part 2 of the Alpha Centauri series
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Alpha Centauri is a trinary star system consisting of a primary pair of yellow dwarfs (Alpha Centauri A and B) gravitationally bound to an outlying red dwarf (Proxima Centauri). This story is the second part of series that's a lot like that. PLEASE DO NOT READ this story unless you have read the first part, Contract. Or else you will be SPOILED, and that will be sad.
Contraband (Alpha Centauri 2)
“What?” McKay said when he opened the door, and Ronon blinked. He’d knocked, hadn’t he? McKay had answered, hadn’t he? Ronon knew he was fairly rusty with communal living, but certainly where he came from, if someone knocked and you didn’t want to see them, you didn’t have to yell. You just didn’t open the door.
“What?” McKay said again. “What, what, what? Short for: what do you want?”
If they were going to be direct, that was fine. That was fine. Life was short, so get to it, Ronon could appreciate that philosophy. “Food.” McKay stared at him. Maybe he thought Ronon only meant that in the larger scheme of things. What do you want? Food, shelter, ammunition, some fragile thread of hope for the future, food. True enough, but not the point of this visit. “I heard you had food in here.”
McKay narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Where did you hear that?”
“Lots of places. Doesn’t matter. Is it true?”
“We just came from dinner, not two hours ago.”
Ronon shrugged. He’d given part of his to a girl in a uniform with a dislocated shoulder who hadn’t been able to pile much on her tray without making it impossible to carry one-handed. He’d watched her refuse three offers for help, but she still looked hungry when she was done, and she was skinny, too, so Ronon doubted she could spare the calories. Ronon had gone hungry plenty of nights, and anyway he didn’t really like the strongly acidic, blood-red sauce that came on a lot of the food here. He passed his noodles and sauce to her, and she almost objected to his help, too, but then she looked at him for a minute, turned a bit pink, and thanked him. “Not the red stuff,” he said. “Different food.”
“Oh, I see. I’m sorry that the menu wasn’t to your liking, but our shipment of fresh Maine lobster has been unaccountably delayed, and anyway, aren’t roots and berries your typical fare? I would think anything would be an improvement on– Wait, you don’t like the spaghetti? Who doesn’t like spaghetti?”
“Me, I guess.”
That didn’t seem to leave McKay much to find fault with. He huffed for a moment, and then calmed down. Ronon waited. “Well, you heard wrong,” he finally said. “Regulations require all food items except powerbars to be stored centrally and disbursed through the commissary agent.” Ronon raised his eyebrow and waited. “Oh, fine,” McKay said, throwing up his hand and moving out of the doorway. “This one time, and you might as well not tell anyone, because they’ll never take your word over mine.”
“McKay. I heard it lots of places. Everyone knows.”
“I don’t care. I’m not interested in running a speakeasy out of my quarters; I’m only doing this for you because.... Because you’re on my team.” Ronon nodded. That was sensible enough; what they called “away teams” here were obviously nothing more than slightly smaller strike-squadrons, and even McKay wasn’t difficult enough, or crazy enough, not to look out for his own strike-squadron.
In addition to food, McKay had a flat device in his quarters with a heating coil on it that he plugged into one of the power-conversion strips that all the aliens used to make their homeworld technology compatible with the Atlantis infrastructure. “Don’t mention this, either,” he said offhandedly as he ran some water into a pot and set it on the dish. “I had to confiscate it from engineering – entirely against regulations. It really wasn’t fair of them to open the entire department up to possible disciplinary action. It’s important that people learn to keep their nefarious doings in private. That’s just common courtesy.”
The water was taking a while to boil, and McKay was blaming engineering for something else now, something Ronon didn’t really care about, so he decided to look around. If he were McKay, where would he keep an emergency powerbar? By the bed.
Right. A whole drawer full of nothing but different kinds of powerbars, charging plates for portable devices, and a bottle of some kind of...grooming product? That seemed more like something Sheppard would keep around than McKay, although perhaps it did belong to Colonel Sheppard – the fact that he slept here regularly was an even more widely publicized secret than McKay’s hoarded food. Ronon sniffed it curiously, but it didn’t smell like Sheppard’s hair; he would have recognized that smell. He kind of liked it.
“Give me that!” McKay demanded in an outraged squeak, grabbing at the bottle from Ronon’s hand. Instinctively, Ronon pulled it away protectively. “What’s the matter with you? You can’t just go through people’s things!”
