Rating: PG-15, Gen (except, you know, Melena and Ronon are married, so...), AU.
Summary: Sheppard's second year or so on Sateda. Sequel to To the Wide Outposts. In the Where the Ways Divide'verse, though I think it stands its own, too.
Word Count: ~ 12,000
Disclaimer: Not mine. A few lines come directly from the show and are even less mine than usual.
Author's Note: Feedback is Delicious. Title from here.
Ronon Dex’s entire squad ends up in the hospital for nearly a week after their surprise battle with the Wraith on what was supposed to be a simple trade mission. The only person who really needs to stay there that long is the Runner, who took a beating the scrawny little guy probably shouldn’t have survived. Satedans are made of sturdier stuff, and also none of them started a fistfight with a Wraith. Sheppard stays in the hospital the longest.
Now, normally, Ronon has a foolproof plan for getting released before the doctors say he can go. He just points out to some low-level orderly or nursing assistant that his name is the same as the doctor who’s treating him, so of course he can leave. The trick is to do this when Melena’s not actually on-call, so no one can ask her. And when she gets home and is irritated – although at this point no longer surprised – to find him sacked out in their bed instead of a hospital gurney, she’s not going to send him back unless he’s bleeding to death. She wants him home just as much as he wants to not be in the hospital any more, and the part where she threatens to have him chained to his gurney next time isn’t very sincere. Although, now he knows she’s not totally joking because that’s not a far cry from what she did to John Sheppard to keep him in his gurney.
Except that Sheppard deserves it because he ruins Ronon’s escape route this time and keeps them both in the stupid, boring, smelly hospital for way longer than necessary.
Sheppard doesn’t like hospitals any more than Ronon does. Not for the same reasons, though. Ronon just gets bored and restless immediately and doesn’t see the point of staying in one when he can go home and lie around in pain just as effectively in his own bed. With his wife, the doctor, who will probably keep him from dying if he pops a particularly important stitch holding his guts together.
Ronon hazards a guess that the reason Sheppard hates the hospital so much is all the time he spent here when he first arrived on Sateda. It makes sense and Sheppard probably doesn’t like thinking about back then.
That’s Ronon’s opinion and not what Sheppard actually has to say.
“Even your hospitals are like bondage dungeons,” the Runner snaps at him, trying futilely to get the cardiac monitor off of his chest. “Seriously.” After one night and one day, he’s expressed this one opinion about fourteen times without explaining how it’s different from a typical dungeon.
Across the room in his own gurney, not actually tied to anything except an IV full of happy juice, Ronon just ignores him. The more Sheppard fights, the more the med staff is going to make him miserable. That’s gotta be true about every culture’s doctors.
Ronon opens his mouth to ask, but pauses and then doesn’t. Sheppard will share if and when he wants to.
“Hey, Nurse Ratchet,” Sheppard calls to someone passing the door in the hallway. A junior nurse walks in, but Ronon knows that isn’t her name.
She peers at Sheppard, clearly recognizing the handiwork of her colleagues designed to keep him in bed and in place, and raises an eyebrow.
“Please?” is all Sheppard says, wiggling as much as he can. When she doesn’t react, he tries another tactic. “Look,” he begins. “I live with a doctor. Melena Dex. She said I could go home.”
Ronon hears that lie and sits up so sharply his abused stomach muscles start screaming in pain.
Unfortunately, it’s too late, because the junior nurse is already using the staff transceiver on her belt to call Melena and Sheppard has just ruined everything.
“Idiot,” Ronon hisses at Sheppard, who just looks at him innocently.
“What?” Sheppard demands. Ronon shakes his head. If the guy weren’t being held together with sutures and stubbornness, he’d whack him one.
Melena arrives minutes later and she immediately looks amused.
“This one yours?” the junior nurse asks.
Melena nods. “Yeah,” she says. “He’s mine. Hi, John.”
“Yo,” Sheppard mutters, chin up petulantly as he leans back against his pillow.
“He’s not going anywhere,” Melena tells the junior nurse, who nods knowingly. “Oh,” Melena continues, jerking a thumb towards Ronon’s gurney, as half of her mouth curls upwards. “That one’s mine, too. And he’s not going anywhere, either.”
