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Fic: The Way Back (Dex/Emmagan, Dex/Sheppard, PG)

Title: The Way Back
Author: ruric
Recipient: lar_laughs
Pairing: Ronon/John and Ronon/Teyla
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Not mine, alas.
Author's Notes: lar_laughs expressed a fondness for all things Ronon, a sentiment with which I heartily concur. I was going to say something about how this linked with *redacted* but realised that would give me away. Thanks for giving me prompts which left a whole open field in which to play. This occurs around 3x10/3x11 – The Return Parts 1 & 2.
Summary: John's not quite sure when Atlantis became home, but she did. She slid under his skin and made him care and now they have to leave.

THE WAY BACK

Walking back to his room, John notes the small gatherings of Atlantis staff and Athosians conversing in soft voices, trading handshakes and sometimes hugs, Athosian heads inclined in respect to others. Small items are being passed from hand to hand. It's a replay of scenes he's witnessed many times over the last day and half throughout the city; in offices and labs, the mess and all the communal areas. A hundred small instances, bound together, which mean the imminent departure of the expedition.

John slips into his room and the doors hush closed bringing a welcome moment of silence. He turns slowly, seeing the organic curve of Atlantis' walls illuminated by the soft, pale-gold glow of the lights. Through the window moonlight reflects off the swell of the ocean, forming a silvery path which seems to lead to the horizon and then beyond. And for a moment, just the briefest of moments, he's tempted to slip down to the bay, take a puddlejumper and follow the path of light to wherever it might lead. It reminds him of the tales his mom told him when he and Dave were younger, tales of losing years of your life to the beautiful but cruel people who'd trick the unwary away.

He snorts and shakes his head, snapping out of the fantasy.

Pegasus has its own monsters, cruel and lethal, though he doubts if anyone would call them beautiful. He'd never thought this place would become home, not after seeing Colonel Sumner on his knees, life sucked slowly from him by the Wraith queen. Parts of this galaxy had looked like home, smelled like home - some of the food even tasted like home, though there was always an underlying awareness of something being just a little off.

Despite it all somehow this place, this city which responds so easily to those of them lucky enough to have the ancient gene, has become home. Atlantis, the people who live in her, the Athosians who welcomed them, they're all his much more than the house he grew up in and the family he left behind decades ago have ever been. He's careful not to examine that thought too closely.

He's not sure when it happened because he didn't even realise he had anything left to give. But Atlantis slid beneath his skin, every time he touched her walls, every time he sat in the chair, every time she's responded so readily to the things he's asked her to do. She thawed out a part of him deep frozen for years, made him care about her and the people she shelters.

Now they have to leave and it fucking sucks that he's the one organising it all. His natural instinct is to fight for the right to stay.

Thirty six hours of chasing people have taken their toll and he's glad for a few moments alone. The marines and airmen always travel light, the nature of the expedition meant even the civilians had to do so too. But they've been here long enough to trade, to acquire a few treasured possessions. In his experience people suddenly displaced usually cling to as much as they can, but what he's seen around the city is people leaving items behind, passing them on, and he knows it's as much a promise as they can give of their intention to return.

"Sheppard?"

Lorne's voice sounds in John's ear. "Yeah, go ahead."

"Botany's packed. Geology's almost finished. I'm heading down to check on McKay and Zelenka now."

"Okay, keep me posted. Yell if you need help."

"Get some rest Colonel. I can ride herd on them for a couple of hours."

His lips twitch into a smile knowing Lorne's more than capable of handling Rodney, even when he's stressed out and driving his techs to the brink trying to salvage everything they can before tomorrow's departure.

John's compiled and signed off more lists in the last few hours than in the rest of his career and he makes a mental note to tell Lorne how much his assistance has been both necessary and valued. John's already promised his 2IC he'll put in a word to support any posting Lorne wants once they're back at the SGC.

Walking out onto the balcony he rests his forearms on the cool railing – they still don't know what compound it's manufactured from and now they probably never will, one of those unanswered questions that'll drive McKay nuts. He looks down to the ocean hundreds of feet below, breathes deep relishing the saltwater tang and fresh air, and lets the tension drain out of his body.

Woolsey and O'Neill seem to be letting go without a fight, though he should probably be grateful O'Neill got them 48 hours to pack and leave. If it'd been left to Captain Helia the Ancients would have evicted them immediately. They'd commandeered the city within minutes of their arrival and have been implacable in their insistence that the expedition must leave.

Lost in thought, he still hears the soft hush of the door and the lightly scuffed footsteps approaching. Ronon learned to walk a little heavier after his first few weeks, signalling his approach to the unsuspecting population, especially after the incident with Chuck and the tray full of coffees for the Gate team.

There's a whisper of displaced air as Ronon comes to stand beside him, hip resting against the railing, and John can feel the heat of his body across the inches that separate them.

"You're not packed?" Ronon's voice is a low rumble and it sends a shiver down John's spine.