McKay was turning pink himself, his hands jittering in that way they sometimes did when he wanted to run away but couldn’t. It puzzled Ronon for a second, and then he felt stupid. Of course nobody kept hair things by the bed. They kept sex things by the bed. If it hadn’t been like another lifetime since Ronon had been used to having a bed, having sex, or actually having things at all, he wouldn’t have been so thickheaded. “Sorry,” he said, and put the lubricant back in the drawer. He couldn’t help grinning over his shoulder at McKay, all flustered and irritated, and saying, “You shouldn’t be embarrassed.”
“Oh, I shouldn’t? Well, since what you know about local custom could be written on the head of a pin, I don’t think– “
“I know if I had Sheppard coming around here every night, I’d be keeping twenty bottles of lube and one powerbar, not the other way around.”
That brought McKay to a dead standstill, gaping at him in shock. Ronon smiled again. He was funny, this Dr. McKay who wasn’t even a real doctor. He always thought he knew what everyone was going to say next, and he hardly ever guessed right. “I don’t have.... I mean...why would you think that – Colonel Sheppard – ?”
“Why would you think that nobody around here would ever notice?”
McKay’s mouth twisted up in a way that surprised Ronon, a bitter sort of anger rather than his usual flash-fire temper. “Most people around here know enough not to say it out loud. You don’t understand, the Colonel could lose his job. He could get sent home for this.”
Ronon cocked his head to the side. “You have regulations here against food and sex?”
“Not here so much as there. Where J– the Colonel is from. It’s military law, and I’m sure Elizabeth would be happy to disregard it, but if Caldwell were to file a report, he could be dishonorably discharged.”
“Stripped of his rank?”
“Kicked out. All right? So don’t say things like that. Just get in the habit of pretending along with the rest of us.”
“Sorry.” After a minute of weighing the benefits and drawbacks of prolonging a conversation that was clearly making McKay angry and sad, Ronon decided it would be good for morale if they bonded over this. “There’s a rule – or, there was a rule – back home against fraternization between members of the same strike-squadron. It violates unity. Fights start. Everyone is supposed to be equals – except the taskmaster, obviously – so you. Can’t. Sometimes that’s a hard rule to follow, when you’re with seven other people that you feel very close to.”
McKay gave him a long look and nodded carefully. “Did you...ever break that rule?”
The first memory that came to mind was sweet, so Ronon smiled. Even the wake of bad memories that followed after couldn’t entirely spoil the effect. “No, not me. I had Kel, didn’t want anyone else.”
As if he didn’t really want to do it, McKay smiled back. “You had a – wife?”
That made him laugh out loud, one quick bark that startled McKay back a step. Kel, his wife. What wasn’t funny about that? “Kel was our taskmaster.”
“Wait, wait. You were allowed to sleep with your superior?”
“Sure.” Why not? That wasn’t complicated, like the other things. That was simple. It was an honor to be chosen, an honor that Ronon wore with a distinct lack of humility back then. It makes him a little sick, now, to realize what kind of a man Kel was, and how blind Ronon had been to everything but having his favor, being known as the one who tended Kel. What if he had watched more carefully, seen more, been more prepared? What if, somehow, he could have warned someone, everyone? Kel being his taskmaster, that made it too easy. Kel being Kel, that’s what made things get complicated.
He spent the first three years angry because no one had stopped Kel. He’d spent every year since then living with the knowledge that no one but him could have.
McKay shook his head. “I can’t wrap my head around these things. People say anthropology is a science, but it isn’t. It’s all witch-doctoring and throwing the bones as far as I’m concerned.”
“What is this?” Ronon asked, picking up the picture off the top of the stand. It looked like the largest chipmunk he’d ever seen, sort of.
“That’s – put that down! Honestly, you’re five years old!” McKay grabbed it away from him and set it up again carefully. “That’s my cat. You don’t have cats on your planet?”
“Seen them. Fought them. That doesn’t look like one.”
“He’s not that kind of cat. Domesticated – small and harmless. We keep them as pets. You have pets, don’t you?”
“I had a pig when I was a boy.”
“Yes, marvelous, exactly like that,” McKay said, sounding annoyed. “A boy and his pig. It’s touching. Do you want dinner or not?”
“You have a picture of your pet, but no humans.”
“I like my pet.” His tone discouraged further questions. And besides, there was food.
