Author's Notes: You asked for a Sheppard centric story. I hope I've delivered that for you. I hope you like the fic. I had a great time writing it. Thanks to my beta, you know who you are. You always make my stories better. Any mistakes remaining are my own.
Summary: Ronon wants to go to Sateda.
Staff meetings weren't John's favorite thing. He wouldn't go so far as to hope for a Wraith attack in order to avoid one, but a small emergency that could only be solved by means of his ATA gene wouldn't be a bad thing.
He just didn’t look forward to two hours of Rodney and Elizabeth arguing over whether they should be looking for ZPMs or trade partners on their future missions. And the fact that there was going to be a face missing at the table didn't make it any easier. It was their first meeting since losing Ford.
John slid into his seat at the last minute. Everyone else was already there, just waiting from him to arrive in order to begin the meeting. Elizabeth frowned at him, but she didn't say anything at his last-minute arrival, so he counted it as a win.
He slid the cup of coffee he carried over to Rodney. He'd made a detour to the mess hall to pick it up. It usually helped to keep Rodney quiet for the length of time it took him to drink it. They'd been out of coffee for several months before the Daedalus showed up to replenish their supply - forget about the toilet paper and the ammo, Rodney counted the most valuable thing brought from Earth was coffee. He was doing his best to make up his caffeine deficit in as short a time as possible.
Looking around the table, John saw that not only was Lorne and Radek there (as the second in command to John and Rodney they needed to be up to speed on the day to day running of the city) but the city’s newest occupant, Ronon, was also there, seated next to Teyla. More like perched in his seat, he looked ready to flee at any minute. John knew how he felt.
After Ronon had accepted their invitation to stay in Atlantis and join SGA-1, John had suggested Ronon attend staff meetings as a way to familiarize himself with the city and the way they operated. John hadn't really expected him to show up, at least not so soon. He was pleased to see him there, though, if only because he was one more person to share the misery.
"Well, now that we're all here," Elizabeth gave John a pointed look, "we can begin."
She chose to speak in the moment when Rodney took a deep drink of his coffee, allowing her the opening salvo in the ZPM/supply war. "As you know, we're here to decide what planets we should explore in upcoming missions. Now that we’ve reconnected with Earth, we can anticipate regular supply runs. However, I think it would be unwise to rely on Earth overly much for supplies. It's a long way from Earth to Atlantis and we need to be as self-sufficient as possible."
Rodney set down his coffee cup with a thump. Without spilling any of the contents, John noticed. "Supplies won’t do us any good if we don't have power. I want to remind you that we only have one ZedPM and we're a sitting duck if the Wraith decide to come back and check out the area. Yes, we can put up the cloak, but that's only going to work for so long. It would be better if we had more ZedPMs to operate the shield if necessary."
Rodney finally took a breath, allowing Elizabeth to jump back into the argument, "I know that Rodney. But our population has more than doubled now…"
Ronon stood up. All eyes turned to him.
"Did you have something to say, big guy?" John asked. He thought Ronon was probably bored and was ready to leave.
Squaring his shoulders, Ronon met their stares. "We should go to Sateda."
"Ronon," Teyla stood. She leaned into him, laying a hand on his arm.
"I know the Wraith destroyed most of Sateda." For a moment Ronon looked bereft, as if he was experiencing the loss of his home and his people all over again. He sucked in a deep breath and went on. "But there are things there we can salvage."
"Things?" Rodney sat forward, eyeing Ronon with interest. “What kind of things?”
Sateda had been a left a smoking ruin from what John could see on the MALP. He didn't know how there could be anything of worth left to find.
"Ronon," Teyla tried again. "It has been many years since Sateda fell to the Wraith. There have been many who have gone there to take what they could.”
“Wait!” Rodney sat forward, clutching his now-empty coffee cup. “People scavenge other worlds after the Wraith cull them?”
“When people are desperate and destitute they will do as they must in order to survive," Teyla answered gently.
“It’s kind of what we do, Rodney,” John said, “Going to other worlds looking for ZPMs and Ancient technology.”
Rodney opened his mouth to protest, then closed it again with a click.
“My people went to Sateda after the final culling to see if we could help the survivors, there was no one left alive. The Wraith destroyed everything,” Teyla said.