Ronon can’t control the scowl that crosses his face.
“I’ll make sure the ward staff know,” the junior nurse promises.
“Thanks,” says Melena. She follows the woman out of their room without another word to either man, eyes sparkling in way that means she finds this hilarious.
Ronon waits until he can no longer hear their footsteps clicking against the floor. Then, not caring how much it makes his back and shoulder throb, Ronon leans forward, jerks his pillow out from behind his head, and hurls it hard at Sheppard. His aim is true and it lands solidly across Sheppard’s neck and chest.
For a second, Sheppard is silent. Then, he actually moans and it sounds like genuine pain. “Owww.”
“Shut up,” Ronon says, slouching back down on the bed.
Ronon still gets out of the hospital sooner than Sheppard. He doesn’t even have to use husbandly persuasion, because Kell wants him at a debriefing with the chieftain on how a peaceful trade mission ended in a full blown confrontation with the Wraith and unauthorized detonation of an isotopic pulse cannon missile.
Abruptly, staying in the stupid hospital is almost appealing. Except it’s still boring and pointless and now he doesn’t have a pillow, because Sheppard won’t give his back.
The debriefing is just as dumb as Ronon expects. Kell clearly doesn’t want to be there any more than Ronon does. The great old bearded chieftain and his counselors ask pointless questions and Ronon answers them, more or less honestly. The rest of his squad, minus Sheppard, sits around the table silently and looks bored and a little uncomfortable.
Ronon doesn’t think it’s hard to understand: it became a combat mission because the Wraith showed up. Fortunately, no one asks him why the Wraith were there. The word “Wraith-bringer” doesn’t come up.
Also, no one will explain to him why they brought an isotopic pulse cannon missile along on the mission if they’re not allowed to use it without permission. They were going to give it to villagers who more than likely would have tied a goat to it rather than actually figure out how to use it. Ara blew a Hive out of the sky and Ronon doesn’t see how that could be a bad thing. He half-wonders if Ara just took it from the armory because she wanted to, but he’s not going to accuse her of that in front of the chieftain.
Eventually, Ronon figures out that the chieftain is concerned that somehow, someone on that planet is going to go tell the Wraith that the people with the weapons capable of taking out Hive ships are Satedans.
“We destroyed the Hive,” he says, very clearly. “There’s no one to tell.”
The villagers were also a little distracted, but he’s not going to mention that. Or else Kell is going to want to know what in the hell was going to make them focus on anything but five Satedan soldiers battling the Wraith.
“The Runner you picked up last year,” the chieftain says, finally. “He knows about the weapon.”
Ronon isn’t sure Sheppard does, actually. “He was severely injured before we used it,” he says, which is true. “And he’s not a security risk.”
“This man came from a planet that used Ancestor technology,” Kell announces. “It’s possible he is aware of many weapons successful against the Wraith.”
“His world was destroyed,” Ronon points out. Sheppard hasn’t said more than three words about where he came from, but it’s obvious that whatever weapons they had weren’t successful.
“Has he spoken of Ancestor technology?” the chieftain asks, and he looks interested.
The chieftain leans back in his chair, knitting his fingers on the tabletop.
“Perhaps he should be asked.”
Kell visits Sheppard in the hospital shortly after that. It takes a week or so because the doctors say Sheppard’s not up to talking. Ronon didn’t even tell Melena to say that; she must have guessed. Kell goes alone and Ronon finds himself irrationally worried about the meeting. It’s doubtful that Sheppard will have any information for them. And he also knows better than to mention anything that happened on this last mission. The conversation won’t be productive and that could really piss Kell off.
But Kell doesn’t look particularly upset when he emerges from Sheppard’s room. He doesn’t look happy, though, either.
Ronon glances at him curiously from his seat in the hallway and Kell stops for a second.
“He says no Ancestor technology survived,” Kell tells him.
Ronon nods, not surprised. He remembers, vaguely, the few images he got to see of Sheppard’s world.
“But he does have knowledge,” Kell continues, starting to walk again. “It may help us.”
