Perfumed pollen and the relentless high whine of his pursuers came to him on a fresh quick breeze. Would they claim their victory here? As if in answer to an unspoken prayer, the ring sprang to life; its symbols igniting in a sequence known only to the device in Ronon's fist.
He surged forward, last ounce of speed held in reserve for just this moment. Three stone steps leaped in a single stride. Wild dreads were first to breach the shimmer, and long legs followed. The heel of one boot sheared off as Ronon released the button. Whines morphed into angry screams as his pursuers were torn asunder by the retracting portal.
A moment's reprieve.
Ronon lay in a sprawl, chest blowing like a blacksmith's bellows. His senses hummed as he stared up at a blood-black sky – the image of a gutted Turloin. Veins of blue-white light sparked and cracked from bulbous cloud to arc and spit off the ancestral ring in the charged atmosphere; bristling the hairs on Ronon's arms. Just as he thought a fight with the Wraith held the better odds, the charred barren trees and rugged landscape rent, as if made from gossamer silk.
Ronon clapped his hands over his ears, eyes wide and smarting, heart pounding as clear blue sky and golden desert appeared before him. A tableau like the ones he'd squired Melena to on Ancestor's Day...before... But this was no idyllic story designed to evoke amorous feelings. Something blazed, consumed by ravenous orange-red flames. Curls of smoke reached to smudge the pristine sky. The heavy roar of two flying craft faded both from sight and Ronon's confused senses.
A man stumbled from the shelter of his transport vehicle, his strange clothing marred by blood. Death walked with him, yet the stranger staggered on. Ronon watched, captivated by the lithe body as it struggled to obey, only to collapse at last; eyes staring at a sky so different from the one looming above Ronon.
Ronon gathered his wits and pushed up from the scorched ground. Could he cross the breach, just as he did the shimmer of the ring? He stretched out a hand, fingertips timid when it came to it.
There was nothing. Nothing to bar his way. No sense of peril. He flicked his coat back from his thigh, pulled his blaster, and crossed the barrier. The air was hotter and weighed on his body in a different way to any other world he knew. He glanced behind him, the red gloom of the other world still visible through the tear. Now what? He'd opted to intervene without an idea as to what came next.
The stranger coughed, a wet ominous sound which drew Ronon from himself and into action. He crouched, edging an arm beneath the stranger's shoulders and knees. The stranger offered a pathetic whimper, head lolling in the crook of Ronon's elbow.
"Be still, I have you." Ronon offered gruff reassurance as he turned back for the divide; decision made. He knew nothing of the world he'd landed in. Less still of this stranger's place, where even his body knew it didn't belong.
As if it'd waited for them, the tear between worlds began to shrink; blue sky and desert hidden by an invisible seamstress repairing the rent with blue-white cosmic thread.
Ronon grunted as he lowered his burden to rest against a boulder. Before he'd sought relief from his wound in slumber, the stranger had looked on Ronon with trust in his hazel-gold eyes. It'd been too long since anyone'd looked on Ronon with anything other than fear and suspicion; longer still since he'd had a companion.
A metallic glint caught his eye and Ronon fingered the charm where it lay against tanned skin. The symbol of two swords crossed for protection. His heart kicked against his ribs, the contact sending sparks along his nerves. Many years had passed since he'd gazed upon his family's crest.
A sign then.
He yanked open the pale fabric of the stranger's ruined tunic and swallowed hard at the wound. A hairsbreadth lower and there'd be nothing he could do. He slid a large palm over toned shoulder, smear of scarlet in its wake; fingers blind in their search for an exit. A weak cry escaped chapped lips when Ronon's fingertips grazed a hard lump, hot with skin stretched taut. He'd need to remove the shell before dressing the wound.
"This will hurt." He growled; one hand holding the stranger into his chest to expose his back, while the other pulled a blade free from his hair.
He shifted, dropped onto his ass. He'd need both arms free, for the stranger was sure to resist. The Athosian ignitor he kept safe in his hip pocket clicked to life, a thread of golden light warming the tip of the blade. It was the best he could offer in the way of preventing infection. A battlefield kindness he'd learned in the trenches as the only life he'd known screamed and burned around him.
With more care than he'd give himself, Ronon pushed tunic and short coat aside exposing more smooth skin; pale except for the blotch of angry-red, taut where the bullet still worked to pierce through.
Ronon placed a large palm over the stranger's nape, held him down over muscled thigh and lanced a precise line. The bullet ejected itself free to fall inert by Ronon's boot. Perhaps the action had been too quick, or he was too far under to register, but the stranger didn't move. Ronon clicked the ignitor again, concentrating its light on the flat of the blade until it glowed hot.