He was disappointed by the preparation process, though. There were noodles in a box, and a foil packet full of seasoning. It looked depressingly like an MRE, and somehow he’d expected more from McKay. Something more...forbidden.
Instead of red, the sauce was yellow – brilliantly, glaringly golden-yellow. Ronon eyed the bowl dubiously as McKay put it in his hands, and McKay rolled his eyes and said, “Who knew you were such a gourmand? Just try it, will you?”
The spices weren’t really spices at all. They’d combined with the boiling water to produce a sauce, the richest, creamiest, butter-cheese sauce Ronon had ever tasted. As soon as the first spoonful was in his mouth, his eyes closed and he made a small, startled noise in his chest. It was good – salty and slick and strong. It burned his tongue and he didn’t care. He made another noise of approval and started to rake it from the bowl to his mouth as fast as he could.
McKay snorted. “Up to your standards, I take it.”
“Never had anything like this,” he managed with his mouth full. “What is it called?”
“It’s a Kraft Dinner. I lived on these when I was young. My parents weren’t much for cooking, but they could be counted upon to buy many boxes of Kraft Dinner every week so that my sister and I didn’t starve to death. I suppose I’m grateful to them for that.”
“I would eat this every day.”
“There was a time when I did. And I thought I’d never want to taste it again once I was out of the house and on my own, but strangely...I find it comforting now. So simple, so reliable. You always know you can take care of yourself, as long as you can put dinner on the table.”
Ronon understood that. He nodded and lifted the bowl to his face, trying to lick the sauce off the sides. When he raised his head, McKay was smirking at him. “Here,” he said, “you have some....” He touched his lip to demonstrate, and Ronon licked the equivalent spot on his own lip. “Do you need a drink? I have– You should try this.”
Unsurprisingly, McKay had a refrigeration unit in his closet, and he brought out a plastic bottle with something frighteningly purple inside. Why did all the food of Earth come in such unlikely colors? Ronon expected it to be like the frothing drink that the cafeteria doled out sparingly and to much excitement – not beer -- the other, sweet kind that everyone seemed to call by a different name. It had the same fizz to it, that tickled the back of your nose if you drank it too fast, and it was sweet, but sweeter, shockingly sweet, with a stronger flavor to it. Ronon drank the first few sips cautiously, the combined sharp airiness of the froth and the syrupy heaviness of the flavoring almost too much to handle. But then he decided he liked it, too. Very much.
“McKay,” he announced, “I like you. You can keep breaking all the regulations you want. If anyone tries to stop you, just send them to me.”
“Great, my speakeasy has a bouncer. All I need is a torch singer and I can quit physics and go into the restaurant business full-time.” There was something funny about McKay, though – not the usual way he struck Ronon as funny when he used that sarcastic voice, but funny. He was still pinkish – maybe when Ronon brought up regulations, he’d made McKay think of the situation with Sheppard again?
He picked up the bowl again and ran his finger along the bottom, trying to wipe up the last buttery streaks of cheese sauce from the bottom, wondering exactly how many more boxes of Kraft Dinner McKay had hidden in this room.
He happened to glance up as he put the tip of his finger in his mouth to suck off the cheese, and finally he recognized that expression. He wasn’t used to seeing it on McKay’s face, but he’d seen it plenty of other places in the last few weeks. The glassy, widened eyes, the flush, the lips just slightly parted. He looked like that girl with the sling on her arm at dinner, like that scientist he’d had to dance clumsily around when she tried to get into the same elevator he was coming out of, like Sheppard the time that Ronon had given him a hand up off the practice mats and pulled him too abruptly so that he smacked up against Ronon and then jumped back like he’d been burnt.
Maybe it was because everyone in Atlantis was so short. Maybe it was just because he’d filled out a lot since he was nineteen. He thought it should excite him more, the way that every second person he’d met here seemed perfectly willing to go to bed with him. Why didn’t it excite him more?
Maybe he was just tired of being chased.
Still. McKay. That was unexpected enough to be kind of intriguing. He wasn’t as pretty as Sheppard or the elevator woman, but he did make Ronon laugh. And he had – a sweetness to him, a certain no-quarter-asked-and-none-given loyalty that Ronon admired, particularly in someone who was, for all intents and purposes, still a new recruit rather than a soldier born and bred. And he seemed to break regulations with a certain amount of devious glee, which.... Ronon had spent his entire life trying to adhere to every rule, to be the best at every task, a model soldier. He regretted that now. He regretted a lot of things. He wished he’d been...a little more like this, like the kind of man who would let nothing and no one forbid him from having – lube and purple soda-pop. A little more...dangerous.