Ronon goes in to check on Sheppard after that. The patient looks much less green, though still hopelessly tangled in various pieces of medical equipment.
“Hey,” Ronon says, arriving at Sheppard’s bedside.
“Hey,” Sheppard replies. He doesn’t look upset by whatever Kell asked him.
“How’d it go?” Ronon asks.
Sheppard shrugs, a slight movement that still looks stiff and painful. “I’m not a scientist,” he says, eyes on the tufts of his blanket. “I don’t know shit about what he wants to know.”
Ronon nods, a little relieved that Kell accepted that response. The taskmaster’s been interested in the topic since Sheppard arrived. “Yeah.”
Sheppard look up, eyes hopeful. “Can I go home now?”
Melena has some kind of doctor meeting all day, so Ronon nods. “Yeah,” he says, and starts undoing the nearest straps connecting Sheppard to the machines.
Everyone’s out of the hospital, but Ronon’s entire unit is still banged up enough that they’re not heading out into the field any time soon. So, Kell schedules about forty thousand meetings with the other Master Specialists to go over Wraith intel. Ronon almost asks Sheppard if he can come up with another planet that thinks he’s a Wraith-bringer so they can go there, but he eventually decides that Sheppard won’t think that question is even a little bit funny.
Sheppard’s under Melena’s orders to stay home and recover. She won’t even let him out to do practice flights at the training barracks. Ronon’s not sure who’s more bored. The intel meetings are long and repetitive, but Sheppard’s locked up in the house with Melena in her meanest doctor mode.
One day, while Melena’s saying goodbye to Ronon in the front doorway, Sheppard tries to sneak out the back, stupid horned flight helmet in hand.
“Get back here, John!” Melena hollers, her mouth so close to Ronon’s ear that he jerks back and rubs it.
Sheppard skulks back into the house. He walks into the front room, puts his helmet on a side table, and crosses his arms.
“I’m better,” he tells them, tightly. “I’m better and I’m going out of my mind.”
Ronon feels for the guy. Melena’s never been this much of a hardass to Ronon, but then again Ronon’s never come home in that condition before. He makes a note not to.
Melena only tilts her head. She takes one step toward Sheppard, who’s trying to stare her down. Ronon watches, a little wary. His wife stretches out one slender finger and pokes it, lightly, into Sheppard’s stomach below his crossed arms.
Sheppard instantly turns white and actually doubles over in pain. He gasps twice and Ronon almost thinks he’s going to pass out. After a minute, with difficulty, Sheppard straightens up and drops his arms from their protective grasp around his middle. He turns around without a word, picks up his helmet, and stomps off towards his bedroom.
The rest of the squad’s occupied with the usual stand down routine, like weapons recertification and physical fitness tests. They’re not going to be allowed back in the field until Sheppard can pass his or at least cheat well enough to pass, and that looks a while off. The squad is taking turns dropping by Ronon’s place while Melena’s at work. Partly because they’re Sheppard’s friends, and partly to make sure he’s actually staying there. Ronon has second thoughts about whether hanging out with Rakai is the best way for Sheppard to heal, but figures if nothing else, parrying threats will keep Sheppard entertained.
It’s almost like the first few months Sheppard was in Ronon and Melena’s home. Except Sheppard's a totally different man. For one, he likes them now, even with the way Melena’s treating him. There’s no trace of the wild and frantic emaciated guy he was back then. The stubborn and the argumentative as hell parts of his personality are still firmly in place, though they’re mostly directed at Melena now rather than Ronon. But there’s also calmness and a centeredness that definitely wasn’t there before.
The Runner has mastered pretty much every Satedan card game in the weeks since he’s come home from the hospital. He’s also tried to teach them all some games from his home world, but it’s hard because the cards don’t match up exactly. He’s numbered and drawn silly pictures on the Satedan ones to try to make them work, but it doesn’t really. Most of Sheppard’s games revolve around lying and/or randomly receiving the “right” cards. Ronon doesn’t understand why that’s fun.
