Pairing: Ronon Dex/John Sheppard
Notes: This is a belated birthday present for shrift. Set post-The Long Goodbye. Sequel to Habituation and a continuation of the Revelation series. Thanks go to crysothemis for letting me pounce on her the minute she got back from vacation, and to destina, who would be within her rights to act like a BNF, but instead just acts like a really good friend.
Disclaimers: MGM owns these boys. Written for pleasure, not profit. For adult readers only, please.
Ronon can't remember the last time he spent three days in bed.
His only activity comes when Beckett helps him walk the perimeter of the infirmary twice a day. Beckett walks beside him, holding Ronon's too-short gown closed in back, steadying him with humbling regularity when he stumbles. The twenty steps he takes feel like a day-long run and he hurts like a son of a bitch by the time Beckett helps him sit, then turn, then get his legs back up on the bed.
The process is painful and humiliating, but it still beats lying in bed staring at the ceiling.
He won't let Beckett give him pain medication after the first day. It muddies his mind, and he's unconvinced that it helps his body. How's he supposed to know when to stop if his body can't tell him?
It's a measure of how weak he is that he lets Beckett persuade him to spend another day, then another, doing nothing. He's never been good at that; he never will be.
He's pretty sure Beckett gives in on the fourth day just so he'll stop asking. He sits on the side of the bed, ignoring the dizziness that sets in, shoveling in the crappy broth Beckett insists he eat. Once he's eaten, he asks nicely for pants (his previous growls having gone unheeded), and lets Beckett help him get up and dressed -- there's no point in using up his energy before he's even left the bed.
"You're a stubborn cuss," Beckett says, and catches Ronon before he pitches head-first into a wall. Again.
"Don't you have other patients?" Ronon asks.
"They have the good sense to stay in bed," Beckett says.
Ronon snorts at him. "I'm sick of bed."
"You should be sick in bed, Ronon," Beckett says. "You can't take a wound like that lightly."
Ronon drops his chin. "I'm not."
Beckett moves a little closer and the supporting hand changes to a pat on his arm. "You'll be right as rain soon. But you can't rush it."
Ronon tightens his lips, but he nods. He gets that. He's been hurt before, plenty, but not like this. Someone cut him open and rummaged around in there, and that's just what it feels like. And that was the good part, that was what saved his life. The bad part was wondering if he'd bleed out right there on the ground while Not-Sheppard went on with his hunt.
Yeah, that was the bad part.
He pats Beckett's back. "Thanks, Doc."
Beckett sniffs, but he helps Ronon out of the infirmary and walks with him back and forth along two corridors until Ronon admits he's done about what he can do.
Then it's back to bed. Back to staring at the ceiling.
Back to thinking.
Sheppard comes to see him the next day.
Ronon's up and dressed in scrubs again, sitting in a chair. When he complained about being bored, Beckett gave him boxes of medications to sort, so he's spent the morning surrounded by pills, bottles, and labels. It's not complicated, but it takes focus, and it turns out to be exactly what he needed. He's actually enjoying himself.
He knows Sheppard's footfall when he hears it. By the time Sheppard pushes aside the curtain and comes in, Ronon's sitting up straight in his chair, his project forgotten.
Sheppard looks tired. He's got dark circles under his eyes and his skin looks sallow.
"You look like shit," Ronon says.
Sheppard grins briefly. "I was thinking the same thing about you."
Ronon lifts his chin in acknowledgement.
"You sure you should be up and around?" Sheppard asks.
"Beckett said I could."
Beckett calls to them from outside the curtains. "What I said was that he had the highest tolerance for pain I'd ever seen, and I didn't see how I could stop him."
Ronon quirks up a corner of his mouth. "Like I said."
"So you're doing okay?" Sheppard presses him, walking closer.
"He's pushing himself too hard," Beckett says, sweeping in with more boxes of junk to be sorted.
Ronon raises his eyebrows. "I'm still here, aren't I?"
