Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Pairing/Characters: Ronon Dex, Team
Disclaimer: In no way do I own anything related to Stargate. Sadly.
Author's Note: Takes place during/after the season 3 episode "The Ark" (wherein Sheppard flies a rock).
Summary: For the first time in years, Ronon felt the need to reach out and touch another person simply for the comfort of touch, because he was afraid.
Word Count: 1,145
He and McKay stood together in the puddlejumper, waiting for word. For the first time in years, Ronon felt the need to reach out to another person simply for the comfort of touch, because he was afraid, because he knew McKay was afraid, and a hand on a shoulder or foreheads pressed together would have anchored them both. Half their world was on that deathtrap of a shuttle, threatening to burn up in the atmosphere of an uninhabited world and leave the other half behind.
Sheppard didn't leave men behind, not when he could help it, and Ronon would not have believed Sheppard capable of this particular abandonment had he not heard a similar story from before he arrived from McKay's own lips, one drunken team night after Sheppard had succumbed to sleep, his head in Teyla's lap. "So long, Rodney," he said, in a terrible impression of Sheppard, bitterness dripping from his voice. Teyla had reached out and squeezed Rodney's hand. At the time Ronon was grateful simply that this man hadn't died before finding him, but now Ronon understood McKay's terror. Two of the people he loved best were on fire before his eyes, and if they went down he didn't think he had it in him to survive the death of his new home so soon after he found it. From McKay's whimpering, the physicist was in complete agreement.
When Sheppard didn't answer for long seconds, only the presence of Carson and Lorne's team kept Ronon from reaching for McKay. A year and a half on Atlantis had taught him enough about the Earther's taboos to know that such a gesture would be taken badly by all concerned.
Though the tension in the puddlejumper drained significantly once Sheppard answered his radio, Ronon still felt the itch to reach out, to touch, under his skin. He felt it as they pulled Sheppard out of the shuttle, as Rodney fiddled with the device until it began disgorging people, he felt it strongly when Teyla came out of the machine, alive and whole and smiling. At one point when everyone else was occupied, Teyla pulled him aside and arched her eyebrows at him until he leaned down to touch foreheads with her. He noticed she did the same for Sheppard and McKay, when the time was right.
It eased some of the jumpiness in his skin, but not all of it, and when an exhausted McKay ended up sitting next to him instead of in the jumper's copilot seat, Ronon restrained himself from reaching out only by feigning bored slumber.
He stuck closer than usual to the egotistical physicist during debriefing, and found himself wandering by the labs, unable to walk away until he heard McKay's voice raised in argument. He checked in on Teyla, who bore his strange need to touch her arm and her hair with equanimity, and sparred with Sheppard before dinner, every blow reminding him that Sheppard was still here, not ashes in an alien atmosphere. When he wandered by the labs one last time before he would have to make himself sleep, they were quiet.
At last, Ronon couldn't help it. He poked his head in and, ascertaining that only McKay haunted them so late, paced back to Rodney's work space.
"McKay," he said.
Rodney shot into the air like someone had shot him in the ass--again.
"God! What the hell are you doing here, Conan?" McKay demanded, spinning around in his chair and clutching one hand to his chest. "Some of us are trying to stretch the boundaries of modern physics in peace, here."
Faced with the prickly reality of McKay, Ronon was at a loss as to how to proceed. With Teyla and Sheppard he had rituals, he knew where he stood with them and what behavior they'd permit after a life-threatening mission. Outside of a jumper where they watched and hoped their team wouldn't die, he and McKay didn't interact much. Some training (not much), team night, the mess--
Ronon leaned over and looked at McKay's computer screen. Earth tech was a little beyond what Sateda had developed, but not much, and he could tell McKay wouldn't lose anything too important if he wandered off.
"Come on, McKay," he said.
"What?" Rodney demanded, petulant and slant-mouthed like he always was when he was sad and tired.
"Food," Ronon insisted. In a stroke of brilliance, he flashed back to the mission several weeks ago, when Sheppard had grabbed McKay by his vest and pulled him along.
Lacking a vest to grab, Ronon bodily turned Rodney toward the lab door and gave him a push in the center of his back. Rodney's shirt was stuck to his skin in the pattern of the chair back, and he radiated heat. Grumbling and grunting, McKay went, heading for the mess with Ronon a step behind him.
Ronon had already eaten, but that had never stopped him before, and he and McKay ate in the relative silence of McKay muttering to himself. Ronon let it wash over him.
When Rodney finished he lingered, unusual for the brusque man. Ronon let him, for about a minute, before he kicked McKay's shins under the table.
"Hey!" Rodney protested.
"Go sleep," Ronon ordered. Scientist wrangling usually fell to Sheppard, but tonight this felt right.
McKay sighed and nodded. "I should. My eyes are starting to cross. Hah! Vintage 1967, right, if I can just figure out how they integrated Wraith storage devices into their tech I should be able to integrate it with ours, and how useful would beaming tech be for the jumpers? No more waiting for the Daedalus to arrive and save the day. Miniature hyperdrives would be even better but there's no sense wasting new tech while we've got it."
Two sentences in, Ronon decided that waiting for McKay to stop talking would be futile. He left their trays on the table and grabbed McKay's hand, hauling him to his feet. A hand on his shoulder steered a distracted McKay out of the mess hall.
Something inside Ronon snapped back into place, and he felt the strange, itching urge to touch and reassure ease entirely as he steered Rodney back to his quarters. Rodney was still gesturing about--something--when Ronon waved his door open and pushed him inside.
"Sleep, McKay," he said.
". . . and then I could--Oh," Rodney said, wide-eyed, as if noticing where he was for the first time. "Yes. Thank you. Good night."
The door shushed shut between them, and Ronon stretched his shoulders and arms out as he made his way back to his own room. Ghostly impressions of Teyla's forehead against his, Sheppard's kick on his forearms, and Rodney's shoulder under his hand lingered, and Ronon slept that night with his team writ on his body as well as his heart.