Hth: Oh! Oh! And then he can have sex with Ronon!
Mary: Really? Ronon? Why?
Hth: Because I've got ONE HUNDRED RONON STORIES TO WRITE. Until further notice, unless a character has some really compelling reason not to, everybody sleeps with Ronon.
Anyway, instead of doing something productive with my Sunday, I made somebody unlikely sleep with Ronon.
In happier days (Gunn thought it was a Thursday), between the years when he lived in his Jeep and slept with his boots on to stomp out rats and the years when he -- well, whatever. But in between there, there was this little window of time where he was reckless and brave and grateful to be alive, and he used to laugh out loud in bed just from sheer joy, because, fuck, didn't it feel good to be touched, to be loved, to take your boots off and stay awhile? And the British accent was all aces, if the stubble-burn on his thighs never entirely turned into a positive, and it wasn't that he'd thought it would never end, it was just that he had it.
He'd never thought he was ever going to have it.
The best part of back then was maybe how he wasn't always the toughest guy in the room, and people sort of worried about him for once, instead of him always on point doing the worrying for everyone else, and one day, one of the happier days, he laid down naked in a circle of candles, trying not to laugh and failing, because really, come on, and he let Wesley chant and wave incense and throw wine on him. Because Wes worried about him.
Failsafe, he called it. In the -- in the direst of circumstances -- this will.... I can't say. With this type of magic, it's very difficult to say what it will do, but it should carry you out of harm's way.
What good am I out of harm's way? he asked with a smile, and then stopped smiling at the pain in Wes's eyes. He reached out and touched his knuckles against the stubble on Wes's jaw and said, Hey, everybody buys it eventually. I'm not scared.
Wesley wrenched his heart sideways in his chest with a kiss and then said, I am. Oh, God, I am.
They broke up after that. Not immediately after that, but who gives a damn? There were some happy Thursdays, and then they broke up, and then there was Fred, who loved him the best she could, but it still didn't come as exactly a shock to him that she loved Wes more. It came as more of one that Wes loved her more. An unpleasant shock.
When they offered to cut his head in half and make him a different person from the squishy parts out -- well, it would be great if Gunn could say he agonized over his immortal soul and all that. Truth is, by that time there was nothing he wanted more than to get chopped up and start over again.
After some not so happy days, the direst of circumstances came knocking, and Gunn was ready in his own head and heart -- whichever of those two things still belonged to him at all -- to call it a day and hopefully get some of his momma's pineapple upside-down cake in heaven, only by then he'd completely forgotten about the failsafe.
Wesley Wyndham-Price was already dead when it kicked in.
When he was a kid, Charles Gunn did not do one of those programs where they sent kids from the inner city off to camp in some majestic Wisconsin forestland somewhere. He didn't go, the year he was eight, because he was sure there would be a lake in the forest, and he didn't want to tell any of the kindly white people who lived in the majestic forest that he couldn't swim. In retrospect, it seemed like a stupid reason not to go, so he started remembering that he hadn't gone because he needed to stay and take care of Alonna while their mother was at work, and that sat better with him. He might not be able to swim, but he was no coward.
Consequently, pretty much the only time that Gunn had ever seen the countryside was that memorable vacation in sunny Pylea.
Consequently, waking up flat on his back in the countryside, with fat bees buzzing over his nose and a pinecone under his ass, Gunn was not soothed. He wasn't even convinced it was a step up from a hell-army riding down on top of him, because at least he had a good sense of what to expect from that situation.
He sat up and took care of the pinecone situation. He checked himself over -- bloody t-shirt, leather jacket, big-ass axe, ten years scared off his life. Everything in place. Then he started thinking over his options.
He was in A) heaven, B) a particularly creepy and deceptive hell -- the last hell Gunn was in featured a ranch-style in the suburbs and a hot wife, so why not? C) Pylea, D) someplace a lot like Pylea, E) Wisconsin, F) some big karmic summer camp for inner-city war heroes run by kindly white Powers That Be. Possibly redundant with A), but Gunn didn't think so. He wasn't a churchgoing man, but as much as he believed anything, he believed that heaven would have lots of those rich people's restaurants on top of tall buildings. You know, so you could get the whole view of paradise. And a decent chicken parmesan, too. Oh, and he'd drive a Maserati.
