Pairing: John/Ronon (with hints at John/Ronon/Teyla)
Word count: ~4800
Disclaimer: Not mine; don't sue.
Summary: In which John and Ronon are temporarily assigned to the SGC, and experiment with life on a weird planet.
They've been on Earth a couple of months and everybody's getting a little crazy with the lack of news when Cameron Mitchell shows up and wants a word with John. He doesn't actually ask for John's team, but Teyla and Ronon exchange wordless looks and go with him, and Cam doesn't argue about it, just nods to them as they settle in at the conference table.
"So I came to give you a heads-up about what's happening," he says to John. "You're being reassigned." John doesn't say a word, and he doesn't want to think that he flinches hard enough for it to show, but Cam still holds up placating hands. "Whoa, keep your pants on, okay? It's temporary."
"Yeah?" John says. Temporary's better than permanent, but it's still a first step to losing Atlantis, and it still feels like the bottom dropping out.
"Yes, it is," Cam says. "Look, they want Atlantis back in Pegasus as a forward base against the Wraith. Everything I hear is that that's happening. But the city took some major damage getting here, and there's no sense in leaving before that's fixed. Plus the scientists want to poke around, you know how they are--"
"How long?" John asks.
"Maybe a year."
John sputters. "A year?" Teyla has the same come on expression he does. Ronon looks more resigned, like he expects the military to fuck things up.
"You asked me," Cam says. "They're saying six months. I'm betting a year. In the mean time, they're not going to let you sit around babysitting a military garrison that's not doing anything. General Landry wants to give you an SG team."
There are worse things, a lot worse things, but ... "I want my team," John says. He's not going to get saddled with a team that can't find their asses with both hands the way he did when he was at the SGC before.
"You can have Ronon and Teyla," Cam says.
John waits for it, and then realizes he's not going to get it. "But not McKay."
"He's going to be supervising the repairs," Cam says. "If we pull him off, your timetable gets even worse, and besides, he is frankly way too senior as a contractor to be punching a clock on SG-whatever-the-hell. Fourteen, I think, we don't have one of those right now. If McKay weren't in Atlantis, he could have his own wing at Area 51."
"Maybe he doesn't want one," John says, a little crankily.
"Don't be greedy," Cam says, like he's reached for a third slice of pie. "You can have Ronon and Teyla if they're up for it." He looks up at them. "You guys are civilians, and we can't actually order you to do anything. If you want the job, it's yours, but if you want to hang out here, or go chill on the beach for six months, as far as I'm concerned, you've earned it."
Ronon shakes his head. "You really think they'd let us do that?"
Cam nods. "They'll make you sign ten million things saying you won't tell anybody you're an alien, but I think they'll let you go. Under surveillance."
"No, I'm in," Ronon says. "I'd rather work."
To John's surprise, Teyla looks torn. "May we have some time to think about this?" she asks.
"Sure thing. You won't be getting the official orders for a couple of days. General Landry just figured someone should probably clue you in unofficially so that you wouldn't freak out on the record."
"I was not going to freak out," John says, a little indignantly.
Cam smiles sympathetically. "I know what it's like when you find that one thing you want to hang onto," he says. "And you can. You're just going to have to come hang out with us for a few months."
"I can do that," John says.
"I'll let you and your team talk," Cam says, and heads out.
"You don't want to come?" Ronon asks Teyla, sounding more curious than upset. "It's not like you can go back to Pegasus until they get the city working again."
"I know that," Teyla says. "And I am eager to return to the Pegasus galaxy, and to our work there. It is just ..." She shakes her head. "I would like to show Torren your world. I would like to see more of your world than the SGC. I would like to see Rodney's sister again, and visit Canada."
"You could do those things," John says, but he knows if they're assigned to an SG team, there won't be much leave involved.
"Maybe so," Teyla says, and she smiles to take the sting out of the words. "I will think about it."
When John's orders come through, Teyla decides she would rather have leave time than come with them, and it makes John kind of crazy for a while.
"When you think about it, she's probably never had this much time to do whatever she wants," Ronon says. "I mean, ever."
"I know," John says, sprawled unhappily on a couch in the increasingly-deserted rec room. People are moving on, to new assignments or on leave, and the people who are still stationed in the city are single-mindedly devoted to repairs.
"And Torren's not going to be this little for long. And Kanaan wouldn't like being stuck in quarters at the SGC when he doesn't have anything to do there."
"I know that, too," John says.
"It's not like she's leaving for good."
"I know, I know," John says. "It just sucks, okay?"