“It’s fun because I win all your money,” Sheppard says. They’re using dried salted sticks of Oruva meat as money, because Sheppard really likes it. In reality, Sheppard has given every single one of his paychecks to Melena – just like Ronon does – from the day Kell officially made him part of the Satedan military. It isn’t necessary and it’s about ten times what’d they get if they tried to rent his room out, but Sheppard has always just shrugged and said he has nothing to do with it.
Ronon grunts while Sheppard sweeps up the center pile of Oruva sticks and sticks one happily into his mouth.
“Or,” Sheppard says, looking at Ronon’s irritated expression. “I could take all your money and then punch you in the face, and we could call it Satedan Poker.”
“Okay,” says Hemi, and Ronon can see him making a fist under the table.
“No,” Melena says sharply from across the room, where she can’t see Hemi’s hands. She doesn’t even have to look up from her book.
One day Ronon comes home from another endless Intel meeting and finds Sheppard reading a thin book in the living room. This is strange for one reason: the man can’t read Satedan.
Sheppard puts down the book abruptly when Ronon walks in and looks like he wants to shove it under a pillow or something.
“Hey,” Sheppard says.
Ronon glances at the thin pile of magazines lying on the cushion next to Sheppard. They’re a bunch of children’s reading exercises. Ara’s brother is a teacher and she’s been threatening since the beginning to make Sheppard sit down with his class of six-year-olds and learn how to read and write.
“Hey,” is all Ronon says.
“Ara came by,” Sheppard says, tipping his head at the papers. “If you people had television, I wouldn’t have to do this.”
Sheppard is awfully defensive about the topic. Ronon’s guess is that his world didn’t allow soldiers to read. It’s not wholly uncommon across Pegasus, since soldiers that have access to information from sources other than their taskmasters sometimes get contrary ideas in their heads. They also can’t write debriefing reports, which Ronon almost considers a decent tradeoff. That’s one thing Sheppard can’t and doesn’t do, too.
“Or video games,” Sheppard continues. “I don’t know how you can invent nuclear weapons but not Pong.”
Sheppard calls the isotopic pulse cannon missile a ‘nuclear weapon or close enough,’ and Ronon has encouraged him to stop talking about it because it kills Wraith and he doesn’t care beyond that.
“Finally,” Ronon tells Sheppard.
“I know how to read,” the man retorts.
And it’s sort of true, Ronon thinks. Sheppard can read street signs and train schedules, for the most part. Or he’s memorized the routes he needs to take from Ronon and Melena’s house to the market and the base, the two places he goes the most frequently. And he manages at the market, too, but that might just be from recognizing what he wants to buy and pointing. He’s got to understand prices and the symbols printed on the Chyrika currency.
Ronon doesn’t argue, since Sheppard would probably be willing to stay illiterate out of spite, wandering into the kitchen and looking for a snack. Sheppard follows him.
“Rakai and Ara helped themselves,” he tells Ronon. “We’re kind of out of food.”
“We can order some Elizikyr,” Ronon says. “Melena will pick it up on her way home.”
Sheppard makes a face, even though Ronon knows he likes Elizikyr. “I haven’t eaten enough rats? And I had hamsters when I was a kid,” Sheppard mutters, mostly to himself. “Just because everything tastes good deep fried doesn’t make it right.”
Ronon checks the cold cupboard, unsurprised to find it empty except for root vegetables. He offers Sheppard a Fu-la-bee stem and Sheppard shakes his head. “Hamsters are fine,” he says.
They wash the Fu-la-bee roots together, anyway, mostly because Melena will be much more willing to pick up something greasy and delicious if she can pretend their diet is even a little balanced.
“So,” Sheppard says, flipping water droplets off the purple stems. “Rakai told me he’s going to write my story on my skin.” He looks at Ronon, face perplexed. “It sounded like a threat.”
Ronon has to try not to laugh, mostly because he can imagine the conversation Sheppard and Rakai had, with Sheppard pretending he knows what’s going on and trying to antagonize Rakai into actually telling him.
“What’d he mean by that?” Sheppard asks.
Drying off the vegetables, Ronon puts them in the steamer basket for dinner. Then, he turns around and shows Sheppard his arm.
“A tattoo,” Sheppard says, then scowls. “I should have figured that out. Rakai give you that?”
Sheppard peers at his arm, where the tattoo travels from his forearm up to the shoulder, circling both sides. “That?” He looks closer. “That’s a story? It doesn’t look like text.” That makes Ronon smirk and Sheppard catches on immediately. “I know what the letters look like,” he retorts. “That’s like…boxes.”
“You fill in the spaces,” Ronon says, “and some parts of the letters.”
He lets Sheppard grab his arm and turn it over curiously, like he can try to understand it.
“How do people read it?” he asks.
“They can’t,” Ronon says. “Unless they were there or you tell them what happened.”
Understanding passes over Sheppard’s face. “It’s a ritual.”
“Does it hurt?” Sheppard asks.
“Feels like that,” Ronon says, poking the unit tattoo Rakai put on Sheppard’s neck.
“It hurts,” Sheppard interprets. “It was a threat.”
“He owes you a beating,” Ronon points out and Sheppard scowls. “Melena won’t let him do it ‘til you’re better.”
“I am better,” the man retorts, automatically. Ronon feints like he’s going to jab him in the stomach with a finger and Sheppard scrabbles backwards so fast he slams into the cupboards on the other side of the kitchen. He glares at Ronon and then whips the Fu-la-bee stem he’s still holding at Ronon’s head.
After two months, Ronon’s squad is reactivated without their flight officer. It’s only to escort duty, serving as little more than bodyguards to Kell on his official state visits to various allies. Sheppard pouts like a toddler about being excluded, but he still hasn’t passed the health exam or the physical fitness test.
Ronon doesn’t think he’s missing much. The assignment feels more like punishment than anything else, like Kell wants to keep a personal eye on his unit. Non-combat escort duty pretty much guarantees Ara won’t get the chance to detonate another unauthorized weapon.
State visits are boring as hell. Without their flight officer, Ronon’s squad has to crowd in to Kell’s own state transport. From this, he learns that Sheppard is a better pilot than Kell’s chauffeur, information he definitely keeps to himself. For his part, Kell probably learns how obnoxious and irritating Ronon’s squad is when they have nothing to do and they practically have to sit in each other’s laps for hours on end in a tiny, uncomfortable shuttle. Ronon’s the only one with any real ability to keep his mouth shut – Sheppard’s pretty quiet, but he’s not here – and the other four are excellent soldiers who quickly get out of control if they’re not actively fighting anything.
Taskmaster Kell has the rank and authority to get them to shut up, but it’s an order they forget repeatedly and Ronon doesn’t remind them. He wants off this assignment as soon as possible. They shouldn’t be getting punished for taking out a Hive.
Ronon judges that Sheppard is better when they go to the training room together and Sheppard can actually use the equipment without crying. They resumed their daily runs almost as soon as Sheppard came home from the hospital, but it’s a while before Ronon really has to pump his legs to keep up with him like usual. He’s pretty sure that the only injury that would prevent Sheppard from running is paralysis or leg amputations, so he doesn’t take the activity as a sign that Sheppard’s ready for the field again. But when he spars with Sheppard and the guy doesn’t wiggle and writhe like crazy to keep too much contact from being made with his injured torso anymore, Ronon decides he’s healed enough to come back to full duty.
Sheppard rolls his eyes and sighs dramatically when Ronon tells him. “Finally,” he says. But Ronon can tell by his posture and the set of his jaw that he’s genuinely thrilled.
Melena playfully pokes Sheppard in the gut about fifteen times the morning of his first day back. He still jerks away like he expects her touch to be agonizing, and it’s amusing.
“Just checking,” she says, when he dances away from her and puts the kitchen table between them.
The three months Sheppard spent recovering weren’t exactly wasted. Ronon’s pretty sure the guy has a decent mastery of reading Satedan now. He doesn’t know for sure, but Sheppard has accumulated a small collection of children’s learning materials and books, as well as one or two adult readings. He never asked Ronon or Melena for help, so Ronon never offered any. There’s not going to be a test, but learning the language of his new home is undoubtedly a good thing.
Sheppard only had two comments about the process, the first being “Where the hell did the vowels go?” when he switched to the teenage-level readings and then “Your language is ridiculous,” when Melena had asked how it was going.
Ronon had wanted to know if Sheppard was going to be able to write mission reports like the rest of the squad now. “Hell no,” Sheppard had said, pleasantly.
The squad has Sheppard back but they’re still on escort duty. At least they have their own ship back, too, now. Ronon makes very sure that Sheppard gets the right ship and that at no point is Kell on theirs. If Kell realizes Sheppard can actually keep a shuttle level for more than five minutes and land without making everyone’s teeth rattle, he’ll transfer Sheppard on to his personal staff and Ronon is not letting him steal his flight officer.
Fortunately, they only have a couple more escort missions and Sheppard never ends up flying Kell anywhere.
Sheppard asks Ronon about Kell one day, when they’re sitting alone in the ship while the taskmaster and the rest of the unit are off making arrangements to train with the Quasten military. Last time Ronon visted Quasta, he discovered he was incredibly allergic to some stupid purple plant that grew all over the damn planet. So, he’s staying in the ship, although he can still smell the stupid flower and it’s kind of making his eyes burn.
Kell’s pilot and Sheppard are staying with the shuttles because they couldn’t land anywhere close to the city, and it’s protocol to leave the pilots in the ships on missions like this. Just in case the friendly meeting turns less friendly, or there are unexpected Wraith.
So Sheppard and Ronon are alone in their shuttle, looking out on to the Quasten city lining the mountains. Ronon’s trying to remember what Melena told him to do to make his eyes stop watering and Sheppard has his boots propped up on the console, leaning back in his seat like he’s going to take a nap.
But Sheppard must be awake, because he abruptly starts talking. Well, first he reaches out and switches the radio transceiver to a different channel so Kell’s pilot can’t overhear their conversation.
Ronon notices when Sheppard changes the radio and stops rubbing his eyes long enough to glance over curiously.
“So,” Sheppard drawls. “What’s the story with Kell?”
“He’s a taskmaster,” Ronon says, automatically, almost sharply. This series of missions is the first time Sheppard’s spent much time with Kell. They met briefly when Sheppard first arrived on Sateda, but that hardly counts.
“Taskmaster, huh?” Sheppard asks, in the exact same tone, still mildly but pointedly curious. He takes his eyes off the windshield and looks at Ronon. “He a good guy?”
Ronon understands why he turned the radio channel. If Sheppard were Satedan, asking that kind of question is so far over the line.
Sheppard’s gone back to looking at his console and fiddling with controls, even though the engine’s off. He must feel Ronon’s eyes on him, because he reluctantly turns his face back towards Ronon. His expression is still mild and blank, like he’s just asking a harmless question.
He’s not Satedan, Ronon thinks. Asking that question isn’t totally different than asking how the trains work or wanting to know what he shouldn’t buy from the market. Except that Sheppard never asked those types of questions. He either figured it out on his own or watched Melena and Ronon ‘til it made sense.
“He’s a fair taskmaster,” Ronon answers, honestly. When he was younger, he had a somewhat more exalted opinion of Kell. Now, with a lot more combat experience, it’s tempered a bit. “He wants to be Chieftain,” Ronon says. “Eventually.” Kell would prefer sooner.
“Ambitious?” Sheppard translates.
Ronon shrugs. “Not what I’d want.”
Sheppard mulls that over for a bit. “Okay,” he says. “He’s really fucking interested in Ancestor technology.”
It’s not quite clear how the conversation reached that point, so Ronon just nods.
“You guys are doing fine without it,” Sheppard says, leaning further back in his seat and readjusting the way his legs are crossed. “Trust me.”
Ronon’s squad goes back to routine missions. It’s a fantastic change from escorting Kell around and everyone’s pretty much thrilled to be back to war games and off-planet missions, even when they run into Wraith. Hell, especially if they run into Wraith. Nothing’s really different except Sheppard has a few more marks on his torso that almost match the jagged scars on his back.