Gunn figured it was probably D).
Really, it was a place the locals called Idris, and everybody conveniently spoke English. Sometimes -- not often, but sometimes -- Gunn acknowledged the fact that the universe could, theoretically, be even worse than it was.
Idris was no Pylea. Nobody tried to enslave or eat him, and even though he limped into their happy, Colonial Williamsburg-looking village covered in blood and dragging his fucking axe behind him, everybody rushed toward him, not away, and they gave him bread and soup rather than the business end of a pitchfork.
It took Gunn a few hours, but it finally sunk in that they were being nice to him. Just being nice to him.
"I'll work," he said. "You have to -- farm stuff? I'll -- pull weeds -- whatever. Whatever needs doing." He couldn't swim and he didn't know a plow from Old MacDonald's buttplug, but he was a roll-up-his-sleeves kind of guy. He wasn't someone who could just do nothing, and he also wasn't someone who knew how in the fuck to get home, so the way Gunn figured it, now was the time to learn.
A week later, tired to the bone from baling hay and holding what looked like woolly greyhounds still for shearing, stuffed with greyhound-mutton stew and dark beer and some kind of vegetable that was like a nutty-flavored carrot that Gunn couldn't get enough of, it started to occur to him that possibly only a moron would see this as someplace he was stuck in, and Los Angeles as someplace to go home to.
Everyone was dead there, anyway. Wes and Fred and Cordelia and Alonna and his momma for sure. Angel, probably. Probably. Everything he knew was gone, except the Raiders and Chinese places that delivered and Wolfram & Hart, and when he stopped and thought about it, was that enough?
Functionally speaking, he had as much to be happy about on Idris as he did in L.A. If he was being honest with himself, he had more.
He was in Idris for a whole year. The place had four moons, one of them bright blue, and it was some kind of holiday every ten and a half weeks when the cycles came out so that only the blue one was showing at night, food and drums and dancing under the warm, aquatic shimmer. He lived through harvest and slaughtering and plowing and the whole nine yards, and it turned out that in amongst the shit crammed into his head, there was some farming information, and he was able to help trick out the plows to reduce drag. After that, he felt a lot more like they weren't just putting up with him.
During long winter nights, he sat around the fire with five or six families and, no shit, swapped vampire stories. They had vampires on Idris too, but not full-time; they apparently just ate and ran every x number of years, coming through the big circular doorway that, on more regular and more pleasant occasions, brought in traders from other worlds. The locals called them Wraith, and Gunn never did actually see one on Idris. He almost wished they would show up, because he got the sneaking suspicion that his friends were mostly humoring him when he said he used to be in the business of killing them.
"You don't believe me, do you?" he said to Daitha, who was sort of a little bit his girlfriend, or at least the girl that he always went out of the house to help when it was her turn to carry in heavy jugs of water from the well, and who fooled around with him on blue moons.
"I'm the only one who does," she said cheerfully. "But then, I always believed in Runners. Actually, I believe a lot of strange things. I even believe you'll marry me."
"Daitha, you're killing me," he said. Sometimes he thought she was dead serious about that, and sometimes not at all. Women were confusing in every universe.
"I'm just keeping your life interesting," she said.
Daitha was a pretty girl, with wiry red hair and freckles and plenty of junk in the trunk -- as far from Fred as you could possibly get, but that wasn't symbolic or anything. Gunn had never really had a type. People who liked him, that was pretty much Gunn's type. With a philosophy like that, it seemed like Gunn should get the chance to be a big man-whore, but the truth was, in Gunn's experience, that restricting yourself to just the people who actually liked you was the world's quickest route to enforced celibacy.
As far as sex and the single Idrisian went, Gunn was pretty sure he was looking at marriage or bust. Apparently none of the supplies they traded corn and dog-wool for included the Pill, and while Gunn was observant enough to notice that it wasn't like nobody was getting it on without a ring, it seemed like kind of a shitty thing, when kindly white peasants from another dimension take you in as one of their own, to pay them back by getting down in the barn with their daughters.
He kept a lookout, but it seemed like if any of the strapping Idrisian farmboys were on the down low, Gunn was no good anymore at figuring out who it was.