The stranger bucked against Ronon's hold when his flesh sizzled. The trickle of scarlet stemmed by cauterized skin.
Ronon leaned him back against the boulder, thick brows drawn together as he examined a well-made chest with its mat of dark hair, pert dusky nipples, and ugly wound. He did not wish the pain he was to inflict on any human, least of all this one.
When the Satedan steel glowed white once more, Ronon nudged a knee between the stranger's thighs for balance, laid a hand on the good shoulder, and pressed the blade home. The hiss and stench of seared flesh invaded his nostrils as he fought to keep the stranger pinned. Hazel-gold eyes flew wide, the fury and fear struck Ronon breathless. His mother had spoken often and far beyond her son's endurance to listen, of the connection between souls. Yet, he'd dismissed it as nothing more than feminine whimsy.
"Be still, you are safe." Ronon growled, bottom lip caught by perfect white teeth as he pressed harder; determined to sever Death's claim. He ignored the desperate grip on his sleeve and inspected the sealed angry pucker now marring the meat of the stranger's left pec.
The hand fell from his arm when he removed the blade. "The bleeding has stopped."
The stranger panted, chest rising and falling as he rode the pain. "Thanks."
Ronon gave a quick nod but didn't make eye contact, busy rummaging the inner pockets of his coat. It would be the last of his supply, but needs must. He pulled out a small leather pouch and wiggled his fingers to widen the opening. A waft of medicinal scent bloomed between them.
"What's that?" The voice was steadier but still parched and cracked, wary.
"It will ease the pain." Ronon's words were lost around the wad of leaves he chewed. When the juices began to numb his tongue he spat the macerated mess into his palm and reached to smear it over the pucker.
"Whoa, hey." He ignored the flailing hand he supposed was meant to keep him at bay and laid the poultice with a gentle hand. The stranger's relief was instantaneous. A comical oh of surprise and arched brow frozen on his handsome face. "That's...amazing."
"Chew." Ronon held out the last of the silver-grey leaves. "Then keep under your tongue."
Ronon glanced up from where he tore a strip from his own tunic to use as a dressing, brows drawn together in confusion.
"John Sheppard, late of the Las Vagas PD. Though something tells me that last part means even less to you than it does to me?"
Ronon shrugged, happy to listen to the soft burr in John's voice, even if his words meant nothing. He seemed alert enough; Death held off by Ronon's hand. He smirked; satisfied.
"Never did go in for science fiction, but a lot's happened recently to get me thinking. You work with McKay and Woolsey?" Ronon didn't reply, didn't know what to say in any case. His silence didn't seem to bother John, who kept talking even while leaning forward to aid Ronon in wrapping the makeshift dressing around his chest. "You know about the Wraith?"
Ronon pulled his blaster, putting his body between John and the threat, eyes darting from dormant ring, to dead tree, to puzzled John.
"I'll take that as a yes."
Ronon relaxed, slid his blaster back into the holster strapped to his right thigh. John hissed through clenched teeth when Ronon helped pull his clothing back over his shoulder and settled him more comfortably against the boulder.
"Probably pushin' my luck, but you got any water?"
"Makes the leaves turn. Your tongue would swell and cut off your air."
"Wouldn't want that."
Ronon hid his smirk behind the fall of his hair and stood up.
"Lips already numb. Sleepy."
John barely finished the word before his chin dropped to his chest and he exhaled a soft snore.
Ronon grinned at the sound; the warmth in his chest expanding into something he had no name for. His hand reached out, fingers carding through wild silky-black hair to ease John's head back against the boulder. The sleep would do him good and by the time he woke Ronon'd have a fire going. And if they were lucky, something hot to eat provided he didn't have to stray too far to hunt.
The first thing John became aware of as he woke was the scent of roasting meat. Followed closely by the violent urge to puke up everything he'd ever eaten. He threw himself sideways as bile lit a path of acid up his throat, only to howl at the fire in his chest, and crumple on hard-baked earth.
A massive hand gripped his good arm, righting him with little effort; whacked his shoulder in both question and reassurance. His mouth tasted weird, and he remembered the medicinal leaves dissolved under his tongue. He nodded and looked up into brown eyes so deep it'd take someone a lifetime to learn all the secrets and promises within.
