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Fic: Flesh and Blood (Dex/Sheppard, PG13)

Author: ruric
Recipient: whiteraven1606
Pairing: John Sheppard/Ronon Dex
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Not mine alas
Author's Notes: Title stolen from a Johnny Cash song. *G* Thank you for a lovely prompt. Alas I was rendered plotless so there is introspection and smut instead.
Summary: There's a definite advantage, John thinks, to being involved with someone who's stood shoulder to shoulder with you as fate has thrown the very worst it can at you. It makes it possible to circumvent the need to talk or explain what you need.


The beam of moonlight is tracking a slow path across the ceiling. John's been watching its progress for hours now, trying to ignore the fluorescent glow of the clock. He's learned to live with nights like this - where seconds don't slip by but take a glacial age to pass.

The years he's spent on Atlantis have shown beyond a doubt that time is relative. But relativity depends on exactly where you're standing at any particular point.

Tonight time stretches like taffy and all there is, is another moment, another breath, another memory. The consolation is it's not a function of alien tech, or wormholes, or any one of the hundreds of things that have messed with them over the years. Tonight it's just him and his brain, because you can never outrun who you are. You just have to find some way to live with yourself and the decisions you've made.

It's still dark when he finally gives up and calls it, pushing the covers aside and sliding carefully from their bed. The woven rug is soft beneath his feet and he pads quietly into the bathroom, closing the door with a soft snick because there's no point in them both being awake at o-stupid-ass-o'clock in the morning. They've had enough of those nights between them to last a lifetime and then some.

The light above the mirror casts a soft glow and John takes a leak, washes his hands and brushes his teeth, the strong minty scent of the toothpaste filling his mouth and prickling at tired eyes. He may as well be up and moving because there's no point in trying to go back to bed. The reflection in the mirror shows a face he still knows, though there's no denying it's a little older.

The mental image John has of himself is how he looked the first year on Atlantis, caught in a photograph when they were celebrating an early victory. The world may have been going to hell around them but they look happy, and so damn young.

McKay's frozen mid-sentence, one hand gesticulating as he leans in to say something to Teyla. She's laughing, reaching to tug McKay into position, her other arm curving around John's waist. He's got his arm looped over Ford's shoulder and the kid has the widest grin, like he's living the dream.

It's how he tries to remember Ford: his enthusiasm and brightness and joy in discovery. Not the Ford who came later, strung out and desperate and changed.

John will never stop wondering if could have said something, done something to make it all turn out differently.

Heightmeyer - and there's yet another loss, another cost - and the other shrinks always talked them through it, and John's never failed to say the words he knows they want to hear to get him cleared for duty and back into the field. But the question will always be there, forever unanswered. Did he do enough? He'll never stop looking and never stop hoping, not until they find a body. He owes the kid at least that much. Ford is just one of a thousand or more regrets.

John's reflection looks back at him; there are lines under his eyes, a flash of silver at his temples, no denying his stubble is more silver than black these days. He's older sure, but the reality of spending an entire night caught up in what could-have-been's gives lie to the idea that he's getting any wiser.

But there's a reason they bought a house down by the beach.

He turns off the light, slips back into the bedroom, his gaze drifting to the bed to make sure he's not keeping them both awake.

Ronon's shifted in his sleep and he's sprawled on his back, one arm curled above his head. The covers are caught beneath his body, pulled taut across the curve of his hip, dipping tantalising low over his belly. John's breath catches in his throat and he swallows hard because he's never been good at resisting the temptation offered by Ronon's body.

They're far enough away from the road and paths and there's no danger of being overlooked, so they've never bothered with drapes. They both prefer to go to sleep looking at wide open skies and the stars.

Moonlight illuminates Ronon, highlighting the curve of muscle and emphasising shadowed hollows, turning him into a statute. The honey gold of his skin and the slow rise of fall of his chest are the only things stopping him looking like something Michelangelo could have carved from marble centuries ago.

It'd be easy for John to clear the tangle of thoughts in his head, to stop his brain running on this continuous loop of what-if's? All he'd have to do would be take a dozen or so steps across the room, tug those covers lower, let his hands slide over muscle and put his mouth on skin.