So he wasn't really getting any, but then a year was within the general ballpark of Gunn's dry spells. He tried not to think too much about it. Anyway, he was still having nightmares about having his chest cut open in dank basements, about being turned into a vampire by his baby sister (really a baby in the dreams -- six years old, all smiles and pigtails and pink sneakers and sharp teeth), about having desperate, shameless, full-contact, it-hurts-don't-stop sex with Wes in the executive washroom at Wolfram & Hart, where they never, ever really had sex. That one counted as a nightmare, because he could forget how much he missed the short, brutish, unhappy life he used to lead, except after a dream like that. Company didn't sound very appealing when Gunn woke up every other night soaked in sweat and fists clenched around invisible weapons, ready to fight for his life.
When summer came around again, Daitha gave up on him ever being husband material, and Gunn was surprised how much he missed her, and then guilty for being surprised. He started spending less time with the Idrisians and more time hiking up and down the yellow-flowered, bumblebee-buzzing hills. He wondered how much of the scenery out here would look exotic and alien to him, how much just like a patch of farmland in the country, if he were from someplace other than L.A., if everything that didn't have concrete poured over it weren't exotic and alien to his eyes.
He thinks Fred didn't grow up in the city -- not on a farm, but probably someplace with birds and grass and fat, happy Texas squirrels. Angel, he grew up in a whole different world; Gunn wondered how long it took him to get used to the existence of places like L.A., let alone to call them home. He wondered how long it was going to take him to go from the 21st century to the 18th.
He was grateful for his life again. He'd never had so much to be grateful for, and everything was better and worse because of this tiny seed of a fireball in his chest that wouldn't go away, this knowledge that he was here in the grass with the pine smells and the moons rising in the clear, daylight sky because once upon a time, he wasn't alone, and someone cared enough about him to change his destiny.
Everybody buys it eventually. Gunn's number came up on May 19, 2004, and everything since then, all this stuff that he has in a place bursting with life and full of people who are perfectly kind to him, is courtesy of a dead man who used to love him like crazy.
That was the kind of deep shit that Gunn had time to think of, in the lazy summer days before the harvest season started. That's what he was thinking about when he looked up from a party of ants hoisting a spear-shaped leaf and marching it across the tip of his boot, and saw what looked for all the fucking world like a party of uniformed U.S. Marines cresting the next hill over.
"Greetings," said a woman who might or might not have been military; Gunn didn't think it was regulation to wear your uniform up over your bellybutton like that, not that he was complaining. "We are peaceful traders-- "
"Oh, man," Gunn said, "you can have anything you want if you tell me you've got a Big Mac in one of those bags."
It turned out that half of them weren't from Earth, and none of them were Marines. They also didn't have any Big Macs, although they said they could get him home whenever he wanted. Just a boat-ride away.
"I don't know," he said, turning his mug of tea over and over between his hands and staring into the fireplace. "I don't.... Most everything I had there is gone now."
The big guy who wasn't wearing soldiers' gear pushed off from the wall with his foot and walked toward the window. The pane was brand-new, the glass just bought from off-world a week ago. The whole house was only three months old; the Idrisians had built it for him in a single day.
Colonel Sheppard watched his back for a second, then returned his attention to Gunn. "What did you do back home?" he asked.
"I -- was -- a lawyer," he said, and somehow it came out sounding even more like a bareassed lie than it actually was. Sheppard and Teyla and the Doctor exchanged wary looks. "I was a vampire hunter," he said, because, hey, who were the cast of Lost In Space to judge? "What they call Wraith here. Mostly not on what you'd call a paid basis. I just...did it. Crashed where I could, made ends meet. Any week I ate dinner more often than I almost was dinner was a good week for me." He was surprised to hear himself talking about the bad old days with some nostalgia. This must be how war turned into war stories, one brand new day at a time.
"You were...a Runner?" Teyla said.
He knew the word from Daitha. Apparently the ladies at this end of the universe were really impressed by that. "Sure," he said. "Yeah." He'd done enough running to qualify, that was for sure.
The three of them exchanged looks that were way past wary and into amazement. Gunn heard his door slam, and when he turned around in his chair, they were minus the fourth guy. Teyla stood up from the bricks by the fireplace and said, "Colonel, I will...."
"Sure," the Colonel said, "go."