“They didn’t,” Ronon declared. John could see the sorrow written in the tense line of Ronon’s shoulders, in the clip of his voice. “We buried weapons and supplies, to try and shield them from the eyes of scavengers who would come after the attack.”
John sat up straighter. Rodney’s eyes gleamed.
“Weapons?” John asked, his eyes falling to the gun that Ronon wore. It was the coolest thing ever. It brought down the Wraith in a single shot whereas it took a lot of firepower from a P-90 to bring one down. They could do a lot of damage with a supply of those guns at their disposal.
Rodney snorted. “Isn't that typical?” he whispered to Radek, loud enough to be overheard. “Just say the word weapon and he’s all bright-eyed and eager."
"Not unlike you and coffee," Radek nudged Rodney's coffee cup with a hand.
Ronon continued, ignoring Rodney and Radek's antics, “The Wraith were coming. We were determined to fight them, but we knew we might fall. We buried the supplies and the weapons in case any of our people survived.”
“You think the stuff’s still there after all this time?” John asked.
Ronon nodded. “Helped bury them. They’re hidden pretty well.”
Ronon was starting to have that hunted look he’d had when John had first seen him. He kept glancing at the doors, maybe making sure the exits were all clear.
John decided it was time to end the meeting. “Well I’m convinced. We should go to Sateda.” It would be difficult for Ronon to return to his ruined world, but it seemed to be important to him that they go. John was willing to go and see what they found there. It would be an easy mission to introduce Ronon to the team, see how the four of them worked together.
Elizabeth surveyed them, her lips pursed. "Alright, Colonel," John smirked. Being called 'Colonel' would never get old. "If you think the mission's viable, I'll approve it. When do you want to go?"
John shrugged, "No time like the present. How about tomorrow morning? 8:00 a.m. Atlantis time."
Rodney stood in protest, "Wait, I thought we were going to talk about all the possibilities. We haven't even talked about Doranda. There were some interesting things in the database I'd like to check out there."
"The database is very old. Did you not say it was ten-thousand-years old?" Teyla said.
Radek nodded his agreement, "Is true. Doranda could be gone by now. We could find nothing there but dust."
Rodney turned on Radek with a hiss, "You're supposed to be on my side."
"Just because, technically, you are my boss does not mean I must always agree with you."
"Oh, think again, my friend."
Elizabeth stepped in before the two could get into a slap fight, "We can put Doranda on the list for future missions. Happy?"
Rodney fumed, but he nodded his reluctant agreement. "Fine, if you want to hold up the progress of science. What we're going to find on Doranda has the potential to revolutionize science as we know it."
"Somehow I'll live with it," John smirked at Rodney. He and Rodney were friends, but it was important that Rodney didn't get his way all the time.
Ronon looked back and forth between Elizabeth and John. "So Sateda?"
"Tomorrow morning," John pushed himself away from the table. "If we're done here, I've got things to do before the mission tomorrow morning." He practically ran from the room before Elizabeth could call him back.
Rodney got in another shot as they gathered in front of the 'gate the next day. "You know you're going to be sorry we didn't go to Doranda first." He clutched a cup of coffee in one hand, determined to get in one more cup before they went through the gate.
"Somehow I'll live with the disappointment." John looked his team over to make sure everyone was ready to go. He smoothed a strap on Rodney's pack, helped Teyla get hers situated properly. Ronon was ready, waiting for the rest of them impatiently.
Appearing at the railing above them, Elizabeth called down, "Colonel, are you ready?"
John nodded, sliding his sunglasses on. He couldn’t help worrying that this wasn’t going to be easy for Ronon even if he might get a cool new gun out of it. It was going to be difficult for the former runner to see the ruins of his home, to know that everyone he had loved was dead. John intended to keep an eye on him.
Once the gate dialed and the wormhole formed, Ronon was the first one through the 'gate with Teyla following close behind him. Rodney up-ended his coffee cup, finishing every drop before thrusting the empty cup at a tech who was loitering too close.
“Be safe,” Elizabeth called down to them.
“We'll do our best.” John gave her a casual salute before stepping through the 'gate to Sateda, Rodney at his side.
Ronon and Teyla waited for them on the other side.
John stood for a moment, surveying the ruins of the city on the horizon. It didn’t look any better in person than it had on the MALP.