Easy, but not fair.

It's taken years for Ronon to be able to sleep through the night and not startle awake at the slightest sound. Years for him to trust there are at least a few places - both here on Earth and in Pegasus - where he's safe. John won't steal that away for the sake of old memories that haunt him in the quiet hours before dawn.

He turns away, moves quietly through the house and out onto the deck. It only takes a few minutes to pull on the wetsuit he'd left hanging over the back of chair, unrack his board and head down onto the beach.

The sand is cool beneath his bare feet, the tide's not in yet so he digs his board into the sand, sits his ass down to wait and looks up at a sky and constellations he doesn't really recognise any more.

Pegasus has more stars. The sky is thick with them, and he's seen them from so many different perspectives. From Atlantis's piers and jettys, from village squares and forest clearings, from the deck of the Daedalus and Wraith hive ships, and from the flight seat of a puddle jumper. He knows his way around Pegasus and her skies in a way he'll never know the skies around Earth.

But Earth is still home, will always be home because Dave and his family are here, nieces and nephews John is only just starting to know.

He smiles remembering the last time they swept into town, John getting the kids hyped-up on sugar, Ronon fulfilling their need for adrenalin. The kids had tumbled out of the car yelling for their mom and dad in a waterfall of words and John only caught one in five or so: fair, Ferris wheel, candy and Ronon shot everything.

Judy shook her head fondly as she'd tried to marshal them all into order and quiet them down. Dave had rolled his eyes and grumbled "You do realise the minute you go public I'm packing them all off to spend a summer holiday with you and Ronon."

John's surprised at how easy it is for Dave to joke with him, how easy it is to give that back. It's not something they'd ever really had before. His father's gone, another regret to add to a list which is far too long, and he'll never get the chance to fix what went wrong, but it brought Dave and his family back into John's life.

He loses time sitting on the beach, staring at stars and trying to remember patterns he used to know so well. In the end he starts counting them, for each one remembering a name and a face, aware the number is going to climb higher than he would ever want. Behind the name and face invariably there's a family who'd received a letter and visit but never a satisfactory explanation about what has happened to their loved ones.

It's the lapping sound of the incoming tide that brings him back, away from the endless roll of faces. The stars are gone, the indigo darkness of the sky lightened by the pale orange-yellow haze of the sun as it rises slowly over the horizon.

Pushing to his feet he stretches and warms up, bringing life back into tired muscles. He pulls his board loose, shivering a little as he splashes into the shallows, cold water creeping over his toes and around his ankles.

The inexorable tug of retreating water against his calves, then his thighs, is hard to ignore as he wades out into the surf. The board makes a satisfying splash as it hits the water, he folds down onto it with less grace than he hoped because he's out of practice and it's been too long. The water's cold but he paddles out, beyond the breakers, enjoying the lift and swell of the tide.

If there's anything that'll get him out of his head and back to living in the moment it should be this.

It's only a matter of time before the sea delivers a perfect swell and curl, and he's paddling forward to catch the wave, popping up onto his board, arms extended, perfectly balanced, grinning in triumph.

The wave curls around him and then over him, smacking him off his board and down, his mouth and nose filling with salt water, eyes burning. Buffeted by the sea until he doesn't know which way is up, he claws for what he hopes is the surface, following the line attacked to his ankle back to his board.

His head breaks the surface and he's coughing up water, pawing it out of his eyes and shaking his head. He can't help but laugh because the sea, like Atlantis, like any ship he's ever flown, demands his full attention.

He hauls himself back onto his board, paddles out again, because he has the time to wait for the perfect wave, to remember how to do this.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

By the time John finally paddles for the shore he can't feel his fingers or toes and his teeth are chattering. His right shoulder and ribs ache from the fourth time the sea got the better of him; he'd managed to get his arm up to protect his head, but that'd left his shoulder and side exposed as the board had slammed down on top of him. On the plus side he'd avoided a concussion so he's counting it as a win.

He's learned to take his small victories wherever he can find them.

He trudges up the beach back towards the house, tired and maybe a little achy from exercising muscles that don't usually get stretched in the way he's just been exercising them.

The sun's higher in the sky. There's a moment of cognitive dissonance when he squints up at it, trying to superimpose Pegasus's suns onto an Earth sky. The beach seems to tilt beneath his feet as his brain struggles to catch up.

"Feeling any better?"

The voice makes him jump and he turns to see Ronon sitting in one of the chairs, the bright-colored Athosian blanket Teyla had given them tucked around him. Ronon's long fingers are wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee and John sniffs in appreciation, mouth-watering when he sees the vacuum flask and extra mug.

"Did you leave enough for me?" John asks.

"Freshly made," Ronon says, teeth flashing in a brief smile, and nods towards the shower. "Wash the salt off first."

John racks his board and steps under the shower. The water's warm - thank you solar panels - and it cascades down over his head. He tilts his chin up to let it run over his face and strip the taste of salt from his skin. They don't keep shampoo down here, the outdoor shower's just for cleaning up a little, so John scrubs at his hair to get as much of sea water out as possible. Sensation slowly returns to his fingers and toes and he unzips the wetsuit, peels it from his arms and pushes it down to his hips. Warm water chases the last of the chill from his skin and he flips the shower off.

Ronon tosses John a towel as he steps towards the table and the very welcome mug of coffee.

The chair creaks when he drops into it, towel tucked round his shoulders, hands fumbling for the mug. He sucks down a first mouthful, which is almost too hot to swallow, and hums in pleasure.

"Nothing quite as good as the first cup of the day."

"I can think of a few things," Ronon quirks an eyebrow at him over the rim of his mug.

"I'm sure you can," John says and they settle into an easy silence.

The beach is getting busier; people walking dogs, early morning runners, more surfers out to catch a wave before the tide turns. It's easy enough to sit and sip his coffee and simply watch - the scene unfolding in front of him is safe, quiet and normal.

One of the reasons they do what they do is so the rest of the world can have this. Sometimes it's too easy to forget. Sometimes he wonders whether it's all worth the cost.

"How long were you out there?" Ronon's voice is a low rumble.

John squints up at the sun again. "Couple of hours, maybe?"

"And how long were you sitting on the beach before you went into the water?"

John lifts one shoulder in a shrug and stares out at the people and tries to ignore the question. He drains the mug, the final mouthful of coffee tasting bright and bitter and not in a good way.

"You could've woken me," Ronon's words are laced with a little too much understanding.

"No point in us both losing sleep," John snaps.

Finally, there's the anger.

He knows how to grieve, he's had enough practice and lost enough people. Acceptance has never been his problem – he can work his way through it. But the anger? That always comes last and when he least expects it. It blindsides him every time, knots his muscles and cramps his gut and leaves him wanting to push against something, anything, and feel it shove back.

Ronon huffs a soft sigh, the slightest hint of smile curving his lips as he stands. The Athosian blanket slips from his shoulders to pool in the chair behind him. Ronon's only wearing soft cotton pants and he lifts his arms over his head and stretches in a long, slow ripple of muscle.

John's brain might be a little fucked up at the moment but his body appreciates the show.

Ronon drops his arms, places on hand on the table in front of John and leans close enough so John can feel the warm whisper of his breath.

"So, bedroom or basement?"

There's a definite advantage, John thinks, to being involved with someone who's stood shoulder to shoulder with you as fate has thrown the very worst it can at you. It makes it possible to circumvent the need to talk or explain what you need.

"Basement. I'll be down in a minute."

Ronon straightens up and sends him a grin before turning to walk back into the house. John's not quite sure how he got this lucky but he's not about to question it.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Ronon's in the center of the mats running through some stretches when John walks in. Sweat shines on his skin and John pauses, rests hip and shoulder against the door frame and just watches.

Seven years as a runner, five fighting with Atlantis' forces and two more of relative peace and yet Ronon's still as fluid and graceful as John remembers from their first sparring sessions. Less impetuous and less prone to act on impulse and maybe time has tempered him a little.

"You going come in here and work off some of what's got you all tangled up," Ronon straightens from a stretch, catches John's eye and grins, "…or are you just going watch the floor show?"

John worked through his own set of stretches out on the deck, in the sunshine, before he shucked the wetsuit and changed into his sweats. He's as relaxed as he's going to get without working out the itch under his skin.

"Don't knock the floorshow, it's pretty impressive." John rolls his shoulders and walks out onto the mats.

Ronon beckons him on and John steps closer, his eyes fixed on Ronon's face watching for a flicker, any indication of which way he's going to move.

Ronon feints left, then ducks right, tries to hook his ankle behind John's, hands closing on John's shoulders to try and push him back and down. But John's ready for it, lets his body go pliant, takes them both down to the mats. He gets a knee braced between them, pulls down on Ronon's shoulders and uses the momentum to send Ronon crashing over head to land flat on his back on the mats.

There's a satisfying whoosh of breath which makes John smile even as he's scrambling back to his feet and they close again grappling for the upper hand.

Seven years of sparring with each other and every other marine or scientist who's come through Atlantis means there are few surprises. Both of their styles have evolved, incorporating moves from a dozen or more different traditions and styles.

The next time Ronon closes he comes in with a punch, John blocks and feels the reverberation all the way from his forearm into his shoulder. He sucks down a breath, ducks under Ronon's outstretched arm and grabs his wrist trying to wrestle Ronon's arm behind his back and into a lock. But Ronon's skin is slick and John's fingers are a little numb from the force of the blow and he fumbles, and backs up a step as Ronon closes again.

John's focus narrows down to watching Ronon's eyes waiting to see any indication of what he's planning – which, of course, never comes. Time becomes unimportant, all that matters is trying to eel out from hands that reach of his shoulders, arms and wrists even as he tries to get his own grip on slick skin, feels muscles under his hands tense and shift.

His blood is singing, pounding through his veins, every inch of skin pickling and aware of sensation, heart beating a tattoo against his ribs, lungs desperate for every breath of air he can get. It makes him feel alive.

Ronon whoops with joy every time he manages to knock John to the mats and John punches the air with a muttered "Yes!" every time he topples Ronon. And he's pretty sure they're both keeping a tally to see who'll come out the winner.

There's nothing but the harsh whisper of panted breaths, the slap of the mats against his back when Ronon slides a hip into him, pulls him off balance and throws him down. He's tempted to stay down, and wait for the weight of Ronon's body to pin him to the mats. But he's never really liked conceding so easily and he rolls onto his hands and knees, pushes to his feet.

John wipes the sting of sweat from his eyes, takes a step closer and thinks he sees a weakness. He's got his fingers wrapped around Ronon's wrist, his other hand gripping Ronon's shoulder, his foot sliding behind Ronon's calf to unbalance him before he realises he's been played.

Ronon is perfectly balanced, John…not so much.

Ronon's free arm slams into John's chest and they go down in a tangle of limbs. The breath is punched out of John fast and he has no time to suck down any more air as Ronon lands on top of him. John's head smacks back into the mats hard and for a second or two there's nothing but white light and disorientation.

When his vision clears he's staring at the smooth curve of lines and dots on Ronon's neck. His gaze drops to the pulse jumping in the hollow of Ronon's throat and to the thin, pale white scar which runs from his clavicle out towards his shoulder.

John doesn't even think. He just lifts his head, swipes his tongue along the faint ridge of old scar tissue, sets teeth into skin and bites down.

Ronon's breath is a blast of heat against his jaw and neck and John is achingly hard. He wants Ronon with a ferocity that almost chokes him. He can taste sweat and skin and his hips rock up into the weight of Ronon's body needing nothing more than friction and contact.

The laugh that Ronon huffs into his ear has more than an undercurrent of a growl. John's hands are pinned above his head, Ronon's fingers curled around his wrists pressing them into the mats.

"You could always just ask," the words are breathed into his neck and John can't help the shiver at the soft press of Ronon's lips.

Then Ronon lifts his head, amusement lighting his eyes, grin wide and wicked and his hips rock down, grinding into John.

"Bedroom?" Ronon asks.

John feels the burn of a blush heating his cheeks and shakes his head because words are really not something he could string together right now.

"Okay. Here, then."

Ronon licks into John's mouth in a kiss that steals what is left of any attempt at cognisant thought and hope for forming words melts away into pure sensation. John bites back, catches the softness of Ronon's lower lip, drags it through his teeth and loses himself in the heat of Ronon's mouth.

John hooks an ankle behind Ronon's thigh, tries to pull him closer and rock up into heat and solidity. Ronon is nipping kisses along John's jaw and there's a whimper that John realises is his.

He tips his head back into the mats, baring his throat and Ronon doesn't need to be asked. There's a soft brush of lips, and then teeth and the burn of heat. John's vision bleeds to red, his breath rattling to nothing as Ronon presses a series of sucking bites from just below John's ear to the hollow of his throat.

Ronon's grip on John's wrists relax and he drops his hands, pushing at Ronon's hips until he braces and lifts himself up. Ronon's eyes are blown wide and black, mouth swollen and John swallows because it's been seven years, and it'll never get old seeing Ronon look so wrecked.

John lifts his hips, fumbles at his own sweats pushing them just far enough down to be out of the way and reaches for the waistband of Ronon's cotton pants. "Come on, come on, come on."

Ronon laughs, reaches to help him and then leans down again, the heat of his body covering John and pressing him back into the mats.

Then Ronon's mouth and teeth are back on the other side of John's neck and it's perfect and he's so close.

John curls one hand over Ronon's hip to drag him closer and somehow works his other hand between them, to wrap around them both. Ronon moves with the rhythm of the tide; smooth, endless and unrelenting and it's just what John needs.

Ronon's mouth covers the pulse in John's throat and he feels himself balanced on the edge. He's caught between the press of Ronon's lips, the slick sliding heat of them moving together, the curl of his own hand. It feels like he's poised there for a minute or an hour or eternity and there's the bright pressure of Ronon's teeth and John comes, body shuddering, sticky heat between them and he feels Ronon follow him.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Ronon's like a heavy living blanket, sprawled over him, keeping him warm. It's not that he's not grateful for the warmth, more than muscles that have been overextended are making their displeasure known.

John pushes against Ronon's hip. "Need to breathe."

Ronon slides a little to the side, so he's only half covering John and blinks lazily. "Feel better now?"

"Yeah." John thinks about it for a moment. He pushes clear of Ronon, stands and holds out a hand. "Nnothing left that a good breakfast and more coffee won't cure."

Ronon reaches up and lets John haul him to his feet. "Maybe after breakfast we can move back to the bedroom?"

"Maybe. Are you feeling lucky?" John's ducking away from Ronon's grasp and laughing as he heads to the shower.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 22nd, 2012 07:42 pm (UTC)
Very nice. I really like the vibe between them; so comfortable and affectionate.
Dec. 23rd, 2012 02:52 am (UTC)
Dec. 23rd, 2012 04:02 am (UTC)
SGA Newsletter - December 22, 2012
User neevebrody referenced to your post from SGA Newsletter - December 22, 2012 saying: [...] : Flesh and Blood (Dex/Sheppard, PG13) [...]
Dec. 23rd, 2012 04:12 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I love it. It is awesome. The sparing, John being out of practice at surfing, and Ronon knowing what John needed. It was a very lovely read. Thank you for writing for me. :D
Dec. 23rd, 2012 04:25 am (UTC)
wow. sweet and sad--beautifully written
Dec. 23rd, 2012 07:54 am (UTC)
Lovely story. I like the realness of it, how the years have taken a toll and how they they look after each other. Love the domesticity and familiarity - and they're still hot as hell together after all this time.
Dec. 25th, 2012 06:51 am (UTC)
Oh, this is lovely. The quietness of the beginning, both John and Ronon dealing with their respective war wounds, the domesticity of it all, and the way they just understand each other and know what the other needs.
Jan. 1st, 2013 11:25 am (UTC)
Very nice story. I really like that they are so comfortable with one another.
Jan. 2nd, 2013 09:17 pm (UTC)
Nice look at John and Ronon's life together. I like that John's making an effort to connect with Dave, and that he and Ronon take the kids to the fair.
Jan. 5th, 2013 01:52 am (UTC)
nice! *g*
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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