“You’re under different regulations. Different from Colonel Sheppard, I mean,” he said, letting his voice drift a little lower. He’d always had a voice that people responded well to, even when he was nineteen and gangly and uptight.
“I’m a civilian. I’m under all the regulations of Atlantis, but not of the United States Air Force. Although it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that for the civilian population, ‘all the regulations of Atlantis’ essentially means whatever Elizabeth needs it to mean. It’s really no way to run a government, but I have to confess I’ve always had an antiauthoritarian, if not out-and-out anarchistic, streak in me, so it’s not too– “
“I haven’t had sex since I came to this city. Or for a long time before that.”
McKay hesitated only a beat. “Really? That’s surprising. I mean, I find that surprising. Not the last part, which I would have expected, had I been thinking about it, and I really hadn’t been – thinking about it – but the first part, that surprises me. Because you’re – reasonably attractive, and better yet you’re new, we don’t get many new people here, and not to suggest you’re habitually guided by your – hormones, but I would simply have imagined that a man in your position – that is, after the first few good meals and a very long, very hot shower, I would think one of the things you’d do....”
“Yeah. It’s one of the things I thought I’d do, too. When I was running, when I would imagine what it’d be like to escape.” He wasn’t sure how to explain that after so many years alone, so many years in the silence of your own thoughts, paranoid about anyone around you, for your sake and for theirs – that it wasn’t as easy as you might imagine to be...near somebody again. Everyone around Ronon felt as if they were pressing in on him, standing too close, following him. It was starting to wear off now, a little. For a while, it had been...terrible. He’d wondered if the Wraith had broken something in him forever, if he was going to be permanently unfit for human company.
Ronon let his eyes drift half-shut and imagined standing up, leaning across the empty space toward McKay’s chair, close enough to feel the heat of him. He imagined listening to their quick breathing in distinct rhythms, watching McKay shift nervously and tilt his head up. He imagined–
Yes. He thought he could kiss McKay. McKay was a member of his strike-squad, but– But, no, he wasn’t. This was not Citida; this was Atlantis. There was no rule against this, not now. And even if there was, who said he wanted to go back to being the old Specialist Ronon Dex, with all of his commendations and all of his fears?
“Dessert!” McKay said suddenly, too loudly. It startled Ronon’s eyes open, and he saw McKay returning to the drawer by his bed. “I have this, you’ll like this,” he was saying, almost as if the words didn’t particularly mean anything to him, but he needed to fill the silence.
Ronon stood up and followed him.
McKay turned around again with a powerbar in his hand and made a whimpery noise to find Ronon only a few fingers’ width away. “Don’t be scared,” Ronon said, dropping his voice as low as he could in pitch and volume. He grinned, thinking it for the first time, and then decided to say it out loud: “I should be the one who’s scared. Maybe I won’t even remember how.”
“You know – you know I’ve been seeing Colonel Sheppard.”
His smile widened and he nodded his head in deference to that. “All I’m doing is knocking on the door, McKay. You can answer it or not.”
“Here,” McKay said, holding up the powerbar. “I really want you to try this.”
McKay ducked his head self-consciously. “You’re very – you have this look when you’re enjoying your food.”
His fingers shook slightly, but Ronon didn’t offer to help him unwrap the bar, which didn’t really seem to be a powerbar at all. The wrapper was bright yellow, but Ronon was relieved to see that the food itself was an inoffensive brown. McKay broke it in half and held half of it up to Ronon, who took a bite.
It wasn’t like anything. It wasn’t like anything. Ronon moaned as it melted into a pool of rich chocolate, like the cakes and puddings in the cafeteria, only more intensely concentrated, and – something else – in his mouth. “What is this?”
“Hm?” McKay said. “Hm, oh, candy bar. Butterfinger.”
Ronon nodded quickly and leaned in for another bite. He couldn’t open his eyes. He’d forgotten all about sex. He’d forgotten everything, except the taste.
The feeling of McKay’s fingers against his lips reminded him as they fed Ronon the last bite of that half. His eyes flickered open and focused slowly on McKay. “Still knocking?” McKay said. Ronon nodded, and he moved his wrist, flattening his palm out on the side of Ronon’s face. McKay nodded once in return, and Ronon leaned down and kissed him.
