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John has learned many, many things from his time in the USAF. He has learned how to create hand signals that will be understood in the heat of the moment, and how to make a Power Bar last three days. He has learned how to make things that are his ideas seem like his superior's ideas, and he has learned how to look his equals in the eye.

Most of all, he has learned that submission is not what makes a person weak. Rather, it is the inability to realize when submission to another is necessary that makes people weak.

Of course, John has never run into the conundrum of needing to give himself over to a subordinate. That's something they just didn't go over in Air Force Academy. Nor had he picked it up in the barrens of Afghanistan.

The Pegasus Galaxy was a very lonely place sometimes.

The only comfort is that John thinks Ronon might be as at odd with the notion as John himself. Ronon has learned many similiar things to John, and many, many different things in the seven years that he was cut loose, responsible only to the road ahead of him.

It's the seven years that alter things irrevocably. John says to himself he would take them away if he could, throw them away, but then Ronon wouldn't be Ronon. John knows he is lying.

Thankfully, John has also learned to pretend, to not ask and to not tell, and so things are able to maintain status quo, where John gives orders and Ronon listens and they only touch when absolutely necessary. It is agonizing, but safely agonizing, and for all that John enjoys that trip through the 'gate, safety is nice every once in a while.

It is also uncertain, and sure to come to an end. It does in one long, drawn out series of moments. John mostly remembers the pain and the theywillcometheywillcometheywillcome that was his world. He remembers the sharp snap of air once he and the Wraith had made it above ground, and he remembers the feel of Ronon's hand as he gave his gun over.

John thought, in that moment, he's telling you what to do, and that was nearly enough to betray the creature who had given John the only thing nobody else in the world could give him. Only it wasn't enough. And John was still the commanding officer, despite his somewhat damsel-in-distress-like role at the time.

They come back, Ronon standing guard over him the whole time, his fear only palpable because John has seen him hold a knife to his own neck, has seen him threaten the world with violence and bloodshed if it will not see John unto safety.

They come back and Ronon says, "He is Wraith," the disgust and confusion clear in his voice.

John wonders if maybe he betrayed the wrong ally. "And I am human."

Ronon growls, but it is controlled sound. "He was a tool of torture."

John winces at that. "I think I was, too."

"No," Ronon says. It isn't a logical response to John's statement, just pure, gut-based denial.

John says, "Thanks for coming."

Ronon walks just far enough away to allow for him to make sure that nobody gets near John without losing the flair of a dramatic, frustrated exit.


John doesn't go to Ronon's quarters because if this is to work, it won't begin like that.

Of course, John isn't entirely sure that Ronon will read things the way he has, or will choose to act, or will know how to navigate the currents of USAF policy. Leaving it up to him is risky.

John takes the risk. There are some few worth the possible return.

Ronon is worth the possible consequences.

John waits. He eats and sleeps and goes on missions and waits.

It takes six days, two basic recon missions, and a small laceration on John's cheek--mostly his fault, he's still getting used to the rather foreign nature of vegetation in the Pegasus--for Ronon to show up at his door. Ronon comes in once John has opened the room to him.

He sits on the bed and says, "You are my commanding officer."

"Yes. When we are out there, yes."

"On Sateda-"

But Sateda is a husk of a planet, nothing but life support and ruins left to it. And the American Military is a lifestyle, not one's life. It took John a long time to separate those two out.

John says, not unkindly, "You live on Atlantis."

Ronon glances at him from the corner of his eye. "So do you."

John knows. Ronon may think that he strains for a home Ronon has never seen, most likely never will, but John hasn't needed to touch the pavement of Los Angeles, the snowdrifts of Antarctica since Atlantis rose above the surface of the ocean. Maybe before.

Ronon presses his thumb to the spot where the tree got the better of John. It hurts, but John doesn't pull away. Ronon says, "This is-"

John doesn't finish the thought for him. It is Ronon's sentence to finish.

Ronon brings his hand up to curve around John's head, his thumb still holding tight against the butterfly bandages carefully applied by Carson. He nods, and slides his lips over John's, and John gets that this is the way the sentence ends.


It's easy in the way that things are Atlantis are easy, after that. Easy in that it is perfect, but probably a bad idea.

John has had lots of bad ideas in his life. Most of them have gotten him in trouble. He hasn't learned to stop acting on them. Now, with Ronon pinning his hand behind his back, muttering, "Still," John knows that this isn't the moment when the lesson will sink in.