Now that he'd looked it was impossible to turn away. With hair hanging in thick ropey dreads that brushed broad shoulders, honeyed skin over hard muscle, a goatee which glinted gold in the firelight, and a full-lipped sensuous mouth, John'd never seen anyone like his rescuer in his, admittedly uneventful, life.
The guy stood out of his crouch, making John dizzy as he tracked the movement.
"Uh." John swallowed in an attempt to ease the dry twist in his throat. "You got a name?"
He watched the guy lift a camp mug from the embers, its surface steaming invitingly, and carry it toward John.
"Specialist Ronon Dex." Ronon's voice thrummed deep in John's bones, warmed him from head to toe.
John shifted, gaze sliding over the broad chest, narrow hips, and long legs clad in worn brown leather. "Oh yeah, what's your specialty?"
It was a poor attempt, but Ronon gave an amused snort as he crouched at John's side – personal boundaries be damned – and offered him the mug. The steam smelled sweet. Ronon batted his hand and held the mug closer for John to drink; tasting berry and parsley, and maybe honey. He slurped, and blushed when Ronon chuckled; tilted the mug so John could take more. Ronon pulled back before John'd had his fill, murmured something about more later and eating.
The hot drink settled his stomach and John found he was starving. A lot'd happened since the BLT bagel and black coffee he'd had before driving east.
A scrawny drumstick appeared at eye level, which John accepted with an arched brow and a smirk of his own. Ronon's cheeks coloured, dreads falling forward. "This world offers little in the way of prey."
"'S'good." John spoke around the hot rich meat. "Tastes like turkey."
Ronon nodded, devouring his own portion before swigging from the communal mug.
The guy wasn't big on conversation, but then neither was John; didn't stop his curiosity though. "Been workin' a case, bodies turning up dehydrated."
"Yeah. Tracked one out to the..." John thumbed toward where the tear between his world and this place had closed. "McKay mentioned something about ET phoning home."
Ronon showed no sign he'd heard John, focused instead on cleaning his blade before hiding it back in his hair, and checking his blaster's charge. John yawned, loud and long, and opened his eyes to find Ronon's gaze on him.
"You should sleep. We move at dawn."
"Move?" John asked; couldn't help another glance toward where his car and the case of cash waited beside the signal flare of a burning trailer. He'd wanted to leave Vegas; use the cash for a fresh start. Only this wasn't quite what he'd been thinking.
"Can't stay in one place too long."
John eyed the way Ronon's shoulders hunched in; a big man trying to make himself smaller.
"Why?" He couldn't help the shiver that rippled through him.
Ronon stood and holstered his weapon before shrugging out of his coat. He laid it over John's sprawled legs and tucked it around his chest, the leather cool against John's chin. "Sleep, I'll keep watch."
John yawned again and nodded, oblivion creeping closer. He'd get no more information from Ronon tonight. John drifted; Ronon's residual body heat, and the snap and crackle of the fire, luring him into much needed sleep.
The difference between someone telling him something, and seeing it for himself was never more stark than when John saw the great Stargate activate for the first time. Ronon stood at a pedestal, his long fingers punching segments as if entering a pass code. The corresponding symbols illuminated around the gate's rim, the last triggering a thrust of water which lunged toward them, before settling into calm blue ripples. John gaped like a fish, head swivelling between Ronon and the Stargate. McKay'd seemed blasť when he described gate travel. The wound pulled as he forced air into his lungs; a weird numb stretch that had him laying a protective palm over his chest.
"This McKay told you of the ring?" Ronon asked, tone layered in gravel and impatience.
John nodded; a quick jerk that left his head bobbing. He swallowed, stepped forward in an attempt to keep pace with Ronon. With a final glance back over his shoulder at the spot where his old life had vanished, John followed Ronon through into not only another world, but another life.
Lame as it was, John couldn't think of anything else to say. He'd expected to exit wet, but aside from the chill in his bones – which was already dissipating – and a touch of vertigo, all systems appeared normal. Blue sky overhead, green grass under his boots – their scuffed toes still bore Vegas dust – and Ronon...
John felt the weight of the guy's eyes on him; a heavy caress that missed nothing and revealed even less. It made him hot from the tips of his hair to where his toes curled in his boots. What would it feel like to be held down and f-
He derailed the train but the idea'd already taken root. He scuffed a divot into the rich soil, determined not to meet Ronon's gaze.
"What?" The now-familiar grind of the gate dialling filled the peaceful glade. "We're not staying here?"
Ronon shook his head, dreads dancing with the action. "One world's not enough."
John didn't get it, but he followed Ronon through anyway.