Rodney gave an impatient tsk, tapping his watch. “Tick tock, Colonel. The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we get back to Atlantis where I have very important work to do.”
“You didn’t have to come, McKay,” Ronon snapped. He loomed over Rodney.
Rodney thrust out his chin, refusing to be intimidated by the much larger man. “Yes, I did have to come. I’m a part of this team, so I had to come. Didn’t I?” he turned the last question to John, almost hopeful that he might get to go home.
“Yes, you do have to come," John told him. "Now let’s get a move on. It looks like we have a hike ahead of us. I'd like to get into the city, locate the weapons and set up camp before dark.”
“Wait, we’re not staying the night here, are we?” Rodney groaned. “I will have you know that sleeping on the ground wreaks havoc on my back. I have a prescription mattress back in the city for a reason…”
“It won’t kill you to sleep on the ground for one night, Rodney,” John told him firmly.
"We should go instead of standing here talking about it," Ronon snapped impatiently.
Ronon didn’t wait for the rest of the team; he turned toward the city and set off, his long strides eating up the ground. Soon he was far head of the rest of them.
“Hey, Ronon, hold up.” John knew the place was deserted, but he didn’t want to let his team get too spread out. There was something off about the place that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
Reluctantly Ronon halted, turning back to watch their approach. He didn’t fidget or show it in any way, but John could see the impatience in his eyes. He waited just long enough for the team to catch up, then he was off again. He did slow his stride enough that they could keep. It didn’t keep Rodney from complaining about the pace.
“Why didn’t we bring the jumper? How are we going to carry the stuff out even if we find it?” he demanded.
“It depends on how much there is to be carried. I’ll decide when we get there.” John said, sure it would set McKay off again. Just as he thought, Rodney gave an annoyed huff. John ignored it. There was something about the place that was setting his ‘spidey’ sense tingling. There wasn’t anything he could point at for his team, so he didn't say anything. He was just extra vigilant in watching their surroundings.
They walked for awhile with only Rodney’s muttering to break the silence. The path to the city was fairly well worn, so the way was easy. Maybe that was what was setting off John’s internal alarms. The path was too well worn for a city that had been deserted for years - it should have been overgrown with brush and grass. It should have been more difficult to traverse.
“So, what did you do for fun on Sateda?” If there was an inappropriate question to ask, Rodney was going to be the one to ask it. He was making an attempt to make Ronon feel included; John had to give him points for that at least.
Ronon didn't take offence. He just shrugged, “Wasn’t a lot of time for fun. We spent most of our time fighting the Wraith.”
Okay, so Ronon wasn’t going to be a stellar conversationalist. There was an awkward silence as Rodney absorbed Ronon’s comment.
Teyla picked up the conversational ball, bless her. “What kind of things did you do on Earth for fun?” she asked.
“Experimenting, researching, writing papers…” Rodney started.
“She meant regular people,” John cut in. “For instance, I like sports myself. Football is a great game.”
“Oh, please,” McKay snorted. “Football isn’t a sport. If you want a real man’s sport, try hockey.”
“Is this the one where the goalie wears a mask and it is scary?” Teyla asked, a small mischievous smile on her face.
"What?" Rodney spluttered. "No! Where did you hear that? Oh, I know, from Colonel Hail Mary here, I'll bet. Hockey is the best sport ever. It's a real man's sport."
"Shut up," Ronon growled.
Rodney took immediate offense. "Just because you might have a different opinion doesn't mean you can make fun of mine…"
"I said shut up." Ronon was tense, his weapon was up.
John pulled his P-90 up at the ready. He still didn't sense anything out of the ordinary. Teyla also had her weapon up, ready for whatever might come at them. The three of them formed a loose circle around Rodney.
"What?" Rodney asked, his eyes wide. Seeing his team surrounding him, their weapons up, he gulped. He pulled the life signs detector from his pocket. "Oh, crap."
John really hated it when he said that. "What is it?" he asked, even though he was pretty sure he already knew the answer.
"We're surrounded," Rodney said. He at least made an effort to keep his voice down.
It didn't do any good.
One second they were alone on the path to the city. The next they weren't.
There were at least a dozen men surround them – big guys with guns. They were primitive weapons, but even a musket could kill you. John dropped his P-90 to his side; a moment later so did Ronon and Teyla.