McKay made a soft sound into his mouth and brought his hands up, one of them still holding the other wrapped half of the candy bar, to the back of Ronon’s neck, making him shiver. He’d always been sensitive on the back of his neck. He settled his hands on McKay’s back and thought about kissing. So many years – so many years alone, and now this place where he could have anything, the most amazing, unimagined pleasures that any world could provide, men and women, food and good work and his own quarters with a hot shower to come home to. How could he have come from that to this, from nothing to everything?
It could have been just because it’d been so long, but he was pretty sure that McKay was a good kisser.
He pulled the zipper down on McKay’s shirt and slid his hands inside, letting his thumbs graze McKay’s nipples. “Tell me what you want me to do,” he murmured as McKay twisted one hand into his hair and kissed his neck. “Tell me what to do....”
McKay shivered and pressed closer to him, sliding his hands inside Ronon’s sweater and up his sides. “God, I don’t even care. Just be naked while you’re doing it, all right?”
Being naked felt strange. He’d been sleeping half-dressed in Atlantis, which felt like a happy change from fully dressed; other than getting into and out of the shower, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d taken off all his clothes at once. His hands moved to his necklaces and hesitated for just a moment before he slipped them all off as well. McKay sat on the edge of his bed and watched him, silent and intent.
He didn’t say anything even when Ronon was finished with the relatively simply job of taking off all his clothes. “Like this?” Ronon finally said.
McKay cleared his throat twice before he could speak. “Yes, like – like that. That’s – good.”
Ronon smiled slightly. “Are we going to kiss some more? Or is this what– Do you like to watch?” He moved his hand to his cock and gave it an experimental stroke, keeping his eyes on McKay.
McKay let him complete two strokes before reaching out, one hand gripping Ronon’s thigh and the other resting on his stomach, just over his hip. “Kissing?” Ronon tried again hopefully. McKay tugged just enough to indicate that the time for kissing had come around again, and Ronon pushed him down to the bed underneath him and tasted his mouth.
Definitely a good kisser. Ronon rested his elbows on either side of McKay’s head and closed his eyes while they kissed, letting McKay wind his hands up in his hair. For a while it was perfect, and then he started to wish that McKay were naked, too.
While he was pulling McKay’s clothes off of him, he noticed the other half of the candy bar that had fallen out of McKay’s hand on the mattress. Ronon reached out and slid it closer. “You want this?” he asked. McKay groaned and shook his head, shifting his cock up against Ronon’s hip. “Can I eat it?”
McKay laughed. “Yes – God, please do.” He fed it to Ronon bite by bite, and when the candy was gone, Ronon licked the melted chocolate off McKay’s fingertips. Even when there was no more chocolate, he kept running his tongue over McKay’s fingers and across his broad palm and down the sensitive skin inside his wrist. When they kissed again, Ronon imagined that McKay was tasting the sweetness with his tongue as he ran it over the inside of Ronon’s lips.
He must have been a little disoriented when McKay pressed something into his hand, because all he could think was that he was sorry it wasn’t more candy. When he finally realized it was McKay’s bottle of lube, that didn’t seem so disappointing. “What should I do?” he murmured through kisses.
“I think you should fuck me,” McKay whispered, sliding his fingers slowly down Ronon’s back.
I’m not sure I can, Ronon thought about saying. The offer sounded good, but it also sounded like it required moving from right here, right where he was pressed against another warm body, feeling McKay’s breath, his quivering, his hot erection against Ronon’s skin.
But then, if you couldn’t do a favor for the man who’d given you a whole box of his Kraft Dinner....
Once he’d made the decision, it turned out not to be as difficult as all that. Moving was fun, actually; the noises McKay made when Ronon flipped him over were even more fun. He kept squirming around while Ronon was trying to work his slick fingers inside him – tight, Ronon didn’t remember how tight – until he finally slid half off the bed. Ronon didn’t mind that, either, really. He was having sex for the first time in around six years, so it would have taken a greater inconvenience than being on his knees on McKay’s carpeting to bother him much. He used his own weight to hold McKay against the edge of the mattress while he finished with the lube on his fingers and fitted his thighs firmly between McKay’s parted legs. He nipped briefly at the back of McKay’s neck as he pressed slowly inside, but it didn’t seem like McKay was as sensitive there, so he let his mouth linger at the joint of his shoulder and neck instead, and that made him drop his head forward and moan.