"Do what he tells you," Sheppard says, pulling rank.
Ronon meets his eyes and says steadily, "I know my limits."
They stare at each other for a good ten seconds, neither blinking.
Beckett looks first at Ronon, then at Sheppard, and says, "Colonel, why don't you help Ronon with his exercise routine?"
"I take it we're not running the catwalks," Sheppard says.
Ronon has to smile at that. "If I'm lucky we'll make it all the way to the commissary."
Sheppard looks to Beckett. "Is that a good plan?"
"Nothing solid. Not yet," Beckett says with a grimace. "You could have soup."
"Sorry, buddy," Sheppard says. He sounds flippant, but his smile doesn't reach his eyes, and he reaches over, pressing his hand to Ronon's shoulder.
Beckett shows Sheppard how to support Ronon for the shift from sitting to standing. It's not as hard as getting from lying down to sitting up, but it's close. The burning pull low on Ronon's belly steals his breath every time, and he closes his eyes, struggling to regain his equilibrium. He concentrates on his breathing, on the hands gripping his arms, strong and ready to support him.
If it were only pain, he could deal. But there's damage in there that he can't see. He feels it, he knows it's there, and there's nothing he can do except give it time and ease to heal.
He's lucky. He knows that, too.
Not-Sheppard could have killed him. Gut-shot, Ronon had lost his usefulness to him. Or he could have left Ronon there to die; he didn't have to make the man-down call. Killing him would have been quicker; Not-Sheppard lost valuable time making the call. Like a lot of things, it didn't all add up.
Ronon knows it could have been worse, and he uses the pain to remind himself he's still alive because, in the end, nothing else really matters.
He opens his eyes. Sheppard's grim face is there in front of him, his hand hot under Ronon's elbow.
Sheppard says under his breath, "You okay?"
Ronon nods and leans into Sheppard's hand, letting him take some of his weight.
Beckett looks between them again, his eyes grave. "Not too far now, Colonel. He's weak as a kitten."
Ronon rolls his eyes. He could still snap Beckett like a twig if he wanted, and they all know it.
They walk with a pitifully slow gait down one corridor, then another. Sheppard doesn't mention the commissary again, and neither does Ronon. The pain's making him queasy, and what sounded like a good idea before now just seems ill-advised and way too far away.
He's sweating. Each cautious step tugs on the staples holding his skin together and rattles his miserable insides, and he finds himself leaning more and more on Sheppard, draping one arm heavily across his shoulders.
Sheppard doesn't flinch. He takes Ronon's weight with one hand on his arm and the other around Ronon's hips. They must look strange, but Ronon's too grateful for the help to worry about it, and Sheppard doesn't seem to care.
Sheppard steers them down a quiet passageway to a door that leads outside and guides Ronon through it, out onto a balcony overlooking the sea.
Ronon's eyes sting when he feels the wind on his face, the sun beaming down on him. It feels better than any pain medication.
He's still got his arm around Sheppard's shoulders, and Ronon realizes he's squeezing him, holding onto him tight. Sheppard rolls with it, hugging him back for a minute, then eases Ronon down onto a bench against the bulwark.
"Thought you might be feeling a little cooped up," Sheppard says, studiously ignoring the way Ronon's wiping at his eyes.
"Yeah," Ronon says. He drags a deep breath of sea air deep in his lungs, then blows it back out. "Thanks."
Sheppard turns away from him.
"What?" Ronon asks.
Sheppard's back is rigid. He smacks the railing with one hand.
"Don't –" Sheppard's voice catches, and he stops. He doesn't turn around. "Don't thank me. This shouldn't have happened."
Ronon looks at the long sweep of Sheppard's back, his squared shoulders. Sheppard carries more weight than is comfortable sometimes, and this is no exception.
"She did it," Ronon mutters.
Sheppard turns back to him, his gaze incredulous.
"I'm saying, you could pass around some blame," Ronon says. "Weir's the one who shot me."
"It wasn't her," Sheppard says.
