“Did you know?”
“She’s my wife, John.” Ronon frowned at him. “Knowing that Jack O’Neill is her godfather was a personal matter and had no bearing on our mission or her placement on Atlantis.”
John paced the full length of the balcony on the back of the cabin twice before he went back to the railing and leaned with Ronon. “Okay. Fuck.” He was silent for a minute. “Over five hundred thousand. That’s our combined body count if we count hives and the Wraith nest and don’t even count the replicators.” Millions for him personally if he counted the fact that he’d woke the Wraith up but he didn’t say it out loud.
“Yes, I know.” Ronon fingered the solid platinum band that Jennifer had slid onto his finger months ago during a private ceremony on board the Daedalus. “You didn’t wonder when he was on board the Daedalus for our Earth wedding ceremony?”
“No. I didn’t. He had several meetings with Woolsey and Carter was leaving around the same time.” John lowered his head to the wood rail. “Distractions. Lots of distractions.”
“Beautiful distractions that will love you and hold you at the end of the day.” Ronon shrugged. “It’s a vicious life we lead, John.”
“More vicious by the day.” Jack O’Neill said from the doorway. He walked out onto the balcony with three beers and handed two off. “If it’s not one damn thing it’s another, you know.”
“Jack,” he responded. “John, you’re on my back porch with the fate of a galaxy on your shoulders and my beer in hand—I think you can call me Jack.” He looked toward Ronon. “Really wasn’t sure about it; but I’ve never seen her so happy, content.”
“I do my best.”
“Accurate body count?”
“Hell no,” Ronon snapped as Mitchell, Teal’c and Jackson joined them on the deck. “That was my body count before I started running. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many Wraith I killed while I was being hunted. I tried to keep count at first, it seemed important to continue that—my military kept the count for me—all the ‘wet work’ I’d done for my government, my planet. But, after awhile—the days, weeks, and the bodies all blended together. Sometimes it was upwards of twenty or thirty a day—depending on which Hive caught up with my signal and what sort of game they had planned.” He drank deeply from his beer. “She doesn’t need to know that. She doesn’t ever need to know that.” Ronon glanced upwards to the single lit room on the second floor. All the women were in there—he’d heard them off and on for an hour laughing and pretending they weren’t all about to get involved in something truly horrible.
“How many times did they capture/torture and release you?”
“Twenty-six.” He shot Jack O’Neill a look. “The last time they did – I took out half their forces on the ground and killed a Queen. After that, they stopped trying capture me and just settled for trying to kill me.”
“No, my little button doesn’t need to know any of that.” Jack sighed. “Her father – God bless him never knew what to do with her. She was too bright, too beautiful like her mother and when Elise was killed – he pushed Jennifer off on a handful of private tutors and trotted into any battle that would have him. When we discovered that Jennifer had the gene… we had one hell of an argument about it. But the threat of the Ori meant she was no safer with the SGC than she would be on Atlantis and – God she wanted it– at least she wanted it after she calmed down and thought about it. Richard was in one of the battle groups that were destroyed by the Ori. I couldn’t even bring her home a body to bury.”
“She understood.” Ronon frowned. “Far better now than she would have before; but that’s neither here nor there.”
“Right.” Jack nudged John. “So, are you being extra nice to my favorite bomb builder or am I going to have to kick your ass?”
John spewed beer out in front of him and every man on the porch laughed. “Fuck.”
“Relax, John, it isn’t like I have room to talk or report for that matter.” Jack strolled over to a deck chair and slid into it. “He’s right you know – life is way too hard, too short, too vicious not to have comfort where you can get it.” He jerked his head towards the lit window. “There isn’t a woman in that room that isn’t worth the risk or the pain of it.”
John turned and leaned on the rail. “Yeah. Yeah. I’m as nice to her as she’ll let me be.” He saluted the window with his beer. “To women, gentlemen, and the things we suffer for a smile.”
* * * *
“You know he totally lied about that body count.”
Jennifer nodded. “Yeah. I know. I mean, I see it in him… even when he sleeps. Sometimes in the early morning hours, he’ll jerk awake – his hand going for the gun or a knife he’s slid under our mattress. If the dreams, which he never admits to, are really bad he won’t even sleep in the bed with me. I’ll find him on the floor the next morning with a pillow and nearly all the covers because he’s such a cover hog.”
Laura laughed sadly. “I see that about him.”