It took longer than Ronon would have expected to work his cock all the way into McKay. Not that he was complaining. The anticipation, the slow, boiling build of pleasure– Well, for a very long time, Ronon had believed he was living with no time left for a moment of rest, let alone something long and slow and selfishly exciting. He could do this all night, just to revel in having all night to test McKay’s body, to explore it, to play every note he could find.
McKay did not seem to feel the same way. “Faster,” he croaked, digging his fingers into the sheets and pulling at them while Ronon rocked into him, reveling in a sensation that had become nearly as new to him as Butterfinger bars. Sex – he liked sex. He could do this every day....
“Faster, dammit, come on!” McKay yelled at him in the same tone he used for yelling at his scientists whenever Ronon wandered through the lab. Ronon liked that. He was liking a lot of things about McKay lately, and that might not be good news. He didn’t think McKay liked him very much; McKay thought he was stupid, and maybe he was right. Ronon had never been the one who needed to invent strategies and give orders, no one had ever expected.... But McKay seemed to expect everyone to be good at thinking things through, and frustrated by people like Ronon, who kept failing over and over again.
Ronon thrust in harder, faster. He took orders, he’d always been good at taking orders, and he respected men like McKay, who always had a plan. He was being used, here – for his strength, for the size of his cock and the smoothness of his skin, for his convenient availability, or for something, something else Ronon didn’t understand or need to understand – but he didn’t mind that. Ronon liked being useful. “Like this?” he said into McKay’s ear. “Fast enough?”
McKay moaned and lowered his head all the way down, scrubbing his forehead hard against the sheets for a moment as if to wipe something out of his brain from the outside. “Good, fine – fuck!” he said, his voice muffled by the mattress. His hand moved backwards, seeking blindly until he got a good grip on Ronon’s thigh and dug in with his fingers almost painfully. McKay had surprisingly strong hands. He could probably work the repeating slide on a core-cannon, if he could lift its weight – maybe Ronon could put together some kind of harness to hold it against his body – make it hard to run, but maybe McKay didn’t need to–
Ronon laughed suddenly, and McKay said, “What?” in a suspicious voice.
“I was just thinking about guns. That seemed funny to me.”
“Actually, I’m not sure it surprises me at all. You military types – have trouble distinguishing – between your guns and – never mind, just – quit thinking and keep doing the rest of it.”
“Yes, sir,” Ronon said dryly.
Good. Almost – just – perfect, the pressure, the hot, slippery resistance, the intense physicality of feeling McKay’s entire body against the length of his as they leaned together over the edge of the bed. He couldn’t stop sucking on McKay’s shoulder and the side of his neck, and his own breathing was becoming as noisy as McKay’s, hissing hard through his gritted teeth. He kept one hand wrapped around McKay’s hipbone and stretched forward, his other hand rubbing down McKay’s outstretched arm until his hand covered the back of McKay’s hand, fisted in the sheets. He nudged McKay’s head to the side with his own forehead for better access to his neck, which smelled salt-sweaty and a little bit like sharp marine vegetation and warm butter – the smell of Dr. McKay. Ronon had been given little choice but to grow very sensitive to fine distinctions of scent, and the skill had been helpful in getting his bearings when he came to Atlantis; all these strangers were less frightening when he realized he could stand in a room with his eyes closed and separate them all by the unique smell of them. That made him feel more capable, less defenseless. He’d always liked the smell of McKay.
McKay was doing more than surrendering to it now; now he was pushing back hard, panting for air. Now you don’t care if I’m stupid or not, Ronon thought with idle satisfaction, and then he wasn’t sure why he’d thought it. Being around McKay was confusing sometimes. Sheppard was clearly a strong man, to be able to keep his balance through it.
There was no warning; for what felt like a long time, he’d been happy re-acquiring this particular taste, soaking himself in the feel and the sound and the smell of his own arousal combining with McKay’s, and then all of a sudden he was as hungry as he’d ever been in his life. He clenched his hand around McKay’s and closed his eyes, trying desperately – all night, he hadn’t even wanted to think about stopping – too much now, too good and not good enough – he couldn’t last long now and didn’t want to. He wanted to come. Now.
McKay was making noises almost constantly now; Ronon couldn’t tell and didn’t care if they were meant to be speech or not. He heard his name somewhere in there – Ronon, his family name, they were all so formal here, always used each other’s family names and ranks even within the strike-squad, even when they were naked and chasing each other headlong toward the final moments. “Dex,” he said low in McKay’s ear. Rodney’s ear. Shouldn’t it be that way – companions, equals, sharing their food with each other, watching each other’s backs, knowing each other by name?
