Three Hundred and Sixty-Four

September 17, 2008 08:25 am

Characters: Ronon/Rodney, John, Teyla/Lorne

Rating: R

Warnings: Slash, language, whump

Disclaimer: Not mine!

Length: ~25,580 words

Summary: This is not the solution that Ronon would have chosen for dealing with the IOA.

Authors Note: So, I was originally inspired by the IOA being assholes about Pegasus natives being in Atlantis. Because if any situation calls for marriage law fic, its that one. Really. Trust me. Then season five started and some events therein made this AU, and I contemplated not posting it at all. Obviously, I decided to anyway, in the end.

Audio Version: read by Constance_B [mb4]

Audio Version: read by aphelant [mp3]

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The decision comes through from Earth in the middle of a bunch of other orders about re-assignment of personnel and a notification about the winners of Earth's Olympic games. Ronon is sure, logically, that the powers that be weren't trying to hide the news. It feels that way nonetheless.

Ronon isn't sure what prompted the change in policy. Last time he'd given it any thought, he'd assumed that he and the IOA understood one another fairly well. This alteration feels like a betrayal, a sucker punch, and he can't help but being angry about it.

Atlantis has been his home for nearly five years. He doesn't see what right they have to take it away from him, to call him an alien when they're guests in his galaxy, to call him a security threat when he's spent his entire life fighting their enemies. That's not stopping it from happening.

Ronon paces back and forth in front of his bed, agitated, waiting for someone to come in and tell him this is a joke, that he doesn't have to be out of the city within a week, that he still has a job, a purpose, a home. Each second that ticks away eats away at his certainty that anyone else even cares, much less is capable of doing something to halt this.

When the door to his room slides open, Ronon can't help his automatic exhale of relief. He's not even really surprised that it's McKay who blusters into his room without asking for permission. The other man is scowling, mouth crooked down harshly, snapping his fingers at Ronon and demanding without so much as a hello, "You and Jennifer, are you still together?"

This is not what Ronon expected, but he's learned to trust McKay, even if he has absolutely no idea what the man is talking about. Ronon shrugs, crossing his arms, and goes for short and sweet, "No."

McKay huffs, pacing in a tight circle, talking as he moves, "Any prospect of reconciliation?" McKay pauses only long enough to shoot Ronon a look. Ronon shakes his head and the other man makes an irritated sound. "Okay, anyone else that you're sleeping with, flirting with, or, hell, shooting hopeful looks over coffee?"

Ronon raises his eyebrows, "Don't drink coffee."

"Yes, yes, very funny and remarkably unhelpful all at the same time, I'm very proud of you for multi-tasking." Then McKay stops, mirroring Ronon's posture, voice impatient and distracted, "Who do you trust, here in the city?"

Ronon shrugs, "Sheppard. Teyla. You." McKay looks surprised when Ronon adds the last, blinking fast and then looking away. For a long moment the man says nothing, tapping a rhythm with his fingers on his arm before taking a deep breath.

"Okay. Okay. You've heard the news?" another pause to look at Ronon for confirmation, "Well, obviously we're not going to let them do it. It's all about manipulating the system, and I'm very good at that, of course. So. We're getting you Earth citizenships, and, unfortunately, the fastest way to do that is to marry you off. Teyla is marrying Lorne, not that marrying her would help you anyway, sorry. And Sheppard's country kind of frowns on even the idea of you fucking him, so that leaves me. We're leaving at 0700 in the morning. Wear something nice."

And then McKay is turning on his heel and moving for the door. It takes a moment for the full impact of his little speech to sink in, and then Ronon jerks forward, catching the other man right as he reaches the door. Ronon grabs McKay's arm, letting go when McKay flinches, frowning at the reaction.

Before Ronon can think about it, McKay is blurting, "Look, I know this probably isn't your ideal solution. I'm not saying you're gay. I'm sure you love having lots of sex with women! This is just about keeping you safe and sound here, and please don't hit me now."

Ronon blinks, taking another step back, because McKay still looks like he expects a blow. The man lets out a breath when Ronon shifts back, and Ronon feels kind of like an ass, though he doesn't know why. He says, to cover over the feeling, "I wasn't going to hit you, McKay." McKay looks at him, expression slightly doubtful, and Ronon continues, "You want to marry me?"

For a moment McKay just stares at him suspiciously, before saying, "Yes. In the interest of keeping you here on Atlantis, I want to marry you. Unless you can think of someone better?" McKay pauses again, and Ronon would point out that he's kind of been blindsided by all this, but honestly, he can't think of another person he'd be comfortable walking up to and demanding a marriage from. This time, McKay looks oddly relieved when he continues, "Well, then, it looks like I'm stuck with you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of things to set up for tomorrow if we have any chance of pulling this off."

And then McKay is stepping backwards through Ronon's door, nodding once, before turning and hurrying down the hall. Ronon watches him go, steps back into his room, and stands staring at the ceiling. He has no clue what the hell he just agreed to.

He goes to find something nice to wear.

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The next morning, there's a bigger crowd around the 'gate than Ronon had been anticipating. Lorne and Teyla are there, standing off to one side, talking quietly to each other. Ronon still isn't sure if the two of them are actually fucking or not, and Teyla's met his every attempt to find out with amused smiles and evasion for months now.

Sheppard is also there, wearing a suit and nodding tightly when he catches Ronon's eye. One of the Marines from Lorne's team is standing beside him, looking serious and then ruining the effect when he flashes a huge smile to the room in general.

Zelenka and Miko are a bigger surprise, talking off to one side, gesticulating wildly. There is no sign of McKay, and for a half second Ronon wonders if the man's just going to get cold feet. And then McKay is running up, tugging his suit jacket up his arms and announcing, "Sorry, sorry, the distributor cables were acting up and Atlantis blowing up would—"

Sheppard cuts McKay off, waving up to the control room and then jerking his thumb towards the 'gate. Ronon watches it flare to life, McKay stepping up beside him, almost vibrating in place. Ronon shakes his head and McKay asks, "How many cows had to die to make your outfit, seriously? Oh, God, I'm marrying a man who thinks detachable sleeves are the height of haute couture."

Ronon raises his eyebrows and then Sheppard is there, tsking impatiently and saying out of the corner of his mouth, "Not if you're late for your nice appointment with the justice of the peace, you're not," and motioning them both towards the open 'gate.

McKay rolls his eyes, but starts through the 'gate, everyone else already through. Ronon feels oddly nervous about stepping over the event horizon, hesitating after McKay walks through, and Sheppard slaps him on the shoulder, hard enough to push him into the 'gate while he says, "Good luck, buddy."

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On the other side, McKay is already having an intense discussion with one of the 'gate techs. Ronon makes his way across the room, stopping by McKay's shoulder. When the man finally looks up, exchanging a nod with the tech, Ronon rumbles, nodding his head at Miko and Zelenka, "Why are they getting married?"

McKay blinks, then frowns, waving an impatient hand, "They're not. They're just nosy bastards who want to see so they can spread the gossip all around the labs like the teenaged girls that they actually are. I tried to keep them away, but they snuck in approvals while I was working on the more important details of our little coup here." He says it loud enough to get the other scientist's attention, and they both blink at him.

Zelenka steps over, grinning in what looks like a decidedly wicked way, "We are coming to be witnesses, yes? To your blessed union."

McKay rolls his eyes, looking up to tell Ronon, "They're not. We're picking up my sister and her husband en route. If you could—" and then McKay cuts himself, looking nervous and uncomfortable. Before Ronon can request an explanation, the air around him is going blurry, a transporter beam picking him up.

And a half an hour later, they're stepping out of a courthouse into the chilly, early morning air. McKay is clutching the paper that declares them to be married in one hand, looking a little lost and confused, his sister talking loudly with Zelenka off to the side.

McKay takes a step forward, wavering, and Ronon frowns, almost reaching out to steady him. Then Miko is there, grabbing McKay's hands and congratulating him, bubbling happily, and Ronon watches the other man just nod dazedly.

Five minutes later, the Daedalus is picking them up again.

As far as planned marriages to work around the system go, Ronon figures that it all went off without a hitch.

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Back in Atlantis, after a day spent awkwardly killing time on Earth, able to take a breath and think again, Ronon realizes he has absolutely no idea what exactly he just signed up for. In all, he and McKay have probably spent a grand total of five minutes talking to each other since, well, the engagement. If it can be called that.

If McKay, McKay-Dex now, according to the paperwork, were Satedan then Ronon would have some clue what to do. But he's not, and, even then, Ronon isn't completely sure how he would handle a fraudulent marriage with another member of his people.

Not that it's something he has any reason to waste time considering. McKay is most definitely not Satedan, and Ronon is most definitely married to him. He doesn't feel any different, besides perhaps more secure in the fact that he won't be kicked out on his ass unexpectedly now.

McKay doesn't say so much as goodbye when they step back into Atlantis, his little minions all squawking for his attention immediately. Ronon watches the man get swept out of the room, the gleam of the ring on McKay's finger catching the light and fracturing it when he gestures wildly.

Ronon doesn't realize that he's just standing at the foot of the ramp until Sheppard slouches up beside him. The man asks, "So, how was the wedding night?" voice dry and amused. Ronon cocks his eyebrow at Sheppard, the man looking like he's trying very hard not to grin.

"Noisy," which is the truth. McKay had ranted and raved all night, arguing with his sister about so many different things that Ronon had eventually lost track, slumped back and stared at McKay's mouth for the amusement value.

Sheppard does grin then, and for just a half second Ronon is sure the other man looks wistful when he says, "Yeah, you know, it probably would be." Then Sheppard shakes his head, "So, you have any clue what you're going to do now?"

Ronon shakes his head, making himself ask after a moment, "On Earth, what would he be expecting me to do?"

For a moment Sheppard says nothing, and then he takes a deep breath, cocking his head up to the side and asking, "This is you asking for the PG rated version, right?" And when Ronon just stares at him, not exactly sure what Sheppard is getting at, the man grins, "PG it is."

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Sheppard's explanation is nice and concise, which Ronon appreciates. He knows that the other man was married, and, even if it didn't work out, well, he must have at least some idea what to do to give off the impression of marriage. Most of it is, honestly, kind of obvious.

McKay's room is in a better location than Ronon's, but it's also smaller. Ronon frowns, poking around the other man's belongings. There isn't very much, a few pictures on the walls, some heavy books scattered around, and that's it.

Ronon has had more belongings since three weeks after he got to the city, and he finds himself frowning, bothered by the other man's lack of possessions. The man's clothes are all in a suitcase already, which Ronon takes as a sign that McKay had already been planning to change rooms.

The Athosians provide him with a few baskets, and Ronon manages to transfer all of McKay's things into his room in two trips. They make a small, sad little pile against Ronon's wall. He feels uncomfortable looking at them, pacing around his room and wondering what McKay's things will look like scattered around his room.

It's a weird thought, he isn't sure if he likes it or not.

By the time McKay storms into their room, Ronon still hasn't decided. McKay looks exhausted, still clothed in the civilian garb that he had been wearing this morning, scowling fiercely when he snaps, "Why the hell are my things in your room?"

He sounds legitimately angry, and Ronon blinks at him, "What?" Ronon had figured the other man would be pleased that Ronon had gone ahead and moved his things, instead of demanding help or leaving McKay to do it by himself.

McKay scowls, taking an angry step towards Ronon, "Don't give me that. My stuff. Why the hell is it in your room? Instead of mine. Where it's supposed to be." There's something almost amusing about seeing McKay pissed off, or there would be, if he didn't also look close to falling over with exhaustion.

Ronon shrugs, "We're married. Kind of look funny if we kept different rooms."

That draws McKay up short. For a moment he just stares, before turning to scowl in the direction of his little pile of possessions. Then his chin goes up, "And you just assumed that I should move into your room? Did you even bring my mattress? Do you have any idea what the regular mattresses do to my back?"

Ronon rolls his eyes, "I'll get your mattress tomorrow, McKay." The man frowns at him for another long moment, before deflating all of a sudden, rubbing at the back of his neck. It makes Ronon blink, the flash of vulnerability makes him ask, "Can you sleep on this one tonight?"

McKay waves a hand, "Sure, fine, whatever. I'm not going back to sleep in an empty room tonight." And then he's turning away, crouching beside his possessions and poking desolately through them. He wrestles the coffee maker out, and the bag of coffee, setting them up beside the little hot plate that Ronon has placed in one corner.

"I meant—" before Ronon can complete the thought, McKay is kicking his shoes off and sitting heavily on the side of the bed. For a moment he just sits like that, elbows on his knees, head hanging forward. It makes Ronon's stomach oddly tight.

"So, I'm assuming we're going to be sharing a bed then?" McKay asks while flopping down, burying his face against the pillow. Ronon nods, even though the other man isn't looking at him, starting to reach for the light switch and McKay mumbles, "I can turn it off. Got the gene, remember?" And Ronon hesitates for just a second before walking around to the other side of the bed and sliding carefully between the blankets.

A moment later the lights dim, then go out. And Ronon is left staring at the ceiling, listening to McKay breathe across from him. It's a long night. Ronon is starting to think that maybe listening to Sheppard's advice on marriage had been a very real mistake.

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Ronon wakes up in the dark hours of the morning, to movement and jostling in his bed. He startles, jerking awake and thrashing out. McKay snaps, voice low and thick with sleep, "Go back to sleep," before he's sliding out of the bed.

Ronon blinks, the lights in the room coming up just a bit, enough for him to see McKay starting the coffee maker and yanking his boots on. The other man is saying into his radio, "Yes, I heard you, I'll be right there, just keep the room closed off until I get there."

"What's happening?" Ronon pushes himself up, wondering if they're under attack, and who from. There's a sharp pulse of adrenaline in his veins, and he reaches for his own radio, setting on the side of his dresser, quiet.

McKay snorts, pouring himself a cup of coffee, "Nothing, go back to sleep. It's just a system malfunction." And then he's out the door, shoulders curled over his cup, momentarily backlit against the door before it closes and he's gone.

Ronon slouches down into the bed, running a hand up over his face. His radio is still silent, and McKay had dimmed the lights back down when he left. The adrenaline is still pumping through Ronon's veins, but it's already starting to fade.

Ronon falls back asleep without really meaning to, the smell of coffee following him down into dreams.

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Married life doesn't actually seem all that different from single life, honestly. He gets a different bed out of the deal, which is almost too hard for him to comfortably sleep on. McKay's stuff stays sitting against Ronon's wall, gathering dust, except for the coffee maker, which seems perpetually full of the dark, bitter brew that McKay prefers.

The coffee smell completely takes over Ronon's room, but he finds that he doesn't mind so much. He gets used to it, the rich, constant scent of it. It seems to add strange warmth to the room, comfortable for some reason that Ronon can't quite pinpoint.

McKay is the most absent roommate that Ronon could ever have imagined. The other man only shows up at night, dragging himself in looking exhausted and beaten. He always showers before bed, coming out looking soft and even sleepier, always wearing a t-shirt and his work pants when he crawls into bed.

At first Ronon doesn't understand the work pants, but that becomes painfully obvious fairly quickly.

McKay never stays the whole night in bed. Never. He falls asleep, sleeps hard, and at some point before dawn he is twisting around and crawling out of bed. Ronon always wakes up, groggy and confused, and McKay always shushes him, ordering him back to sleep.

