of trouble, the kind of trouble Ronon hunted.
The kind of trouble Ronon's hunting right here in Atlantis.
Sheppard took Ronon in almost without question, as if he knew more about Ronon than Ronon knew; as if he'd known that Ronon would learn to like Atlantis with its weird mix of people, that he'd like to work with Teyla and take care of Rodney and eat the food in the mess. And he was right; Ronon did learn to like all that, to more than like it. He likes his quarters, he likes sparring with the marines, he likes being part of a team, and he really likes going out on missions with them.
Sheppard intrigues Ronon. When he's in Rodney's lab, keeping an eye on Rodney, Sheppard will sometimes pass, and often pause. He and Rodney skirmish for a while, a kind of scouting out of the other that Ronon enjoys watching, too, but then Sheppard will drift away, and Ronon will follow. Ronon finds he follows Sheppard a lot, watching him interact with the other warriors, practicing on the firing range they've created in Atlantis, working out. Even though he runs faster than Sheppard, Ronon follows him. It feels right.
The others go through the stargate for two reasons: to find a way to power their stargate back to the galaxy where Earth is, and to find food. Ronon goes through the stargate because Sheppard does. There was no one moment when he realized that; worse, there was no ritual to mark the relationship. Ronon is uncomfortable with that lack, and has been for a while. His body wears marks of his passages: from home, into manhood, into his old regiment, to his taskmaster. His back and buttocks are scarred from beatings, lacerations both punitive and transitional; the cords and beads he wears around his neck and in his hair tell his stories, though no one on this world could read them. Ronon's body aches to bear the mark of this new passage.
Sheppard understands, he thinks, though he does nothing. Sheppard's body is scarred, too, but Ronon can no more read the meaning of those scars than the Atlantians can read his. Are they ritual marks? Was he tortured? Since coming to Atlantis, Ronon has seen Sheppard suffer near to death; perhaps the scars are manifestations of his suffering. Sheppard doesn't speak of them, and his silence tells Ronon not to question them.
On one world, he and Sheppard are separated from the others. Sheppard is nervous about Rodney; he trusts Teyla to take care of him and in fact, he tells Ronon quietly, he trusts Rodney can take care of himself. But Ronon sees Sheppard's concern, can smell it, can almost feel its vibrations. Sheppard doesn't touch others often, but Ronon rests his hand on Sheppard's shoulder as they kneel in the cover of the spiky brush that covers the area near the stargate.
They wait a long time. The sun is hot, and Ronon watches as Sheppard's pale skin slowly reddens. Sweat drips from Sheppard's hairline, and a bead slides down his throat, soaking into his tee-shirt. There are angry looking men circling the stargate, holding Rodney and Teyla, carrying noisy, bad-smelling weapons. Rodney, too, has turned an ugly red, but only some of the color is from the sun; some is from Rodney's furious shouting, and some is from the slaps he's received for shouting. Ronon can see Teyla speaking softly to Rodney, no doubt trying to calm him, but Ronon thinks the threat of violence is more effective.
As the sun finally slips behind the low bushes, heading toward the horizon, the inhabitants of this hot, sticky place find the jumper. It's invisible, but one of them simply walks into it, falling over in surprise. They grab Teyla and Rodney and shove them toward it, everybody shouting, and then one of them strikes Teyla.
Beside him, Ronon feels Sheppard tense, nearly quivering in his own anger. Teyla falls gracefully but catches herself; Rodney has pulled away and kneels next to her and even from this distance, Ronon can see Rodney's concern and fear for his teammate. Teyla rises, Rodney, too, with less ease and suppleness. They stand close to each other, almost back to back, and glare at their captors. "I don't know," Ronon hears Rodney say loudly. "And if I did? I wouldn't tell you fuckwits."
Sheppard relaxes when no one slaps Rodney. Probably tired of it, Ronon thinks; he knows how tiresome Rodney can be. The others are too interested in the jumper and turn all their attention to it. The sun sinks further down. Night is coming.
He looks at Sheppard. There are perhaps a dozen of the others, coming and going down a path that leads away from the gate, probably to their village or camp. The air is still, hot, humid; it smells like trampled green things and sweat. Suddenly, it is quiet.
Sheppard meets Ronon's eyes, then jerks his head to the right and crawls in that direction, behind the stargate. Ronon follows in a low crouch, watching the others as much as he does Sheppard. The others do not light a fire, nor do they seem to carry artificial lights.
Night birds begin to call out and dive for the insects that feed on the spiky bushes. They sound like children crying to Ronon, a sound he cannot abide. He moves faster, nearly overtaking Sheppard. When they round the stargate, he sees fewer men, all of them facing the cloaked jumper, arms outstretched as they try to map its presence. Only seven now.
