Okay, wow, didn't expect that many people to still have openings for roommates! Thank you! I'm sorry about the delay in answering--work was less surfing and more actual work than usual, which is sad and yet means I continue to get a paycheck. I'm waiting for svmadelyn to get back to me now.
Again, thank you. And my huge apologies for not answering faster.
Before I wreck my soul with another devil like class again and staring blankly at my lecture notes--seriously? This is it? You think I'm going to understand classes if you tell me to just try hard?--Short piece.
Note: John and Ronon. For those who skim and click when they see John/R something. *g*
Title: Stronger Than Time
Spoilers: Runner, The Return Part II, The Last Man
Summary: He's watching John erase a potential future with every second that passes.
Author Notes: It feels like I'm writing in an entirely new fandom. I didn't have nearly this much angst over Dean and John.
John learned Athosian stick fighting from Teyla long before Ronon ever stepped foot on Atlantis. Ronon can't beat her; she's all speed and agility, darting from the hit before he knows where he's hitting and on his knees before he realizes where she is. John's an average student for the most part, too used to weapons and numbers to internalize a fight that's body against body.
Then sometimes, he's anything but.
Usually, endurance and strength will win, but sometimes, like tonight, he can almost see Teyla's body in John's every movement, when John suspends thinking and loses himself in the purely physical, lets Teyla's training coat him like a different skin. He's all speed and focused intensity, slipping out of every hit before Ronon can make it with boneless twists, letting his body say everything he can't.
John's an open book to anyone who knows what they're seeing, and Ronon knows today he's watching John erase a potential future with every second that passes, and it may be nearing midnight, but John doesn't seem to care.
Ronon's off today, knows it with the second hit, the third, too caught up in watching John and thinking of the twelve days he was lost. A thousand possibilities had been discarded in the first day, each worse than the last; no one will ever forget Kolya was a Genii, and allies don't come with guarantees.
He's so off, in fact, that he turns into the next blow, freezing when John spins on the ball of his foot, striking out where on any other day, Ronon's stick would have met him. Instead, burning pain spreads across his knuckles, numbing his fingers; startled by a mistake that Teyla's youngest pupils wouldn't have made, Ronon drops the stick.
John stops as suddenly as if he'd run into a glass wall, sticks frozen mid-air. Ronon can almost see him snap back from wherever he'd gone, throwing his sticks aside and reaching for Ronon's hand, eyes darkening at the blood pooling slowly between the knuckles and sliding down over his fingers.
"Shit," John murmurs, ghosting a touch over the open wound. Ronon doesn't pull away, though he feels faintly like he should.
"It's nothing," Ronon says softly as John's mouth tightens, thumb passing over the broken skin, coming away stained red. John studies Ronon's face for an unreadable moment before he drops Ronon's hand. Ronon wonders what John had seen. "Come on. Let's get that fixed."
"I don't need the infirmary."
John rolls his eyes. "I have a first aid kit in my quarters." Picking up a towel, he wipes his face, slinging it over his shoulder as he retrieves sticks and bag. "Well?"
It's not like he has anything better to do. With a shrug, Ronon gets his gear and follows him out.
John in context is everything.
Seeing him on Earth, with his brother: on Atlantis, with his team; everything changed from the set of his shoulders to the warmth of his smile. It made sense that John had never claimed a family on earth; his family is here, in Teyla's meditation room, McKay's labs, the messhall, the jumpers, the places John seemed to live comfortably in his skin in worn BDUs and faded t-shirts. Ronon remembers watching him move in strange suits that fit in a way that made Ronon want to tear them off, like they were reshaping him into something he didn't want to be.
Earth had been bad. Atlantis was better, with McKay's awkward sympathy and Teyla's gentle understanding; that first night back, they met in Teyla's room, John sprawled on the rug and droned out the names of new release movies while McKay went through the DVDs they had brought back, sharing earth candies and comparing to the Pegasus versions.
John relaxed as the night wore on, letting them see the shadowed grief he'd hid on Earth beneath careful blankness and polite words, accepting his team's comfort the way allowed no one else. Ronon remembers how he fell asleep in the middle of the floor after too many sleepless nights in Earth hotels almost between one breath and the next. Teyla had found him a pillow while Rodney hunted up a blanket, and they watched him while McKay asked if it had been bad.
Yes, he'd said, knowing they'd understand, how the planet of John's birth was no longer home and would never be again.
Knowing the future is a tricky thing; it makes him wonder if all of them define home the same.
John's still vibrating on the edge of mania on the walk back to his quarters, jittering with exhausted energy with every too sharp movement. He'd been like this in the meeting, easy smile and familiar slump stripped away for quick words and quicker gestures, outlining the history of a future that he'd come back to change. Ronon had known John would come to him after, feeling the restlessness that shuddered on the surface of his skin like electricity, needing release in the only way he allowed himself.
Depositing his bag by the door, Ronon looks around the dim room, the chair he'd found and brought here for team nights, inches from John while Teyla and McKay took the narrow bed. DVDs are stacked on the floor, reminders of movie marathons and after midnight talks that stretched to morning.