John huffs out a long sigh and straightens, rolling his shoulders as he turns away from the ocean to look back into his room. "Not yet," he shrugs. "Not really had the time."

John's gaze drifts from the Cash poster to the haphazard pile of books on the table by his bed, the small collection of carved wooden ornaments grouped on a table and the soft blanket, a gift from Teyla, draped over a chair. There's not much to show for the time they've been here but each item he's brought back is a memory of a place they've visited or people they've met.

John turns to look at Ronon, seeing the extra beads woven into his braids. A flash of silver catches his attention and that's Cadman's locket and a small piece of carved jade of Heitmeyer's added to the pendants strung onto leather around Ronon's neck.

"You gonna do it tonight?"

The question is low, the inflection light and John can see right through it. He shakes his head and Ronon's fingers curl into the front of John's shirt, tugging him close. Ronon's mouth is warm, his kiss demanding and his hands deftly slide past worn cotton to reach John's skin.

This is still new, still awkward at times but it's easy to let his hands go to work, to knot his fingers in Ronon's hair, nudge him with a hip back into the shelter of the room. Easy to let his body take over and get his mind to shut the hell up for a little while.

*

John wakes to an awareness of cool air where there had been warmth and squints through the shadows. Ronon's already half dressed, pants belted at his hips, hair swinging forward over his shoulder as he reaches down to pluck his shirt from the floor.

"We are coming back you know."

The words are out of John's mouth before he's had chance to think and Ronon freezes, hand halfway to his shirt. John's cursing himself for six kinds of fool as the seconds stretch out towards infinity and then Ronon moves snagging the shirt and starts to pull it over his head.

"Don't make promises you can't keep, Sheppard."

His back is to John and the words are muffled by material. John swallows hard, knowing any response he could make is inadequate and trapped by the dryness in his throat.

Ronon pulls his shirt down, tugs his hair free of the material and pauses at the door to look back towards John. The shadows half mask his expression but as far as John can tell there's no accusation there.

"If you can come back, you will. Don't make this into a rod to beat yourself with."

Ronon's gone before John can think of anything else to say – not that there is anything else he could say.

He kicks free of the sheet, slips the comm in his ear and keys it on.

"Lorne? We on schedule?"

"All the offices are clear, Infirmary too. Carson's down with McKay and Zelenka packing the last of some samples. Got a few things for you to sign off, but we're on target for 8am."

"Be there in 30," he says, heading for the shower.

*

In the end they're ahead of schedule, the Daedalus doing the heavy lifting and beaming the majority of their gear straight up into the holds. The final group slips through the Gate at 7:45am leaving Carson, Elizabeth and John to bring up the rear.

The Athosians are gone, relocated to another planet by the Ancients, so there's only Teyla and Ronon to see them leave.

Teyla touches her forehead to his, bestows an Athosian blessing. John's conscious of Ronon's gaze, sliding from Teyla to meet his eyes. Then they're gone as Rodney stumbles down the stairs from Elizabeth's - now Helia's – office.

It's not the way any of them expected this to end but John's counting it as a win because they're all still breathing. And evicted by Ancients has to be better than death by Wraith or Replicator, doesn't it?

*

With the expedition gone Ronon finds himself relocated with the Athosians.

Teyla's people are welcoming. It's easy to go with them, not just because they know of Sateda and his people, but because he owes Teyla a debt: she'd helped him to settle on Atlantis, explained earth customs and never made him feel any question was too stupid to be asked.

He wants to feel his weapons in his hand, wants to take the battle to his enemies and see them fall. He's been a soldier and a fighter for half his life and seven years of running after Melena's death had dulled the memories of what he was before. But he's prepared to postpone hunting and killing Wraith until he's seen Teyla and her people settled on their new planet.

So he finds himself marking out and clearing fields, building barns and shelters, and teaching some of the older kids and adults the same hand to hand classes he taught the Marines.

It brings a different rhythm to his life, slower and more relaxed, and seeing how the Athosians live first-hand is different to seeing it from the perspective of living in Atlantis.

For a people who have spent so much time living close to death they find a lot of things to celebrate. From clearing fields and sowing seed to the raising of a barn, the birth of a child or a couple making a commitment, the Athosians have a celebration for each event. Sometimes there's drinking, sometimes dancing, the celebrations ranging in size from immediate family to the whole village.

They've been here three weeks and today they'd finished clearing fields to the west of the village, so as the sun sank below the horizon, a celebration began.

A fire burns in what has become the center of the village, the scent of cooked food and fermented spirit fills the air making his mouth water and his stomach grumble. Children laugh as they chase each other, twisting and turning to avoid each other's outstretched hands and ducking with agility past the adults who are arranging blankets around the fire.

He takes a plate, loads it with food and grabs a mug of spirits, sinking cross-legged to the ground. The meat is warm and spicy, the herbs familiar and the spirit chases away the beginning of the chill carried on the night air.

