liviapenn requested Fourteen Years, seven more years in the future.
The fourteenth year he was on Atlantis, the project was declassified, and Ronon was summoned to testify before John’s government. It was the first time he’d been to Earth without going to a beach.
It was snowing in Washington, and his bad knee ached from the time he stepped off the plane; even a long, hot shower at the hotel didn’t do much to help, and he had to pretend to be too tired for sex so that John wouldn’t notice he couldn’t bend it more than thirty degrees without wincing. By morning there was an inch of snow on the ground, but not much else had changed. The protesters were still outside, and the Marines, and the cameras.
What else are they lying to us about? someone was shouting way down on the ground, hollow and distorted through a bullhorn, and John reached under Ronon’s arm and pulled the window shut.
“Don’t think about all that,” he said shortly. “We haven’t done anything wrong.”
He hardly ever saw John in his dress uniform; it made a nice distraction. He ran his thumb over one of the intricately imprinted buttons on John’s chest. John smiled faintly, then started unknotting Ronon’s tie. “Who taught you how to do this?” he said. “Or tried to.”
“It’s harder than it looks,” Ronon said. “What if they ask– “
“What if they ask what?” John prompted after a minute. “Come on. What if they ask what?”
“You said we had enemies here.”
John’s mouth drew into a tense line, but he shrugged like none of it mattered. “More like – our friends have enemies. Believe me, nobody in this town gives a damn about us, per se. They’ll spend a few days scoring points off each other and trying to get on tv, that’s it.”
“They’re using us.” That wasn’t entirely new. It was all just happening so much...louder, this time.
John finished retying his tie. “We’ll be home in a few days,” he said quietly.
“If they ask about you and me....”
“They won’t, but if they did, all you’d have to do was answer. It’s perfectly legal.”
“It wasn’t when we started.”
“What, ten fucking years ago?” John seemed amused. “There’s got to be some kind of statute of limitations on conduct unbecoming.”
“I used to rob people. Before – before you met me.”
“Listen to me,” John said, holding Ronon by one shoulder. “You are not on trial. You are a contract employee of the United States Air Force, which recognizes you as an expert on the Wraith. You also happen to be the beneficiary of my life insurance, you’re the executor of my will, and some Senate aide somewhere booked us in the same hotel room, so it’s probably a little late to decide we’re in the closet. Quit looking for things to worry about.”
And he was, he was doing exactly that. Everything was just so strange and tense and undecided, and Ronon couldn’t stand not knowing how to protect his people.
Two Marines knocked on the door and got an all-clear before opening the door to let everyone else into the room, and Ronon looked jealously at their weapons. They weren’t even the ones who were about to face the ruling cabal of a strange planet, the extent of whose powers they didn’t exactly know and full of internal rivalries they didn’t understand, and they were allowed to be armed. It was totally unfair.
“Pickup, pickup,” Becca said immediately, and Ronon did pick her up, in spite of his knee, because if she turned out to be anything like Tegan, it wouldn’t be too many years before she’d decide she was too old to play Giant Tree with Ronon anymore, and he wasn’t dumb enough to ask, but he was pretty sure Teyla was too old now to have any more babies, so this was it.
“I don’t even know why I have to go to this,” Tegan said peevishly, without looking up from her video game.
“It is a very significant moment in Earth’s history,” her father said mildly.
“I don’t care,” she said. “I’m not from Earth.”
“Someday,” Indion continued to insist, “you will appreciate the opportunity– “
“You have to go to this because I said so,” Teyla said.
“Oh, stop whining,” McKay said. “At least you get to bring along a toy; I have to pretend I’m paying attention. Adulthood is almost completely overrated, but do you appreciate the years you have to be selfish and irresponsible without social opprobrium? No, you don’t.”
“I’m not listening to you,” Tegan said peevishly. She and McKay had had some kind of fight on the plane over cupcakes, and apparently he wasn’t forgiven yet.
“Tegan. Manners,” Teyla said.
She rolled her eyes and said, “It’s not manners, it’s just Uncle Rodney,” which frankly made perfect sense to Ronon, but Teyla didn’t seem to be buying it.