"Put them on the ground." One of the men stepped forward, maybe the leader of the group. John christened him Thing One in his head. He nodded at John, one leader to another.
John gritted his teeth, but he nodded at the rest of his team. He put his own weapon on the ground, pulling out his side arm and placing it next to the P-90. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that the others were doing likewise.
"Now, you want to tell me what you're doing here?" Thing One asked.
“We're just passing through," John kept his voice friendly.
He took in the men surrounding them. They were all as big as Ronon. Their weapons were all held loosely, but they were trained more or less on Rodney. "We thought the city was uninhabited. We'll just be leaving now." John took a step in the direction of the 'gate. All of the weapons came up, pointed straight at him.
John held up his hands, trying to stay loose and unhurried. "Now there's no reason to be unfriendly."
Rodney stepped forward to join him. "If you don't count the guns,” he pointed out stiffly.
"Rodney," John hissed under his breath.
"Colonel Sheppard is correct," Teyla stepped forward; putting herself on Rodney's other side. "We are all friends here, fighting against the Wraith. There is no reason for us to come to blows."
Thing One gave a low, appreciative whistle. "Well, hello." The leer in his voice caused John to lurch forward.
"Stay away from her," Ronon put himself between Teyla, and incidentally the whole team, and the leader of the gang of thugs.
Thing One took a step back holding up his hands. Then he reversed his weapon smashing it into Ronon's face. The rest of the gang laughed raucously as Ronon rocked back, blood dripping from a gash on his cheek. He growled but he didn't move from his place in front of Teyla.
The thug looked back at his men, "See, they're not all that tough."
That second of inattention was all it took. Ronon threw himself at the leader, driving him to the ground.
John had been poised, just waiting for his chance. He threw a punch at the man nearest him. The man grunted in surprise, but he didn't go down. He grinned at John, before throwing a punch of his own. John ducked it, sweeping his leg out. His opponent went down with a shout. John fell on the man, punching him.
Thick arms grabbed John from behind, pulling him up and away. He threw his head back to no effect. The guy behind him was taller and all he connected with was the guy's chest. He took another tack and grabbed the arms, flipping the guy over his head. He smashed the man to the ground. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that Teyla and Ronon were gaining the upper hand against assailants of their own.
There was the roar of a near-by shot and a guttural shout. Everything stopped. John looked up to see that the leader had Rodney in a strangle hold; Rodney’s own gun jammed against his head.
"Stop now or the little man dies.”
"Just who are you calling ‘little man’?" Rodney squeaked with indignation.
John stepped away from the guy he had pinned to the ground. The man climbed to his feet breathing heavily. He had a bloody nose and his face was a mass of swollen flesh. The man brushed himself off before casually backhanding John. John's head snapped back with a bolt of pain. A trickle of blood dripped from the corner of his mouth where he’d bit the inside of his cheek. Wiping the blood away, he saw that Teyla and Ronon had stood down as well. They were both a little battered, but neither seemed to be badly injured.
Rodney was doing his best to maintain his composure, but John could see abject terror in his eyes. He pulled desperately at the arm applying pressure to his throat; his face turning an alarming shade of red.
"Now, here's what's going to happen," Thing One said. "You're going to do as I say, when I say it, or this one is going to die." His arm tightened around Rodney's neck even more. Rodney was sagging in the other man’s hold. "Do you understand?"
John shot a glance over at Teyla and Ronon to make sure they weren't going to do something stupid. They were both glaring at the guy who had Rodney in a headlock, but they didn't look like they were going to start anything.
"We understand," John answered. "What do you want?"
The man chuckled, it was a low, evil sound. Rodney struggles were getting weaker; he began to sag in the man's grasp. He threw Rodney away from him. John barely caught him before he face planted on the ground.
"Now that's the question, isn't it?" He moved over to Ronon, looking him up and down slowly. "You're Satedan." It wasn't a question. "Oh, I recognize the tattoo," he gestured at Ronon's neck. "The thing is, my boys and I heard a rumor about the weapons hidden here."
Ronon met his stare, "Lots of rumors aren't true," he said coolly.
Thing One drove his fist into Ronon's belly. Ronon doubled over from the force of the blow.
"Lots of rumors *are* true," the man said coolly. "Now let's try it again." The man grabbed Teyla, jamming the gun into her side. She could probably take the man's head off with her bare hands, but she stood in his grasp. "Tell me where to find the weapons."