John stills.

Ronon takes John with his hand first. He is slow about it. Neither methodical nor gentle, and John writhes until Ronon reminds him to, "Still," with a heated breath.

John is not as bad at following orders as everyone makes him out to be.

Ronon pushes John further into the bed, applying pressure to his wrists and enters him. There's barely time for John to think before Ronon's in, the mass of his chest overwhelming against John's back. John can barely breathe, but that seems unimportant for the moment.

Ronon's rhythm is sharp and short. It's all John can do just to stay there, just to keep still, just to allow him everything. He manages to gasp, "Please-"

Ronon drives in with particular intensity, and John's cock, cocooned between his body and his once-neatly-made bed gives uo the fight. Above him Ronon is relentless, and John holds on without his hands, keeps himself still.


After Afghanistan John couldn't even so much as touch himself. The feel of his hand swiping against his cock, even for something so innocent as to clean it was accompanied by the smell of burnt flesh and the sound of his superiors dressing him down.

John wanted to ask, "Haven't I been punished enough?" but he'd no longer been seven, and his emotional distress was not enough payment in return for getting put in the corner by the military.

Antarctica was the Air Force's equivalent of sending him to bed without dinner, but like a teenager with a TV in his room, John hadn't minded so much. At least when he walked out to the chopper in the morning everything smelt cold, clean, and John hadn't heard one scream since he'd arrived.

Cold or not, John wasn't able to touch himself until he'd gotten to Atlantis. Sometimes he wants to thank General O'Neill, but there is no good way to say, "Thanks for saving my auto-erotic moments," to his professional superior. He promises to save the General's ass if he's ever around for some sort of big, Wraith, end-of-the-year blow-out. That will have to do.

Once, just once, after a mission where things went--unsurprisingly--wrong, and the fire from the P-90s had set the grass around the team to burning even as they'd raced toward the gate, Ronon had recoiled from an accidental touch in the commisary. John asked, low and certain, "You smell it, too?"

Ronon blinked, and in that single motion of his eyelids was a wall of fire, bursting forth. John couldn't tell its origin--although he could guess at it. Ronon said, "Melena."

John said, "Andrew."

Ronon kept moving down the line.


They shouldn't, oh John knows they shouldn't, but they run toward the lower end of the city's East side, the pier where nobody has gone since the scientists discovered a low level EMP emanating from somewhere that nobody can pin down. The balcony is open and empty, close enough to the water that it splashes up over their boots when Ronon presses John's belly into the railing.

There's hesitation on Ronon's part and John gets that what he's waiting for is, "Yes."

"Shouldn't" for the moment, seems foreign, with the alien sea lapping at his feet, the scent of salt still different even after two years.

The salt in the breeze also sticks to the railing, driving into John's hands, even more so as Ronon's curve over his, depressing them further into the bar. John repeats, "Yes," and Ronon comes through, solid and whole behind him.

John rocks back to meet Ronon, moving in time with the city that doesn't move, not really, only under his skin, in his blood.

He can hear Ronon inhale even over the rush of the tide.


Two days later John can still smell the damp cool of the metal that makes up Atlantis any time he gets near Ronon. It is reassuring, even if it makes it hard for him not to reach out and swipe his palm across the back of Ronon's neck.

Teyla catches John looking at Ronon and smiles her I-know-something smile. John smiles back. He should feel terrified, would if it were Lorne or Stackhouse, but Lorne or Stackhouse wouldn't smile. The rules here are different, even if they read the same.

When John tells Ronon, "I think Teyla knows," Ronon looks at him like he's a moron and says, "Were you hit on the head?"

Not that John can recall, but then, he seems to lose not only time but actual reality when Ronon pulls him over the edge, the slide so easy and free John's not entirely sure he would notice if he were pulled in to the express matter of the event horizon.

"Does it matter?" Ronon asks, and there's something in his voice that makes John think it does, but not in the ways John would have suspected.

"It's a secret," John says, because it's the only truth he has.

"We all know that."

John falters. "All?"

"At least McKay calls us stupid to our faces."

John frowns. "I don't think you're stupid."

"You just don't trust us."

"Do you?"

"I at least try."

John says, "I knew you'd come. I knew you'd get me back from Kolya."

Ronon says, "Huh."