"It wasn't you, either," Ronon points out. "You can't have it both ways."
"Sure I can," Sheppard says, but he's moving back into Ronon's orbit. He drops down beside Ronon on the bench. They sit in silence for awhile, looking out over the water. It's hard to imagine the placid green water churning up devastating waves in a blackening sky, but he's heard stories.
Appearances can be deceiving.
"I should have known it wasn't you," Ronon says, leaning back, consciously relaxing his abdominal muscles when they threaten to cramp up on him.
Sheppard leans back too, his shoulder pushing against Ronon's. "How?"
"You put me in front," Ronon says.
Sheppard laces his fingers in front of him and stretches his arms. Ronon watches his triceps swell, the muscle strong and tight, and feels his gut clench in a much more pleasurable way. He lets the little rush of arousal swell, riding it for the narcotic it is.
"This isn't in any way your fault," Sheppard says, dropping his hands back in his lap.
"Yeah, it is," Ronon says. "I should have stunned you the minute you called my name. Sorted it out later."
Sheppard presses his lips together. "Okay, that's a good point."
"And maybe you shouldn't have agreed to do it at all," Ronon says softly. "Weir didn't have a choice. You did."
Sheppard nods. "You're not telling me anything I don't know."
Ronon shifts a little on the hard bench; he's going soft on infirmary beds. "He said you were screaming in his head," he says.
"Did you get him to call the infirmary?" Ronon asks.
"I don't know," Sheppard says, shrugging. "I could see it all, hear everything he said, hear him twist everything around. He knew me, but I don't know if he listened to me."
"But you told him to call," Ronon persisted.
"Yes, I did. Loudly," Sheppard said. "But I still don't know if that's why he did it."
Ronon nods. "Weird."
Sheppard drops his chin to his chest and laughs softly. "Yeah."
"Maybe it's good it happened like it did," Ronon says.
Sheppard looks up again. "How so?"
"Teyla didn't kill you. In the same circumstances, I might have."
Sheppard stares at him. "She should have."
Ronon puts his hand on Sheppard's shoulder and levers himself up, wincing. He cups Sheppard's shoulder in his hand, gives it a little shake.
"I'm glad she didn't," he says.
It takes more a month to really feel better, to be able to run without feeling like his guts are spilling out, to move with anything approaching ease.
Beckett says he's a marvel of human healing and wonders if the same thing that apparently made him immune to Wraith feeding makes him heal more quickly than others. Ronon doesn't dwell on it long or deeply -- it makes him a little crazy if he thinks about it too much.
Teyla guides his training. She doesn't baby him, but she also doesn’t let him push himself beyond what his body can handle. Somehow she achieves a perfect balance, and he credits her with his regained endurance and range of motion. He knows he couldn't have done it without her.
There's still plenty of finger-pointing going on, a lot of it self-inflicted. Ronon lays low, concentrating on getting his strength back. He doesn't see much point in hashing over shit that's already happened, but he seems to be alone in that perspective. Even Teyla's jumpy, more cautious than usual with her words, watching everything and everyone with a little more intensity. Ronon thinks she's trying to take up his slack, and it makes him work even harder to get back in fighting shape.
Weir avoids him almost entirely. While he was still in the infirmary, she gave him a formal, written apology, then said it all again to his face, her arms rigid at her side, back ramrod straight, still so obviously appalled at what her body had done while she wasn't in command of it that Ronon felt sorry for her. He accepted her apology and tried to get her to meet his eyes, but she wouldn't, and she continues to stiffen in his presence.
"She'll come around," Sheppard tells him when Ronon broaches the subject in the commissary one day. "She feels like shit."
"Have you tried the spread the blame talk on her?" Ronon asks, savoring another bite of something that needs to be chewed. He'll never take solid food for granted again.
Sheppard pushes away from the table with his hands, balancing his chair on its back legs. "Twice."
"And?" Ronon asks.
Sheppard shakes his head. "Women."
Ronon grunts in agreement.