"What was that?" Gunn said as Teyla headed out into the night, too.
"I think the two of you just wore the same dress to the prom," Dr. McKay said.
Sheppard gave him an annoyed look and then said to Gunn, "There are no Wraith on Earth."
"Too bad for all those guys I staked through the heart, then," Gunn said.
"Vampires," Dr. McKay said, snapping his fingers like he'd just invented the concept, as if Gunn hadn't said it himself ten seconds ago. "Colonel, he's not talking about Wraith, he actually means vampires."
"Come on, Rodney, you don't believe in vampires, do you?"
Rodney rolled his eyes and said, "I don't believe in not believing in anything anymore. Let's just file vampires under 'existence not proven.'"
"I'll hang onto my own filing system, thanks," Gunn said. It was kind of funny. How long had it been since Gunn had a conversation with anyone who didn't believe in vampires? It was the existence of people like Sheppard that he had any reason at all to doubt.
"Anyway," Sheppard said after an awkward silence, "you're welcome to come back with us if you want to. Back to Earth or -- or just to Atlantis. Wherever."
"Why?" Gunn said, looking down into his tea. "You don't even know me."
Sheppard shrugged and said, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, "Well...you're one of us."
They stayed two more nights, until the blue moon -- because Idrisian hospitality demanded it, and also because if he did go, if he decided to, Gunn thought that would be a good way to go out. He didn't usually get to say goodbye when he left.
Two days gave him time to hear the whole saga of the Earth outpost in this neighborhood, which would have been hard to believe, if Gunn had been the kind of guy whose getting-to-know you stories didn't involve zombies.
He got to know Sheppard, who was a Cali guy himself, with that too-cool-to-care attitude toward danger, doom, and Tales of the Weird that Gunn realized his brain had come to associate with home. Hey, do you worst. We're California, nothing's too crazy for our blood. We elected Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger -- and he was running against Arnold Jackson and a porn star.
Sheppard was okay, even if he didn't believe in vampires.
Teyla was a little bit past California-cool and unflappable, into orbs-of-solid-brass. Even Angel would blink first if he had to tangle with Teyla, Gunn thought. He got to know her, too, and weirdly enough they weren't that different. Teyla had her people and she had her turf and she got fucking tired of being afraid so she stopped, and Gunn understood that. He didn't know if she was lonely. He couldn't tell, from the things she said or the things her friends said about her, if she had a Fred or a Wesley back home, or if she just went for a lot of long walks. He had trouble imagining her in a relationship; she was more the ass-kicking wandering holy woman type, like she was just on a break from her seven years of grueling mental and physical training on top of a mountain in this galaxy's equivalent of Tibet. He didn't see her making dinner and talking to some guy about where their relationship was headed, somehow.
Teyla was okay, too, even if her watchful silences sometimes gave Gunn the chills.
Even McKay was good people, in a Cordy Chase kind of way, although he couldn't possibly be as smart as he seemed to think he was. Gunn wished Fred were still alive, because watching ninety-six pounds of pot-smoking, Friends-loving, perky Southern girl reduce the size of grown men's penises by four inches in four sentences really was one of life's little joys.
Then he stopped, because no good ever came of wishing that. If McKay were a lawyer, Gunn could have fucked with his head on his own behalf, but unfortunately most of the scientific knowledge Gunn had was either quasi-mystical or so theoretical that he couldn't even tell what fit where. Maybe he did know something that they could use on Atlantis, but they'd probably have to sift through everything to get to it.
If he decided to go back with them, he might offer to let them do just that. It couldn't be a harder gig than baling hay.
The one he didn't really get to know was Ronon. When Teyla coaxed him back indoors that first night, he apologized gruffly but not insincerely and said, "I just didn't want anyone to tell you -- I'm not really good at talking about it. I was, and now I'm not, and -- that's it. Okay?"
"Yeah, man," Gunn said. "We're cool."
Ronon looked up from the floor, up through his eyelashes at Gunn, and oh shit, Gunn was a sucker for a guy with girl-pretty eyes like that; he hadn't been able to ignore Wesley's, and look how that turned out. Also, Ronon was big enough that "broken spine" was as weighty a potential issue as "broken heart," if everybody wasn't on exactly the same page.