"Don't make her feel bad about it," Ronon says, and he tries, but he's still in a lousy mood by the time he's packing up.
The door signal sounds, and Teyla is in the doorway. "I wanted to come and wish you good luck," she says. "And tell you that I will be glad to see you when you return." Her smile is warm enough that it makes him feel better, a little.
"I'll be glad to see you," he says, and Teyla comes over to touch foreheads with him, and then embraces him unexpectedly. He's never been good at hugs -- he can never figure out what to do with his hands -- but that makes him feel a little better, too.
"If they keep you in Colorado too long, Rodney and I will come and rescue you," Teyla says.
"That is a promise," Teyla says, and that definitely makes him feel better.
"You really hated being stationed here before," Ronon says when they're actually in the elevator on the way down the day they arrive at the SGC.
"It wasn't that bad," John says.
"My head was just in a bad place," John says. "It's not a bad place to work."
"Sure," Ronon says, but he looks suspicious.
The elevator doors open, and then the air is split by the sound of emergency sirens. John and Ronon back against the wall, trying to get out of the way of people who seem to know what they're doing.
In a few seconds, Cam and Vala Mal Doran come pelting down the hall, firing over their shoulders at -- John only gets a brief look at what seems to be a tangle of vines lashing tendrils menacingly at them, and then Vala grabs his arm and says "Run!"
"Hi, Sheppard, Dex," Cam says as they sprint down the hallway. "We've just got a little plant control problem here, hang tight."
"Can I shoot that thing?" Ronon says. John is trying to dig his sidearm out of his duffel bag as he runs.
"Feel free," Vala says, and Ronon starts firing over his shoulder as they retreat. There's the smell of burning underbrush, but the thing keeps coming.
"Welcome to the SGC," Cam says. "You wouldn't happen to have a grenade?"
John doesn't, but they get the plant menace taken care of anyway, by dint of some kind of weed killer whipped up by the botanists at great risk to life and limb, and the day eventually settles back down into an orientation tour. Ronon seems much more cheerful, as if any workplace where you get chased by killer plants can't be all that bad.
"Any questions?" Landry finally says, when they're back in his office in front of his desk. "I'd like your choices for additional team members on my desk in the morning."
John nods resignedly at the stack of manila folders in front of him. None of them are going to be Teyla or Rodney, but maybe they won't all be totally hopeless.
"Two questions," Ronon says. "What happened to the last SG-14?"
"Killed in action," Landry says. "I don't have to tell either of you it's a rough job."
"No, sir," John says.
Landry looks back at Ronon. "What's your second question?"
"How do I get an apartment off base?"
"That may be hard to arrange," Landry says. "The thing is, you're from another planet."
"So, it's always been felt that it's a security risk. But, there is some precedent. I'll see what I can figure out."
The upshot of it is that they'll let Ronon live off base, but not without someone to keep an eye on him. John was planning on living in quarters at the SGC -- he's not used to having any more space, and it makes eating and going to work in the morning easy. But it's not like he has an actual problem with living off base, so he lets Ronon talk him into renting a cheap furnished apartment that is just barely not on Air Force property, even if it doesn't rent to a lot of civilians.
He dumps his bags in one bedroom, hangs up his Johnny Cash poster, finds a place to plug in his laptop, and calls himself moved in. He expects Ronon to do the same, and is kind of baffled by the extent to which Ronon seems to be taking this living in an apartment thing seriously.
"We should go to the grocer's," Ronon says.
"It's called a grocery store, and I figured we could just order a pizza for now," John says, with his feet up in front of the TV. "It can be breakfast, too."
"I can't drive," Ronon says. "Can you at least give me a ride?"
"Yeah, okay," John says. "We could get a couple of things."
Ronon shops for groceries like someone who's trying out an old skill after spending a long time out of practice. He stocks up on cans like he's preparing for the apocalypse, if the apocalypse made canned chili a survival necessity.
"Can you actually cook?" John says. He has mainly contributed things from the frozen food group to their shared cart.
"I can heat stuff up," Ronon says. "Are you seriously going to eat nothing but pizza the whole time we're here?"
"I was going to live on base," John says, but he puts in eggs because he's pretty sure he can't mess up scrambling eggs. He has to admit later that scrambled eggs make a better dinner at two in the morning than anything frozen, and they get in at two in the morning a lot, because they're never the first dial-out of the day.
He ended up making his picks for the team on the basis of who he thought they could stand to work with for a year, and ended up with a translator named Tomas Mendez who just got off a tour in Iraq and apparently finds being at the SGC more restful, and some kind of physics genius named Jennifer Haley, most recently of SG-7, which was apparently on the same mission as SG-14.