Rakai and Morika give him a different kind of mark a couple of months later. It’s not quite the beating Rakai promised Sheppard. Ronon doesn’t think Sheppard would let him do that, anyway. Let him try, maybe, but there’s way too much pride there on both sides to meet a reasonable end. And Morika doesn’t play that way.
Ronon comes home from a Master Specialist meeting on an off day to find half his squad in his living room. Melena isn’t home, fortunately, because she’d find this whole thing ridiculous.
Sheppard is stretched out shirtless on the living room floor. Morika straddles his back, pinning his right arm out and straight on the floor so Rakai can get to work on tattooing his forearm. It looks like there was a short fight – a chair is knocked over and a table pushed aside – but it was definitely for show. If Sheppard really wanted to resist, he could easily send Morika flying and start a mean ground fight with Rakai. He’s willing. Or he’s unwilling to destroy Melena’s furniture, another possibility.
“Here?” is all Ronon says when he enters and takes in the scene.
Morika looks up at him, grinning. Her hands are already stained with blank ink and she’s leaving literal fingerprints all over Sheppard’s back.
“It’s clean,” Sheppard mutters, his cheek pressed against the floor.
Rakai just glances at him and shrugs. He has a large straight razor in hand. The wooden needle and the striker hammer rest by his leg, a small basin of ink right next to him. Ronon looks at the needle and winces on Sheppard’s behalf. That right there is Rakai’s vengeance for what happened on the planet that called Sheppard a Wraith-bringer. There’s no reason to use a tip that big.
“You’re too hairy,” Rakai tells Sheppard, brandishing the razor in a way that makes Ronon mildly concerned. He’s proud that Sheppard doesn’t show any fear.
“Don’t spill,” Ronon tells them. He can see they laid down towels under Sheppard’s arm – to soak up the blood – but if the basin tips, the ink will stain the floor forever.
Ronon leaves them to it, heading out of the room to clean up. While he bathes, he can hear some of the shaving process. Sheppard yelps occasionally and not surprisingly Rakai is taunting him the whole time. That’s gonna get old.
When Ronon finishes bathing and gets redressed, he joins them in the living room again. Sheppard’s arm is naked and bare from the elbow to wrist, and Rakai apparently resisted the urge to actually slash him. Two lines of tattoo circle the Runner’s skin right below his elbow. Sheppard found something to bite on when the hammer strikes, which explains why Ronon stopped hearing his voice about halfway through his bath.
There’s no shame in screaming, though. Ronon knows how much it hurts, but Sheppard is content with grunting into Melena’s cooking mitt jammed between his teeth, and also pounding his left fist against the floor in time with the rhythm of the striking hammer. Morika keeps trying to pin his left elbow down but she’s not doing a good job of it.
“Just so you know,” Sheppard says, spitting out the oven mitt. “Rakai, if I ever get the chance to tattoo something on you in a language you can’t read, it’s going to be entirely about the miniscule size of your dick.”
Rakai all but growls and brings down the hammer so hard Ronon automatically puts his foot down on Sheppard’s shoulder to keep the man from arching too far off the floor.
Sheppard pants for a couple of seconds after that, through his nose, since the oven mitt is back between his teeth. Rakai yanks the needle out of Sheppard’s skin and leans back on his haunches. The line is done on this side of Sheppard’s arm.
“Wanna go?” Rakai asks Ronon.
“It’s my turn,” Morika protests, bouncing impatiently on Sheppard’s back. Sheppard twists in annoyance, like that really hurts. She notices and immediately stops, only to drop her hands to his shoulders and squeeze. “Try and throw me off,” she dares. “C’mon.”
Ronon kneels down next to Rakai and finds a spare cloth to wipe the blood off what he’s done so far. The last line is about Sheppard capturing Rakai and Ara the day they first met him. It answers questions Ronon was going to ask Rakai out of Sheppard’s earshot: How did he intend to write Sheppard’s story when they know basically nothing of his life before about a year and a half ago?
“I’ll do the stuff before that later,” Rakai says, in response to Ronon’s unasked question. He assumes Sheppard will eventually tell them.
“Yeah,” Ronon agrees.