“Uncle Rodney stole the cupcake,” Becca said in what she seemed to think was a conspiratorial whisper in John’s direction.
“Yeah, well,” John said. “Uncle Rodney has a real way with the ladies.”
“She said the first one was gross!” Rodney objected loudly. “She only got two because she’s little and cute, and she didn’t even want– And what is that supposed to – that’s rich, Colonel, coming from you, that’s – I happen to have a date tonight, I will have you know!”
“But how is that possible?” Indion said. “We have only been in Cheyenne Mountain and in this hotel since we arrived, and you were sitting beside me on the plane.....”
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” John groaned. “You didn’t.”
“I did, and she said yes, so– “
“So it hasn’t worked out for, what, twenty years now, but this time is different?”
“Well, she said yes,” McKay said, sounding unusually rational, for McKay. “So it’s different so far.”
“Isn’t she a widow?” Ronon said.
“I’m not picking her up at the wake. It’s been two and a half years!”
Teyla, who had a knack for noticing what McKay left out of his explanations, said, “Is Colonel Carter aware that you regard this as a romantic opportunity, or does she believe she is having dinner with a friend?”
“Well, I think it was – I think it was obvious. I mean – it would be obvious – wouldn’t it?” Teyla gave an eloquent little shrug. “It was perfectly obvious! Stop doing that. You’re all just trying to sabotage my confidence because you get some kind of endless, sadistic amusement out of my romantic tribulations, which frankly, I think casts a somewhat unflattering light on your own allegedly blissful relationships.”
“Of course we wish you all the luck in the world, Rodney,” Indion said, clasping his shoulder. “Sometimes the paths of two lives can cross many times before both are prepared to take a chance on each other.”
“Yeah,” John said, “some women just want to take fifteen or twenty years to get to know you before they, you know, jump into anything. I definitely wouldn’t read too much into the first hundred and forty times she turned you down, if I were you.”
“Do you think we should call the restaurant and change our reservation to six?” Teyla said, mostly by way of deflecting McKay’s response to that.
“Well – four, actually,” John said. “I actually got – there’s this place in Maryland, it’s a little drive, but I read it was really – nice. And I didn’t even think we’d be able to get in, but when I called – yeah, I forgot about how I’m sort of a celebrity now, so I’ve got this table at nine. So I guess, I’m thinking Ronon and I won’t....”
“No!” Becca said, tightening her arm around Ronon’s neck. “Come with us for fortune cookies.”
“I like Chinese,” Ronon said.
John gave him an odd look, frustrated and confused, and it was weird, because John practically never had any opinions about what to eat for dinner, as long as he didn’t have to kill it himself. “You like seafood, too,” he said. “I thought it would just – all the stress lately, and – just to have, you know, a nice dinner.”
“What they’re having won’t be nice?”
“Oh, for the love of God!” McKay said. “How can you possibly not know this? When Colonel Sheppard says ‘nice,’ he doesn’t mean ‘nice’ as in he saw the place on the Food Network and he can hardly wait to try the scampi. He means romantic, but his jaw will actually shatter into twenty million pieces should that word ever actually pass his lips, so he says ‘nice’ as in he called this snobby bistro and had them put candlelight and wine on some balcony table with an ocean view so that maybe you’ll stop acting paranoid for one night and actually enjoy at least one part of this whole idiotic trip.”
“Thanks, Rodney,” John said grimly. “What would I do without your help?”
“Well, tonight you’d be eating mu shu pork and coloring on the kid’s menu, while I was off having a romantic evening with a beautiful woman,” McKay said, even though Ronon was pretty sure the question was, at best, rhetorical. “But I definitely wouldn’t read too much into that, if I were you. Just because I have access to a much fuller and more versatile range of human emotions doesn’t mean I’m the better man, per se, it only means– “
Ronon punched McKay’s arm and said, “Come on, the better man? We already know you don’t know a good man when you see one.”
“Ow,” he said sourly, rubbing his arm. “Yes, well. Lucky for you.”
One of a whole lot of things that had turned out lucky for Ronon.