"Yeah, pretty much everybody died," she says, looking up at him with the stubborn expression of someone who has to look up at just about everybody; she's tiny, but he's learned from Teyla not to think that means she'll be useless in a fight. "It sucked, and I really would rather not talk about it, if that's okay with you."
"Not a problem," John says. "You know this is a temporary thing, right?"
"I know." She shrugs. "I'd just as soon. I'm not sure I'm ready for another long-term team commitment right now. It's kind of like getting married, you know? Only it's more likely that one of you is going to die."
"And less sex," Tomas says.
Haley looks at him speculatively. "Maybe," she says.
They're the same rank, and it's really none of John's business, even when the two of them start flirting.
"You could date somebody," Ronon says when he catches John frowning at them as they make their way out of the mess hall.
"No point, for six months," John says.
"Or a year," Ronon says. "Vala Mal Doran would go out with you."
"Vala Mal Doran scares me," John says.
"You like women who scare you, though."
"We have work to do," John says, in what he hopes is a quelling way.
He doesn't go out with Vala, but Ronon does head out one Saturday to spend the day with her, and returns with so many packages that she has to help him carry them in from her car. "I thought you should get comfortable," Vala says.
"I thought you were comfortable," John says.
Ronon shrugs and unpacks a toaster. "Did you know this thing just makes toast?"
"We have an oven," John says, but neither of them seems impressed. Vala unpacks a dark green wool blanket and spreads it over the back of the sofa, looking satisfied with the effect.
"You should get some plants," she says.
Ronon shrugs. "You think?"
"Absolutely," she says, and a few days later a large potted flowering plant gets delivered. It's weird, but Ronon puts it on the table and waters it.
"What is with the nesting thing?" John asks finally. "We're not even going to be here that long."
It takes Ronon a while to answer. "I used to have an apartment," he says finally. "Not a room like Atlantis, but a real apartment like normal people live in. I used to ... it doesn't matter, okay?"
"No, hang on," John says, because Ronon's turned away, looking out the window over the low shapes of buildings toward the mountains. He wonders what the view was like from the window of Ronon's apartment on Sateda, back when there was something out his window besides sea and sky. "I get it."
"We're not going to be here that long," Ronon says. "I want to see what it's like."
"The last time I lived with somebody -- in an apartment, like a normal person -- was with my ex," John finds himself saying.
"And you hated it?"
"It went kind of bad," John says. The last few months were the worst, too much time together in a too-small apartment with all the stuff he was carrying around in his head from Afghanistan curling around them like smoke, taking up all the room there should have been to breathe.
"We could move back into quarters," Ronon says.
"No, it's cool," John says. "It's not like we're living together, anyway." Ronon looks at him like he's said something stupid. "I mean, we're not having sex," he says.
"I didn't think you wanted to," Ronon says.
"I don't," John says, and then wishes he hadn't, his stomach sinking. It feels like a door closing, one he'd left deliberately propped open on the off chance that one of these days he was going to get up the nerve to actually go through it.
"Okay, then," Ronon says, and that seems to be that.
John goes to bed in a little while and lies there staring at the ceiling and thinking that apparently he has not lost the ability to totally fuck up his life. After a while he gets up and goes into Ronon's room.
Ronon is sleeping, sprawled shirtless on top of his fur blankets with his hair spread out over his bare shoulders.
"Ronon," John says from the doorway, because he knows Ronon wakes up dangerous when he's stressed out.
Ronon rolls over and looks at him. "What, Sheppard?"
"I want to," he says.
Ronon looks at him for another long moment, and then smiles in satisfaction. "I thought so," he says.
Ronon's bed is more comfortable than his. John's not sure why that is, given that both beds came with the place, but at the point where he's curled up against Ronon naked with Ronon's arm tight against his waist, he's not going to argue.
In the morning, he wakes up to Ronon rolling over onto one elbow and kissing him.
"We have to go to work," John says.
"We have forty-five minutes," Ronon says. "How long do you need?"
"Depends," John says, but when Ronon goes down on him, it really doesn't take that long at all.
In the car on the way to work, he has to say the thing that he really doesn't want to say. "You know this has to be--"
"A secret, I know," Ronon says. "I'm not going to tell people."
John feels like if anybody looks at him too closely they'll see it on his face, but nobody says anything, and after a few days he relaxes. Ronon seems perfectly casual, not acting any different around him now that instead of coming home and having a beer and watching TV they're coming home and having a beer and getting each other off.
"I won't mind if you and Teyla get together," Ronon says one night when they're still on the having a beer part.
"Teyla's taken," John says.
"Maybe. I don't know how serious her thing with Kanaan is."
"They have a baby," John says.
"They're family," Ronon says. "Because they have a baby. But I don't think they've decided if they're getting married or anything."
"I don't have a thing for Teyla."
"You're lying again."
"You really wouldn't mind?"
Ronon looks at him like that came out more unhappily than John intended. "No. That would be different."
"Because she's a woman?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"I don't think it's different," John says after a minute. This is hard for him to talk about, the habits of secrecy like a band around his chest. But he doesn't think the thing he feels for Ronon is different from the thing he feels for Teyla, or, at least, it's only different because they're different people.
"But you still care about her."
"She's Teyla," John says, and drains the last of his beer.
"You should call her," Ronon says.
"Jesus Christ, Ronon," John says, shaking his head. "Are you trying to get rid of me, or what?"
"You think that?"
"I don't know," John says, and Ronon reaches out to clasp his arm and holds it hard, like he's hanging onto John to keep him from falling off a cliff. John hangs on, too, until finally Ronon pulls him in and hugs him. He's still not sure what to do with his arms, but it feels good.
"We should fuck," Ronon says finally. "It'll make you feel better."
It does, actually. Afterwards John lies on Ronon's shoulder like a pillow. "You could get together with Teyla if you wanted," John says.
"Teyla scares me," Ronon says, and John can tell he's smiling.
John snorts. "That's because she can beat you up. But, seriously, if you want ..."
"This is good right now," Ronon says. "If I want something else too, we can figure that out."
"Okay," John says.
The next day they get captured by former minions of one of the System Lords who apparently never got the memo that the guy has been dead for four years, and it takes them three days to break out of prison, at which point Haley gets to hotwire a tel'tak and John gets to learn to fly it very, very fast. Ronon and Tomas are grinning in the back seats and bragging about how this was the best prison break in the history of prison breaks, and John realizes he's actually having a hell of a lot of fun, and then feels guilty about having fun without his own, actual team.
He calls Rodney from the SGC to tell him about it, and Rodney tells him that he's crazy if he thinks that's fun, which is kind of familiar and comforting. They get home at four in the morning too tired for either the beer or the fucking, and fall asleep in Ronon's bed. At seven, John's cell phone rings, and he swears and grabs it off the table and stumbles out of the room so that he won't wake Ronon up completely.
It takes John a while to register that it's his brother's voice. "What's wrong?" he says.
"Oh, everything's fine," Dave asks, although he sounds a little sarcastic. "I was in town, and since you haven't answered my phone calls for the last few days, I thought I'd give it one more try on my way out."
"I'm sorry," John says. "I was on a mission. I just got in this morning."
"Right," Dave says. "It can wait until next time I'm in Colorado and you're temporarily not incommunicado."
"No, I'm here now," John says. He scrubs a hand through his hair. "Come have some coffee or something. I would say I'd meet you someplace, but I don't know if I should be driving until I get some more sleep."
"You really did just get in, didn't you?" Dave says, sounding more sympathetic. "I'm sorry. Go back to bed."
"I'm up now," John says. "Come have some coffee."
"Okay. Do you have an address as well as a phone number?"
John gives it to him and manages to take a shower and get dressed and even start the coffee before Dave shows up.
"You look like hell," Dave says when he gets there.
"No, I'm good," John says. "I just haven't slept."
"And the bruises?"
John had actually forgotten. "Somebody kicked me in the face," he says. "It was just one of those things."
Dave shakes his head. "I will never understand why you like this job."
"It's not boring," John says. He pours coffee for Dave, with plenty of milk the way he likes it, and brings it to him in the living room.
Dave sips it and makes a face. "I actually like my coffee to taste like coffee these days," he says.
"You want me to--"
"No, don't," he says, taking another drink of what is admittedly mostly milk. "This is fine."
Ronon's bedroom door opens, and John looks up to see Ronon, shirtless but thankfully not pantsless, making his way toward the kitchen. He stops long enough to take in Dave, nods to him, and keeps going. "Coffee," he says, and disappears into the kitchen.
Dave looks at John. John remembers the funeral, abruptly, and Dave having more or less that same look, and it's on the tip of his tongue to say It's not what it looks like. Except that it is what it looks like.
He waits for Ronon to re-emerge with the coffee, and then says, "Ronon, this is my brother Dave. Dave, this is Ronon Dex."
"I remember," Dave says.
Ronon nods. "Hi."
"You work with John?"
"He really does," John says. "And he really is a civilian contractor. The kind who carries a gun."
Dave shakes his head. "Okay."
They have a few minutes of the world's most awkward conversation, and then Dave says "I'm sorry, but I really do have to head out."
"Don't worry about it," John says. "I'm glad you came over." He means it, for all that this has been painfully tense.
"Can I talk to Ronon for a minute?" Dave says, and John stares at him.
"Okay," he says after a moment. "I'll go stand around awkwardly in the kitchen."
"Just one minute," Dave says.
John tries not to pace the kitchen. It feels like it takes several million years before Dave sticks his head back in. "Okay, I'm leaving now," he says. "You can stop looking like you're going to shoot the coffeemaker."
"I wouldn't do that," John says. "It's Ronon's coffeemaker."
"Call me sometime, okay?" Dave says.
"I will," John says. "When--"
"When you can," Dave says. "Yeah, I know."
John corners Ronon as soon as Dave has gone. "What did he say? Was he -- I don't want you to take it personally if he said something really stupid."
"He wanted to know if you were happy," Ronon says.
"What did you say?" John asks after a moment.
"I said more than you used to be," Ronon says, and that's probably true.
It's been eight months when Landry calls him into his office. "I'm sorry to say this, but you're being transferred," Landry says.
John isn't braced for the rush of betrayal. "What?"
"Believe me, I'd rather keep you. But apparently they need you back in Atlantis before they can take the city back to the Pegasus galaxy."
John stares at him for a moment. "Mitchell said it was going to take a year."
"Mitchell isn't right about everything," Landry says. "Pack up, Sheppard. You're going back to Atlantis."
Cam and Vala take over their apartment with provisions for a going-away party, and everyone drinks a lot and teases them about all the times in the last eight months that they've been captured or tied up or had to flee from plants. Eventually everybody goes home except Haley and Tomas, on the apparent unspoken understanding that the last goodbyes should belong to the team.
"I'm going to miss you guys," Haley says.
"You don't entirely suck," Tomas says, and grins at them.
"Yeah, we'll ... you know," John says.
"He means we'll miss you," Ronon says. He throws an arm around John's shoulders, pulling him in affectionately close.
"Ronon," John says warningly.
"They know," Ronon says. John looks up at them sharply.
"We know," Haley says. "We're your team, dumbass."
"She means Colonel Dumbass," Tomas says. He punches John in the arm. "But she's right."
"Take care of yourselves," John says.
"We will," Haley says. "Don't get eaten by life-sucking aliens."
"That's our job," John says, and toasts her with another beer.
He and Ronon spend a long time later that night just lying in bed sprawled all over each other, too drunk to really do more than make out sleepily.
"I'm going to miss this," John says. It may be the most scarily honest thing he's said in a long time.
"You mean living together?"
John nods. He can feel Ronon's breath warm against the back of his neck.
"We can keep having sex, though, right?" Ronon says, and now there's an edge of uncertainty in his voice.
"Yeah," John says, and it's his turn to clasp Ronon's arm and hang onto it tight, a silent promise that he's not going to let go.
It's nobody's fault but his own that he gets back to Atlantis with a hell of a hangover. Rodney looks up from the console he's frowning over long enough to look pleased and a little relieved to see John, and then goes back to saying "Well, if it does that when we're in space, we'll all die, so let's fix it."
Teyla comes in with a laptop under her arm, and her face lights up when she sees them. "John! Ronon!"
She comes running to them, and John reaches out to hug her without being prompted. Ronon wraps his arms around both of them for a moment, crushing them breathlessly hard, and then lets go before John can tell him that he'd better.
Teyla looks from one of them to the other, with that all-too perceptive expression of hers. "What did I miss?"
"We almost got eaten by a carnivorous plant," John says.
"And we got captured by some guys who beat us up," Ronon says.
"And we kept a planet from blowing up. Well, actually, Haley did that, but she was on my team, so I get some credit."
"For being there," Ronon says.
"What did we miss?" John says.
"Less," Teyla says, but she looks happy, and happy to see them. "You must tell me all about it later."
And he will have to tell her the rest of it. He thinks maybe he can, even though it's weird to think about saying the words. "I've missed you beating me up with the bantos sticks," he says.
"Then you must give me the opportunity to correct your lack of practice," Teyla says.
John grins. "I'm looking forward to it."
Rodney comes up to them, looking harried. "If all of you are done comparing notes on your vacations, we've got several hundred things to do before we launch, and almost no time to do them in, so ..."
"Good to see you, too, McKay," Ronon says.
"He's right," John says. "Let's get back to work, people." It's been a good vacation, but it's time they were on their way home.