Ronon was practically shaking with rage. "Don't hurt her."
"No one has to get hurt, as long as you tell me what I want to know. Where are the hidden Satedan weapons?"
Ronon didn't want to tell the man, but they were outnumbered, and now they didn't have any weapons of their own. There weren't any other choices. John just hoped that Ronon came to that conclusion, too. Was the fight against the Wraith more important to Ronon than people he barely knew?
"You don't think I'll shoot, do you?" Thing One asked.
John watched in disbelief as the man calmly swung the gun around and pulled the trigger. The hot pain that ripped through him was completely real.
"Oh, shit," Rodney moaned.
John had been lending support to Rodney. Now the tables were turned. Rodney threw his arms around John when he wobbled from the force of the shot.
John was hot and then he was cold. Voices seemed to come from a long way away, shouting.
"Tell me what I want to know or the woman's next."
John wanted to know what happened next, but his knees gave out on him. He was unconscious before he hit the ground.
John woke to pain swamping him. It nearly swept him away again, but he hung on grimly. There was something… something important that he was supposed to be doing. He panted, trying to push the pain away or at least to a level where it could be endured.
When he was able to convince his eyes to open, it was to find Ronon staring down at him intently. The man was crouched next to John. They were in a room barely big enough for the two of them. A window high up on one wall let in a little light.
"You okay?" Ronon asked.
John shrugged. "I'm fine," he said shortly. The pain had receded so that he could think beyond it. That would have to be good enough since they didn't have the resources for more. "Teyla and Rodney?"
"Those guys took them."
"What?" John tried to sit, alarmed. Pain rippled through him. Ronon's hand gripping his shoulder helped to steady him.
"No. Did you…?" Had Ronon refused to tell the gang of thugs what they wanted to know?
"I told them what they wanted to know."
"Shit, Ronon, I'm sorry."
"Naw, it's okay." Ronon shifted to sit beside John. "It was more important that Teyla and McKay are okay."
That's what John thought. He hadn't known if Ronon would feel that way, too. He was glad to find out that he did. He wasn't happy with the way he found out, but glad to have the knowledge nevertheless.
"So, they okay?"
"McKay's a little banged up, but he was upright the last time I saw him."
Remembering the way Rodney had looked as the big thug choked him made John want to smash something, but he sat, concentrating on his own breathing.
"What do we know?" he asked quietly even though he was thrumming with the need to be doing something, anything to rescue their team mates, despite the fact that he and Ronon needed a rescue of their own.
"Fuck," was all John could think of to say.
"Yeah," Ronon agreed glumly. "Once they had the location of the weapons, they took McKay and Teyla, put us in here."
"How long?" John asked. His mind was racing.
"Hard to know. Maybe an hour. Sure you're okay?"
"I'm okay enough if we can just get out here." The pain had receded enough so that he could move, he had to. Using the wall of their prison to maintain his balance, John pushed himself to his feet. Once he was upright, he swayed, but he stayed on his feet. He began to probe the walls around them, looking for any weakness. "Got any ideas?"
"They put us in a Setaden building." Ronon smirked at him.
John didn't know Ronon well enough yet to know if he could tell him to stop playing 20 questions and just cut to the chase. So far Ronon hadn't been one to draw things out, he was pretty straight forward. No, drawing things out was what Rodney did – Rodney who was out there in the hands of the bad guys. They could be doing who knew what to the scientist. John remembered what had happened to Rodney when the Genii had him. He wasn't trained to withstand torture, he was a scientist, he shouldn't have to withstand torture. And Teyla. God, Teyla. The leader of the thugs had looked at Teyla like he wanted to eat her.
"And that helps us how?" he asked tightly.
"We've spent generations fighting against the Wraith. We always knew that it was going to be a hard fight. We were prepared to fight to the death if we needed to."
This was the most Ronon had talked since they'd met. John stayed silent, hoping that Ronon would get to his point soon.
"We refused to let ourselves get trapped in a place without an exit. We always had to have another way out if we needed it."
"And that means?"
Ronon hooked his finger into a hidden depression in the floor. He pulled up a door that was hidden in the floor. "There's always another exit out every room on Sateda. You just have to know how to find them," he said.
John took a wobbly step, a hand pressed tightly to his side. "What are we waiting for?"