John has never liked coffee all that much, it makes him feel stretched and dry, shaky and brittle on the inside. Ronon has developed an affinity for it, however, the darker the better. John wonders if the bitterness is comforting.

It doesn't taste bitter on Ronon's lips. It tastes warm and earthy, like the smell would suggest.

At one point, John says, "You've been hitting the java pretty hard."

Ronon says, "It annoys McKay. He gets all freaked about his supply."

John says, "You realize, the happier he is, the happier we are?"

"There are still times when I just can't stop myself."

John smiles at that. His boyfriend, as it turns out, is mischeivous and irrepressible. John wouldn't have imagined finding that under the layers of dirt and mistrust and ever-continuing motion. "Well, all right, but if you start squirreling the chocolate, you'd best be letting me in on that."

Ronon raises an eyebrow. "That an order?"

"Need me to make it one?"

"Chocolate," Ronon says.

"Fine," John whines, "it's an order." His boyfriend is also not very nice to him. That discovery is less surprising.

"Yes, sir."

John bites his lip at the irony.

"Sure you don't want any coffee?"

John only wants it one way.


In basic training, John broke his clavicle. It went down as an accident, and John didn't argue because basic was the first step to off the ground, a prelude to real flight, and if they kicked him out, he would never touch the sky.

It wasn't an accident. John's CO hadn't liked his attitude.

Before the clavicle thing the dislike was just frustrating because it was more push-ups and more standing out in the rain and more being told he was incompentent, and to be honest, John wasn't entirely sure what he had done to get under the CO's skin. He said "sir, yes sir," as loudly and quickly as the other guys did, and made his bed as neatly, and didn't ever ever backtalk.

Some of the guys thought it was his hair. This was as good an explanation as any that anyone ever managed to conjure.

When John fights with Elizabeth, his clavicle hurts, a deep, aching pain that he knows isn't real, but feels very much that way. Sometimes it's all he can do not to press a palm to the place of the original fracture, check to see that everything's aligning correctly.

He tries not to fight with her very often, but there are times when everything he's learned tells him that he's right and its her life on the line. Her and the city, and all those things they sent John here for, trusting him to protect.

Ronon has figured out that John doesn't like these sites of conflict, although Ronon seems to feel that it simply goes against John's military training. John, who pretty much decided that a broken clavicle was worth the price of retaining one's selfhood, has always ridden against that current.

Still, John lets him believe that until the day Ronon places a hand on John's shoulder in mute comfort and John, not suspecting the move, gasps at the contact. Ronon's hand trembles slightly but does not move. "John?"

John shakes his head, but Ronon doesn't move his head and eventually he has to say, "She's a good commanding officer."

And Ronon, who has watched his fellow soldiers die, who has himself been betrayed unto death by his commanding officer says, "That doesn't make her infallible."

After a long silence, John says, "She fights with words."

"Dangerous," Ronon agrees.

Without realizing he's doing it, John rubs along the thin cord of his clavicle. Ronon watches. "Did you hurt yourself?"

John shakes his head. "It was nothing. An accident."

Ronon says, "Pain's the same, intentional or no."

John doesn't know how to tell him it's not. John thinks he knows, like he does sometimes when he says other things because they sound easier said aloud. John just says, "Not- not really."

"Oh," Ronon says, and, "she fights with words."

John nods.


It's days after John's fight with Elizabeth when he and Ronon have time to run far enough that there will be nobody behind them when they stop. Only then can Ronon press the butt of his palm between John's shoulderblades, run his tongue from the dip of John's neck over the hard ridge of bone up to his shoulder.

John says, "It doesn't hurt anymore."

Ronon says, "Uh huh," the sound thick and knowing against John's skin.

Since it will always hurt a little, particularly when poked, John quiets and lets Ronon have his way. Arguing is the last thing he wants to do at this moment, and Ronon is very, very careful with him, almost insultingly so.

John can handle Ronon's insults.

Ronon brings both his hands to John's shoulders, presses so that there is a twinge of pain, not real, still not real, but hurtful all the same, and he says, "You're a good commanding officer."

John wants to tell Ronon he's gotten that memo, only it's nice hearing this man who has no reason to believe say aloud. It's nice, and the remembrance of pain flees. John loosens under Ronon's hands.

Ronon says, "Okay," and folds to his knees without a hint of submission.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile