“Ready for this?”
Ronon reached out and snagged one carefully constructed curl and rubbed the soft hair between his finger tips. “Laura tells me that Colonel Caldwell is authorized to perform wedding ceremonies between personnel. I realize I’m not of your world and it might not be strictly legal but I’d like very much to marry you in the ways of your world.”
“Ronon.” She swallowed hard. “I… I didn’t expect…”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a box that could have come from no where but Earth. “The last time I was on Earth, the IOA pretty much let me do whatever the hell I wanted.”
“You saved their asses from the Wraith – they owe you.”
Ronon laughed softly. “Well, as reward for my loyalty and service to Earth they asked me what I wanted. I told Mr. Woolsey and he arranged for me to buy this.” He flipped open the box. “Just be glad, apparently, that I did not let Teal’c help with the shopping part. Daniel Jackson said it would have been a disaster.”
Her hand shook as she took the box, the diamond ring was, he’d been assured, every human woman’s dream come true and if the expression on her face was any indication he hadn’t been lied to.
She swallowed hard. “The IOA must really love you.”
“And I really love you.” He touched hand. “Will you wear it?”
“Yes.” Jennifer managed to hold her hand still while he slid a ring onto her finger. The perfect, round, diamond, in a thick platinum band setting, was easily three karats and sparkled with a vivid clarity like she’d never seen before. “Thank you for doing this…”
“I’d do anything for you. Anything.” He glanced towards the hall entry way. “They are expecting us to enter soon.”
“I want you to know that every single person I asked to help with this jumped at the chance to do this for you. Rodney and Radek didn’t blink an eye—they were off and running before I even got the question all the way out talking about bracelets and square miles and land mass and weather conditions. Teyla dropped by my quarters to help me with my hair – every member of the expedition has participated in someway with what is about to happen for us.” She ran her fingers over his palm, surprised to find his hand shaking. “She said that those that can’t attend because of duties are watching via video feed or will be listening. Sam made sure of it. We’re going to make our promises in front of the entire city and everyone here is so pleased to do this for us.”
“I don’t understand why,” he admitted. “Maybe I never will; but I won’t ever take any of this for granted.”
* * * *
Teyla was at the end of the room when the stopped in the door way. “Ladies and gentlemen, The Hunter has arrived.”
Conversation ended immediately and Jennifer swallowed hard. The crowd parted for them and Ronon lead her through it with one hand on the small of her back. She wasn’t nervous, not even scared – not none of those words came close to describing the emotional tidal wave that had just washed over her. Her mind seemed to flip backward to the moment in the forest she’d opened her eyes and he was standing in front of her… his sparkling with love, pride, and something very feral.
He held her hand as she knelt on a pillow in front of Teyla and then took his place in front of her. “Relax, little one. This is the easy part.”
She flashed him a smile. “Yes. It is.”
“Will The Keepers join us?”
Laura approached first. “I am the Keeper of the Prey.”
Jennifer offered her a wink and Laura grinned in return.
“Did the Prey meet all the requirements of the Hunt and follow the rules to the best of her ability?”
“Do you acknowledge before all gathered here that the Prey was captured fairly in this Hunt?”
“Yes.” Her voice caught a little as said it and her skin flushed, both Jennifer and Ronon turned to look at her. “The capture was fair.”
John joined Laura his expression serious. “I am the Keeper of the Hunter.”
“Did the Hunter meet all the requirements of the Hunt and follow the rules to the best of his ability?”
“Do you acknowledge before all gathered here that the Hunter acted as he should and that once the Prey was fairly captured the union was consummated?” Teyla raised one eyebrow, her voice softer now as if the question were almost too personal to ask in public.
“Yes.” John nodded. “The capture was fair and the union was consummated.”
Teyla gave them both a brief nod and they took a step back from the proceedings – separate from the crowd but no longer a part of the ceremony.
“The Ceremony of Promises is a tradition that has traveled to many of the known worlds in our galaxy – it is a sacred ceremony that most believe to have been passed down to us by the Ancients. I am honored to be the Mistress of this Hunt and to be the first to acknowledge the union of these two people.” Teyla paused briefly. “The Hunter will speak first.”