Ronon considers taking the other man's radio, which he keeps on even in his sleep. It doesn't seem possible for there to be that many emergencies that need his attention, but every morning McKay is out of bed, insanely early.

The bothersome thing about it all is that Ronon doesn't sleep as well after McKay crawls out of bed. There's something comforting about hearing another person breathing beside him, about the distant warmth of another body near his. Ronon finds himself sleeping deep and sound, and then barely managing to drag himself back to dreams once McKay is gone.

Still, Ronon has no idea what to do about it, so he simply puts the entire situation out of his mind. No use worrying about what he can't change.

Other than that, nothing really changes. Apparently no one has the balls to tease him over the sudden marriage, though he walks in on McKay catching some flack for it once or twice. Standing close behind McKay and glaring at the people bothering him usually gets rid of them pretty damn quick, though the fleeting, grateful looks McKay shoots him after they're gone make Ronon uncomfortable.

McKay gave up a lot to do this, without even thinking about it. Ronon figures the least he can do is make sure everyone else stays off the other man's back.

By the end of the first month, they've settled into an easy rhythm. Ronon lives his life, McKay lives his. At night they sleep on different sides of the same bed for a few hours. The coffee smell becomes a permanent feature, and McKay sets up shampoo, soap, and a little blue puff-ball in Ronon's bathroom. Other than that, the rest of McKay's belongings stay against the wall. The man lives out of his suitcase even after Ronon informs him that Ronon cleared out two drawers in the dresser.

Ronon would think it was odd, but he's honestly not sure that McKay has time to move the clothes.

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McKay jerks out of bed, for once not even making an effort to be quiet. Ronon stirs from a slow, thick dream of forests and blood, slitting his eyes open to watch McKay, anticipating his walk across the room to the coffee maker. When, instead, McKay says, "Oh, motherfuck," sounding like he just got slugged up under the ribs and runs for the door with his shoes still untied, Ronon is somewhat surprised.

Ronon sits up, one of his hands resting on McKay's side of the bed, where the covers are still warm from his body. The coffee pot is sitting sad and quiet. For a moment Ronon just sits, waiting for McKay to come bustling back for it, but the room stays still and dark and quiet.

There's no reason for Ronon to think that anything is wrong that isn't always wrong. None of the emergencies that drag McKay out of bed ever end up being serious, as far as he can tell. It's just people not quite sure how to do their jobs, freaking out and calling for someone that they think can help them.

But, for the last thirty-odd days, McKay has always had time to brew at least one cup of coffee before he tears out of the room. He'd cursed and yelled and damned his employees, he'd fidgeted impatiently, but he'd always waited.

The empty coffee maker sits, accusing in the pale pre-dawn light.

Ronon drops his head back down to the pillow and closes his eyes. His hand is still on McKay's side of the bed, the cool air of the room leeching away the heat McKay left behind. Ronon lets out a long, slow breath, trying to ease his heart rate back down, trying to fall back asleep.

When he cracks an eye open, the coffee maker is still there, the white plastic sitting there expectantly. Ronon scowls, shoving the blankets aside and standing. He knows that McKay puts the water and grounds in the machine before he sleeps, he'd watched McKay do it the night prior.

It takes no effort at all to hit the switch to turn the little machine on, and for a moment after he does Ronon stares down at it. Then the first drops start falling, and he shakes his head, wandering into the bathroom. By the time he's dressed, the pot is full, McKay's abandoned mug sitting beside it.

Ronon stares for another long moment. He still has at least an hour before he's supposed to meet Lorne in the sparring room for practice. And these days the man is late more often than not, looking dazed and giddy when he finally shows up.

At least Ronon finally has an answer as to whether or not Lorne and Teyla are fucking.

Ronon crouches in front of the coffee machine, filling McKay's cup up and taking a sip out of curiosity. It's bitter enough to make him wince, wondering why the hell McKay subjects himself to something that tastes that bad.

And then he's dressed, holding a coffee cup. There's nothing else to do but leave the room, heading down to the labs, and then listening for the yelling. Once he gets there, there are plenty of loud, upset voices to lead him directly to the heart of the problem.

When Ronon steps into the lab, a short man leaving runs into him, and the coffee almost goes everywhere. But Ronon has both excellent reflexes and balance, and he manages to keep it steady. Inside the lab itself there is pandemonium, scientists darting back and forth, most of them looking like they were just dragged out of bed.

McKay is off to one side, in front of an open cabinet, throwing tools into a bucket at his feet and yelling, "Where the fuck is Kusanagi? I need—" and when the woman hurries over to him, wearing bedroom slippers, her glasses on crooked, "—finally, what were you doing, making sure every hair was in place? Take Matherson and Reynolds, get Jumper Two ready for launch, I'll be right there." And a heartbeat later, when she doesn't immediately move, "What are you waiting for, Christmas? Go!"

The woman runs, two other scientists following on her heels, their expressions tight and grim. McKay throws one last tool into his bucket, before bending and hefting it, turning on his heel and walking to the desk that Ronon knows is McKay's only from seeing the other man there before.

McKay doesn't look like he's really paying attention to what he's doing, reaching down beside his computer, where Ronon can just see a faded brown circle of split liquid. McKay startles when he gropes at empty air, and then curses, balling his hand up into a fist and turning again.

This time Ronon is there, offering out the cup of coffee when McKay turns towards him. McKay blinks at him, eyes cutting towards the coffee, which he proceeds to grab and raise to his mouth. He drains the entire thing while moving towards the door to the lab, slamming the empty cup down on the corner of another desk and taking off out the door at a run.

Ronon is left standing in the middle of the still rushing scientists, until they start shoving and manhandling him out of the way. Then he makes his way down to the sparring rooms, even though he's a half an hour early.

Lorne shows up twenty minutes late, grinning. Ronon doesn't tell him that his shirt is on backwards.

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Ronon isn't sure who to ask about the mess of the morning. He doesn't see McKay all day, not even in the mess hall, and the entire science staff looks tense and hurried. Most of the Jumpers are out all day, Sheppard with them, and Teyla knows no more than Ronon.

By the time the suns all set, Ronon takes himself back to his room. McKay's coffee pot has been scalding the coffee all day, and it smells a little burnt at this point. Ronon scowls at it, before turning it off and rinsing the pot, starting a fresh batch before sitting down. He feels uncomfortable, itchy under his skin, something like the worry he feels on missions, tension and awareness that something could go wrong at any moment. He's not sure why he's feeling it now, sitting safe as it's possible to be in his room.

To distract his mind, Ronon gets out the whetting stone, and his knives. They don't particularly need sharpening, but it's something to keep his mind and hands busy. The fact that he needs something to keep his mind and hands busy is unnerving.

When McKay finally comes back, looking greasy and tired, Ronon is on his last knife. He's surprised to find the tension in his chest easing, an unraveling of the knot in his stomach. McKay kicks off his shoes, blinks at Ronon with barely focusing eyes, and then mumbles, "Shower," before making a beeline for the bathroom.

Ronon blinks, hearing the shower turn on, and then shrugs. He gets up after a moment, grabbing McKay's secondary mug and filling it to the brim, caring it over to the table and setting it down before settling in to check the edges on all of his blades.

McKay showers for a long time, and Ronon finds himself focusing on the sounds from the bathroom, worried absently that the other man might collapse in the shower. Then the water turns off, and Ronon keeps listening, to make sure McKay doesn't collapse on the floor.

There is no collapsing. McKay steps out of the bathroom, hair damp, barefooted. For a moment the man doesn't move, staring at the room blankly before his gaze narrows in on the coffee and he makes his way over to the couch, sitting down directly in front of the cup and reaching for it immediately.

Ronon lets the other man drink, watching McKay out of the corner of his eye. His skin is tinged pink from being scrubbed, all the dirt washed away. His knuckles are a little banged up, the nail over the little finger on his left hand is black and purple.

McKay sets the cup down when it's empty, resting his elbows on his knees and staring down at the floor. Ronon wonders if he should refill the cup, but then McKay is saying, "That was—it was you, that brought the coffee? Earlier? I'm not—it was right in the middle of—well, I was thinking about a lot of more important things at the time and I'm not sure, but you're pretty much the biggest guy around and I seem to remember being loomed over."

The words all tumble over each other, and Ronon snorts, nodding. McKay blinks up at him, before raising one hand to rub at his forehead. "Oh. Well. Thank you, then, I guess." McKay is frowning, looking more confused than anything.

Then McKay shakes his head, reaching out to push the coffee cup across the table, his gaze going distant, his voice going flat, "Twelve people died today."

Ronon jerks up straighter, feeling his muscles tense up when he says, "Off-world teams? Wraith?" And McKay's mouth jerks up, the man snorting and slouching further over, letting his head hang down like it weighs too much for him to support.

McKay sounds exhausted, "No. No, one of the support ballasts blew on the western pier. We almost lost—the whole thing almost went in. The city shut down all the corridors automatically. It was. There were dozens of people trapped." McKay waves a hand, frowning with the movement, "Eight drowned. Three were crushed by fuck knows what. One bled to death. I couldn't get to them in time."

When McKay presses his hands over his face, Ronon has no idea what to do. He sits a little straighter, trying to keep up with the line of McKay's thoughts, asking after a moment, "But the pier didn't sink?"

McKay shrugs, "I managed to rig it up with Jumpers, to support it. Just not in time. I was too fucking slow. The levels that flooded were crew quarters, you know? Hell of a way to wake up," McKay's laugh doesn't sound amused at all, his hands still over his face. Ronon wonders why the other man is telling him these things, because he can't remember McKay ever talking about anything like this before.

But then, this is McKay's room now. This is where he has to come at the end of the day. Ronon wonders if before, McKay came back and told his suitcase. It makes Ronon's stomach tense up again, sour and frustrated, though he doesn't know why.

Ronon says, because McKay seems to be waiting for something, "Must have saved a lot more."

McKay's voice is sharp, bitter, "I'm sure that's a lot of comfort to the people that died. If I could have just—" he cuts himself off abruptly, running his hands up over his head, threading his fingers together over the back of his neck, "Never mind. You wouldn't understand anyway."

Ronon watches him, McKay staring at his feet like they have all the answers. McKay is rubbing his thumb across the curve on his shoulder, the touch so absent that Ronon doubts he knows he's doing it. It's a piss poor attempt for comfort, and Ronon frowns, putting down the knife he had been absently turning in his hands.

When he rests a hand on McKay's back, the other man startles, jerking his head up to blink at Ronon in surprise. Ronon just shrugs, rubbing a circle on McKay's back, the man's skin warm through his shirt, his muscles all knotted up, tense.

For a long moment they sit like that, and then McKay blinks, sighing, relaxing. Ronon extends the motion, rubbing up and down McKay's spine, keeping the touch light. After a while, McKay makes a soft sound in the back of his throat, and Ronon pauses for a half second before trying circles again.

Ronon asks, when McKay closes his eyes and some of the lines of stress around his eyes and mouth smooth out, "I'm not stupid, you know. I was the Rounded Man in my class on Sateda." He's not sure why he's telling the other man. It's not something he's felt any great desire to share with anyone else here.

McKay shakes himself, blinking rapidly, like maybe he's coming out of a dream. Then he says, "What? Oh. Well, that's very nice for you, I'm sure, but I doubt that your ball men had anything to do with re-writing hundreds of command algorithms while the system keeps trying to shut you out, while trying to repair a water removal system that hasn't worked in millennia without so much as a schematic to show you how it's supposed to work."

McKay is tensing up under Ronon's touch again, a muscle in his jaw ticking, one of his hands fisting up. Ronon shrugs, curling his fingers up, rubbing his knuckles up and down the line of McKay's spine, "Doesn't mean I wouldn't understand an explanation."

For a beat there's silence. Then McKay turns to look at him again, frowning more with consideration than stress, brows drawn together. Finally McKay says, "You want me to tell you about the ballast system?"

Ronon shrugs again, "Been wanting to learn more about the city for awhile." Which is in no way a lie. He dislikes how little he understands this city that supports them. He's never lived somewhere that he constantly had to trust other people with everything.

McKay stares for another long moment, before one side of his mouth curves up, "Well, bettering yourself is always an admirable pursuit, and, of course there's no one else that could explain it better. I can bring a tablet back, tomorrow? If you're serious?"

The other man looks oddly hopeful, and Ronon nods. That gets a wider smile out of McKay, the other man leaning back against Ronon's hand, a flash of pressure that almost startles Ronon into pulling away. Before he can, McKay is saying, "However, right now I need to snag an hour or two of sleep, so you'll just have to, you know, contain your thirst for knowledge."

When McKay stands, his back cracks loudly, and he makes a face. Ronon sits on the couch, staring at his knives, listening to McKay crawl into bed, before finally making himself stand.

In the bed, McKay is already asleep, flat on his stomach, his eyes moving beneath his eyelids. Ronon watches him for a long moment, not sure why, until his body reminds him that he woke up ridiculously early, and that he's exhausted himself.

It's odd to have to turn off the lights with the switch, and Ronon manages to knock his toe against something on the way back to the bed. Still, he makes it, curling up onto his side and listening to McKay breathe.

When McKay stumbles out of bed, not nearly enough hours later, Ronon doesn't even remember falling asleep.

hr

McKay is as good as his word, bringing a tablet back with him the next night. It's late, of course, by the time McKay appears. Ronon is exhausted, worn out from a day running around and kicking the asses of the new Marines off the Daedalus, but he learned long ago how to push aside his physical concerns and concentrate anyway.

Besides, McKay is obviously every bit as tired as Ronon, shoulders curling forward as he explains what Ronon has a feeling is the very basic operating system of the city. Ronon pays attention, surprisingly easy with McKay focusing just on him. Without anyone there to disagree with him, or get him going off on tangents, McKay is oddly focused and intent on making sure that Ronon understands exactly what he's saying.

McKay is just explaining the basic coding language that the Ancients used, and the bastardized version the science staff has adopted, when he winces and shifts his shoulders. Ronon frowns, attention momentarily distracted from McKay's voice, looking at the stiff, tense set of the other man's posture.

The previous night McKay hadn't seemed to have any problem with Ronon touching him. But he had also been upset, frustrated, angry with himself. Ronon isn't sure if the same rules apply now, if there are any rules at all for this. He is sure that he isn't a coward.

Ronon places his palm in the space between McKay's shoulder blades, moving in a tiny circle. For a moment, McKay stumbles over his explanation, before his words get back on track. Ronon lets out a tiny breath, not sure why he wants to smile.

Rubbing McKay's back is easy, and after a few minutes McKay relaxes into the touch, just a bit of the tension in his muscles bleeding out. Ronon figures that really, it can't be healthy to be walking around wound up as tight as McKay is. If McKay is going to take the time to teach Ronon about the city, to give Ronon the chance to feel something like relaxed in his surroundings, it only seems fair that Ronon pay him back somehow.

When McKay quizzes Ronon at the end of the impromptu lesson, he seems almost giddy that Ronon gets all but one of the questions right. Sliding into bed, Ronon is half sure that the question he missed was a trick, anyway.

hr

The next night, McKay has the tablet again. He keeps cutting Ronon sideways looks, fidgeting, until Ronon reaches out and rests a hand on his shoulders. The way McKay relaxes then, the way for a half second his words catch, sends a sharp thrill of accomplishment through Ronon's mind. It's just the pride of a job well done, feeling McKay unknot under his touch.