But other than the fact that this thing called a Runner that Gunn sort of was, Ronon really really was, Gunn didn't know much about him. He insisted on establishing a perimeter around Gunn's house and patrolling it at night, even though there hadn't been a crime in Idris since somebody stole somebody else's hog in revenge for having their carrot garden snuffled up and sliding down the hill into the snap peas four years ago. He didn't talk much, but he let it be fairly clear that he thought most people were fools most of the time. He was roughly twelve feet tall, with caramel skin and hazel-green eyes and the motherfucking sexiest sidearm that Gunn had ever seen, if a surface-to-air missile could qualify as a sidearm just because a twelve-foot-tall man strapped it to his thigh. He probably had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he looked sort of lost and childlike when he was forced to quit patrolling and come inside with people, and he ate oatmeal with his fingers.
Gunn wanted to fuck him. Entire nerve endings he hadn't even known he had were now committed full-time to the business of wanting to be rubbed against Ronon's cock.
His Wolfram & Hart dreams started to feature bending Ronon over a half-million dollar conference table, gathering up his dreads in one hand and using his other hand to unbutton the fly on his Italian suit just enough to get his dick inside Ronon. He woke up soaked in sweat with his legs flung wide open, and it took him about six seconds of jerking off to come, muffling the noise into the crook of his other arm. As he laid there panting, he realized that there might be a Maserati in the next one, and if there was, he was going to have his first wet dream in fifteen years.
Other than that, though, he hardly knew Ronon at all.
What happens in Idris stays in Idris, at least when there's a blue moon -- otherwise, why would their beer be forty-proof? At least, it felt forty-proof.
There was a window open, and Gunn knew he should close the window, because this was a lesson in tolerating diversity that the kindly white folks maybe didn't need, but on the other hand everyone else was still in the town square, and anyway, fuck 'em for looking in other people's windows. The breeze was wet and sultry, coming off of the deep green forest rather than off of L.A.'s desert and traffic and neon, and Ronon had him flat on his back and sinking into his farm-fresh featherbed, all four of their arms tangled up in clothes that wouldn't come off. Just the weight of Ronon's tongue in his mouth was starting to make Gunn's jaw ache; well, it had been a good long while.
He pulled a hand loose and ran it over Ronon's cheek, trying to slow their kisses into something more decadent and less likely to have him shooting in his pants in the next two minutes. Ronon plucked his hand away, but then the held onto it, their fingers tangling together and falling deeper into the mattress. Ronon's other hand had finally found a way to significantly reduce the interference of Gunn's pants, and suddenly Gunn's cock was sliding against the smooth muscles of Ronon's stomach as he rubbed his whole body along Gunn's.
"Shit," Gunn gasped, fisting a handful of Ronon's dreads. "Stop, stop. Not so-- "
fast, but he couldn't get that out, not with Ronon sucking on his lower lip, the heel of his hand digging firmly into Gunn's palm and sending bizarrely sexual shocks down through his wrist and his arm.
He hadn't meant stop, not literally stop, but when Ronon stopped and knelt up over him, peeling off his sweater and then coaxing Gunn's pants down off his hips and exposing his stiff cock where it rested against his belly -- that wasn't so bad. He gave Gunn that look again, too-pretty eyes from under too-lacy eyelashes, his face both broad and delicate, smooth-skinned and hairy-rough, determined and shy. Just like Wes and nothing at all like Wes.
He set his hands carefully on the bare skin of Gunn's hips and said in a low voice, "Do you want more foreplay? I want to make you come in my mouth, but we can do something else first if you-- "
"No, that's cool," Gunn croaked. "We can do -- I like your plan."
Both sensations stroked over Gunn at the same time, the beard against the crook of his thigh, the tongue-tip against the base of his cock, two different kinds of burn coiling around each other. If Gunn had any pride left, he would have taken a hit to it, what with the grunting, begging noises that were coming out of his mouth and the way he was lifting his hips up and up in a spastic rhythm, like some punk kid with no play at all who thought it was all about getting his dick crammed into something warm and wet.
It was about a lot more than that, but that was a pretty good place to start.