His whole spine seemed to yank backwards with the force of his orgasm, and Ronon put one hand behind himself for balance, using the one on Rodney’s hip to pull him backwards too, his legs spread around Ronon’s as he leaned helplessly back against Ronon’s chest. Ronon ran a hand down over his heaving chest and his soft, tender belly, but he had barely brushed Rodney’s cock with the side of his finger when Rodney came, crying out. Ronon nuzzled the sweat off his temple while his breathing slowly settled down and he grew heavier and heavier, half on top of Ronon.
“You have – no idea – how badly I needed that,” Rodney said the moment he could speak, his voice rough and raw from use. “God, you.... Oh. Yes.” Ronon wasn’t sure if that approving tone was meant for the sex in general, or for the way that Ronon’s hand was still stroking in light, warm arcs over his chest, so he kept doing it just to be safe.
“How badly you needed that?” That was sort of funny to Ronon, the idea that someone who lived in a place like this could think in terms of neeed, could really imagine himself to be dangerously deprived. And yet Rodney did seem to think that way about a lot of things. “You should do it more,” Ronon said, looping his arms loosely around Rodney’s abdomen.
Rodney snorted. “Trying to do it less.”
“You wouldn’t understand,” Rodney said shortly.
Ronon almost let that pass by. Maybe he wouldn’t understand. Then after a moment he said, “I’m not stupid.”
“I never said you were.”
“I’m pretty sure you have said so.”
“Well, maybe I have. Fine, you are stupid, but only to the ordinary degree. You’re not stupid in any especially remarkable way.” With unexpected grace, Rodney reached up and back, digging his fingers all the way into Ronon’s hair with a throaty noise of satisfaction, then let his arms drop again, leaning his entire weight back on Ronon as though he were an armchair. “So, no stupider than the next gun-toting alien, and God, a much better fuck than – well, than I imagine most of them are. Not that I’ve made a study of the subject, but I can calculate the odds.”
Ronon rolled himself down to the carpet slowly, giving Rodney time to get his balance and follow him down if he chose. He did choose to, crouched on all fours over Ronon and tracing light, sensual kisses over his face. Ronon cupped his hands over Rodney’s ass and let his eyes drift shut, enjoying all of it. He parted his lips and didn’t have to wait long for Rodney to take the hint and give him another one of those careful, thorough kisses.
Their mouths made a moist sound when they parted, barely audible even in the silence. “You’re a good fuck, too,” Ronon said. It didn’t quite sound like the polite thing to say, but he didn’t know what kind of etiquette Rodney’s people used in such situations, so he was forced to rely on Rodney’s lead. Rodney wasn’t normally his first choice to model Earth social conventions for him, but there was nobody else handy. He opened his eyes and saw the dark look on Rodney’s face, inward-turned darkness, faraway eyes, and he reached up to rub the back of Rodney’s neck lightly. “Will....” He probably should know, even if he didn’t want to ask. “Will Sheppard be angry at us?”
Rodney laughed at that, a ragged laugh that didn’t sound amused. “Oh, damned if I know. If it’s all the same to you, I think I just won’t mention it to him. Err on the side of caution and all that.”
Ronon frowned. Keeping secrets from your taskmaster was never a good idea. Also, it never really worked for long. But he was willing to do whatever Rodney thought was best for everyone; Rodney was the one who knew Sheppard best, after all. “Will we...will we do this again?”
Something flickered through Rodney’s eyes, a little surprised and a little – hurt? Happy? Insulted? Flattered? Ronon had no idea. So complicated, already things were getting complicated, and he should probably never have done this. “Do you want to do this again?”
Was he supposed to want to do it again? He didn’t know the answer. “Yes,” he said hesitantly. “Maybe?”
Rodney looked at him for endless awful moments, impossible to read, thinking things that were frustratingly outside of Ronon’s grasp. Finally he moved off of Ronon, pushing himself with a little bit of difficulty up to his feet and looking around for his clothes. “Well, I don’t know,” he said gruffly. “This has all happened fast. I just – I don’t know what’s going on, here.”
“That’s fine,” Ronon said. “I only– You asked. I only said that because you asked.”