By the end of the week, it has stopped being a question of if McKay is going to teach him, and merely a question of what. By the end of the week, Ronon just puts his hand on McKay's back when they sit down, keeping the touch soft as McKay makes the city make sense.

It's a good arrangement.

hr

The first time McKay calls Ronon down to the lab, Ronon almost doesn't go. He's in the middle of eating his lunch, and it's especially good today, salty, thick soup. He's already had two bowls, considering gong for another two when McKay's voice comes over his radio.

Ronon grunts in response to the impatient snap of the other man's voice, his spoon half-raised, intending not to budge. And then he wonders if they have a pier about to fall into the ocean again, some other emergency, if McKay needs help. Ronon leaves his soup steaming on the table, making his way down to the labs.

When he gets there, no one is panicking. Before he can fully be relieved by that, and move on to irritation that McKay interrupted his lunch, McKay is looking up from across the room, flashing a brief smile and saying, "There you are, come over here."

McKay is standing over one of the new scientists off of the Daedalus, the poor kid fidgeting nervously, gaze darting around like he's looking for an escape route. Ronon grunts down at him, and then raises his eyebrows expectantly at McKay.

And then McKay is grabbing Ronon's arm, pulling him closer to the computer screen and pointing at the command codes there. McKay is saying, voice sharp with scorn, apparently not directed at Ronon, "Now, who can tell me what's wrong here?"

For a moment Ronon just stares, having no idea what the other man is talking about. And then he cocks his head to the side and it makes sense. The poor scientist kid is still just staring in mute, uncomprehending horror at the screen, so Ronon rumbles, "The Jumper power feeds are inverted."

Ronon isn't sure what he was expecting after that. For McKay to bounce up and down, flashing him a smile so blindingly pleased that all Ronon can do is blink, is not it. McKay is saying, patting Ronon's arm and pushing him aside, "Do you know what that means, Simons? That means that you, you who don't understand why you have to be babysat here, when you were such hot stuff on Earth, missed something that Ronon, who never saw the inside of a college classroom, spotted in seconds. Now, go tell Zelenka what you did so he can fix it, go!" McKay's tone is a mix between gloating and scorn, with what almost sounds like pride somewhere below it.

Ronon watches Simons push out of his chair, shuffling across the lab to Zelenka while McKay slides down into the abandoned chair, sighing heavily and re-writing the code with a few quick strokes. Ronon leans against the desk, asking, "Thought you were letting Zelenka fix it?"

McKay looks up at him, frowning before waving a hand, "Like I'd trust him to fix it. I just wanted Simons out of here." And then, when Ronon doesn't budge, "Sit down, I want to show you what I'm working on, not that you'll be able to follow it, but they say total immersion is the fastest way to learn."

Which is how Ronon finds himself sitting beside McKay, watching the other man work, McKay keeping up a constant background litany of explanations and curses. And somehow that becomes habit too. It doesn't take too long before Ronon thinks to bring lunch along, and then he gets to watch McKay eat, type, berate, and pace all at the same time. It's surprisingly entertaining.

hr

The first time McKay meets him in the mess hall for lunch, Ronon had already been gathering food to take down to the labs. McKay ambushes him in the food line, plucking the muffins out of Ronon's hands and saying without so much as a hello, "O'Connel managed to set off an Ancient roach bomb, so the labs are closed."

Ronon grunts to let the other man know he's listening, thankfully all that is usually required to hold up a conversation with McKay, who continues, "I know, it's utterly ridiculous. When are people going to realize that they shouldn't touch anything without asking me first?"

Ronon isn't really sure if he should be offended or not by McKay's assumption that they'll just eat lunch together here. True, Ronon had been planning to go down to the lab, anticipating McKay's page, but it's all rather presumptuous. Before Ronon can think about it, McKay is absconding with the muffins and a steaming cup of coffee, claiming one of the tables by the windows and sitting down.

McKay doesn't even look when Ronon sits down, picking at the blue wrapper on his muffin and saying, "They even tried to get out of working, can you believe that?" McKay looks up long enough to flash a sharp smile, "Luckily, I was there to remind them that Jumpers four, five, and eight are in drastic need of maintenance."

Ronon nods, setting up the rest of the food, watching McKay peel the wrapper off the muffin and then set it on a plate, sliding it across the table towards Ronon. McKay keeps up a constant litany of the projects he has set up for his staff to complete while they're exiled from their labs, then looks at his watch, nearly chokes on his coffee, and springs from his seat.

McKay is blurting, "Fuck, let him be late," patting Ronon on the shoulder before hurrying towards the door. Ronon blinks, looking down at his shoulder where McKay's hand had briefly been, then down to their empty trays, back up to his shoulder.

He wonders if he's supposed to be doing that.

The next time he leaves a room before McKay, the locker room after a mission, Ronon pauses, reaching out and squeezing the other man's shoulder. And it's odd, the way that he can feel McKay relax just a little, like that small touch has the same effect that Ronon rubbing his back in their room does.

McKay's just blinking at him, blue eyes wide and surprised. Ronon shrugs with one shoulder, brushing his thumb back and forth over McKay's jacket before letting go and turning aside. When he catches Sheppard's gaze, on his way out of the room, the other man is smirking.

Ronon makes a note to kick the shit out of Sheppard the next time they spar, just because.

hr

Ronon has gotten used to McKay coming back to their room, showering, and then having a teaching session, over the last two months. It's become a part of his evening routine, and when McKay doesn't come back, the clock ticking away, Ronon feels himself getting jittery, watching it. He likes habit, and schedule, and he doesn't do well when it's broken.

And last time McKay was this late, part of Atlantis had almost fallen off into the ocean.

By the time Ronon starts pacing, a bad habit he picked up from Sheppard, he's frustrated more with himself than anything. He has an early morning. He should be sleeping. But there's this twist of something in his gut, and Ronon finally scowls, holstering his blaster and heading for the door.

When he opens it, McKay is on the other side, one hand braced against the doorframe, just waving his other hand over the door controls. McKay blinks sleepily at Ronon's chest, not raising his head, before mumbling, again to Ronon's chest, "Hey."

He even sounds exhausted.

Ronon frowns, stepping away from the door, allowing McKay to drag himself in. For a moment the man just stands there, before stumbling over to the bed and then falling sideways onto it. McKay manages to end up on his side, head tilting down, his legs hanging off the side. Ronon looks back at the door, takes off his gun, and makes his way over to McKay.

McKay is already snoring softly, one of his arms curled up under his head. Ronon crouches beside him, reaching out to rest a hand on McKay's arm. McKay doesn't stir, so Ronon shakes him, just a little, enough to make McKay mumble something inarticulate and slit his eyes open.

"You gonna shower?" Ronon has found that he likes how McKay looks freshly showered. It's something that he only gets to see in the room, and he thinks that his mind has come to associate it with sleep and being relaxed, with the smell of coffee and McKay's voice explaining one system or the other.

McKay blinks at him slowly, eyes unfocused, voice rough when he says, "Huh? No. No. I need to sleep." And then he's closing his eyes again, apparently past caring about the dirt in his hair, the stale, sweaty smell clinging to his clothes and skin.

Ronon rocks back onto his heels, considering. The odds of McKay being pleased about this in the morning are remarkably slim. Ronon doubts very seriously that sleeping in this position would be in any way good for McKay's back, and by this point he's heard about it enough that even with McKay semi-conscious, his mind is replaying the complaints.

Ronon says, "Shower first," and shifts up, tightening his grip on McKay's arm and then sliding an arm around the other man's chest, pulling him to his feet. McKay is solid, and Ronon has to readjust his weight, pulling one of McKay's arms over his shoulders. Half-dragging McKay to the bathroom is awkward. Especially because McKay keeps trying to sleepily bat him away.

Still, by the time they make it into the smaller room, McKay seems more awake, yawning and looking petulant when he says, apparently aiming for threatening, "I know where you sleep."

Ronon smirks, shaking his head and leaning McKay against the wall beside the shower, saying when he steps back, "Don't drown yourself." And McKay flips him off, his reply lost in fabric when he pulls his shirt over his head.

For a moment, Ronon finds himself frozen, staring at the stretch of skin across McKay's broad shoulders, the remnants of the sunburn that McKay had gotten on RR9-110, lines of paler scars down McKay's back. Ronon doesn't know the origin of those, and he feels himself frown.

Before he can ask, before he can even think of how to ask, McKay is fumbling with pushing his pants off his hips. Ronon blinks, turns, and leaves the room. He sits on the couch, staring at the wall and wondering why the hell he cares. He's seen McKay naked before, quite frequently with all the communal showers they end up taking.

But the locker room shower is not their shower, and Ronon's mind insists that there's a difference, though he can't see it.

By the time McKay makes his stumbling way out of the bathroom, Ronon has started cleaning his blaster. The man has a towel slung around his hips, glaring at Ronon and grouching, "I'm not putting the dirty clothes back on," as he makes his way over to his suitcases.

When McKay drops the towel, Ronon looks back at the wall, listening to the sounds of the other man changing, cloth against skin. He doesn't look away from the wall until he hears the bed creak, the soft sounds of covers being arranged, the little huffing sigh that means McKay has made himself comfortable. When Ronon climbs into bed, it pulls the covers off McKay's shoulders and Ronon pauses for a half second before tugging them back up. McKay mumbles in his sleep, shifting around.

hr

Usually, Ronon eats his dinner with Sheppard, now that Teyla is having sex every other minute and doesn't have time for things like meals. Eating with Sheppard is quieter than eating with the rest of the team, which Ronon appreciates, even if the other man does smirk at him through at least half of the meal. Every. Time.

But with the Apollo just arriving, Sheppard is off fulfilling his responsibilities, and so Ronon is eating alone. He's just considering taking the rest of his food down to the labs, wondering if McKay would bitch too much about seeing him at two meal periods, when a woman that Ronon has never seen before sits down in the seat across from him.

She doesn't have a meal, just a pudding cup with a spoon sticking out of it. She's wearing a scientist's jacket, unzipped far enough to make Ronon wonder where her uniform shirt is. She's got pretty red hair, freckles on her fair skin, and big, green, eyes. She also has the same kind of pointy ears that Sheppard does, which Ronon finds momentarily distracting.

And then she's sticking one of her small hands forward, saying, "Why hello, I'm Annabel Cormic."

Ronon stares at her hand, raises his eyebrows and resists the urge to roll his eyes. He's not even sure where that urge came from. He does shake her hand, because Sheppard has been pleading with him to be nicer to the new hires for months, and he has to start somewhere. He says, "Ronon Dex," in what he's sure is not a tone bound to make her run away crying. No matter what Sheppard says.

Annabel does not look like she's the crying type, in any case, leaning a little further forward and taking a huge bite of her pudding, licking it out of the corners of her lips before continuing, "So, what do you all do for fun around here?"

Ronon shrugs, turning his attention back to his own meal, "Kill things, mostly."

She's silent for a long moment, Ronon figures trying to decide whether or not he's joking. He lets her take her time, picking at the green mashed vegetable taking up half his plate that manages to have absolutely no flavor at all. Its blandness is disconcerting.

Finally she says, "Well, what do you do to unwind from killing things?" Her voice has gone low and teasing, and Ronon looks up at her, frowning. She has one elbow braced on the table, her chin resting in her hand, her eyes fixed on him, licking her bottom lip when he looks up.

Ronon stabs a piece of meat without looking down, rumbling, "Study the city's systems," wondering if he's been nice enough, because he's really ready to leave. He's not sure why he's uncomfortable with the conversation, but that isn't stopping him from being so.

Unfortunately, now she is smiling at him, reaching out to touch his arm just lightly with the pads of her fingers, saying, "Oh, smart too! I wasn't sure if you were part of the science department or not. I mean, you're so..." she tilts her head to the side, grinning wider, sliding her fingers up his arm.

And that's when there's a crash. Ronon jerks his head up, relieved, and then feeling the emotion go sour. McKay is standing in one of the doorways, his head cocked to the side, his lips pressed thin and tight together. He's got a tablet tucked under one arm, his other hand raised, the coffee cup that he had been holding shattered on the floor by his feet.

Ronon's stomach twists unhappily, and then McKay is turning on his heel, just walking out of the room. He leaves behind Kusanagi, who is standing with her arms crossed, glaring in the direction of Ronon's table with the dirtiest look Ronon has ever seen the tiny woman muster. Kusanagi finally turns, but not before pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose in a gesture that Ronon finds inexplicably threatening.

Annabel sounds confused, "That was different," and then, like she's pulling herself back on track, "Do you get a lot of that around here?" She's still rubbing her fingers on his arm, and Ronon jerks out of her reach, pushing to his feet.

He doesn't say a word to her, still seeing the hurt, betrayed look on McKay's face and not exactly understanding it. It doesn't matter, he still feels like a dick for putting it there.

Ronon spends hours trying to find McKay, to demand an explanation, but the other man is much better at evading than Ronon had ever given him credit for. McKay knows the city inside and out, and there's no way for Ronon to find him unless he wants to be found.

By the time the last of the suns have set, Ronon gives up, and goes back to their room.

hr

Ronon isn't sure how he managed to fall asleep, dealing with the strange emptiness on the other side of the bed, McKay still nowhere to be found, but apparently he had. He wakes up to soft footsteps, the room just light enough for him to make out McKay's profile, the slump of the other man's shoulders as he makes his way across the room.

It's nearly morning, and Ronon frowns, wondering where McKay was all night. And then the man is kicking off his shoes, sitting on his side of the bed and squirming under the blankets. McKay lies there, tense and cold as a stone. It's distracting.

Ronon closes his eyes and tells himself to go back to sleep. But McKay is so tense that it's bleeding off of him, creeping across the bed and knotting Ronon's muscles up. Ronon sighs, not really all the way awake yet, and reaches out to put his hand on McKay's shoulder, because that makes him relax any other time.

Apparently not now.

McKay jerks under Ronon's touch, yanking himself away like Ronon's skin burns. The viciousness of the response has Ronon starting, opening his mouth to demand McKay calm down. McKay interrupts, voice tense and flat, "I'm sorry. I—I may have overreacted slightly in the cafeteria today and I've been thinking about it and you deserve an apology for me causing a scene."

Ronon has no idea what to say, so he just stares at the back of McKay's head, the other man lying on his side, words all tumbling over each other, "I mean, it's hardly fair to assume that you'd be, you know, faithful. It's not like we're really—anyway. You're a young, attractive," here McKay waves a hand, or Ronon would assume that he does, by the way the bed shifts, "man and no doubt you need to fuck lots of young, attractive women to feel that your life is complete, I can understand that."

Now Ronon shifts up, not sure where this is coming from and fairly certain he doesn't like where it's going. But McKay isn't so much as pausing to allow Ronon a word in edgewise, "I just think that in the interest of me not humiliating myself completely, it'd be great if you could tell me before you fucked someone. I'm sure there will be times when things just happen. But I really don't think it's too much to ask for you to let me know who I can talk to without having to imagine you fucking them. Also, could you not use this bed? I know that's—it's just that it's my mattress, and I do not want to be sleeping in someone else's wet spot."