Five trips and five nearly-identical worlds later and John begged Ronon to stop – just long enough for him to catch his breath. He clutched his knees, head hung low, and panting like he'd run a marathon. A huge hand splayed between his shoulders, a heavy comfort. His wound throbbed with each beat of his heart. Out of shape and injured, it was a wonder Ronon hadn't ditched his useless ass.
As if reading his thoughts, Ronon slid his hand up to squeeze John's nape; gave him an affectionate shake, thumb rasping a circle into the sensitive skin behind his ear. John leaned into the touch, couldn't help the soft whimper of sound in response. Ronon stilled before resuming the contact, decision made.
An insect chorus surrounded them from the towering forest dappling them in welcome shade.
"Rest." Ronon ordered, and John smirked; a crooked lift of lips that drew Ronon's focus. It's been too long since he'd felt the press of another's mouth on his. He swallowed hard to ease the dryness and gestured toward the sound of a stream. "You need water."
It was dangerous to remain so near the ring, but John wasn't healed. It surprised Ronon he'd gone as far as he had without complaint. Not many had the strength of will to live the life of a runner. Ronon couldn't help the tiny flicker of hope the thought of a companion lit inside him. He crouched at the edge of the stream, creamy white bubbles burbling in eddies around slick black pebbles, and cupped his palms to slurp greedily before filling the mug for John. Should he choose to leave, Ronon wouldn't stop him. But until then...
The further he got from the stream the louder the sound of the ring connecting grew. John. Ronon tossed the mug, broke into a ground-eating run as dread settled heavy in his chest and fury slid icy and hot through his veins. He had to get to John.
At the sound of the gate activating, John'd ducked into the cover of the trees, heart thudding so hard and loud he'd have sworn they'd hear it. It was amazing how quickly it came back to you; the muscle memory of survival. But then he'd never forget burrowing into baking sand like an animal, the sun beating down from above; breath held tight while a Taliban patrol passed his position.
John forced his mind back into the now. Five Wraith; their sleek black leather coats a stark contrast to their platinum hair, strode from the gate's event horizon. Five wasn't so bad. Okay, so the one that got away at the casino had been pretty formidable, and the one McKay'd shown him had that mind thing...yeah, five was bad.
He shifted to ease the pull in his chest and heard the sharp clear snap of a twig under his boot. Cold sweat coated his skin, eyes darting. But the Wraith continued on and John eased his breath past clenched teeth. Relief rushed him, cold and clammy, until he realized they were headed straight for Ronon.
He pulled the blade Ronon'd given him on their first morning together, before turning to kick over the fire. John'd seen the colour high on his cheeks and knew, even without words, there was more to the gift than mere survival. It was an offer of protection, one he accepted with the simple act of sliding the fine-honed steel into his boot.
They couldn't've been more different, and yet, something drew John to Ronon. He'd never questioned the man, never protested against the assumption he'd follow where Ronon led. And the weight of warm certainty in his gut praised him. It was as if John's shitty existence had found redemption. For it'd led him to Ronon, and whatever the future now held, John hadn't felt this alive in years.
He moved; silent and concealed by darkening shade as the sky turned grey with impending rain. Ronon's coat was a reassuring weight even as it flapped against his shins. They were just ahead. He could hear Ronon's growls of fury amid the dull thuds of hand-to-hand combat.
John launched himself from the treeline just as the rear guard came level. Muscle memory and adrenaline a potent cocktail he hadn't known his body still craved. It felt like he'd slammed into a brick wall. The impact with alien strength made him grunt, but he still got his legs and arms wrapped tight around neck and hips, forearm tensed as he plunged the blade deep before his victim shook him loose amid the splatter of spittle, black blood, and furious hissing. John hit the ground hard, winded. He lay where he fell in a puddle of black coat, so like the one the pissed-off alien wore, with his eyes wide; one hand clutching at the searing pain in his chest while the other scrabbled in the lush grass for the lost blade.
The scenery might've changed but the sick sense of impending death clawed at John's throat, just as it had back in Vegas. He didn't want it to end here. Not when the odds of finding more were finally in his favour. Platinum silk flicked in the agitated wind and black drool smeared across evil fangs as Death stalked closer. But John couldn't move, didn't stand a chance. The grunts and growls of combat punctuated by the howl of alien weaponry overwhelmed John's senses, drew his gaze to the man fighting for both their lives. Ronon. Beautiful in his wild fury; golden skin sleek and smooth over muscles John hadn't had the chance to explore. Dreads lashed in a parody of Medusa's asps as Ronon flicked his head; tracking each Wraith's position, poised ready to strike.