Sheppard points at the men, and Ronon nods his head. He could take all seven by himself with luck on his side; with Sheppard on his side, he doesn't need luck. Sheppard takes a deep breath, and they break cover, firing their stun weapons. Sheppard stumbles and quickly recovers as he tries to block the projectile shot by one of the men. Their weapons make Ronon nervous; he's never seen anything like them. Rodney and little Zelenka will want to study them, he thinks, and seizes one, flipping it neatly around to smash its owner in the head.
"Come on, come on," Rodney whispers hoarsely. "Get in the jumper."
Sheppard does the Ancient magic and suddenly the jumper is there; the men from this planet still conscious gasp and fall back. Ronon grins as he helps Rodney up the ramp, Sheppard and Teyla at his back. More men return up the path, running and shouting and firing their weapons, but they're too late, Sheppard has powered up the jumper while Rodney dials the gate, twisting violently to do so with his hands still bound and behind him, and in the explosion that's come to mean safety to Ronon the surface of the stargate coalesces and then they're elsewhere.
"Well? Are you going to leave me tied up?" Rodney demands. Ronon smiles at him. "Never mind, just untie me, forget your perverted little fantasies."
"Rodney. Say thank you," Sheppard tells him.
"Yes, yes, of course I'm grateful, thank you both so much for leaving Teyla and me behind to be caught and left in the sun to roast."
"We were in the same sun," Sheppard says while Ronon unties Teyla. She smiles at him, rubbing her wrists.
"Rodney, you did very well," she says, and Rodney shuts up, looking surprised and pleased. Rodney and Teyla both wear on their faces the marks of their captives, and Rodney will soon bear a black eye.
When they're back in Atlantis and finished meeting with Elizabeth, Ronon follows Sheppard, trailing him with the skill of a long-time runner. He doesn't return to his quarters but continues down the long corridor. Ronon knows he's going outside; he knows that Sheppard has found a balcony from where he can watch the sun set and the stars rise, and he knows that's where Sheppard's headed.
He gives Sheppard time to collect himself before he steps onto the balcony. Though he knows Sheppard comes here to be alone, Ronon sees no irritation on his face at the interruption, just the polite look Sheppard wears to discourage company.
He ignores this. He walks to Sheppard, who turns away from the ocean view and from their second sunset of this day, and drops to his knees, resting his face against Sheppard's belly. Sheppard makes a quiet noise of puzzlement and begins to step away, but Ronon seizes his hips and holds him in place. Then he pushes his face between Sheppard's legs; he inhales deeply and exhales deeply, opening his mouth, pushing even more. Sheppard begins to get hard.
"Ronon --" Sheppard starts, but Ronon silences him with a gentle bite, and then nuzzles his erection. "Fuck," Sheppard whispers.
Ronon relaxes his grip and runs his hands behind Sheppard, up and around his ass, then pulls him forward. Sheppard staggers and puts his hands on Ronon's shoulders, bending over him. "Ronon," he says again, even more softly, looking down at Ronon.
Ronon raises his head. "Been long enough," Ronon says. "I waited and waited, and it's been long enough. You are my taskmaster, and I will obey you, but it's been long enough."
"Look, I, you." Sheppard stops. "You," he says, but Ronon is unzipping his trousers; he can see and smell that Sheppard's body is willing, and what else is there? We are our bodies, not the other way around, so he slides Sheppard's cock out of his underclothes and into his mouth, sucking and licking even as he fits one hand inside Sheppard's trousers to pinch and fondle his balls.
The sun sets on Atlantis before Sheppard comes, trembling and sweaty, and then slides to his knees, staring into Ronon's eyes. He tastes sweaty and sour, but Ronon likes it. He likes the taste of John Sheppard.
"You'll obey me?" Sheppard asks, and Ronon can tell that he's genuinely curious.
"Anything," Ronon says. He nods his head and repeats it. "Anything. I've followed you enough to know."
"I don't normally have people blow me to secure a place on my team."
Ronon shrugs. "You should. McKay needs a cock in his mouth more'n anyone else I know."
Sheppard begins to laugh. "You kiss your mother with that mouth?"
"No, but I'll kiss you."
Sheppard stares at him, his eyes wide enough that Ronon can see the whites. What kind of military had trained Sheppard? he wonders, and kisses him, holding Sheppard's head in place. When Sheppard begins to kiss him back, he eases them back to sprawl against the balcony railings. A breeze has come up carrying the scent of the water surrounding Atlantis. They kiss until Sheppard is hard again, hard enough to fuck Ronon, he judges, and then he follows Sheppard back indoors, to his quarters. He figures he'll follow Sheppard for the rest of his life.
"You're a shitty taskmaster," Ronon tells him a few days later, back in Sheppard's quarters. "I never had so much trouble with the others."
"Shut up and fuck me," Sheppard demands. Ronon rolls him over and shoves his face against Sheppard's ass, licking and sucking and tasting him, getting him ready. He's always been good at taking orders from his taskmasters, and Sheppard's catching on at last.