For a beat, silence, and then McKay sucks in a deep breath, "Anyway. I hope you and, well, whoever that was, weren't too bothered. Earlier. She seemed very, uh, nice." And McKay goes quiet all at once, like he's finally run out of steam.

Ronon is left on his elbows, staring down at McKay, raised just enough to see that the other man's eyes are open, that he's staring without blinking out across the room. It makes Ronon feel like an asshole all over again, and he says, trying to make McKay understand, "I'm not fucking anyone."

McKay just sighs, "Well, give it time. Just. Do the decent thing and let me know. And try not to get caught. I don't want people to think that I'd stay with someone who was cheating on me." He sounds tired and resigned, which is not a way Ronon is comfortable with McKay sounding.

Ronon sits all the way up, "I am not unfaithful." He hadn't even thought about it, really. It's been so long since he had sex, since he even had more than distantly sexual thoughts about someone. His dirty dreams and jerk-off material are usually little more than blurry faces and bodies.

He hasn't even thought about sex, beyond a vague sort of thought that he might have some again someday. And once he'd married McKay, he'd not really thought about it at all. It wasn't exactly a Satedan ceremony, but there were some bonds you didn't break, and Ronon had sworn something equivalent to McKay. He had no intention of breaking his honor.

Instead of relaxing, McKay snorts, "Yeah. Sure. Look, I'm not mad at you, and I don't think I'm being unreasonable. Just promise me you'll tell me, please. I'd rather not be the last to know, if it's all the same." And there's that undertone of hurt again, the one Ronon has been hearing more and more often since they wed and that he still doesn't understand at all.

Ronon is surprised to find just how much he wants to make it go away. He finds himself saying into the heavy silence, voice thick and rough with sleep, "If I fuck someone, you'll know."

And it seems wrong that those words get a sigh of relief from McKay, the other man rolling onto his stomach to bury his face against the pillow, mumbling, "Okay, fine, great." Ronon stares at him until the sun finally rises. Neither of them sleep.

hr

The thing is, it's not okay, fine, or great.

The next night McKay is still there with his laptop and his explanations, but he won't sit on the couch beside Ronon. Instead he pulls up a chair, and though the explanations are just as thorough, there's a distant flatness to the tone of McKay's voice that changes everything.

When Ronon tries to pat him on the shoulder after a mission, McKay just sidesteps the touch, eyes down, jaw clenched up tight. In fact, all the touching stops completely, and it's frustrating to realize that just how much Ronon had gotten used to tracing the bunched up, stiff muscles in McKay's back, feeling the other man relax under his hand.

Ronon tries to bring lunch by the lab, and never once manages to find McKay. Ronon's always just missed him, the other scientists just looking unimpressed when Ronon tries to intimidate them into telling him where McKay disappeared to. Kusanagi is the worst. Ronon is almost afraid of her, particularly when she just stands there with her head tilted down enough to make her glasses shine, so that he can't see her eyes.

Ronon is half-sure she is going to attempt to sneak into his room and smother him in his sleep.

And then there's Annabel, who walks stiffly over to Ronon's table in the mess hall one day, to apologize awkwardly for not realizing that he was married. Ronon wonders if she's worried about Kusanagi attempting murder as well, but before he can think how to ask, the woman is gone.

McKay still teaches Ronon every night, and still sleeps on the other side of his bed. But somehow, absolutely everything has changed. And Ronon just wants to change it back.

The pitying looks that Sheppard keeps shooting him are not helping at all.

hr

After two months of having to sleep beside McKay, living with him without being able to touch him or have a conversation that isn't strictly about science, Ronon is incredibly frustrated. He'd gotten used to listening to McKay rant about everything, anything, whatever. Hell, McKay even takes his coffee machine down to his labs, and Ronon misses that.

Unfortunately, Ronon has less than no clue how to get what he lost back. Sheppard's suggestion to give McKay time is not exactly helpful, and Teyla's soft knowing looks and advice to examine his own feelings are even worse. Ronon knows how he feels. He misses the constant coffee smell.

Still, there's apparently nothing he can do about it, besides stealing the coffee maker and returning it to their room. He doubts that would do anything except piss McKay off even further, so Ronon leaves it where it is. He considers buying one of his own, but he doesn't drink the stuff, and wastefulness is not something he's any good at.

So he waits.

hr

They're on PQ0-109, the first time McKay pages Ronon over his radio in months. Ronon had been helping the locals harvest some palmova fruit, delighting the younger children when he didn't need to use a ladder to pluck the ripe fruit, and he'd nearly dropped his basket when his radio had crackled to life, McKay's voice coming through sharp and tense, "Help! Help, help, help!"

Ronon sets his basket down, trying to remember where he left the rest of the team, Sheppard's voice following McKay's, "Hey, buddy, take a breath, where are you?" And Sheppard might be trying for calm, but he sounds as worried as Ronon feels.

And McKay is blurting, words all pressed together, echoing oddly, "The temple—the big white building—oh fuck, tell me you're on your fucking way!" Ronon is already running, the other pickers turning to look at him as he goes, a few calling questions that he ignores.

Sheppard is attempting to aggravate McKay over the radio, to get him arguing, because arguing calms McKay down, but he's not managing. McKay is silent now, and that's so much worse than anything that Ronon could imagine. He runs faster.

By the time he makes it back to the village, up to the temple, Teyla is already there, breathing hard, Sheppard's loud footsteps pounding in the radio. Ronon doesn't wait for him, throwing the doors open and slamming his way in, demanding into the radio, "Where in the temple, McKay?"

And the sharp fear in McKay's voice is tightening Ronon's stomach up, making his heart beat faster, "Ronon! Thank God, okay. Listen, the middle of the floor, the middle—there's a control panel, I had it open, do you see it?"

Ronon nods, remembers that McKay is no where in the fucking room, and growls, "I see it," dropping to his knees beside the open panel, McKay's tools are still scattered around it. Some of the circuits are burnt out, and the system looks mostly Ancient, but there are other things mixed in.

McKay makes a shaky, small sound, before swallowing loudly enough that the radio picks it up, his words tumbling again, "Okay, good. Good. That's good. Now fucking listen to me, don't argue, don't ask questions. You're going to take the main control crystal out, right now."

Ronon does, finding it easily, handing it to Teyla who is blinking at him in surprise. McKay continues, talking even faster, "Now, the crystal for power distribution is cracked, they're holding it together with some kind of organic glue—be fucking careful with it!—and match it up to the main crystal, patterns counter—counter clockwise."

Ronon's hands are working automatically, identifying the different pieces and putting them together, some distant point of his mind registering Sheppard running up, demanding a sit-rep from Teyla. Ronon is tuning them out, struggling to focus on McKay, his voice getting blurrier, "Now plug them into the reverse auto-feed and wiggle it around."

Wiggling things around doesn't seem like it should be an actual instruction given during a mechanical procedure, but so many of the Ancient devices are falling apart that Ronon figures it makes sense. He wiggles it around, and McKay makes a sound that Ronon tells himself is not a sob, "Oh, motherfuck, why didn't it—God, I can't believe this. I really didn't mean to leave you a widower. You better fucking mourn me. Black veil and everything. I'll haunt your ass if you don't, I swear."

Sheppard yells something that sounds afraid and angry, but Ronon barely hears it. He wiggles the connected crystals again, but McKay is still babbling, fear not going away. Ronon growls, bangs his fist on the ground above the panel, and jerks back when something grinds.

For a moment, there is silence, and then McKay, babbling, "Oh, oh, took you long enough. Now, now I need you to, ha, to open it. I can't. There's not a lot of, uh, not a lot of, hm, air. I think you, Ronon, can you open it? I can't—" McKay trails off into a wheeze, and Ronon feels any relief that he had managed completely dissolve.

Ronon grunts, bending back over the controls, reading the control pathways, not bothering to try to find out what kind of machine this is, just trying to open it. It takes him longer than he likes to find it, imagining McKay running out of air, and then he has it, changing out two crystals, the floor humming softly before a hole to the left of the control panel jerks open.

The doors that open are maybe three feet by three feet. But the space beyond them isn't anywhere close to that big, and McKay is jammed in it. Someone curses, probably Sheppard, and then Ronon is moving, touching McKay's leg, folded and pressed tight up against his chest.

McKay makes a small sound, alive, somehow alive, and Ronon feels himself let out a shaky breath of relief. Pulling McKay out of the tiny space is a job in itself, the other man twitchy and semi-conscious, his body all folded up and pressed together. Ronon has a feeling the other man is going to have some extreme bruises, where his gear was pressed into his skin.

When they get McKay out, spread flat on the ground, Ronon finds himself staring at the hole. It's frighteningly small, and he shakes himself, turning back to McKay, who is pale and breathing fast. Sheppard's voice is low and flat, "What the hell happened?"

McKay shakes his head, coughing, curling over onto his side, one of his hands flattening on the floor. And it's only then that Ronon realizes McKay is shaking, his eyes wide with fear. Ronon frowns, covering McKay's hand with one of his, relieved when the man doesn't jerk away from him, using his other hand to rub lightly up and down McKay's side.

Finally, Sheppard sighs, "Alright, I'm going to go get the Jumper, and then we'll—"

McKay jerks his head up, eyes wide, blue barely visible around the black flare of his pupils, "No! No, they'll come back, we can't—" he breaks off into a coughing jag, before swallowing and managing, "—can't split up. Have to get out of here together."

Ronon meets Sheppard's gaze over McKay's head, and after a half second Sheppard nods. Getting McKay to his feet is the easy part, though he winces and hisses with pain when he puts weight on his right knee. Teyla takes point, Sheppard helping Ronon support McKay's weight, limping out into the sunlight where they find the entire village arrayed, expressions dour, armed with no weapons but the sharp, sturdy farming tools.

McKay mumbles, not sounding anywhere close to coherent, "Don't let them put me back in the dark."

"They won't," Ronon growls the words, because thinking about McKay all alone in the dark, the space around him gradually shrinking, is not sitting well with him at all. McKay nods, his cheek already bruising up from where it had been pressed against one side of the box.

And then Sheppard is saying, "We don't want any trouble," in that hopeful, doubting tone he has, that says he already knows they stumbled into it. And then all that's really left to do is run and shoot their way back to the Jumper. By now, that part is pretty much routine.

By the time they make it to the Jumper the natives are shooting at them with bows and arrows, one clattering against the rising rear hatch as Sheppard moves for the controls. Teyla fires her P-90 through the closing gap, and Ronon lowers McKay down to one of the benches, where the man curls over, wrapping his arms over his head and rocking himself just noticeably back and forth.

For a moment Ronon doesn't move, and then he sits down, thigh pressing up against McKay's. McKay's pack is compressed, the shape oddly distorted from the pressure exerted on it. Ronon shakes his head, covering McKay's hands with one of his, the other man's skin unnaturally cool.

McKay mumbles, "They put me in the dark and tried to crush me to death. Who the hell does that?"

And Ronon shushes him, because he doesn't know what else to do.

hr

By the time Sheppard gets them back to Atlantis, McKay still hasn't stopped shaking. The doctors are waiting for them, and Ronon starts to shift away, to give them space, surprised when McKay jerks an arm out, grabbing Ronon's wrist and squeezing.

Ronon meets Jennifer's gaze, and she shrugs, one corner of her mouth twitching up towards a smile. They manage to get McKay down to the infirmary, peeling and cutting his clothes off, McKay never loosening his grip on Ronon's wrist.

The bruises are as bad as Ronon had thought they would be. The shape of McKay's computer is graven into his back, all the straps on his pack, the shape of the thigh holster, the pattern of the seams on his clothes picked out in purples and reds under his skin. His right knee is all black and blue, his ankle in a similar state, his right elbow so tender that just a touch makes him yelp, squeezing Ronon's arm tighter.

Pain pills are the only thing the doctors can really do for him, miraculously no bones broken. Just bruises, some bone deep, and the way McKay won't stop shaking. Ronon finds himself entrusted with the medication, and with McKay, Jennifer telling him to make sure the other man sleeps and then discharging him with a crutch in case McKay's right leg gives him trouble.

Ronon takes McKay back to their room, because he doesn't know what else to do. The other man still won't let go of him, and it's nearly full dark anyway. Ronon doesn't bother with trying to change the hospital scrubs, just gets McKay under the blankets, sprawling out beside him.

Ronon leaves the lights on, bright as they can go, thinking about McKay trapped in the dark, his stomach sour with anger. When McKay falls asleep, stress and the pain killers working in tandem to knock him out, his fingers are still wrapped around Ronon's wrist, tight and secure.

hr

Ronon wakes up to McKay struggling to his feet, cursing when his knee almost gives and bitching into his headset at Zelenka, from the sound of the loud Czech cursing coming back through. Ronon blinks, the lights still all on, watching McKay tug his pants up, pull his shoes on, bruises disappearing under clothes.

It's all so normal that Ronon feels a knot of tension in his gut ease, all at once. And then McKay is hobbling around the side of the bed, leaning over far enough to squeeze Ronon's shoulder and saying, "Thanks a lot for waiting until I was nearly crippled to get that thing turned off. I'm sure I'll think about you every time I move and nearly pass out from agony today."

And then McKay is letting go, stepping back, limping across the room and out of the door.

Ronon watches him go, wondering if he's dreaming. McKay's crutch is still leaning abandoned against the wall beside the door, his bottle of pain pills likewise neglected. Ronon sighs, cursing stubborn, oddly tempered scientists, and wondering if this means he's allowed to rub McKay's back again.

McKay brings his coffee maker back that night, and sits beside Ronon on the couch. Ronon takes that as tactic permission that he's allowed to touch the other man again, trying to keep his touch as light as possible over the dark bruises he knows are lurking right beneath McKay's shirt.

It's still nearly a week before McKay radios to demand that Ronon come by the labs at lunch. Ronon ignores the way Sheppard grins when he excuses himself from their meal.

hr

Things go back to the way they were, and the relief of that is almost great enough to distract Ronon from realizing that things still aren't exactly the way he wants them to be. He doesn't know what his problem is, because their room smells right again, and McKay isn't nearly so stiff in bed anymore, his breathing once more a relaxing pattern that soothes Ronon to sleep. Mostly, Ronon doesn't think about it.

It's good to be able to touch McKay again, to sometimes just stretch his arm out across the back of the couch, when McKay leans close to explain something. It's good to realize that the touches on his back do calm down McKay wherever he is, and it's amusing to brush his knuckles down McKay's spine when the other man is in the middle of a tirade in his labs and watch him drop whole levels of irritation.

Ronon also finds himself relieved that the other scientists aren't quite glaring at him so much anymore. It's a stupid man that underestimates the threat of geniuses with revenge on their minds, and Ronon is not a stupid man. He's pretty sure he still catches Kusanagi casting him dirty looks sometimes.

The bruises that McKay is carrying around fade slowly, the one on his cheek going green and yellow first, the others following slower. Ronon finds himself checking their progress in the locker room, and the occasional times when McKay forgets to bring clothes into the bathroom.