John didn't see the moment Ronon took down two with blaster and blade; pivoting to fire on the third and fourth. The gaping slit in the oversized blue palm was the creepiest shit he'd seen in his long and undistinguished career – military and LVPD combined. He had every intention of keeping quiet so he didn't distract Ronon. If nothing else he could do that. But it was like a white-hot anvil crushed his chest. His body writhed without permission while an indescribable sense of loss, fire and ice, dragged along every fibre, tendon, and nerve, taking with it his last glimmer of hope. He wanted to protest, to bargain, to plead. He was slipping away; helpless to fight the growing sense of emptiness. No moisture left to shed tears for a life squandered in cheap whiskey and gambling debt. Nothing to show but a corpse sucked dry.
Even pain had abandoned him. The fat drops falling from the gunmetal-grey sky did nothing to hydrate his desecrated flesh. All that remained in the shrinking pinpricks of his vision was Ronon; handsome face a rictus of fury and missed opportunities, too late to save John. Too late to do anything but avenge what might have been.
"Give back what you took!" Ronon growled; fought to keep his voice from shaking. His gut clawed at his insides, threatened to surge up and ruin him. He had no time. Fighters would be on them and he'd have no choice but to run. "Bring him back and improve your hunt."
The Wraith crouched over John's remains, amusement rumbling deep as it slurped traces of scarlet from its fingers, in no rush to obey.
"Or." Ronon shoved the muzzle of his blaster hard under the Wraith's armpit. "A shot to the viscus cavity doesn't heal."
The Wraith snarled and Ronon punched the safety, his blaster emitting a shrill whine. "How would your Queen reward you if you succeed where many failed?"
It made him sick to sully the memory of his people this way, but if it gave him John back...
"Times up!" Ronon shoved his blaster harder into the vulnerable flank.
The Wraith offered another wet snarl before dropping his feeding hand higher up the skeletal chest, two over-long fingers framing his victim's throat. A roar of defiance echoed through the damp clearing as the rain increased; dropping in dark spots on John's clothing, dripping from the ends of Ronon's dreads to streak down the plates of his armour. It seemed as if the rain was hydrating the husk that'd once been a man Ronon hoped to claim as his companion. Shrivelled skin grew plump and smooth, unmarred by blemish, or scar, or wound. When John's eyes blinked open, confusion in their hazel-gold depths, Ronon felt his own chest ease.
"Ronon?" His name was barely a whisper, hoarse and paper-thin. It was the sweetest sound Ronon'd heard in a long time. "What?"
John flinched with the bright discharge of Ronon's blaster; only to shove at the dead Wraith slumped across his legs. "We should leave before they come looking for this lot."
"Not yet." Ronon's growl sent a zing of heat and hunger through John's fully-healed body. Yeah, he could work with that.
John lunged for Ronon at the same time as Ronon hauled him in by his lapels. Their mouths smashed into each other, hot, and slick, and harsh under the soft lazy rain. John's hands caught tight in Ronon's dreads, tugging him closer; needing, wanting everything Ronon was willing to give him. He wanted Ronon now. He wanted him naked and sprawled back on the emerald softness so he could watch the rain travel into every contour, dip, and hollow of that muscled torso; down to a cock hard and thick enough to make John squirm.
He couldn't think more than that. Ronon squeezed John's ass in his huge hands then boosted him up to grind their hips together. Judging by the way Ronon panted against the crook between neck and shoulder, it'd been a while for him too. John hid his smirk in the kisses he laid up and under Ronon's jaw, down to suckle right there. He couldn't help the chuckle when Ronon moaned and arched his neck to allow John access to that sexy-as-fuck tattoo.
"Been wantin' to do this since the moment I laid eyes on you." John confessed; determined to leave nothing unsaid ever again.
"Same." Ronon growled; stepping back with John's legs still wrapped around his hips and arms around his neck, into the shadows of the treeline.
"Unconscious mostly-dead guys do it for you?" John teased, letting one hand go to shrug out of coat, jacket, and shirt – repeating the action until he was bare to the waist and perfect.
Ronon cut off further comment by kissing John, swiping his tongue over smirking lips to delve deep. It was a long moment before he realized John was trying to free him from his handmade armour, and linen tunic. A plan which Ronon approved of wholeheartedly.
"You got anything?" John murmured; distracted by the hot weight of Ronon's fucking-huge hand pressing along the hard line of John's cock. "Fuck that feels good."