It's a shock to realise he'd almost forgotten how to do this.

The snap and crackle of wood draws his gaze to the fire. He finds himself seeking long-buried memories in the dancing orange flame and the glow of burning wood.

"Ronon. Are you enjoying the celebration?"

Her voice startles him from his reverie as she sinks gracefully down to sit beside him. There's a dusky glow to her cheeks, a slight sheen of sweat across her brow, a strand of damp hair curling against her throat because she's been dancing.

He can smell the herbs she uses to wash her hair and under it the scent of her. He's hit with a dizzying sense of want so strong it glues his tongue to the roof of his mouth and washes heat into his cheeks until he's blushing like an untried boy.

He's felt the force of her punches in the gym, knows she can take down an opponent twice her size without breathing hard and he'd felt the edge of her knife against his throat when he crossed a line on Belkan. He'd sooner cut his own hand off than offend her so he nods and wonders when he’d forgotten how to talk to a woman.

Her eyes widen slightly, she licks her lips and her smile is slow and easy. Teyla leans into him, her breath whispering across his cheek, hot as an iron brand.

"Come with me. Now."

He's spent years in the military and the ability to distinguish a request from an order is probably engraved on his bones. He's on his feet and following her, unable to tear his gaze away from the slow sway of her hips as she walks in front of him, away from the fire and into the welcome cooler air.

Laughter chases them, as does Hotha's teasing "Don't break him, we'll make a farmer and trader of him yet."

It makes his ears burn and he stumbles, nearly falling over his own feet, but Teyla drops back a step lacing her fingers with his. She tugs him past the ring of light, into the shelter of the trunk of a wide old tree.

Teyla presses into him, her body lean and muscled beneath the softness of her curves, and the way she kisses him leaves no doubt as to what she wants. She eases him out of his clothes, and pushes him to the floor. He laughs at his own clumsiness. All that's left is the heat of her body, the whipcord strength of her as she rolls with him, her knees straddling his hips, the softness of her breasts brushing his chest as she folds down over him, her hair falling forward around their faces.

She's the first woman he's been with since the Wraith invaded Sateda, and somehow that makes it feel right rather than a betrayal of the promises he made to Melena.

*

John had never exactly had a reputation for toeing the line for a superior authority. It's how he ended up in Atlantis after all. Disobeying Landry's orders himself was one thing, but persuading others to see his point of view was something else.

But with O'Neill and Woolsey stuck in the city, the Replicators attacking, the Ancients dead or gone and Landry threatening to nuke Atlantis it wasn't exactly like he had a hard sell. Rodney, Carson and Elizabeth had all been itching to get back to Pegasus.

He'd had them from his first very carefully phrased "Hypothetically, Teyla and Ronon would be willing to help if we asked." Which, of course, was a gamble since they'd effectively abandoned them, but he'd always trusted his team, and they'd never let him down.

The actual rescue itself had come damn close to turning into a clusterfuck and it'll be some time before O'Neill forgives them for making him taking a long, cold swim. It's not often the rescuers have to have their asses rescued by the rescuees.

But it all came good in the end.

Woolsey's experience had opened his eyes to what working on the front lines really meant and it'd only taken him two days to obtain IOA approval for the expedition to return.

It's been five days since they retook Atlantis and the majority of expedition has settled back in. They're still waiting on the return of a dozen or so personnel who had scattered further afield than the SGC. Teyla is still with the Athosians supervising the relocation of the settlement once again.

Pretty much everyone is running a little short on sleep and a lot high on adrenaline.

Five days since they've been back and John finally has some downtime to finishing unpacking his own possessions.

The chime on his door sounds and only marginally surprised to find Ronon on the other side.

John dumps the handful of books in his hands onto his bedside table. "You unpacked already?"

Ronon shrugs and grins at John. "I still don't have much stuff. It didn't take long."

"Come in, shut the door."

Ronon steps into the room, shoving his hands in his pockets as the door closes behind him.

"So, Teyla tells me you...ah..." John stumbles to a halt because he's never been good at this shit, not when he was dating, not when he was married, and not when he's talking to his people about their personal lives.

"Once." Ronon doesn't drop his gaze just stares at John and John has no idea what to make of the look he's getting. "Is it going to be a problem? For us?"

Apparently Ronon is better at this shit than John ever was, apparently there also might be a them.

"I...um...us?"

It's not exactly the most eloquent phrasing to ever slip out of John's mouth but judging by the flat stare turning into a wide grin Ronon is more than capable of adding in all the words John might've missed from that sentence.

Ronon steps past John, flips up the lid on one of the metal boxes piled to one side of the bed.

"You want a hand unpacking these?"

John looks around, at his room, at the ocean outside and at the man standing in front of him. His city, his people, his team, his...whatever the hell Ronon has in mind.

This is home.

~ end ~
Tags: genre: het, genre: slash, pairing: dex/emmagan, pairing: dex/sheppard
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