McKay's right foot goes completely black and purple when the blood drains down into it, and the imprint of the gun stays on his thigh for a long time. But they fade, even the bone deep ones, and Ronon stops waking up from dreams where McKay is crushed into a ball, which is a relief in and of itself.

And always, in the back of his head where Ronon doesn't have to think about it, is the pressure of wanting something else, though he has no idea what. Luckily, it's about that time that Teyla gets pregnant again, Lorne walking around looking like someone just handed him a million bucks, and that pretty well distracts Ronon's mind.

He forgets entirely to ask Sheppard if there's something he's missing.

hr

The last of McKay's bruises, the dark lines on his back and the imprint of the gun against his thigh, are almost completely gone by the time they go on a mission to M0X-00M. The man stopped limping weeks ago, the pain pills that he never took making their way into Ronon's first aid kit, the crutch returned to the infirmary for the next person who needs it.

Which might, at this point, be Ronon.

Ronon doesn't know who shot him. They'd thought the natives were friendly, they'd been happily discussing a trading agreement and how much they all hated the Wraith. And then there had been crippling pain in his shoulder, wet heat slicking down his chest while his knees went unexpectedly liquid.

McKay catches him. Ronon's eyes might be slipping out of focus, but he knows the solidness of McKay's shoulders, the tight knot of muscles up and down his back. The yelling is all fuzzy and out of focus, gun fire and everything snapping back into place in time for Ronon to hear McKay shouting, "—come on, it doesn't hurt that bad, you big baby, move!"

Moving hurts, but McKay is pulling on him, and Ronon has gotten used to following McKay's instructions. He makes himself move, things shifting inside his body that shouldn't, tripping over his feet and leaning more weight onto McKay. Now that he can hear again he can hear the burst of P-90 fire, just like he can hear Sheppard, "McKay! Fuck, what are you doing? Teyla, cover them!"

Ronon watches the ground move under his feet, leaving drops of blood in front of his footprints. McKay's fingers are digging against the skin at his waist, and when Ronon trips the man just grunts, muscles in his shoulders and arms moving as he lifts Ronon for a step.

And then Sheppard is at Ronon's other side, taking some more of Ronon's weight, hauling him along. Ronon's head is hanging to the side, and he can just hear Teyla, behind them, covering their retreat as they head towards the Jumper.

hr

Ronon thinks he must have blacked out, because when he wakes up he is on his back, pain splintering through his chest. McKay is kneeling over him, broad hands on Ronon's chest, yelling, "Shut up and fly, Sheppard!"

Sheppard is shouting back, "I need to know his status to tell Keller!"

"He's, I don't know, he's bleeding a lot!" McKay has blood smeared across his face, hands still pressing over Ronon's wound, mouth turned down extremely in the corners. Teyla drops to her knees beside Ronon's feet, grabbing his legs and raising them, her expression every bit as grim as McKay's.

Ronon grunts, "I'm fine," because he's had worse. The pain is fading a little, leaving him feeling numb. What Ronon needs is a fire, something to cauterize the wound. He tries to push off the floor and McKay grunts, shifting up to his knees and bearing his weight down on Ronon's shoulder.

"You are not fine, you moron," McKay's irritation sounds almost absent, and he's looking towards the front of the Jumper, continuing, "What are you doing, taking a joy ride? We need to get back to Atlantis."

Sheppard sounds oddly soothing, which seems strange for him, "He's going to be fine, McKay."

"Of course he is," but McKay sounds less sure, his skin pale, his eyes huge. The Jumper rocks side to side, shifting Ronon, dragging a grunt from his throat, and McKay focuses on him, eyes going dark, worried and tense.

Ronon manages to raise his arm, he has to use his right because his left won't move, patting at McKay's hands on his shoulder. His voice is oddly slurred, "Relax," and McKay just scowls at him, opening his mouth to say something right as they pass through the 'gate.

And then the back of the Jumper is opening, doctors flooding in to pull Ronon up onto a stretcher, masked faces looming over him, McKay disappearing from his view. Ronon tries to push himself up, but he's held down, hooked up to machines, wheeled away as a mask is lowered over his nose and mouth.

He sleeps.

hr

Ronon dreams disjointed, morphine dreams. In them, he is in his bed, but it is huge, stretching from horizon to horizon, and he can't find McKay in it, though he can hear the other man trying to explain how to find him. The blankets keep tangling around Ronon's wrists and ankles, restraining him, and he can't reach his knifes to cut it away.

When Ronon wakes up, he at first doesn't realize he has, because he's still hearing McKay's voice, "—don't have to keep checking on me, I'm fine."

It's Sheppard's voice that lets Ronon know he's awake, the man drawling, "Who said I was checking on your stubborn ass, McKay? Ronon's the one that has to be in here, you're just skulking here in his room to get out of work." Ronon tries to open his eyes, but they're too heavy, his mind still thick and sleepy.

McKay snorts, and Ronon's hand goes cold, the first thing that tips him off to the fact that a moment ago McKay had been touching him. There's silence for a moment, and then Sheppard, "Hey, he's fine. Jennifer said that it just went straight through the muscle."

That gets a sharp, irritated tone in McKay's voice, "I know. I was there, thank you. I'm just...you know, making sure that he doesn't develop a blood clot or something, while no one is paying attention. Those things can happen." There's a brush of pressure against the back of Ronon's hand, and he tries to shift up into it, but that just sends a spear of pain up through his shoulder and doesn't get him anywhere.

For a long moment there's silence, just the sound of breathing and soft machine beeping. And then John speaks again, voice surprisingly gentle, "I was going to sit in here for a while, avoid paperwork for the rest of the night, catch up on some reading."

"Oh. Oh. I might go, I mean, the blood is getting itchy and I have to check on Zelenka, make sure he hasn't..." McKay trails off, making a soft, coughing sound.

"Yeah, you should do that," and Sheppard still sounds gentle, just an edge of teasing in his tone. Ronon can hear them shifting around, his mind getting heavy with sleep all over again, dragging him back down towards dreams.

The last thing Ronon hears, before his body's demands for rest finally wrestle him under, is McKay's voice, "If anything happens—" and then sleep.

hr

The next time Ronon wakes up, his mind is clearer, and his throat is very dry. He scowls, blinking up at the ceiling, allowing himself to absorb the pain in his shoulder, the ache in his back, the cool press of the blankets tucked around his chest.

After a moment, he rolls his head to the side, blinking again in surprise when he finds McKay there, hunched over in a chair, a tablet in his lap. His hair is messy, brows drawn together, one hand braced up by his temple

For a long time, still half-floating on the morphine, Ronon just watches the other man, before his dry throat starts really demanding attention. He moves, then, pushing himself up far enough to grab the pitcher of water sitting beside him, lifting the whole thing to his lips and taking a long drink.

When Ronon sets the pitcher down, McKay is watching him, eyes wide and surprised. The other man says, "Oh, you're awake," jerking to his feet and nearly dropping his tablet, catching it only a moment before it would have hit the floor. And then McKay is there, touching Ronon's uninjured shoulder, radiating a kind of nervous concern that makes Ronon feel jumpy just seeing it.

Ronon manages to rumble, "Yeah."

There's a moment where McKay just beams at him, stroking Ronon's shoulder like he's not even aware of what he's doing. McKay looks rough, stubble on his cheeks, dark circles under his eyes, and he's just staring. And then he pulls back, blinking rapidly, babbling out, "Right. Well. I'm going to get Keller, hold tight."

And just like that, McKay is gone.

hr

McKay keeps stopping by, the days that Ronon spends in the infirmary. The man doesn't typically stay very long, just smuggles in real food and, when Ronon asks, coffee. Ronon doesn't drink it, just lets the cup sit on the table beside his water. He sleeps better with the smell of coffee filling his lungs.

When they finally release Ronon, McKay is there, sidelining the nurse that's supposed to be explaining the care for the wound—like Ronon doesn't already know. Ronon watches McKay talk to the woman, radiating scorn and irritation even as he questions her. Ronon just gathers his clothes up, allowing the other man to handle it. He never understands why the doctors here feel the need to tell him how to take care of himself, when he did it perfectly well for years all by himself.

Ronon is just pulling his shirt on, ignoring the dull, stiff pain in his shoulder, when McKay stomps over to him. McKay has a bag, full of gauze, creams, and pills from what Ronon can see. He looks dour and determined, frowning when he says, "You're supposed to rest, come on."

Arguing with McKay is always a lost cause. Now, Ronon doesn't even feel like trying. When McKay pulls him out of the room, one hand wrapped around Ronon's elbow, Ronon just goes with it. Some of the nurses and doctors watch them go, clustered together, whispering amongst themselves.

Ronon scowls at them, making three of the younger doctors drop their gaze, blushing brilliantly as McKay drags Ronon out of the infirmary, and down the hall.

It's a relief to finally be back in their room, where everything smells right. Ronon is frustratingly tired just from the walk down, his shoulder throbbing in time with the beating of his heart. When McKay pulls him over to the couch and shoves until Ronon sinks down onto it, Ronon doesn't resist him too hard.

Of course, he hadn't exactly expected McKay to follow that up by stomping across the room to the bed, dragging the comforter off, and returning to drape it across Ronon's body. McKay is frowning, expression tense and distracted as he continues on to the bathroom, filling up a glass of water and returning, setting it within Ronon's reach, before pausing, fidgeting in place.

Ronon watches him, tilting his head to the side, mouth crooking up when he says, "How much coffee have you had, McKay?"

McKay flashes him a sour look, reaching out to tug on the blanket, ignoring the question to ask, "Do you have a fever? There's still a chance that the wound can get infected. I'm not sure that they should have released you from the infirmary yet and—are you laughing at me?"

Ronon shakes his head, because he hadn't been. He had been grinning at the other man, watching him rub at his forehead. McKay glares at him suspiciously, before crossing his arms, uncrossing them, continuing, "Look, this isn't a joke. You were shot. That's a serious injury, you know, and you pretending to be He-Man isn't helpful to anyone, especially not you."

"I'm fine, McKay," his voice sounds more amused than he'd intended. He can't help it. Watching McKay get all flustered and concerned warms some place in his chest. It might just be a side effect of all the drugs that he's on. Either way, Ronon can't really stop it from happening.

McKay scowls at him again, "Oh, yes, laugh it up. When your shoulder goes septic because you think this is all a big joke, don't come crying to me, because I won't—" McKay cuts himself off, raising a hand to cover his radio, turning to the side, snapping, "—say again?"

All the color drains out of McKay's face, and he's pivoting on his heel, heading for the door. Ronon catches, right before the other man goes through the door, "I'll be there in two minutes—a minute and thirty seconds. Do not touch anything—"

And then he's gone. And Ronon is alone.

Sitting on the couch doing nothing losses its appeal after about two minutes of bouncing his knees. But his shoulder does hurt, a sort of vague, throbbing pain that makes Ronon feel just a little bit nauseous and dizzy. He's in no condition to spar, not unless he wants to tear the healing muscles in his shoulder, and he doesn't feel like wandering around the city.

Ronon pushes to his feet to make sure McKay hasn't left a computer in the room anywhere. He hasn't. Ronon drags the blanket back over to the bed, nearly upsetting the glass of water when he does. And then he's left with nothing to do, staring around the room.

He sits heavily on the side of the bed, rubbing his face, remembering why he hates being injured so much, and opens his eyes to find himself staring at McKay's boxes of stuff. It's been more than half a year since they married, since Ronon moved McKay's things into the room, and the baskets are still as full as they were, gathering dust against the wall.

Ronon shifts to his feet, walks over to the baskets, stares down at them for a moment and then looks around the room. Most of McKay's bulkier possessions are pictures, diplomas and a few of his sister, one of his cat. Ronon's walls are covered already, the print he found from Sateda, a painting provided by Lorne and a few other pieces of art that he's came upon off-world.

Ronon frowns, kneels, and starts digging through McKay's stuff. By the time he has everything arranged the way he wants it, the drugs and the ache in his shoulder have left him exhausted. He sits on the couch, intending to make his way down to the mess hall after a moment, and falls asleep there.

hr

When McKay comes back, it's dark outside. The sound of the door opening is what wakes Ronon, and he blinks groggily from the couch. McKay isn't looking at him, kicking off his shoes, setting down a tray on the counter, shrugging out of his soaking wet jacket and only then looking around the room.

Ronon is watching when McKay freezes, blinking at the space where his possessions had been sitting, his eyebrows drawing together. For a moment McKay just stares, then he looks around, walking slowly over to the wall where Ronon hung his diplomas, his wet socks making squishy sounds with each step.

McKay stands in front of his diplomas, head tilting to the side, his back to Ronon. The man is still holding his wet jacket, water dripping on the floor, and Ronon pushes himself off of the couch, padding across to him and rumbling, "Hard day?"

McKay jumps, cursing and slapping Ronon in the chest with his jacket before his eyes go wide and he curses again, blurting, "Oh, fuck! I didn't mean to hit you. Are you okay? Is your shoulder okay?" McKay drops his jacket, reaching for Ronon's arm and picking suspiciously at the white bandage over Ronon's shoulder.

The concern, so obvious and unhidden, makes one side of Ronon's mouth hitch up. He reaches out, mirroring McKay's touch, the other man's skin surprisingly cold under his skin. Ronon says, "I'm not a doll, McKay."

For a moment McKay just stares up at him, frowning, before shaking his head. "Of course, I didn't mean to—" McKay cuts himself off, shaking his head and bending to retrieve his jacket. "Uh, thank you. I should have, um, hung these. Was it bothering you? You should have said something if it was bothering you. What happened to the—" he ends the thought by waving a fist around in what Ronon assumes is pantomime for the swords the men in the painting had been wielding.

Ronon reaches out to grab the man's arm, stilling the flailing, before speaking, "Wanted a change," which isn't quite true, but it hadn't particularly had any great significance for him. Not enough that he had to keep it there.

McKay blinks at him, and then smiles hesitantly, "Oh. Right. Well," he waves his hand again, as best he can in Ronon's grip, before visibly changing gears, "Well, I brought you food. Over there on the counter. And, since you're going to be unable to beat the shit out of people for a while, I brought you some things to watch. You know. To kill time. It's all very bloody and violent, right up your alley."

There's a pause, where they just stand, and Ronon means to go over to the food but instead he just keeps holding on to McKay's wrist. The man flushes after a moment, twisting his arm in Ronon's grip and continuing, "I'm going to shower now." McKay tugs on his arm, and Ronon blinks, releasing his hold and stepping back.

Ronon's heart is beating way too fast, he assumes a side effect from the pain killers still in his system. McKay flashes him a smile, stepping around him and heading towards the bathroom. For a moment Ronon just stares at the wet footprints McKay leaves behind, before shaking himself and moving over to the counter.

McKay has a plate stacked high with food, and Ronon rumbles in appreciation, folding a slice of meat in half and pushing it into his mouth. There's a bunch of sweet bread sitting to the side, some of the heartier vegetables, and a lot of meat. Ronon eats absently, looking through the DVDs that McKay has included off to the side.

They're not labeled, and Ronon frowns before setting them down. He's tired again, just finishing the food when he hears the water turn off. Ronon is wiping the back of his hand across his mouth when McKay comes out of the bathroom, flashing him another smile before making his way over to the bed.