When Ronon remembers his first days on Atlantis, he remembers those, before he knew what they meant, what they were; then he'd thought John was testing him, trying to calculate his value to a city at war. Now he know it was just John, who for some reason wanted him to stay.
Sitting down on the chair (his chair), Ronon looks up as John comes back in, kit in hand and takes a seat on the bed in easy reaching distance of Ronon's hand.
"It's not that bad."
John look at him, eyebrow raised in polite disbelief. "You'd say that if there was an arrow in your gut. Give me your hand."
Or not so polite. Ronon hides his grin and watches John in a routine he remembers from a hundred missions; bent over Teyla's leg, McKay's arm, checking each other for scrapes and scratches, infections and poisons, so much a habit that Ronon thinks nothing of John's careful attention until his knuckles are neatly wrapped and John's sitting back, hazel eyes staring at the floor as he absently wipes Ronon's blood from his fingers with his towel.
There's something here that's followed them from the practice room; whatever John's been running from since he got back, whatever he didn't say in that meeting that was all careful outlines of everything they'd feared most.
"This is your home, you know," John says abruptly. Getting to his feet, he paces, one hand ruffling damp hair. "Atlantis. Nothing will ever change that."
Oh. The future might be changing, but that doesn't mean John will forget what it could have been.
He does know; John's never understood how to do anything by halves, how to give less than everything. Ronon hadn't known that when he came to this city, these people, hadn't realized that when John offered him a place, he meant a home.
John licks his lips, eyes darting to Ronon then away. "Even if--even if I'm not here. Everyone--McKay, Lorne, even Carter, they're all, they wouldn't--" John stops, lips pressed together. "I need you to know that. You have a home here, a place here. You'll always have a home here. Nothing will change that."
There are things he could say; the future is perspective, and McKay was wrong, except for all the ways he was right. He left to fight the Wraith, to fight a war, because he could do more away than he ever could here. It's a lie even if it's true. His team is his family, one that it took seven years for him to find, these extraordinary people he couldn't imagine claiming, having, keeping, but John is--
"I know," he says again, meeting John's eyes when he comes to an uncomfortable halt, close enough that Ronon can smell the sweat coating his skin, see the fine tremble of muscles on the edge of exhaustion. "Different world. Didn't happen."
John's mouth crooks in an unhappy smile. "We're soldiers, Ronon. It'll happen."
It won't, though, not like that; there's no where Ronon won't follow him, try to find him. History lies, it always has. If there's anything that hurts, that will keep him up at night, it will be the thought of John in a place they can't find him, can't reach him, where Ronon can't rescue him. Closing his eyes, he takes a breath, pushing it back for later, for Marines who want a workout and Atlantean halls that he can run, where his body can outrun his mind until he can forget that there's a world where he survived and somehow, John didn't.
Somehow, it's worse to know that there's a time and place he lost everything again; he'd always hoped this time, this place, this man, would be his last.
"Ronon," John says softly. A warm hand touches his face, light as air, surprisingly gentle, like he might pull away at any moment. Startled, he looks up--looks, reading John like he's been learning since the day they met; exhaustion's stripped away his defenses, fear and regret as clear as writing across his face, the grief he hadn't allowed himself since he came back, and beneath it all, something new and almost painfully bright.
Ronon doesn't move; he's not sure he could even if he wanted to. John's thumb strokes slowly against his cheek, callused and rough from guns and sticks, achingly gentle in a way that makes Ronon shiver, closing his eyes to feel the print of every finger, each careful stroke, each lingering touch.
"You're home," he blurts out, startled by the sound of his own voice. There's a second of stillness, John's widening eyes, unmoving fingers pressed to his cheek, and a second he's sure John will realize what Ronon read on his face.
Then John kisses him and he realizes what John's been trying to say.
Ronon wants to tell him this; I didn't know you when I met you and I believed you. He wants to tell him; I know why I left in that world. This is my city because it's yours, and my people are those you claim. The first time you left for Earth, I didn't know. In that future, I already knew why I couldn't stand to stay.
He hadn't known, not until John stepped out of the jumper, and the world moved from an endless pause to action, finally, the universe starting anew, the thrumming rise of hope that wasn't Atlantis or defeating the Replicators or the war against the Wraith. It was John.
John jerks back, licking his lips, but his hand's buried in Ronon's hair like he can't stand to let go, and suddenly he's straddling Ronon's lap, mouth red and eyes dilated black, one shaking hand cupping his neck like he thinks Ronon will break.
Ronon thinks of John with the sticks, when he shoots, when he fights, that focus flaring up like a light in the dark. John's attention is addictive, he's always known that, even when he didn't know why. Like this--like this, getting this, Ronon doesn't think he can ever give it up.
Leaning down, John rests his forehead against Ronon's, breathing out in a little laugh. "Jesus. I didn't mean to--" But he doesn't move away, hands tightening possessively. "Not like this."