“I never expected to love again. I never wanted to love again. I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you—I can’t imagine a single moment in my future without you. A year ago I would have told anyone in this room that I feared nothing and it would have been the truth because I feared absolutely nothing. Now, I fear a thousand things and everyone of them begins and ends with you. At first, I thought the fear would be the death of me – but in it – the fear of never having you, the fear of losing you—I’ve come to accept that living isn’t just about surviving it’s also about loving with everything you are and fighting with all that you have to keep it. My promises to you are simple—I will never leave you, I will always be on your side, you are the only home I’ll ever need or want, there is nothing I won’t do to keep you safe, and I will never break your heart again.” He touched her face, his fingers light, gentle on her cheek.
Jennifer swallowed hard, she’d spent so many days thinking of what she’d say and he’d just tilted her world completely on it’s side. “To say that I imagined this moment all of my life would be a lie. I never, in a million years, could have dreamt of the universe we live, love, fight, and play in. When I came here – I feared a thousand things. I feared a meaningless death, I feared a life without love, I feared the loss of things I left behind on Earth, and most of all I most certainly feared you and everything you represented. Now, because of you – I fear nothing. I know you’ll never be out of my reach and that you will always come for me. These are the promises I make to you – I will be the only home you ever need, I will never seek to dishonor you, there is no sacrifice I will not make to stay by your side, your battles are my battles, there is nothing I can’t survive to return to you, I will learn to use the gun you brought home for me, I will never let anyone bring harm to the children I give you, and I will love you the rest of my life.”
The silence that followed wasn’t uncomfortable as she’d expected but Jennifer was relieved when Teyla began to speak.
“I speak for everyone on Atlantis when I say that we are all honored to have shared this with you both and that we wish you only the very best in your life together.” She wiped away tears and offered a warm smile. “Now, we have raided quarters for alcohol, liberated stores— made a very big cake, a feast the likes of which we have not had in the time that we’ve been here has been prepared, hooked up the entire city to Rodney’s music player, and we are all most ready to celebrate this occasion to the fullest of our ability.” She paused and smiled. “And I’ve it on good authority that no one parties like 150 marines, geeks, and pilots. So let’s make the most of this shall we.”
“Whoa whoa..wait a minute.” Rodney held up a hand. “On Earth—we get a kiss out of a big ceremony like that and I believe for all the work we’ve put into this – we should you—know…” He waved his hands at the top of them. “Start this thing with a bang.”
“You know he really is the smartest man in two galaxies,” Jennifer whispered.
Ronon reached out, snatched her right off her little pillow, and groaned just a little when she wrapped her legs around his waist without missing a beat and met his kiss half-way. He clutched her at the material of her dress with trembling hands as her mouth opened against his and her whole body tightened against him.
“Hey, hey… that part of the ceremony has already happened… it’s time for cake.” John called out. “Chocolate cake.”
* * * *
Laura set aside her wine glass, mostly full and watched Ronon and Jennifer on the make shift dance floor moving and dancing like they’d been dancing for years. “He apparently took dance lessons from Katie Brown for months.”
John pulled his hands from his pockets. “Come dance with me.”
“Is that wise?” she asked softly.
“Probably not, but it’s the only chance…” He flushed and looked away.
“Yes.” She smiled. “I’ll dance with you.”
The song changed… slow, dreamy, but Laura wasn’t surprised that Rodney would have a song like that at his disposal… she’d spent enough time in his brain to know that his love for music was almost as profound as his love for science even if it wasn’t public knowledge. Her breath caught as John easily pulled her into his arms, one big hand in the center of her back—hardly an intimate touch but it warmed her down to her toes.
“It seemed only fair,” John said softly in her ear. “You’ve danced with practically every man in the room but me.”
“Well, there are more men than women— it didn’t seem right to leave anyone out of the dancing.” She lifted her head away from him and met his gaze. “Feeling better about what we saw on the main land, Sir?”
“More and more by the minute, Lt.”
Jennifer rested her head on Ronon’s chest with a sigh. “Never thought I’d see that.”
Ronon glanced towards John and Laura Cadman and shook his head. “He’ll never let her in where it matters.”
“She knows.” She smiled wistfully. “They look good together. I’ll be there to help her through it.”
“Always a healer?” he asked softly.
“So…” He brushed her hair from her forehead. “We ate cake, more food than seems possible, drank wine we shouldn’t have, and we’ve danced for more than hour. Do you think I could take my wife home now?”
“I’m game.” She laughed out loud when he swept her off the floor. “Night everyone!” She yelled out as he strode towards the door.
Laura watched with a laugh. “OOHRAH!”
John laughed when all the marines and most of the scientists in the room repeated it after her. “Got these men trained do you, Cadman?”
She met his amused gaze with a serious one. “All but one, Sir.”
Of Bombs and Men