By the time Ronon ambles over to the bed, McKay is already sprawled out in his usual position, flat on his stomach, one arm tucked under the pillow. Ronon watches him for a moment, the slow sweep of the man's eyelashes, the way his expression is going all sleepy and tired.

After a moment McKay shifts around, frowning up at Ronon, and demanding, "What?"

Ronon just shakes his head, shrugging and sliding down into the bed. McKay grumbles something at him, squirming around to get himself comfortable again, the lights going dim around them. Ronon relaxes against the pillow, blinking in the dark, his stomach warm and full from the food McKay brought, drugs mellowing the pain down to nothing more than a distant throb.

In the dark, McKay is nothing but a vague shape, warm and distant, snoring softly. Ronon tilts his head to watch the other man, reaching out after a moment to flatten his hand across the McKay's shoulders. McKay sighs into his pillow, mumbling something that sounds pleased. Ronon falls asleep smiling, and has light, disjointed dreams.

hr

The next day, Ronon plays with the DVDs. He's not expecting much, really. There are some very real differences between Satedan entertainment and Earth's. But he's bored, and already frustrated with his body's need to heal. He figures they might kill some time.

Finding himself enjoying the recorded game is a surprise.

McKay has talked about hockey before, quite extensively, usually when arguing with Sheppard. But Ronon has never seen it in action, and he's immediately charmed. It's a bunch of huge men, running around with blades strapped to their feet, hitting each other in pursuit of a small, black stone. It's like no sport they had on Sateda, but it is definitely in the spirit of his people.

By the time McKay comes back to their room, Ronon has watched two of the DVDs almost all the way through, the end of the present game playing out when McKay walks through the door. The man brought food again, asking, "You're still alive, right?"

Ronon shushes him, elbows on his knees, watching the men moving around on the screen. There is no score yet, and he doesn't want to miss the ending. They've already been through one overtime. For a moment McKay doesn't move, but then he's dropping down beside Ronon on the couch, making a pleased sound in the back of his throat and settling in quietly.

When the game ends, the final seconds ticking down as a goal is finally scored, Ronon grins, slapping his knees and looking over at McKay to see his response. McKay is slouched down against the back of the couch, his head down against his shoulder, hands resting loose and palm up by his thighs.

Ronon stares, the DVD going to soft static in the background. He stands slowly, McKay starting to slouch to the side without Ronon there to lean against. Ronon reaches out to brace him, watching the other man now, because it's impossible to watch McKay when he's awake.

He looks exhausted, completely worn out, the way he always looks when he sleeps. With his eyelashes against his cheeks, the lines around his mouth and eyes relaxed, he looks younger. There's some dirt on the skin of his chin, and Ronon rubs at it, the man's stubble dragging rough against his thumb.

McKay doesn't stir, and after a moment Ronon nudges him, because he's not sure that he can carry McKay over to the bed with his shoulder all messed up. McKay blinks slowly, blue eyes soft and unfocused, voice thick when he asks, "Ronon?"

"You gonna shower?"

McKay blinks, rapidly, and Ronon can almost see his brain kicking into gear, coming up to whiplash speed. After a half second McKay rubs his eyes, shifting forward, voice still rough and sleepy when he says, "Yeah, yeah. Was the game good?"

Ronon gives McKay a hand up, nodding when he says, "Real good." When McKay is clean and warm and soft again, sprawled on his stomach on the bed, Ronon slides in beside him. He hesitates a moment before reaching out, finding the shape of McKay's back with his fingers.

They fall asleep like that, Ronon's fingers just resting against the other man's side.

hr

The next time the Apollo arrives, Ronon is almost done with his physical therapy, the gunshot fading into memory with the rest of the old scars he carries. He's just finishing a session with Piper, who is quite possibly some kind of sadist, the first time he sees some of the new Marines, fresh off the Apollo.

Apparently, they had already found the weight rooms, wandering into the locker room sweaty and laughing, shoving at each other. They're so young, full of too much pride without anything to temper it yet. Ronon can remember being that young, and shakes his head, stepping into the showers, his body aching from the exercises and stretches Piper had demanded of him.

Ronon's soaping up when the other men crowd in. They're still talking amongst themselves, one of them saying, "You seen him yet?"

The others shove him, water going everywhere, a flurry of cursing following the splashes. When they settle, one of the other's answers, "Did any of you not see him? He's fucking hard to miss, Dirty." There's more shoving.

"Oh, fuck you, Sanchez, you know what I fucking meant." The speaker steps under one of the showers, rubbing his hands back over his buzzed hair, spitting out water and continuing, "I still can't believe they've got a fucking faggot in charge here." He spits again.

There's a burst of laughter, but Ronon can feel his smile fading, because he knows Earth linguistics pretty well by this point, and this conversation is taking a turn he doesn't like. They're continuing, "Fuck, I know it. I'm just glad we don't have to take orders from that queer bastard. Let the fucking CO handle him."

That gets nods all around, scrubbing with soap and rinsing off while Ronon feels something in his chest go hard and cold. He keeps up his own shower, looking at them out of the corner of his eye, memorizing faces, because if they don't mean Sheppard, that only leaves one person.

Ronon is surprised by how angry he is at the thought that they're talking about McKay.

One of the boys says, "Still, man, did you see that fucking mouth? No wonder he's a queer, with a mouth like that. I bet a thick cock down his throat is the only way to shut up him the fuck up." There's another loud burst of laughter, and Ronon feels his hands ball up, making himself force out an angry breath.

"No, man, I saw him bent over a console," the boy waves his hands, a groping gesture, "An ass like that? Begging to be split open and speared. And you know he fucking likes it. You could probably walk up behind him and plow into him, and he'd just be begging for it."

Ronon is breathing hard, anger rising up in his chest, thick and choking. He yanks the water off, walking away with stiff legs, spine and shoulders held so tense it aches. He's learned to control his temper, at least a little bit, over the years he's spent on Atlantis.

Right now, it takes everything he has to walk out of the locker without beating every one of those bastards into the floor. In the back of his head, below the rampaging anger, he knows that there are ways to handle this, to deal with their big mouths. But it's still hard to walk away, anger pounding in time with his pulse.

The infirmary is only down a level, and Ronon pulls his clothes on quickly, heading down there with fury still filling up his skull. The physical therapy isn't done yet, but at this point Ronon doesn't care. He needs to be on active duty, back in the training arena, in time to have a run in with these kids.

By the time he storms into the infirmary, he's tried to school his expression into something other than blind rage. The way Jennifer looks at him, eyes going wide when she draws him off to the side, makes Ronon think that he didn't succeed. Jennifer opens her mouth, Ronon talks over her, "I need cleared."

For a long moment she just stares at him, soft eyes considering, her mouth pressed thin. There's a half-second where Ronon is sure that she'll just refuse his request outright, or demand some kind of explanation. But then she sighs, fidgeting with the edge of her jacket when she says, "You're not going to do something stupid, are you?"

Ronon considers, trying to look below the hot pulse of anger still thrumming through his veins. He growls, "No, not stupid at all," and Jennifer sighs, motioning him over to her desk.

hr

It takes Ronon a week to get some time on the mat with each of the boys from the shower.

The last kid's buddies are just helping him off to the infirmary, the kid's hands up over his bloody nose and mouth, when Ronon notices Sheppard standing off to the side. Sheppard watches the other soldiers leave as Ronon bends to wipe up the larger blood splatters, not saying anything.

Once the room is empty, Sheppard says, "I don't suppose you have an explanation for that?" He's leaning against the wall, hands shoved in his pockets, expression sharp and contemplative. He doesn't look angry, just a little puzzled.

Ronon shrugs, tossing the bloody rag into the cleaning pile and stretching his shoulders. The bullet wound still gives him some trouble, a dull ache he feels deep inside his shoulder when he stretches it. Not that it had been near enough to detract from the deep, thick pleasure of leaving the five men bloody and beaten to a pulp.

Sheppard sighs, leaning away from the wall, "How many more, or are you done tormenting my soldiers?"

"I'm done," Ronon shrugs again, rolling his shoulders. He hadn't said anything to the other men, because he hadn't known what to say. They still had no idea that he was McKay's husband, and Ronon hadn't been able to think of a good way to let them know.

"Is this something I need to know about?" Sheppard is making faces, and Ronon wonders if Carter is forcing him to have this conversation. Usually Sheppard is content to let Ronon do his thing, trusting his people as a good leader should.

Ronon frowns, "No. It was...personal business."

For a moment Sheppard doesn't say a word, and then he nods, shaking his head. "Right." Sheppard coughs into his hand, then, shifting his weight back and forth and bouncing a little on the balls of his feet, "So, how's Rodney doing?" voice calm and even.

Ronon stares, eyes narrowing, examining Sheppard's expression. The other man just looks faintly interested, but there's something behind the easy smile on his face, and Ronon isn't quite sure what it is. Finally Ronon says, "He's fine. Working on a temporal core for the Jumpers for long range travel."

Sheppard nods, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck, "Good. That's good. You should get him to come eat dinner with us in the mess sometime." Sheppard sound like he's testing the water, expression tense and careful. Waiting.

Ronon grunts, "Can't make him do anything."

And Sheppard laughs, head tilting to the side, "Isn't that the truth," and then, after a moment, "So, you want to go a round or what?" Ronon nods, and tosses a pair of sticks to Sheppard, grinning when the other man catches them, stretching his shoulders.

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A week later, Ronon does manage to convince McKay to tear himself away from his work long enough to eat dinner with the rest of them. McKay is still typing on his pad as he walks, grumbling to himself and trusting Ronon to keep him from walking into walls.

When they make it to the food line, McKay tucks the tablet away, surveying the food with a thoughtful frown. He's in the middle of poking at the Jell-O bowls when a group of noisy people enter behind them. Ronon turns to look, and feels his hackles raise.

It's three of the soldiers that he's beaten up, one of them with their arm in a sling, one with a black eye and bandage over his nose, the third using a crutch for his broken foot. Ronon feels himself rumble, low in his chest, and McKay pokes him in the side, grumbling, "You can't just drag me here and then rush me, so hold on."

Ronon blinks at him, watching McKay choose his desert, then grabbing a second to put on Ronon's tray. The soldiers are getting closer, going quiet as they recognize Ronon, and Ronon bites back on the rumble rising again in his chest.

Instead, he reaches out, resting his hand on McKay's back, low by his waist. McKay startles, tilting his head up, expression shifting to confusion. But he doesn't try to move away, doesn't try to squirm out of Ronon's reach. Ronon can't think of an explanation to give, so he just shrugs.

He leads McKay away from the line, comfortable in a way that he can't explain with his hand resting against McKay's back. A few steps away, he looks back, the three soldiers staring after him with huge eyes and wide open mouths.

Ronon flashes them a sharp smile, fanning his fingers out across McKay's back, sliding his thumb under his palm to spin the ring around his finger. The soldiers all look down to it in unison, and Ronon watches one of them swallow heavily.

McKay elbows Ronon in the side, demanding, "Where are John and Teyla? They're around here, right? Team night? Special bonding blah-blah?"

Ronon makes himself look away from the soldiers, giving them one last scowl before leaning close to McKay's ear, not even sure why he's doing it except that he wants them to know, wants all of them to know, suddenly, that McKay is his.

Ronon rumbles, feeling McKay shiver, now, "Not here yet."

McKay huffs, sitting down heavily at a table, "Typical."

hr

Ronon still hasn't made his peace with the shift in his perceptions of McKay by the time Atlantis has their yearly winter celebration, which they seem to have roughly a dozen different names for. Protective, possessive feelings are not new to him, particularly in regards to his team. But this, this is different.

There is no desire in Ronon to see Sheppard soft and wet right out of the shower. He has no urge to smell the tea that Teyla brews in the morning. It has been years, over a decade, since he's wanted to touch another person this much in public, obvious touches, where everyone has no choice but to see.

There are times when Ronon wonders where his mind is going with the mess of emotions. He tests, briefly, the desires that the soldiers had been so boisterous about in the showers, imagining holding McKay down and taking him.

The thought makes Ronon feel oddly ill, his mind shying away from it. McKay is more to him than a teammate, and something more than a friend as well, but the expanding importance of the man is nothing like that particular violent urge.

That's a relief.

Ronon hadn't really expected to be thinking about it at the party. He is anyway. Most of the staff is gathered in the largest banquet room, streamers hanging everywhere, the air smelling of spice and hot, baked food. There's laughter, and music with lots of bells.

And there's McKay, who has stuck close to Ronon all night, downing three full cups of the sharp, alcoholic punch within twenty minutes and then slowing down. They're sitting off to the side now, McKay pressed warm up against Ronon's side, one leg slung over Ronon's lap, head resting on Ronon's shoulder.

McKay is saying, his voice light and sweet with laughter, "—and so there's this snowman, right? No, no, not a snowman, a snow, hm, yeti. Did I tell you about yetis? I told you about yetis, didn't I?" He's gesturing with his half-full glass of alcohol, and Ronon considers taking it away from him before he spills it. He doubts McKay is drunk enough to let him get away with it.

Ronon shifts, tilting his head down and rubbing his hand up and down McKay's arm, "You told me." The idea of a wild, violent, monkey man isn't something that Ronon found completely alien. On Sateda they had told children of Pillsborn Men, and some people had still claimed to see them every now and again when Ronon was growing up.

In any case, the assent is all McKay was looking for, and he's continuing, "Right, so there's this snow yeti, and he's after Rudolph and the elf and—"

Ronon knows that interrupting is probably futile, but he's had a few drinks himself and can't quite help it, "The elf that looks like Sheppard?" McKay is wearing a soft sweater instead of his uniform, for once, and Ronon can't seem to stop stroking it, smiling when McKay huffs impatiently and jabs him in the chest with a finger.

"Yes, the elf that looks like Sheppard. Except he's blond. Um." McKay shifts around, moving closer to Ronon, managing to slosh his drink over his fingers. Ronon rolls his eyes and takes it away, setting it on the floor to the sounds of McKay's protests. After a moment McKay mumbles, "Where was I?"

"The snow yeti was after the sick deer and the elf."

McKay hums, dropping his now empty hand down to Ronon's chest, leaving it there. Ronon feels the corner of his mouth crook up, not exactly meaning it, but not able to stop it. McKay's voice is still happy, "Right, yes, so he's after them and—"

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By the time people start leaving the party, breaking off and stumbling towards their rooms, McKay is sleeping. He's curled up against Ronon, head tucked under Ronon's chin, snoring the soft, familiar way he does at night. It makes Ronon's chest feel warmer than the alcohol had, deep, sweet contentment that he doesn't want to lose.

Unfortunately, the room is emptying out, and soon they'll be the last ones there. Ronon makes himself stir, McKay's breathing not so much as changing. The man's been sleeping hard for almost an hour, but Ronon is still surprised when he stands, drawing McKay up with him, and the man doesn't wake. McKay is hardly the heaviest sleeper he's ever met.

Ronon is in a strange mood, and he doesn't feel like waking the other man. It's easy enough to lift him, his weight sturdy and solid in Ronon's arms, pulling just a little in Ronon's shoulder. McKay makes a soft, snuffling sound, eyes not even fluttering.