Ronon reaches for him before he can get any farther than that, wrapping a hand around the back of his neck, pulling him into a kiss to steal words that might be apology or negation or both. It feels daring, even with John this close, sharing every breath he takes, soft, warm tongue and soft lips, tasting Ronon like he's been thinking of doing nothing else. Silky, damp hair slides clings to his fingers, slick skin when he pushes a hand up the back of John's shirt, muscles tensing and relaxing with every stroke of his hand.
He wants to say, what the hell *took you so long*, but he keeps forgetting the words with every stroke of John's tongue.
"It's just--" John pulls his mouth away, licking his lips, face flushed with more than hours of fighting. Pulling him closer, Ronon feels the press of John's cock, half-hard against his belly, and it shoots a flare of liquid heat down his spine. "I need you to know--"
"Shut up," he manages to mumble, licking open John's mouth, tasting coffee and traces of salt from sweat, sweetness like candy a faint reminder of dessert, and the sharp edges of adrenaline. Ronon wants to push him onto the bed and jerk him off, watch him come twisting and beautiful; strip John naked and learn his body with his tongue; hold John here and rut up against him until they both come.
"Dammit," John mutters against his lips.
Mostly, he just wants him to stop talking, get him back to the place he was in the practice room where he stopped thinking and worrying and started feeling.
Ronon ducks to his throat, damp and salty when he grazes it with his lips, his tongue. John shivers, hands twisted in his hair but not pulling him away. "Six hundred years in *stasis* gives a guy time to think."
Ronon drags his teeth up the side of John's throat and feels him harden completely; he smells good, like a long day of work, the ocean around them, musky and rich, aftershave long worn away. "You think?" he asks, using his teeth on the stubbled line of John's jaw while John laughs, hands sliding down his shoulders, fingers digging into his arms when Ronon bites, shivering again.
"Think," John says, voice low, breath feathering against his ear. "About what I should have said. Meant to say. To you."
Ronon lets John drag his head up, breath catching at the look on John's face, open and a little afraid, even when Ronon's trying to get his shirt up over his head without letting go of him. "I want you to stay," John says, kissing him hard, tongue drawing along his lower lip, teeth nipping sharply after like he wants to leave something of himself on Ronon, like he doesn't know Ronon carries John with him like a mark no one can see. "Because I want you here. With me." John's fingers tighten abruptly. "This isn't casual."
Because John never does anything by halves, doesn't give less than everything. John's offering him more than a place or a home; he's offering himself.
Ronon closes his eyes, letting the words wash over him like water. "How long?" Have you waited, he wants to ask, why did you wait, what were you *waiting for*, but John smiles against his mouth and whispers, "Too long," and Ronon stops thinking.
Bed's more comfortable than the chair, and John's shirt meets the floor before Ronon gets him on it, stretched out and beautiful, golden skin and bright hazel eyes, elegantly sprawled and reaching for him. A second to look before he has to touch, twining his fingers in John's with one hand, holding him still with the other, kissing slow and deep, filled with three years of waiting.
John's hands are already on the fastenings of Ronon's pants, jerking them open with clumsy, impatient movements and shoving them down before working on his own. Ronon watches in fascination, following the line of dark hair as John pushes down his boxers, one hand on Ronon's hip guiding Ronon into place before they're cock to cock and long, callused fingers wrap around them both.
"Fuck," Ronon grunts, pushing his tongue into John's mouth, trying to get closer, maybe in his skin this time so he can't go anywhere Ronon can't follow, sucking away each low groan, reaching down himself when John's rhythm starts to falter.
John pulls his mouth away to gasp, going still, and Ronon watches him come, wet warmth coating his hand, and the feel, the smell, the startled look on John's face pulls him over, slicking John's belly before he collapses.
John grunts something, but his arms slide around Ronon, holding in place.
After a while, though, he has to move. Not far, though, fitting against John's side, looking at the damp, flushed face, pants pushed halfway down his thighs. Ronon's shirt's a lost cause anyway; pulling it off, he wipes them down, lingering over the hard muscles of John's chest, his stomach, the tender skin at the hollow of his hip, the silky skin at the join of thigh and groin.
Naked would be good, he thinks vaguely; the day's catching up to him as quickly as John. John opens his eyes drowsily when Ronon starts pulling off his pants, toeing off his own shoes and socks, stretching idly before rolling on his side to watch Ronon with half-lidded eyes, boneless and almost soft.
Ronon realizes he'd stopped moving and pulls his own down, feeling John's eyes on him like heat, chest and cock and thighs, all in thoughtful appraisal that makes his cock twitch, even though five minutes isn't enough time, even now.
Ten might not be enough, if he's honest. It's been a long day. Fitting himself against John, he feels John relax more, murmuring something about a second to rest before the hazel eyes slit shut.
"Sure," Ronon says with a grin, pulling the covers out and over them, pressing his lips to the back of John's neck as he settles himself more comfortably against John's warm body. "I can wait."