The worst part of getting shot (now that he's past the bleeding out, the surgery, and the pain) has to be the itching.
In addition to the healing cut, there are eighteen torturous little holes where staples once held his skin together. Those itch pretty bad. But it's the strip of shaved pubic hair that's really driving him crazy.
Getting out of scrubs and back into his leathers should have been a good thing, but the leather's hot and tight, and he's spent the last couple hours doing his best to keep his hands out of his pants. There's a good chance he's going to go for it if the interminable meeting he's in doesn't end really fucking quick.
He shifts in his chair one more time, plucking the leather off his stomach surreptitiously. Sheppard looks over at him and raises one eyebrow. Ronon glares at him, so Sheppard turns back to the group.
Ronon's resorted to Athosian meditations Teyla taught him by the time he's finally dismissed. He jumps up from the table and twists his torso, the motion scraping the front of his pants against the scars, giving him the first relief he's had all morning.
"What's up?" Sheppard asks behind him. "You got ants in your pants?"
Ronon considers decking Sheppard with an elbow, but he's found a good scratching rhythm now, and he doesn't want to give it up.
"Something like that," Ronon says. He looks around to see who's listening, but it's just him and Sheppard. "Itches."
"What, the incision?" Sheppard asks. He comes around and stares down at Ronon's hips, which really, really doesn't help.
"Yeah," Ronon says. Sheppard's close enough now that he's got to see what that look is doing to Ronon. "You want to scratch it?"
Sheppard's head jerks up. Whatever he sees on Ronon's face makes him flush. He licks his lips. "Um."
Ronon leans toward him, liking the way Sheppard instinctively lifts his chin. "You ever been shaved? Down there?"
Sheppard just blinks at him for a minute, then he swallows and widens the stance of his legs. He starts to say something, but it gets stuck in his throat, and he shakes his head.
"It itches," Ronon says, but Sheppard doesn't seem to be paying attention to his words – he's shifted his gaze back down to Ronon's crotch.
When Ronon shifts his hips again, Sheppard groans softly.
Ronon moves his mouth to Sheppard's ear. "Come with me."
Sheppard protests mildly as Ronon leads them back to his quarters. Walking helps the itch; each shift of Ronon's thighs rubs leather against his belly, and he's so focused, he's keenly aware of the way the material brushes against his cock and balls. By the time they get a door closed behind them, he feels like he's on fire.
Sheppard's still talking, so Ronon walks over and strips him of his jacket, spinning him around and tugging his uniform shirt out of his pants.
"You sure you're up to this?" Sheppard asks over his shoulder.
Ronon crouches and unfastens Sheppard's thigh holster, taking his time about it, allowing his hands to stray over Sheppard's ass and around to his hardening cock, stroking until Sheppard's knees buckle.
"Okay, okay, you're up to it," Sheppard says, breathing hard. He turns around. "Get up," he says. "You're gonna hurt yourself."
Ronon stands again and grins at him. "Believe me, this is the best I've felt yet."
Sheppard gives him a gentle push toward the bed. Ronon lies back on it, squirming, his body awake and alive and more ready than he can say.
"I don't want to hurt you," Sheppard says, looking down at him, but he strips off his shirt and tosses it on the floor, then puts his hand on his belt buckle.
"I trust you," Ronon says.
Sheppard's hand stills.
Ronon lifts himself onto his elbows. "What's the matter?"
"You do, don't you," Sheppard says, dropping down beside Ronon on the bed and leaning forward, resting his arms on his thighs. He looks over his shoulder at Ronon. "Even after what happened."
"I thought we were done with that," Ronon says, pushing himself up. He pulls off his shirt and crowds Sheppard, rubbing his chest against Sheppard's shoulder.
Sheppard leans back obligingly, letting Ronon align them on the bed so they're face to face, bare chest to bare chest.
"Look, I know you've been burned before, by that guy, the asshole, what was his name?" Sheppard asks.
"Kell," Ronon says. Damn. He doesn't want to go there. He wants to go back to taking their clothes off, wants to get back to scratching his various itches. Why can't people just let stuff go?
"Yeah, Kell," Sheppard says.
Ronon pushes one thigh between Sheppard's legs and rocks against him lazily. At the very least, he can scratch himself while Sheppard's searching his soul. "Don’t worry about it," Ronon says. "You're nothing like him."
"I do worry about it," Sheppard says. "You should be able to trust your leader."
Ronon rocks against him a little more intently, and is gratified when Sheppard puts his head back and gasps, sliding his hand down Ronon's back and holding him tighter against his hips.
Ronon rolls onto his back, pulling Sheppard with him. Sheppard's not totally gone yet, because he rears up, taking his weight off Ronon's stomach and sitting back on his heels.
Sheppard reaches over and opens Ronon's pants, carefully peeling them down enough to expose not only the healing incision, but the rough patch of whiskered pubic hair and Ronon's very hard cock.
Sheppard drags the tips of his fingers lightly along the scar, the back of his hand brushing Ronon's cock. Ronon makes a sound in his throat and takes hold of Sheppard's wrist, holding him there, then he wraps Sheppard's hand around his cock. When Sheppard still hesitates, Ronon growls at him and covers Sheppard's hand with his own, showing him how hard he wants it, how hard his body can take it. Every stroke eases the itch, even as it stokes his arousal.
"I'm sorry," Sheppard says, leaning over. He lifts Ronon's cock and trails his tongue along the incision line, flicking each set of staple marks until Ronon's panting, lifting his hips toward Sheppard's mouth. When Sheppard's tongue scrapes along the shave line, Ronon closes his eyes and grabs Sheppard's head, holding him there. Sheppard squeezes his hand at the base of Ronon's cock, laves the sharp prickles growing in under the reddened scar, and Ronon heaves up with a shout, coming in ragged bursts.
Sheppard strokes him through it, milking every drop from him. Then he licks that, too, sliding his tongue through the mess on Ronon's stomach. Ronon watches him and his cock twitches, swelling again already at the sight.
"Let me do you," Ronon says when Sheppard's done cleaning him, or whatever it is he thinks he's doing.
Sheppard looks up at him with hard, hot eyes. His mouth's still wet with Ronon's come. Ronon pushes him over onto his back, and Sheppard lets him unfasten his belt and pants, lets him take out his dripping cock and swallow him whole.
That's all it takes.
Sheppard's hips lift off the bed and he makes a soft, surprised sound. His cock swells impossibly then he's coming violently down Ronon's throat, clutching Ronon's hair and holding him flat against his hips until he's done. Ronon swallows once, then again. He wants to stay there, sleep there, live there, with Sheppard's cock home in his mouth.
Ronon keeps Sheppard in his mouth until he's completely soft, then lets him go. He rests his chin on Sheppard's hip, watching Sheppard's pulse beat in the hollow where his ribs meet. It's a tender spot; easy access to the heart. Ronon stays there as long as he can, but his abdominal muscles protest his position long before he's ready to give it up. He twists too far trying to resituate himself and winces. Sheppard helps him up, then stretches out beside him, giving Ronon more room.
Sheppard puts one arm under his head and the other across Ronon's chest. After a minute he says, "How did you know I'd go to the armory? You were waiting for me."
Ronon turns his head and looks at him. "The same way you knew I'd be there. I know how you think."
Sheppard traces the faded Wraith scar on Ronon's chest. Ronon closes his eyes and accepts the touch, letting Sheppard's fingers heal an old, old wound.
"I'd do it again," Ronon says quietly.
Sheppard's hand stills, but he leaves it there, over Ronon's heart.
"Do what?" Sheppard asks.
Ronon puts his hand over Sheppard's. "I'd rather trust you and die than not trust you."
He feels Sheppard's forehead touch his shoulder.
Sheppard doesn't say anything, but that's okay; as far as Ronon's concerned, he doesn't have to.