Ronon's hand closed around John's arm, giving him much-needed support.
"There's a staircase down into some tunnels,” Ronon said. “They run all through the city. It's how we got our people to safety in a Wraith attack."
John made it to the hole in the floor. There was a staircase down. John stumbled down the stairs until he reached a landing. The staircase was dark, he could just make out that he stood in a long tunnel. It was interspersed with openings, maybe other staircases leading up into buildings. Light spilled out of some of the openings, creating pools of shadow and light along the length of the tunnel.
Ronon followed him down the stairs, shutting the entrance to the staircase behind him.
He grinned at John wolfishly. "Let them figure out how we got out."
John liked the way Ronon thought.
"Why didn't you go sooner? Teyla and Rodney needed you."
"Couldn't leave you alone," Ronon answered. His tone held that 'isn't the answer obvious' tone that Rodney had sometimes.
Making sure the rest of the team was safe was the most important thing. Even if that meant leaving John himself behind. But that was a conversation for another day.
Ronon led the way down the length of the tunnel. If he noticed that John was pretty much using the wall to hold himself up, he didn't say anything.
At the end of the tunnel Ronon took a right turn that led up another flight of stairs. They emerged into a building stacked high with boxes. Windows located high on the walls were cracked and splintered. Afternoon sunlight spilled into the room, dust motes danced in the beams.
"We have a plan?" John asked.
"We get McKay and Teyla, we get the weapons, kill those guys and go home." Ronon strode off across the room.
"Woa, big guy," John caught his arm to stop him. Ronon jerked his arm away, pulling John off balance. The world whirled around John. He would have hit the ground if Ronon hadn't caught him, holding him upright.
"You're not fine," Ronon accused, looking him over critically.
"I'm fine," John insisted. He didn't have a choice, his team needed him.
"Okay, then, let's go." Ronon tugged him a little. John stumbled, barely staying on his feet.
"Dammit, Ronon, hold on."
Ronon stopped. He turned back to John, crossing his arms stubbornly.
"We can't just charge out there,” John hissed. “Those guys are big, they outnumber us, and we have no weapons."
Ronon reached into his hair and pulled out a knife. "Speak for yourself." He smirked at John, turning the knife so that its edge glinted in the sun.
"Okay, good, we have a weapon. But we still can't go up against those guys, just the two of us."
"The weapons they're taking will help us in the fight against the Wraith."
"Yes, yes, they will.” John thought furiously. “Let's get Teyla and Rodney, get back to Atlantis. Alive. Then we'll come back with a jumper and some back up and we'll show those guys who's in charge here."
There was a moment where John didn't think Ronon was going to go for it. He thought that Ronon was going to go off half cocked and get himself killed. Finally Ronon nodded.
"It sounds like a plan," he said reluctantly.
John nodded firmly.
He was glad Ronon didn't fight him. He wasn't up to a fight against the big guy. He had a feeling that he'd lose on a good day. Today… well today, Ronon wouldn't get a fight at all.
It didn't take them long to find Teyla and Rodney. They were tied up and tossed on the ground. Nearby was a site where there had obviously been digging recently.
Teyla and Rodney were dirty, but healthy. They were both breathing, and that was good in John's book. There was a guard, but he wasn't paying any attention to his prisoners. He had a fire going, with a pot of something cooking over it.
Ronon pulled another knife out of his hair, handing it to John.
"You want to get McKay and Teyla?"
Ronon didn't wait for John's answer. He didn't use stealth, he just threw himself at the thug. Soon enough Ronon stood, the other man stayed on the ground.
John moved over to Teyla and Rodney. He knelt down beside them, despite the pain screaming in his side, and began cutting them loose.
"They took the weapons to the gate. They're going to be back any minute," Rodney said all in a rush.
"You guys okay?" John asked, keeping an eye out for the return of the scavengers.
"We are fine," Teyla assured him. "But Dr. McKay is correct. These scavengers could be back at any moment. We need to find cover."
John thought it sounded like an excellent plan. Ronon threw a longing glance at the dig site. Teyla put a hand on his wrist.
"I am sorry, Ronon, the scavengers found the weapons exactly where you said they would be."
Ronon growled, but he didn't shake her off.