He reached to reciprocate and whimpered with need at what Ronon was hiding in his leathers. John tore at the laces preventing him from laying hands on hot hard flesh, fingers clumsy and desperate in their haste.
"No time." Ronon groaned; bucking his hips when John finally fisted him, eyes rolling as he fought to stay alert to their surroundings, only to slip further into the ecstasy of John alive and writhing in his arms.
Ronon wrapped his hand around both their cocks, head thudding back against the tree trunk in bliss. Pleasure surged bright and hot along his spine, turned his knees to water. John clung to him as they fell in a heap of tangled limbs, wet dreads, and dazed laughter. He dropped his forehead to lean against Ronon's, breath hot and choppy in the space between them.
"Where've you been all my life?"
"Waiting for you." Ronon whispered close, and hot, and intimate. A confession meant for John alone. "Now, come for me."
The combination of velvet heat, hard flesh, and tight pumping fist was too much to deny. John grunted into the sweaty crook of Ronon's neck, bit down on honeyed skin as he leaned into his lover. His release painted across Ronon's abs; their hands remained trapped between them. John didn't care, too blissed-out to do anything more than mark Ronon's skin with the soft murmurs and broken syllables of his own name.
Ronon's arm was a heavy, perfect weight across his back and John struggled, instinctively knowing Ronon'd love it. He ground his hips, ignoring the pins 'n' needles in his trapped wrist as he worked to bring Ronon off.
"Yeah, buddy, all yours." Too-dry friction on sensitive flesh made John hiss.
Ronon roared his release; head thrown back to expose his throat, the bite mark stark and pretty over his pulse point. John uttered a possessive growl and lunged to capture the sound of Ronon's pleasure, dove deep, fingers tangled in ropy dreads as wet heat pulsed against his abs; marking him just as surely as his bite had claimed the man beneath him.
"We've gotta move."
Ronon's head lolled. His wide brown eyes were molten and searching. John met them head on, unafraid and unabashedly eager, that Ronon grinned. The action surprised him. It's been years since anything, or anyone, warranted the effort. John grinned back, crooked and perfect beneath hazel eyes flecked with sparks of gold and happiness, and black hair that refused to lie flat – even when soaked.
The thought had Ronon laughing. Deep bellows shook his chest, almost unseating John. He admired the flame of rose colouring his lover's cheeks, grazed his thumb over it before sliding fingertips down to where only perfect skin rode John's pec. All sign of the battle against Death had been erased.
John shuddered at Ronon's barely-there touch, worked hard to sit still when his nipple was tweaked and pulled to hardness. They held each other's gaze as Ronon's huge hand slid down John's flank, over his hip. Down to squeeze his ass, before he yanked him close and ground their softened cocks together.
"Know that I want you, John. Know I will count the breaths until I can have you. Know that you have me."
John gasped with the power of Ronon's words; felt them sink into every part of him as they made themselves at home in his heart. Ronon kissed him with none of the urgency and need of before, just a simple press of lips and tickle of stubble which left him clinging to taut biceps; his body warm and loose like pulled taffy.
"Damn, you sure know how to make a guy feel wanted."
"Important to say." Ronon watched him, missing nothing. John nodded; swallowing hard past the lump of emotion in his throat.
"Never been good with words." The image of Nancy's face as she turned on her heel and left the lawyer's office, bore evidence to the statement. "Been alone too long."
John'd gotten to his feet, unsure if his legs would support him so soon after being rehydrated then coming his brains out in Ronon's arms.
Ronon nodded and gripped the arm John held out to him, twisted back into his tunic and armour, and slung his swag over his shoulder.
John's stride matched Ronon's as they climbed the stone steps to the gate's event horizon; all weakness and pain gone, for the moment, at least. He knew a life such as Ronon lived wouldn't hold them at bay for long. In the meantime, he'd make damn sure he and Ronon made the most of every single breath.
Fuck. He'd misdialled; gotten his calculations wrong. Zantos' ring sat too near the village for him to risk bringing the Wraith down upon them.
The sun dipped toward the mountainous horizon. Spun-gold and lime-green stained the cloudless sky, projecting his and John's shadows before them. Ronon held his blaster trained on the open grassland. John, at his flank, did the same with a Wraith stunner they'd acquired several worlds back.
Ronon smiled. Without the near-fatal wound to hinder him, John'd proven himself a warrior to Satedan standards. A fact that'd turned Ronon's cock hard as they fought back to back, a trail of dead Wraith in their wake as they leapt from ring to ring, planet to planet.