He flips Sheppard’s arm over to the other side and Morika reaches out to pin it down again.
Sheppard lifts his head off the floor and turns his face so he’s actually looking at Ronon. That’s probably a bad idea, since watching the needle go in can make you queasy when it’s your skin and your blood. He’s not surprised when Sheppard goes a little pale the first time he sees the blood wet towels under his forearm.
“This is so crazy,” Sheppard tells him, his eyes big.
“Don’t look,” Ronon advises.
Rakai doesn’t give Sheppard a choice, grabbing him by the head and roughly turning his face back the other direction. In return, Sheppard jerks his left arm out of Morika’s grip and clouts Rakai in the face, knocking him backwards. He grabs Melena’s oven mitt again and shoves it between his teeth again. He keeps his face turned away from Ronon.
Morika lies down across Sheppard’s back, using both her hands to pin his left side down.
“Don’t move,” she complains.
Rakai is sitting on Sheppard’s feet, probably going to do something painful and unnecessary that will make him wiggle.
Ronon puts his elbow down on Sheppard’s bicep to keep his canvas still. He fills the needle and angles it directly below the man’s elbow, preparing to write about the day he first met Sheppard.
“You people,” Sheppard moans, muffled by the homemade gag. Ronon can’t identify the emotion in his voice, but it doesn’t sound angry, so he raises the hammer and drives his mark deep into Sheppard’s skin.
Ara and Hemi arrive before the night is out. Ronon lets them take their turns driving the needle. It takes a while to completely circle Sheppard’s forearm. And it’s good to let them all write Shepppard’s story, as they’re all in it.
By the end, no one’s even pretending to hold Sheppard down, anymore. Also, they’ve broken into Ronon’s liquor collection. The text closest to Sheppard’s wrist is going to be a little wobbly.
Melena gets home around this time. Ronon was kind of hoping they’d be done and gone by the time she arrived.
She just shakes her head, though. This isn’t the first time she’s come home to find the squad drunk and hurting each other. And she prefers they use her clean floor rather than the tavern.
“Almost done,” Ronon promises her, getting to his feet and leaning in for a kiss.
Melena tastes the alcohol on his breath and pulls away. “Tell me you didn’t let John drink,” she says.
Rakai squints at her from the floor. He’s very drunk. “Why not?”
“Tastes like piss,” Sheppard announces, which is his general opinion of every Satedan liquor and beer. He rarely drinks anything unless it’s being poured down his throat at the tavern.
“You want him to bleed out?” Melena snaps, toeing at the bloody cloths under Sheppard’s arm.
“That’d be okay,” Rakai mumbles, but he cowers a bit when she glares at him.
“Oh, right,” says Ara, leaning back on her heels. She gives Melena an innocent smile. She raises the needle up. “Wanna finish?”
Melena pauses and makes an uncertain face. “No,” she says. “I’ve never…” She looks at Ronon for backup.
“You do surgery,” he reminds her.
“That’s totally different.”
“C’mon, I’ll show you how.”
They get Melena on the floor, on her knees next to Sheppard without much argument.
“Just one more letter,” Hemi says, pointing at the last square of bare skin at Sheppard’s wrist.
“I don’t want to hurt him,” Melena says.
“You gonna wash it?” Ronon asks.
“That hurts,” Sheppard mumbles in the floor. “Go for it.”
Melena peers at him. “What’s in your mouth?”
“Nothing.” He turns his face down so she can’t see.
Ronon guides her hands, though hers on much more stable than his because she hasn’t been drinking.
They fill the needle together and poise it above Sheppard’s wrist.
“You have to hit it hard with the hammer,” Ronon tells her.
“You do not,” Sheppard snaps, quietly. “Not that hard.”
“Shut up,” Rakai orders him.
“Otherwise the ink doesn’t flow,” Ronon says. “Hit it hard.”
Looking intently at her work, Melena raises the striking hammer and brings it down sharply against the needle.
Sheppard jerks lightly in place, then lifts his head off the floor. “Hey,” he says. “That didn’t hurt as much.” He puts his head back down. “I like you better.”
“Do it harder,” Ronon advises.
~please feed the author~