John prowled the site. He was surprised to find their weapons and packs thrown casually aside. Maybe, with the Satedan weapons, the bad guys didn’t need them. He picked them up, distributing them back to his team. Ronon ran a hand over his own gun, twirling it before he holstered it in its place.
"Let's go home," John said. Satisfaction thrummed through him that his team was alive and safe.
Setting off in the direction of the 'gate they were cautious, but they didn't encounter the scavengers again. It was probably just as well. Ronon wanted a rematch against the gang. It wouldn’t go as well for them this time if Ronon caught up with them.
Once they were back in Atlantis, John was taken immediately to the infirmary, not that he was complaining. It had been all he could do to walk through the 'gate under his own power, but he refused to be carried while was still conscious.
While Teyla and Rodney were regular fixtures at his bedside, it was a couple of days before Ronon showed up. It just happened to be during a time that Teyla and Rodney had gone to the mess hall to get lunch so it was just the two of them.
"Hey," John greeted him, glad to see him.
"It's called a bonding gift." Ronon said with preamble.
John blinked at him.
"Because of the Wraith culling, people are always moving around. On Sateda, it's a custom that when you go to a new place, you have to bring a bonding gift," Ronon explained.
John nodded, understanding at last. "And the weapons were supposed to be your bonding gift?"
Ronon nodded. "I'll be out tomorrow," he turned to leave.
"Hey, wait, hold up." John pushed himself up. He'd crawl out of the bed if he needed to. No way was he letting Ronon leave.
Ronon turned back, saving John the embarrassment of making him run down the hall in infirmary scrubs.
"What do you mean out?"
"Atlantis. I can't stay now." Ronon regarded him steadily. It was obvious to John that Ronon meant what he was saying. John took a deep breath.
"Ronon, we want you here in Atlantis." John insisted.
"Don't have a bonding gift, I can't stay." Ronon shrugged. The Satedan was proud and stubborn. He meant what he said. Without a gift to give them, he wouldn't stay on Atlantis. John thought furiously, there had to be a way to convince him to stay. They needed him.
"Ronon," John caught his arm, holding him in place, refusing to let him go until John had his say. "Those weapons would have been nice, I won't lie to you. They would have helped us in our fight against the Wraith. But they aren't your bonding gift."
Ronon frowned at him. "I don't have anything else."
"Sure you do. You gave us you. You are the bonding gift."
"Sheppard…" Ronon tried to tug his arm away, but John refused to let go.
"Listen to me. You have knowledge of the Wraith that would take us years to learn. You know how to kill them. That's more valuable than your weapons could ever be."
"I don't know." Ronon shuffled uncertainly, but he didn't move.
"And you had our back today. I can't keep an eye on McKay alone you know. He has a big ole brain that's going to help us defeat the Wraith someday. Teyla's good, but it's better to have three of us to watch out for him."
"He does get into trouble a lot," Ronon observed, nodding in agreement.
"So, you'll stay?" John held his breath not sure how convincing he had been.
Ronon scrubbed a hand over his head. "Well, if you want me here."
"Wouldn't have you anywhere else, buddy," John reassured him, breathing out in relief. Ronon already felt like he belonged on the team. John just felt safer with the big guy around.
Ronon snagged the chair that Rodney had been sitting in earlier; he pulled it up to John's bedside. Just then Teyla and Rodney returned with lunch, they had enough for Ronon, too. They all gathered around John's bed, switching plates around until everyone was satisfied with their lunch.
"You know," Rodney shoveled in food, talking at the same time. "If you let me borrow your gun, we might be able to reverse engineer it."
Ronon just growled in the negative as he ate. As soon as he swallowed, he pointed at Rodney with his fork.
"You need some lessons in self defense," Ronon observed. "Shouldn't have been taken by that guy."
Rodney turned three shades of pale. John bit his lip so he didn't burst out laughing. He caught Teyla turning her eyes to her plate, a small smile lurking on her lips.
Rodney stood abruptly. "I hope you're feeling better, Colonel. I've got that thing in the lab to take care of. I'll… uh… see you all later." He fled the infirmary at a near run.
Ronon watched him go. "Teach him to leave my gun alone."
John gave in to the urge to laugh at that, bursting out in a bray so loud that it had Carson come running, afraid that he was injured again. John waved him off, wheezing and wiping his eyes. He was alright.
He had a team again and it felt good.