The Wraith had grown tired of their quarry's success, increasing the frequency of their ambushes. There'd been little time to rest and eat, let alone fuck. It irked him. He'd given John his oath. John'd be right to leave him if Ronon didn't possess him soon. The sharp snap of a twig brought Ronon from his musing and he swung his aim toward the sound, John moving in to protect their exit back to the ring.
They ran from the forest, a small hunting party of five or six men, human. Ronon allowed himself to exhale but didn't lower his blaster.
"Easy, guys." John called out, lazy drawl offering a cheerful warning. "We're not - "
Ronon darted a glance over his shoulder as John's body collapsed against his back, slid to crumple at his boots; arrowhead lodged in his chest, shaft still quivering from the impact.
"John!" Ronon fired into the advancing group, didn't care who he hit, and spun to catch John under the arms. "NO!"
John stared up at him, regret and loss rising to swirl with bewilderment in the eyes Ronon loved. "Ronon?"
"I am here. I have you." He choked on the last, for the falsehood it was. The Ancestors were thieves; taking John before Ronon could honour his oath. "Rest easy."
He pressed a kiss to John's lips and those stupid long lashes fluttered to rest in dark sweeps on pale cheeks. "I will find you again."
Ronon yanked the arrow from John's inert heart and flung it as far from them as he could, cradling John's body to him, rocking them as he hummed the journey song of his people into spikey black softness. He would join John soon.
"He is human?" The incredulity in the stranger's voice brought Ronon's head up sharp, eyes snapping and sparking in outraged grief.
"Yes, he was human and I shall take your life as you have taken his." He was on his feet, blaster in hand, muzzle pressed to the central gem of the stranger's headdress. The thud of John's body falling limp with the sudden movement roiled in Ronon's mind, driving home his new reality like nothing else could.
There was no time. The Wraith were never far behind. He wasn't called Wraith Bringer for nothing. John's murderer would surely die in the impending kulling.
"He wore the cloak of the scourge." The stranger babbled as if it justified his actions.
"And you, are a fool." Ronon grit out, face a scowl of dark fury as he fought his instincts; sneered at the man cowering before him. He must leave; dial out before the Wraith dialled in. A warrior's farewell took time to prepare. The gathering of wood alone... He growled, frustrated in the knowledge that John'd approve this tactic. The small flare of satisfaction that the stranger and all he held dear would perish before the sun faded, offered little solace. "And one who'll be dead soon enough."
Ronon staggered under his burden as he punched in the first icon of the first sequence that came to mind; uncaring and hopeful of an arrow finding its home in his own back.
The great shimmery fist punched forward only to settle a moment later in a calm pool, and Ronon walked through; heart heavier than the body in his arms.
He knelt at the foot of the pyre, scent of thistlewood sharp in his nose and its perfumed smoke caressing his skin. His brother was the last to receive such honour. It was somehow fitting. Both Luka, and John, had been military and deserving of a warrior's farewell.
Ronon twirled the point of the blade he'd presented John with their first morning into the flesh of his thumb; a bead of scarlet welled up, stark and vibrant against his skin.
"With my blood I honour you." He smeared his thumb along the fine-honed edge before raising it to his lips. "With my breath I remember you."
Ronon tossed the perfectly-balanced blade into the dying embers. A cascade of sparks all the reply he'd receive. He shuddered on a choked sob and dropped his head, dreads falling in a protective curtain around his face.
"You will not have to wait long, John." He tipped his head back, batting impatiently at the moisture in his eyes, blind to the grey tendrils curling toward the sky. He thought of a sky not unlike this one, where hope had lived in hazel-gold eyes and a kissable mouth.
He blinked, a slow sweep, which did nothing to protect him from his grief. A weight rested on his shoulder and Ronon smiled, eyes still closed, all the better to revel in the illusion. He could see him; John whole, healthy, and unmarred by the burdens of life. It was a gift he'd treasure until they met again. Ronon held his breath, hoping the moment with John would last. It didn't. His body forced him to inhale and John left. He'd have to leave too. Just as soon as he hammered home the marker he'd carved as the pyre burned.
Ronon ran; was still running when he exited the ring into a world whose light stung his eyes. The damp air cloyed wet and hot in his lungs. Moss coated the twisted branches as they tried to capture him, but he ploughed onward through their midst; blinded by grief, limbs heavy with despair.