When Ronon makes it back to their room, his arms are aching, but he finds that he doesn't mind. He kicks his shoes off, picking his way carefully over to the bed, bracing one knee on it and bending to lower McKay down to the mattress. The other man mumbles again, and Ronon brushes his hand over McKay's hair, feeling himself smile again.

Getting McKay's shoes off as well is easy. Getting the other man under the blankets is harder, but Ronon manages, heaving a sigh and then sliding in himself. The bed is familiar, smells just the way it should, and Ronon drops his head down to the pillow, eyes already going heavy. When McKay grumbles, managing irritated as well as sleepy, Ronon isn't expecting him to squirm over.

But expected or not, that's what McKay does.

Ronon only has his eyes shut a second before they snap open again. There's a warm hand on his stomach, fisting up in his shirt, the solid weight of a leg thrown over his. McKay grumbles, all vowels, settling his head on Ronon's shoulder and huffing before finally settling.

Ronon blinks. And then he shrugs, prompting another annoyed noise from McKay, and closes his eyes again. He thinks they might get too warm during the night, all sprawled together, and he has a feeling McKay is going to be bitching about the angle his neck is cocked in. But for now, it's comfortable enough for Ronon to not want to change it.

He sleeps, and any comment at all from McKay over the situation is delayed when he wakes Ronon up by crawling over him to get out of bed, already yelling over his radio.

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Two weeks later, Atlantis has their celebration of the new year. Ronon doesn't even ask which new year, because he doubts they'd have any satisfactory answer for him anyway. His own people's calendar year doesn't end for some months yet, but Ronon tracks that only in the back of his mind, absent habit that he makes no effort to stop.

In any case, he has always enjoyed this celebration, which, like all the Earth holidays, seems to involve lots of alcohol. There's something about dropping a huge ball down through the Jumper bay floor into the 'gate room, but Ronon hasn't been able to figure out exactly what that's about, and tends to ignore it.

He spends the party mostly with Sheppard, standing along one of the walls, watching the dancing get sloppier as the participants get more inebriated. Teyla is looking radiant, swaying back and forth slowly with her shoes off, her arms around Lorne's neck, his arms loose around her waist. The swell of her stomach is starting to get very noticeable.

This is how Ronon has spent most of the parties thrown by Atlantis over the years, and after two hours of it, he's frustrated with himself for missing McKay's company. It had been nice to have the other man beside him at the winter celebration, talking softer and faster the more liquor he drank, whispering sharp, cutting jokes into Ronon's eat and then laughing against Ronon's shoulder. Sheppard's company has never felt lacking before.

As though he can read Ronon's thoughts, Sheppard, still staring at the dance floor, asks, "So, what's McKay's excuse for avoiding the big countdown this year?"

Ronon blinks, turning his attention away from Teyla and Lorne, "Had work." McKay hadn't explained what it was, just waved a hand and laughed at Ronon's attempts to put on a tie before batting Ronon's hands away and knotting it himself. Ronon reaches for the knot, loosened within minutes of getting to the party, but still tied. He shakes himself and shoves his hands into his pockets.

Sheppard nods, swirling his drink, before pushing away from the wall, "I'm going to go rescue Keller from Piper before the ball drops." Sheppard looks over his shoulder to flash Ronon a grin, dropping his voice to low and conspiratorial, "That guy is all hands," and then he's gone.

The ball dropping, and what came with it, hadn't really slipped Ronon's mind. He just hadn't really been thinking about it. In previous years, Teyla had usually been there to kiss, but this year she and Lorne appear inseparable. And Ronon is fairly certain that the crowd of whispering women off to his left has been growing for the last half-hour.

Ronon grabs another glass of the fizzy alcohol, his own barely touched, and leaves the room.

Finding McKay isn't that difficult, simply because he's the only person currently in the lab levels. Ronon finds the other man on his back, shoulders under a torn apart console, humming to himself as he works. For a long moment Ronon just leans his hip against the console, watching McKay work, sipping at the champagne.

When McKay reaches down, feeling around for a tool by his hip, Ronon kneels and hands it to him. McKay just keeps humming for a moment, before cutting himself off and very slowly shifting out from beneath the console. His expression is oddly worried at first, but clears when he sees Ronon, and then brightens when Ronon offers him the extra glass of champagne.

McKay takes a long drink before asking, "Is it over already? Usually there's more cheering and off-key singing." He's sitting in the middle of a bunch of tools, a smear of dirt across his forehead, wearing his work clothes, and Ronon is surprised to be far more comfortable here, with McKay, than he had been out at the party.

"Not quite over."

McKay frowns then, looking at Ronon for a long moment, eyes tracking back and forth, like he's trying to find something in Ronon's expression. Ronon doesn't know if he finds it or not, because then McKay drains the rest of his cup in one long swallow, setting it down hard and squirming back under the console, his voice muffled, "Well, I guess I'll just have to take advantage of their drunken absence as long as I can."

Ronon nods assent, not really sure why he's agreeing, especially since McKay can't see him. He stays there, sitting beside McKay's legs, while the clock on the wall ticks over to midnight. When the cheers and off-key singing starts to echo down the hall, Ronon is surprised to find that the thought of kissing McKay at the dawn of the new year isn't hard to imagine at all.

He gathers up their empty cups, and leaves.

When McKay finally comes to bed, he stays on his own side. That's hardly a surprise. The night McKay spent sprawled across Ronon's chest was apparently a one-off. Ronon frowns, blinking up at the ceiling, wondering why the hell that bothers him so much

hr

Ronon is certain that he needs to clear his head. He's gotten too close to the entire situation, which is not exactly a surprise, considering their living arrangements. But the thought of kissing McKay, of sleeping with the other man held close, won't go away. And he doesn't know how to dissuade it.

This thing that they have, this marriage, it feels a lot like Ronon remembers family feeling. Warm. Safe. Familiar. He doesn't want to change it, to lose the coffee-smell again, to not be able to listen to McKay snore at night, or to not be woken up by the other man rushing off to work.

McKay has given him a lot, but the other man has at no point made any intimations that he desires any more than the current boundaries of their relationship. In all honestly, Ronon thinks McKay probably has no great attachment to their shared life.

It's a gift, for Ronon's benefit, not McKay's.

Ronon knows all of that, but there is a difference between knowing and getting himself to understand. He thinks that it would be easier if there was any way to get some space, but he refuses to give up what he has, to stop keeping a hand on McKay's back when they sleep, to stop their lessons on the couch, to stop eating at least one meal a day with the other man. He's always been stubborn.

This is just one more challenge for Ronon to overcome, and overcome it he shall. So far, Ronon has run into nothing in his life that could best him, and some inconvenient feelings for McKay are not going to be the thing that beats him.

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Of course, that's when McKay starts making everything harder, most likely just out of spite.

It's hard for Ronon to remember that he's not supposed to want the other man when McKay and Sheppard get into another of their arguments about football versus hockey, and Ronon interrupts to take up McKay's side. The way McKay pauses, just stopping in the middle of the narrow trail they're walking on to beam up at Ronon makes something in Ronon's chest go tight.

It also makes Sheppard shake his head and snort, and the man spends the rest of the mission shooting Ronon knowing looks. By the time they make it back to Atlantis, two days and a mudslide later, Ronon is even more frustrated, though at least now he can direct some of the ire at Sheppard.

When McKay sticks Ronon in charge of instructing some of the newer scientists off the Daedalus in the lay out of the lab, Ronon figures it's just so that he intimidates them. Overhearing McKay and Zelenka sniping back and forth, McKay insisting that Ronon should just hang up his gun and stay in the labs full time, changes his mind. And makes Ronon feel oddly tense during their next lesson.

He's finally got McKay eating regular meals with the rest of them. And he knows perfectly well that he should be annoyed when the other man steals food off of his plate, but McKay always trades it for something from his own tray, and mostly he picks things that Ronon likes better to give him. In fact, Ronon finds that he no longer gets stuck with the tasteless green mashed things at all.

And then there's the fact that when Ronon braces a hand on McKay's back, to steer him through the halls or whenever he catches anyone looking too long at the other man, McKay leans back into the touch. It's positive reinforcement for the behavior, and Ronon finds himself touching McKay more, feeding the cycle.

He has no idea what to do, and his resolve to leave things the way they are weakens by the day.

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And then McKay eats something he shouldn't from the cafeteria, food Ronon brought him to eat. The banana pudding hadn't had any warnings on it, had given no sign that it was dangerous at all until McKay started flushing red, breathing harder before fumbling for the EpiPen he carries and wheezing out a demand to be taken to the infirmary.

Ronon knows that he carried McKay there, running and then standing uselessly when the doctors had hustled him off, taking McKay's pulse and yanking the curtain closed around his bed. Ronon even knows that he went back to the mess hall, and he remembers the confused, frightened expressions on the cooks faces when he'd stormed into the kitchen.

But it all feels dream-like, even grabbing the man that had accidentally spilled some lemon juice for the broiled fish dish in the pudding by the scruff of the neck and crowding him against the wall is a detached memory. Ronon has perfect play-back of what he said, low threats that had just come to him without any thought at all, and the man's wide-eyed, pale face when Ronon had dropped him and stormed back down to the infirmary.

Teyla and Sheppard are there when Ronon gets back, and Ronon stands beside them, arms crossed, heart beating way too fast. Sheppard starts to say something, but Teyla reaches out and touches his arm, and he shuts his mouth. Ronon is glad, because there's nothing in his mind but a worried buzz, the image of McKay stabbing himself in the thigh playing over and over, the wheezing rasp of the other man's breath all the way down to the infirmary constantly repeating.

When Keller comes out to tell them that McKay's fine, that they're keeping him for another few hours just in case he has a secondary reaction, Ronon lets out a breath had hadn't even realized he was holding. There's a chair behind him and he sits down, feeling a little choked for breath himself.

When Ronon gets in to see McKay, his face is still red, skin raised around his mouth and chin. He's jittering, fidgeting in the bed, pupils too big when he looks at Ronon, voice tight when he says, "Do you have any idea how tired I am of being put in critical condition by a fruit? Seriously, it's utterly ridiculous."

For a moment Ronon just stares at him, and then he leans against the railing of the bed, reaching out to rest a hand on McKay's bouncing leg. The jerky movements don't stop. Ronon hadn't really expected them to. McKay clears his throat, sounding stiff and uncomfortable, "Are you—is this you mad?"

Ronon jerks his head up, meeting McKay's worried gaze. McKay waves a hand, the gesture too broad, expression upset, "I just ask because it's kind of hard to tell sometimes and I'm not going to apologize for the utter incompetence of whoever poisoned some perfectly good pudding, but if you are I think I should know anyway." And there's his chin going up, stubborn strength to disguise the worry in his eyes.

Ronon squeezes McKay's leg, knee hard and pointy under his palm when he says, "Not at you."

And the admission is worth it for the way McKay blinks a bunch of times, his head tilting to the side when he questions, "Oh? Okay?" like that's not the response he expected, before he rallies, "Well, you shouldn't be. It's not my fault."

"Teyla's waiting to see you." Ronon squeezes McKay's knee again before turning and walking away. Teyla touches his arm when he passes her, and Ronon nods at her, walking out of the infirmary and down to the mess hall again.

This time the cooks all make a hole for him. Ronon ignores them, making his way to the large refrigerated rooms and emptying a box of purple roots onto the floor. He's in the middle of throwing all the lemon juice on the shelf into the box when Sheppard steps over the roots and stands beside him.

For a moment Sheppard just watches, clearing his throat when Ronon moves on to the little orange fruits that he knows McKay avoids, "You know, we'll just get more in the next shipment from Earth."

Ronon doesn't look at him, squeezing the fruit in his hand almost hard enough to rupture it before he catches himself, "I'll come back." Because he never wants to have to watch that happen again, because the universe is dangerous enough without having to worry that fruit is going to take his family away from him.

Sheppard is silent again, kicking one of the roots across the floor before sighing and saying, "Right. Well, those syrupy things we got from the Deraaians are citrus too, just so you know." And Ronon nods, reaching for them and dropping them into the box. Sheppard sighs again, grabbing another box of purple roots and upending it, saying when Ronon shoots him a look, "Looked like you were running out of space."

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McKay checks himself out of the infirmary in time to go back to their room to sleep, and that relieves Ronon somewhere down in his stomach. He doesn't think he'd be able to sleep without McKay's soft, familiar breathing. Especially not tonight.

Still, there's no lesson on the couch. McKay just drags himself off to the shower, the skin around his mouth still irritated when he mumbles something that might be a good night before crawling into bed. Ronon sits on the couch, staring at the blank television screen for a long moment before standing and making his way over. McKay is curled up on his side, head tilted down, brows drawn together. Ronon frowns, sliding beneath the blankets, lying down slowly.

He reaches out, resting a hand on McKay's side, the warmth from his skin radiating through his shirt. Ronon closes his eyes and tells himself to sleep, eyes snapping open a moment later. He keeps seeing McKay choking behind his eyes, and, apparently, McKay doesn't snore when he sleeps on his side.

Ronon had been counting on the comforting, familiar, sound to reassure him that McKay was still breathing. Without it, Ronon isn't sure that he's going to be able to close his eyes.

Around them, time drifts past, the night crawling towards the morning. Ronon stares at the back of McKay's head, concentrating on the rise and fall of the man's side each time he breathes, the faint beat of his pulse beneath Ronon's hand. It's not enough.

Ronon doesn't think about shifting over, he just does it. McKay slept all over him once, Ronon figures that means he gets a night to hold onto McKay in return. It's only fair. He presses close against McKay's back, his arm going over McKay's waist, laying his head on McKay's pillow.

McKay stirs, mumbles something thick with sleep before patting at Ronon's arm and going still again. Ronon takes a deep breath, closing his eyes, sure that he'll be able to feel any change in McKay's breathing during the night, and falls asleep.

He wakes up to McKay elbowing him, grumbling, "Let go of me, I have to go to work," and it takes Ronon a groggy moment to realize that he's still all wrapped around McKay. He releases his grip, rolling onto his back, and McKay says, apparently into his radio, "Yes, well, he's like a constrictor or something, the more I tried to get—" and then he's out the door.

Ronon blinks up at the ceiling.

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Ronon is aware that he is sticking closer to McKay that he had been. He can't really seem to stop himself, not that he's trying very hard. The nightmares he has the week after McKay is almost killed by the banana pudding fuel his need to make sure the other man is alright. The urge will fade some eventually, he's sure. But not yet.

McKay hasn't complained, though sometimes he gives Ronon an odd look, when Ronon spends a whole day lingering in the labs, staying within touching distance of McKay. Thankfully, no explanation for his behavior is asked for, because he has none to provide.

After McKay's first night out of the infirmary, Ronon doesn't try to sleep curled around him again, though he wants to. He's slept well since McKay started sharing a bed with him, but he'd slept deepest that night, felt rested and good the entire next day. He'd like to have that again. Just like he'd like to kiss McKay, more and more frequently catching himself staring at the other man's mouth when they sit together on the couch, when McKay is yelling at one of his scientists, or eating the meals that he still trusts Ronon to bring him.

Ronon does neither. But he wants.

Another of Earth's holidays is approaching, the one they call Valentine's day and celebrate with kisses and love for a reason that Ronon can't fathom. As far as it was explained to him, it was all about some poor bastard dying. Ronon isn't sure what chocolate has to do with that, unless it was a very strange death.