But Ronon wouldn't open his mouth, wouldn't take him all the way down. He just kept licking, sucking, a delicate, devastating trail nibbled up Gunn's cock and back down, around his balls -- the short hairs running closest to his ass, which made him jump with a sudden overwhelming sense-memory of a million places, fingertip-wide and sensitive on a geological scale, places no one had touched him in more days than Gunn could count.
Suddenly it wasn't so much like he'd been going through a dry spell. It was more like someone had switched his blood with embalming fluid and he'd just now noticed that it wasn't supposed to feel this way. There was supposed to be something alive in his veins. Even vampires had blood inside them -- everybody but Gunn.
"Your mouth," he said roughly, "in your mouth. I want...."
Ronon sucked experimentally on the head of Gunn's cock, and when the feeling sent electric, buzzing pleasure through Gunn's body, he gripped Gunn by the ribs and held him steady until the current diffused, leached out into the atmosphere and leaving Gunn's body heavy and still like the eye of the storm. When he brought his mouth back down, Gunn didn't think he would ever move again.
He was moving well enough, though, when the door banged open and he heard voices outside his room -- one elbow braced on the drifting, uneven surface of the mattress, the other hand clinging to Ronon's shoulder as he let his hips glide in counter-rhythm to the steady rise and fall of Ronon's mouth. Once Gunn froze to listen to his guests out in the main room, he noticed that it was raining outside, an endless shh-shh-shh and distant thunder of a summer storm on the lush grass outside his window. That's why everyone was back so early.
"Stop," Gunn whispered. "They-- " Ronon shook his head without stopping, which put a corkscrewing motion into the friction that felt fucking amazing, and about six seconds later Gunn was pawing at Ronon's head and shoulder like he'd forgotten he had thumbs and coming in long, low rumbles of thunder, one after another.
Ronon slithered up his exhausted, static-crackling body, and Gunn found his thumbs again and held on while they kissed. They jumped apart at a knock on their door, and both of them licked instinctively at their own mouths for whatever traces of Gunn's come were still smeared between them. "What?" Gunn yelled. Ronon used his thumb to wipe a daub of it off of Gunn's chin, and then ran the back of his hand across his own mouth.
"We just...." Sheppard started, and then paused. "Okay, so...you made it back."
"Go away," Ronon called, and then flashed a sudden grin at Gunn that made him catch his breath with -- well, call it surprise. Surprise worked.
There was what sounded like a quick flurry of conference outside, and then Sheppard's voice again saying, "So...good, everyone's here. Okay. Just checking." Cali cool meets military manhood, Gunn thought with a certain amount of subversive pleasure. Aaaaaand, fight.
"Go. To bed. John," Ronon said, and Gunn redoubled his subversive pleasure by drawing a slow fingertip down Ronon's spine while he talked. Ronon's muscles tightened, his arms pressing in closer to Gunn's sides, and he smiled as he dropped his mouth down to the hollow of Gunn's collarbone, mouthing it through his homespun shirt.
"Goodnight," Sheppard said faintly.
"You know," Ronon said quietly when it sounded like the area immediately by the door had started to clear out, "I know he's my CO, and I do like working for him and everything, but sometimes, I don't really think he has a plan."
"A plan for what?" In fairness, Gunn didn't know how many people really did have a plan for this kind of situation.
"For anything. I think he just makes things up as he goes."
"I used to work for a guy like that," Gunn said.
"Did it work out?" Ronon asked with a little frown, like it was really important to him to know the answer.
Gunn looked up at the ceiling and considered that. "We did a lot of good," he finally said. "Coulda done more, maybe. Could damn sure have done less. I don't know, you work with what you got." He pushed Ronon's chest until he was kneeling up over him again and then reached for his pants. "Mind if I take a look at what you got?"
"I don't mind," he said.
Once or twice, Gunn thought he should suggest that Ronon keep his voice down, but on the other hand, Ronon was the one who had to live with these guys. Personally, Gunn had decided that he dug the way Ronon's voice went gravelly when he said, yeah, that's good, yeah, that's good, yeah, that's perfect along with the rhythm of Gunn's hand.
After, Gunn couldn't seem to stop kissing him; Fred could never stop talking long enough to get serious about kissing, and it used to make Wes uncomfortable for some reason, and it made casual hook-ups feel stalked, so Gunn hadn't had a lot of chances in his life to sink into bed and just kiss the hell out of somebody. Daitha had been good on that score -- the upside to dating virgins -- but Gunn was certainly in a position to appreciate the best-of-both-worlds thing he had going on here with Ronon.