A stunner blast missed him, singing the air to his left. How had they found him so soon? It didn't matter. He forged on, only to stumble at booted feet. Was this it? He looked up to see the warped face of a human, whose focus lay fixed on the Wraith. Gunfire echoed around him and he pushed to his feet, instinct driving him to escape. Another stunner blast, more accurate than the last, caught his leg; numbed it instantly. He kept going, crashed through puddles and scrub until the gunfire faded.
Ronon holed-up in a cave with two exits until his leg regained its feeling. He watched as a small craft flew overhead from the direction of the Ancestral ring. This world was too crowded for someone used to the solitude of exile. Something told him being out in the sun hadn't done the warped man any good. He should've shot him and taken his supplies, but he'd been stupid with loss. His stomach scolded him and he pressed his palm to silence it, remembering the feel of John's release marking him. He yanked his hand away as if burned; cock filling at the memory of John pressed so close they breathed each other's air.
He woke from a sleep he hadn't been aware of slipping into, to discover night had fallen. Nocturnal scurrying mingled with nightcallers, and the loud voices of stupid men offering themselves up as the Wraith's next meal.
Rustling in the leaf layer ahead signalled something bigger than the ground mole he hunted. He fired off a shot, was rewarded with a cry and the crash of a body dropping to the ground.
It was at that moment Ronon heard a voice he'd never thought to hear again on this plain of existence.
"Stand by, Teyla's been hit."
The Ancestors were sadistic bastards!
Ronon fired again, dropping the second just as he'd done the first. A smirk snuck out to play on his full lips as he crept forward, senses alert for more of them. It was like the stories his mother told him as a child. Of how the cave people of Uln snatched careless babes and wanderers to keep as slaves. He'd never cared for the idea since being a slave meant cleaning, and his quarters – as messy as any other youth's – caused his mother much vexation, and him many scoldings.
The loop on their backs made it easier to drag the two humans, one female, one male, back to his cave. He ignored the physical resemblances as he bound his captives to each other. But the sharp squeeze around his heart tightened when the man's head lolled on the woman's shoulder. Ronon stumbled back, collided with the stone wall, foot tangled in the strange armour he'd stripped from them, as he fell on his ass.
He would not think on it.
Not until he could look the stranger in the eyes.
Ronon fell asleep with a half-eaten ration bar in his hand, and the calls of his captives' people scratchy in his ears.
The sun's heat woke him and for a moment he couldn't recall where he was. It all came back in a painful rush. John, the arrow-happy villager, the pyre, the vision, the voice...
He jerked his chin up to see his captives still slumped against one another. Weak. He would do well to abandon them to their fate and make his way with their supplies to the ring. But something inside him whispered to his conscience. He sighed and picked up one of their weapons. It didn't appear to be any more difficult to use than his blaster.
Ronon glared over his shoulder at the barely-conscious man but said nothing; feigned interest in the weapon, ears alert.
He heard the woman's whisper and tensed, waited with every instinct on overload.
"My head is pounding. Where are we?"
"I don't know, but I was just about to ask him."
Curse the Ancestors for the whore-mongers they were!
Ronon closed the space between them, loomed from above; the weapon still in his hand, and chaos churning within him.
"You might wanna be careful where you point that thing, looks like you've got the safety off." Ronon armed it just to prove he understood simple projectile weapons. He'd forgotten John had a way of quirking his eyebrows to emphasise his point. And now there was eye contact Ronon couldn't look away. "Okay, be that way, but my guess is if you wanted us dead, we'd be dead right now. So why don't you tell us who you are, and what you want?"
Fuck yes. Ronon wanted. He breathed through his nose to maintain his air of menace, instead of falling to his knees and kissing the hell out of that mouth. The need to tug on that stupid hair and yank the man's head back so he could suck into that throat was overwhelming. Ronon was gone. He didn't care who the man was, as long as he let Ronon act out every single fantasy he'd been storing up since he'd first scooped his John into his arms.
"All right." The man sighed and Ronon bit the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling. "I'll go first. I'm Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard."
He was younger. No hint of silver at his temples. The lines at the corners of his eyes were less defined. But those eyes held the same courage and mischief, lips the same humour and potential for harsh words. Ronon couldn't breathe, couldn't help the leap of hope surging within his pounding heart.
"Specialist Ronon Dex. Name and rank." With his own declaration, Ronon knew no matter what happened next, he'd protect Sheppard with his life. He wouldn't fail twice.
And maybe, just maybe, the Ancestors had listened when he'd said I'll be with you again soon and rewarded him and John with a second chance. They were meant to be together. He believed it with all that he was.
If it meant a different John, on another world and in another time – then so be it.