Nevertheless, there's even a brief moment that he considers getting McKay a box of the chocolates that are showing up everywhere. He knows McKay likes the candy, but something about the gaudy red boxes makes Ronon uncomfortable. There's something about them that reminds him of his childhood, and though he might not know exactly what it is he feels for McKay, he knows it was nothing he experienced as a child. In the end, he gets nothing.

It doesn't seem to bother McKay, who appears not to notice that it's anything but a normal day when Ronon drags him down to the mess hall to eat. They're serving a special cake, thick chocolate, and Ronon had thought the other man might want the opportunity for seconds. He's not mistaken.

They're both finishing a second slice, McKay with a smear of icing in the corner of his mouth that keeps snaring Ronon's attention, when someone walks up to their table. Ronon looks up, frowning at the woman standing over them. He thinks she's one of the techs from the control room.

In any case, she's blushing brilliantly up to her hair line, though she keeps her voice steady when she says, "Look, my friend just wanted to give you this, but she's a little shy," and setting one of the red boxes of chocolate down on the table.

Ronon scowls, shifting his attention to the chocolate, then to McKay, who is staring down at his plate, hand wrapped so tight around his fork that his knuckles have gone white. Ronon can't see the other man's expression, but he has no doubt that it's not happy.

There's no thought to grabbing the box of chocolate and handing it back to the woman, whose face has gone pale while Ronon wasn't paying attention. She takes the box with her mouth hanging open, and Ronon frowns at her.

McKay is still staring down at his plate, completely frozen, and Ronon stands up, because he is just tired of this happening. He's done everything he can think of to let them know that McKay is his, and if they're still not getting it then he has no choice but to take drastic action.

McKay's skin is very hot when Ronon brushes fingers across his cheek, tilting the other man's face up. The angry look on McKay's face lasts about a second, before switching to confusion. When Ronon smirks, leaning in, McKay is blinking, lips parting around a question.

Ronon kisses him. It's been a long time, and for a moment they don't fit right. Then McKay makes a soft sound in the back of his throat, reaching up and pulling on Ronon's hair, moving him into position and then shifting his thumb against Ronon's jaw, and it's good.

Ronon had meant it to be just a brief brush of their mouths, but it gets away from him. He finds his fingers curling around the curve of McKay's head, he finds himself licking the chocolate out of the corner of McKay's mouth. And when he pulls back, finally, he finds the mess hall silent around them.

McKay is staring at him, eyes huge, mouth red from the kiss. Ronon sits back down, taking another bite of his cake, barely hearing it when the woman, who had apparently stood there through the entire kiss, makes a choked off sound and hurries away.

When Ronon finishes his cake and looks up, McKay is still looking at him, color flushing his cheeks. Ronon feels himself grin, unable to help it. He still isn't sure if this is a good idea or not, but there's no way in hell he's letting go of McKay now, so they'll just have to deal with the fallout.

That's when McKay's radio goes off, the other man rolling his eyes when he slides to his feet, snapping, "That's not even possible, Radek," already on his way to the door. And then he stops, turning around and coming back.

Ronon watches him, finding himself frozen when McKay bends down, bracing one hand on Ronon's shoulder and tilting Ronon's chin up with his other hand, kissing him again. It's soft, chaste, and McKay is already pulling away.

Ronon reaches out without thinking, grabbing the collar of McKay's jacket and pulling him back. This time the kiss is slow and deep, and McKay is sucking on Ronon's bottom lip when he pulls back, his eyes half-lidded and dark with promise.

And then he's pulling back, huffing, "Yes, Radek, I'm coming, hold your fucking horses."

Ronon sits at the table for a long time, trying to figure out what the hell just happen and waiting for his erection to go away.

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At first, Ronon thinks that it might have just been McKay trying to prove a point, because they don't talk about it. When McKay comes back to their room that night, their routine is the same as it's ever been. Ronon thinks the other man might shiver a little at the touch of Ronon's hand low on his back. But that's the only touch. They stay on separate sides of the bed.

And in the morning, when McKay is awoken and bitching into his radio, he pauses beside the bed, before leaning down and kissing the side of Ronon's jaw. Ronon catches McKay's arm before the man can move, pulling him half-way back on the bed before McKay breathes against his lips, "I have to go, I have to, they're messing around with the ZedPM casing and they'll probably blow it up and I have to go."

Ronon lets him go, absolutely no way in hell he's falling back asleep now.

When Ronon brings lunch by the labs, he spends the entire meal staring at McKay's mouth. And when he gets up to leave he can't help but feeling smug when he braces his hands on the arms of McKay's chair and leans over to kiss him thoroughly.

McKay has a hand wrapped around Ronon's arm when Ronon shifts back, pleased with the way McKay's mouth is all red and wet. He means to step back and leave, but finds himself leaning back in again, McKay's hand sliding up his arm, across his shoulder, curving around Ronon's neck.

Ronon is just nipping at the full curve of McKay's lower lip when someone clears their throat beside them. He looks to the side, scowling, to find Kusanagi standing there with her arms crossed. The woman pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose, smiling when she says, "May I borrow Doctor McKay for a moment?"

Ronon frowns at her for another moment before straightening up, nodding at McKay and making his way out of the labs.

And that's how it goes for a week. Ronon finds himself showing up where McKay is just so he can leave again, and kiss the man goodbye. He'd worry about it, except that McKay is doing the same thing, popping into Ronon's sparring classes at random times through the day to adjust a sensor or run a scan and only leaving after he's completely wrecked Ronon's concentration.

Sheppard manages to knock Ronon on his ass when McKay walks out the door after kissing Ronon within an inch of his life. Ronon glowers up at Sheppard, who looks a mix between surprised, afraid, and pleased with himself.

The other man waits until Ronon has sprung back to his feet to say, "So, that's new."

Ronon stares at him, shrugging his shoulders and rubbing at the bloody scrape Sheppard opened on his jaw, "Yeah." It's new enough that he still doesn't know what to make of it, if he's supposed to be doing something else, if McKay would object to him trying the kissing thing on the couch, or in their bed.

Sheppard nods, expression going serious when he taps his sticks against the side of his legs before saying, "Look. Rodney is—he's Rodney, you know?" Ronon just stares, and Sheppard sighs, cracking his neck side to side, "If you hurt him I'm going to have to figure out a way to kill you, and Teyla already said she'd help, so just don't hurt him, okay?" And there's a part of Ronon that wants to snort with amusement, but Sheppard looks completely serious, expression tight and stiff.

"I won't," he doesn't intend to.

For a long moment Sheppard just stares, before finally nodding again, exhaling heavily. "Good. That's good." And then they just stand there, staring at each other, the air between them tense and awkward. Ronon twirls his sticks, and then takes a bracing breath.

It feels odd to make himself ask, "What's above the PG rating?"

And Sheppard's eyes go wide before he coughs, and then chokes on a laugh. By the time Sheppard has collected himself, Ronon is glaring at him. He doesn't know who else to ask, really. He's never had very much sex, and none of it had been with a man. Maybe he should have gone to Teyla, but he's pretty sure the mechanics are different from that side.

Sheppard finally wipes at his eyes, expression abruptly sobering when he says, "Oh. You're—oh. Well. Maybe we should sit down for this." They do.

hr

Sheppard tells him a lot. Ronon takes a few days to absorb the information, letting it settle into place in his mind, and sneaking down to the infirmary to gather the things that Sheppard assures him he's going to need. The entire idea is intimidating. But Ronon has done plenty of things that lesser men would have balked at, and he really, really wants to pursue this thing with McKay.

He's sitting in the mess hall, poking at the food that he's not really tasting, when Teyla slides into the seat across from him. By this point she's starting to look like she's going to pop again, not that Ronon mentions it. He'd learned his lesson about that the first time. Instead he just nods in greeting.

She smiles at him, and then relaxes back in the chair, her voice sweet and level when she speaks, "John has told me that he instructed you on what to do when you get Rodney in your bed, and you are stalling."

Ronon swallows the food he had been chewing heavily, not bothering to try to deny it. He shrugs with one shoulder, setting down his fork. She sighs at him, making an impatient face and rubbing her hand down over the swell of her stomach when she says, "Obviously, this is because you were waiting for your anniversary tonight. Evan has baked a cake for you to set the mood. Come by our quarters this evening."

And then she's gone, waddling just a little with each step. Ronon stares after her, before blinking down at his food. He hadn't really been keeping track of the time that they'd been wed, though he'd known they were nearing a year. He has no doubt that Teyla is right, though. Neither does he have any doubt that she won't take kindly to him ignoring her help.

Ronon figures it's probably for the best that he made the run down to the infirmary the previous night.

hr

When Ronon stops by Teyla and Lorne's quarters, the other man answers the door with a baby on one hip and a spatula covered in chocolate icing in his hand. For a moment he and Ronon just blink at each other, and then Lorne grins, holding up one finger and saying, "Hold on, it's right here."

Which is how Ronon finds himself holding a dark chocolate cake, and having a bottle of champagne shoved into his free hand as Lorne insists, "It's all about the bubbles, really," and then the door is closing, leaving Ronon standing alone in the hallway with his loot. He shakes his head, and takes the long way back to their quarters.

McKay hasn't mentioned anything about the day. Ronon sees no reason why the other man should know that it is in any way significant, when he wouldn't have if Teyla hadn't reminded him. Ronon finds himself taking a deep breath outside their door, his stomach tight with nerves for no good reason at all.

When he waves the door open, Ronon finds McKay pacing back and forth inside the room. The man freezes when Ronon steps into the room, then bounces in place for a moment. He's just out of the shower, hair still damp and curling up, toes curling up against the floor.

Ronon stares at him, the tightness in his stomach no longer so much to do with nerves when he says, "I brought cake."

McKay blinks, then nods and asks, "Is it chocolate?" and then he's just there, taking the cake and the champagne out of Ronon's hands, setting them on the counter and sliding a finger through the icing, sucking it into his mouth. Ronon sucks in a sharp breath, catching a glimpse of McKay's tongue, pink against his finger.

There's more staring, and then McKay takes a deep breath, stepping away from the food and squaring his shoulders. He meets Ronon's gaze, before looking somewhere in the region of Ronon's shoulder to say, "Look, I don't know what exactly you're looking for here. Maybe you just like kissing people. I mean, not that you kiss a lot of people, or that you should kiss a lot of people. But I just—you look at me. Sometimes. And there's the kissing, and I'd kind of like this to go somewhere, if it is, and if not—"

When Ronon kisses him, McKay goes right on speaking against his lips for a moment before the words cut off. He tastes good, just a hint of chocolate sweetness and the mint of his toothpaste. The kiss stretches, one of McKay's hands coming up to press against Ronon's chest, fingers tangling in Ronon's shirt.

They part slowly, breath mingling, McKay licking his lips and saying, "Just to be clear, this means that—"

Ronon growls, hands finding McKay's hips, walking him back the two steps to the wall and pressing up against him. He kisses McKay harder, bodies close and tight now, no way for McKay to miss the hard press of Ronon's erection.

The kiss gets deeper, McKay teasing Ronon's mouth open, all heat and warmth. Ronon hears, feels, it when McKay groans, and he can't stop the slow grind of his hips, or the way his fingers hook into McKay's waistband.

When Ronon pulls back, McKay is flushed, eyes half-lidded, kiss drunk. He has to bask in the flash of heady pride that he put that look there, just for a moment, before leaning back in, tilting McKay's chin to the side and kissing across the line of his jaw, down to the fast beat of his pulse.

McKay groans, grinding against him, hands sliding up the back of Ronon's shirt, tracing Ronon's spine, fingers skirting across Ronon's bunching muscles, strung tense and tight just from this. Ronon is torn between pressing back into the touch, and keeping as much of his body pressed against McKay's as he can.

He mumbles, so he doesn't forget later, "I have lube," and McKay's answering laughter makes Ronon grin helplessly. He also nips one of the tight tendons in McKay's neck, licking over the aggravated skin when McKay's laughter trails off into a low groan.

The other man is panting when he says, "Then we're going to the bed, because I'm not fucking against the wall." Ronon considers that, and decides that it's a good plan. He steps away from the wall, an arm wrapped around McKay's back to keep the other man close, walking backwards across the room until the mattress knocks into the back of his knees.

They go down hard, McKay sprawled out on top of him, blue eyes bright when he blinks down at Ronon, thighs on either side of Ronon's hips. Ronon groans, thrusting up against the other man's warm body, sliding his hands up McKay's thighs, finding the curve of McKay's ass and squeezing.

McKay babbles, "Oh, fuck, yeah, like that," before kissing him, fast and dirty, rubbing his whole body against Ronon's. And then McKay is bracing his hands by Ronon's shoulders, pushing up, back arching when he grabs handfuls of his shirt, yanking it over his head and tossing it aside.

It makes McKay's hair stand up in little tufts, and Ronon grins, taking in the flush spreading across McKay's broad chest, the fair hair curling there, the darker peaks of his nipples. After a moment McKay squirms his hips around, dragging a ragged groan from Ronon's throat, saying, "Is this—I mean, I'm no you, not having time to waste hours in the gym and—"

So Ronon rolls them, pushing McKay down into the mattress, kissing him to shut him up. And that's good, he likes the way he fits between McKay's thighs, their solid strength cradling his hips, McKay groaning and tugging impatiently at Ronon's shirt.

Ronon shifts up just far enough to pull his shirt off, feeling McKay's hands tracing his chest and stomach even as he does, long clever fingers sliding down. By the time Ronon's managed to toss his shirt aside, McKay has his pants open, and Ronon has just enough time to register the other man's intense expression before McKay is rubbing his thumb in a half-circle against Ronon's stomach, and then reaching down into Ronon's pants.

The angle is weird like this, but Ronon can't bring himself to care. McKay's hand is big, warm, and stroking him. Ronon grunts, head falling forward against McKay's shoulder, whole body rocking into each twist of McKay's wrist.

McKay is rambling, "Fuck, that's so hot, that's so hot," and the low rhythm of his voice throws all kinds of switches inside Ronon's head. Ronon pants against the other man's skin, one hand grabbing at McKay's thigh, kneading, his other braced on the bed by McKay's shoulder, holding himself up enough to give McKay room to work, to jack him fast and sweet.

And obviously, the lube was just wishful thinking. It's been so long, and Ronon has wanted so much and getting it is making everything happen so fast. He tries to say something, anything, the words coming out garbled beyond recognition, McKay's other hand sliding up and down his spine, the other man still running his mouth, voice hot and thick beside Ronon's ear.

Ronon comes on the upstroke of McKay's hand, a sound torn from his chest that he can't even hear. Everything gets slick, McKay's fingers wet with Ronon's come when McKay gentles him through the orgasm.

Ronon tries to shift to the side, body going heavy and thick, and McKay tightens his grip on Ronon's shoulders, so Ronon just collapses down onto him. He knows he's heavy, but for the moment McKay isn't complaining, still hard where his erection is pressing against Ronon's stomach.

When Ronon nuzzles against his neck, McKay says, voice happy and amused, "Um. Happy anniversary?" and then, a breath later, "If you need time to recover, I'm just going to go get the cake, because—" Ronon kisses him.

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