They'd been kissing so long that Ronon had that sloppy drunk tone in his voice when he pulled his mouth away and said, "You like Sheppard?"
"Huh?" Gunn said. "Well...yeah. What I know of him. Why?"
"All of them?" Ronon pressed on, letting his warm hand drift slowly down Gunn's arm. "I know they're not -- they're not your friends, but your friends are all dead now, and.... Well, they're good people. People you can count on."
"Never said they weren't. What's-- "
Ronon threaded his words in between soft, deconstructed kisses along Gunn's face. "I won't stay," he said slowly. "I can't. I...can't."
Gunn thought about that a minute. "Where you headed?"
"Don't know. Mainland, probably -- where the Athosians -- where Teyla's people live. I couldn't live somewhere like this -- too soft. The Athosians are strong. I think I could be.... They'd probably...." He fingered the clean plane of Gunn's skull and said, "I served five years in the Infantry. Seven years as a Runner. And I don't...I don't belong.... I never really -- understood them. You're brave, you're experienced, you're...from where they're from. You'd be good. You might be happy. It's better than being alone, isn't it?"
"Is it?" Alone wasn't so bad. Country quiet was nice, after a certain period of adjustment. He was beginning to understand why the constant noise always made Angel cranky.
"Don't you want a new team?" Ronon said, half-puzzled and half-cajoling. "They're a good team," he said, with a slight roughness in his throat. "They work."
They work. Had his old -- team -- his old friends -- Had they ever worked, or had they just managed? Fred, who smiled and smiled but never quite lost that boiling behind her eyes, her memories, the afterburn of her madness. Cordy, who wanted to be all those things that she never quite pulled off. Wes -- God, what a basket case he was, and Gunn could never have loved him enough to fix him, but that didn't mean he didn't still feel the guilt.
And Angel, always a half-step out of touch with the world around him, always just that little bit the blind leading the blind. Angel, who could change his name and his hair and his accent, but who could never really have belonged to any world but his own. Vampires could fake it, but they couldn't age. Angel's mission, Angel's quest, Angel's best-laid plans -- had they ever really...worked?
"They're your friends," Gunn said.
Ronon shifted Gunn closer and rested his cheek against the top of Gunn's head. "I'm tired," he said, and Gunn could almost feel the words vibrating in Ronon's chest more than he could hear them. "I don't want to fail them because I'm...tired."
"Summer camp," Gunn murmured, mostly for himself. "Does a world of good for us at-risk types. Little time to yourself, little nature, little self-examination."
"That's all I want," Ronon said. "Maybe not forever. I just.... We went to the beach one time. All four of us. It was good just to look at.... I think if I had more time to look, maybe.... It's not far from the city, by Puddlejumper. It's not like I could never see any of them again."
"Maybe they don't want me," Gunn said. "Have you even talked to Sheppard about this?"
"You're the kind of person they'd like," Ronon said. "Sheppard won't like it at first; he's stubborn. But he won't take it out on you. He'll be glad, once he gets used to the idea."
Gunn had never really pictured himself in uniform before -- but then, they didn't make Ronon wear it, so maybe he could get out of that part, too. He wasn't sure when he'd even started considering this seriously, except that--
Except that nobody could ever step in and take Angel's place, not for a week or a year or for a lifetime, and that had always seemed wrong to Gunn. He moved and moved and moved, and he could never catch up. And then he died. Gunn didn't remember if he'd even -- the last time he'd called Angel a friend. They had so many ups and downs, and then in the direst of circumstances, they'd been -- separated. And he missed Angel. Not in the same way he missed Fred and Wes, but slower and steadier and probably forever.
Nobody had ever been able to cut Angel a break, never at all -- it was go for broke, all the time, win or die. And he died.
Gunn draped a friendly hand over the back of Ronon's neck and squeezed. "How far by Puddlejumper?" he asked.
"Three hours, plus a little. Why?"
"Maybe I'll stop by the beach and visit. You know, where I come from, there's a lot of beaches, but I never spent that much time there."
"You could visit," Ronon said, giving Gunn a soft smile and a softer kiss. "You could visit whenever."