Rodney sat down on the edge of his bed as he zipped up his shirt, his hair all ruffled up and his cheeks still flushed as if he’d been out in a strong wind. “Listen,” he said. Ronon listened, but that seemed to annoy Rodney somehow, and he said, “You know, it’s ridiculous how handsome you are,” as if that were something Ronon had done specifically to antagonize Rodney. “It really is overkill, you understand that, don’t you? I mean, you could just have been good-looking the way that – that men are, that some men are, because that’s fine, that’s a fine attribute to have, handy in any number of circumstances, and God knows I’m used to coping with that, but you? The way you are? It’s like a personal insult to those of us who are still trying to pretend we’re straight. It’s very uncalled for.”
“I don’t understand a word you’re saying.”
“You aren’t bright, though, which is a small mercy. If you could do calculus, I’d probably have to kill myself. It’d be the only honorable way out.”
Ronon smiled broadly. What was it about Rodney that made all his jokes funny even when he didn’t get them? It was such hard work to stay focused in the field, not to stand around uselessly and listen to him talk in those spiky cadences and that strange stew of exaggerations and insults and science. “Honestly. I don’t know what you’re saying to me. Except that I think you called me ridiculously handsome.”
“I don’t need this. I don’t need...two of you.”
“There’s really only one of me,” Ronon said mildly. Rodney tossed him his pants as he sat up and started to his feet. Ronon put them on, and the necklaces next, and then all of a sudden he had Rodney’s hands on his hips. He let himself be drawn forward, then sucked in a startled breath as Rodney bent down to kiss his stomach, just above the waist of his pants, slowly and suggestively. Ronon touched his hair gently, and when he raised his head, his eyes were sharp and strange and sad in a way that made Ronon’s chest feel tight with sympathy.
“The reason I needed you to fuck me,” Rodney said throatily, and Ronon tried to pay attention to the meaning of his words instead of to the unexpected quiver that the word fuck in Rodney’s voice now seemed capable of sending through his thighs, “is that I can’t with – him. With the Colonel. I mean, I can, I have. But I try not to. I wouldn’t, except that sometimes he’s – just – persuasive, he’s always persuasive, but sometimes I can’t tell him no when I know I should, and sometimes it’s me who can’t...stop.”
Ronon’s thumb traced down the shell of his ear, keenly aware of the way that he turned his head without hesitation, lifting his face toward the warmth of Ronon’s hand. He pressed another kiss to the inside of Ronon’s wrist, then shifted away. Ronon let him go and said, “I don’t understand that reason.”
“No, I think you do,” Rodney said with something like a laugh. “Why were you here for two months before you had sex? Why did you give away your dinner tonight? I saw you do that. You’re still wearing that same ratty sweater you’ve been wearing for seven years, for God’s sake. Why don’t you– You can’t tell me now that you’re not a sensualist; I’ve seen you eat Kraft Dinner. Why don’t you do all the things I know you must want to do, now that you can?”
He’d never asked himself that. He’d never been around anyone who cared why he did the things he did on his own time. “I don’t know.” Rodney rolled his eyes, as if Ronon were being intentionally stupid, so he tried to do better. “I guess because...I’m scared it might go away? And if I don’t get used to things being so nice, then I won’t have...much to lose.”
Rodney’s mouth twisted into a joyless smile. “You see? You do understand. You’re not as stupid as everyone thinks you are.” He gripped Ronon again, his hands around Ronon’s waist this time, and kissed the center of his chest. “Dex,” he said softly, even shyly. “You have to go now.” The words vibrated pleasantly against Ronon’s skin, almost too pleasantly for him to focus on the meaning. “There’s a small enough chance that I’ll ever get my life sorted out in any sort of rational manner, and exactly zero chance I’ll do it with you standing around shirtless in my bedroom.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” he said, stepping backwards out of Rodney’s reach. It was a relief, really. He was getting much better at being around people, but he didn’t think he was ready to sleep beside another person, even one who smelled as nice as Rodney did and might feed him something else delicious and illegal for breakfast.
He wasn’t expecting a goodnight kiss, but he was hoping for one.
The knock at the door made that impossible, but when Ronon finally got to his own bed, he laid down on top of his own bed and went to sleep fully clothed for the first time since his first week in Atlantis, and he dreamed disjointedly of a man wearing black with a black mask over his face, and the sound of breaking branches under his feet when he knew he should be moving noiselessly, and sitting on his old barracks bunk with Rodney McKay beside him, kissing and kissing him until the world fell away.