“So what do you do when he does that?” Vala asked with a frown.
“I disarm and fuck him,” Jennifer responded without missing a beat. “It’s really hard for him to keep those shadows in his eyes when I’m sitting on his cock.”
“He’s hung like a … horse, right? That’s the right phrase?” Vala asked.
“Yes and yes.”
“Jesus.” Samantha groaned. “I should not be here in this room with the three of you. I learn things I really don’t want to know.”
“You know you like it.” Vala shoved her with one foot and laughed when Sam grabbed her toes in retaliation. “Daniel is the best sex I’ve ever had, how’s that for something you didn’t want to know?”
“Really?” Sam sat up. “I always thought he would be great… passionate but gentle.”
“He can be. He can be anything I want him to be,” Vala admitted. “But mostly – it’s because I trust him and I love him. I’ve never really had that before. Not ever. He doesn’t expect anything from me, understands me, and really just wants me for who I am. It was so odd that first time – I felt like I’d never even had sex before which is extremely stupid.”
“How long you been banging the Major General?” Laura asked softly.
“Since he was a Colonel,” Samantha tilted her head to look at Cadman. “How long you been banging the Colonel?”
“Since he applied to help me with my disaster relief,” Laura smirked. “His efforts were superior. And the best part?” She paused and waited until they were all looking at her. “He orders me around during. He could probably order me to come right now and I would with a salute and a breathless ‘yes, sir’.”
* * * *
The five men on the porch turned and looked towards the room at the sudden burst of laughter.
“Sex,” John said with a sigh. “They are up there talking about sex. Why is that women can get away with that but they would be furious if they thought we discussed it?”
“Because they’re women.”
“What happens if someone gets wind of my relationship with Cadman?”
“She’s a Marine; you’re in the Air Force. Technically neither of you are breaking any regulations. Hell, Atlantis doesn’t exist and there are currently no ‘official’ operations where an Air Force Colonel could find himself to be the CO of a Marine.” Jack shrugged. “It’ll come to my desk and I’ll tell the unfortunate jerk who brings it to my attention exactly how they could be spending their time in Antarctica.”
“I wouldn’t want it to tangle her up.”
“I’ll watch her six and your magic gene makes you just about immune. But, you know that right?”
“Yes.” John grimaced at the thought. “Mr. Woolsey is of the opinion that Atlantis should be the Vegas of the Pegasus galaxy.”
“In that case, we should all vacation there,” Daniel Jackson said with a small smile.
“How is Woolsey working out?”
“He’s a good man.” John frowned even as he said it but then nodded. “A good man with sound judgment, a knack for keeping the scientists happy, and he’s sort of grown into his role in the city. No one expected him to last, but he’s proven over and over again that he’s an asset and he isn’t above ramming a nuclear weapon down someone’s throat if things get tough and hairy as they are prone to around the place.”
“I can’t say that I’m not very surprised.” Jack balanced the empty beer bottle on his knee – they’d allowed themselves on each but it had done nothing to knock the edge off. He tilted his head. “They are abandoning girl talk it seems.”
Cameron, who was sprawled on the deck near the stairs. “Just two of them.”
“Jennifer and Carter.”
“How?” John frowned and looked at Ronon. “We’ve got to talk about you and that sense of smell, seriously. Soap or perfume?”
Ronon snorted. “Me and him.” He jerked his gaze towards O’Neill. “Soaps and perfumes… women can share or change. They rarely share men. Not to say that I don’t know that Sam shampoos with something scented with strawberries and likes that perfume Jennifer says is too expensive. She’s not wearing it today – but she’s worn it so much that it’s seeped into her skin, perhaps her hair, her clothes. The body can hold a scent for weeks – even with daily bathing. The air is much cleaner here than in the city you took me too, it’s easier to pick up.”
“So that’s how you found her the night…” John trailed off as he realized the implications of what Ronon had just said. He turned to stare at O’Neill who just smirked and shrugged.
“Yeah, that’s how I found her the night she was almost kidnapped and the night I hunted her for a more fun sort of reason.” Ronon shrugged. “It’s not a skill, it’s… Jennifer said it’s an evolutionary thing. My people have had to evolve to survive – endurance, strength, pain tolerance anything that makes us harder to kill and hunt. Maybe that’s why the Wraith were so desperate to see my people exterminated.” He checked his watch. “I think I’ll join Teal’c on first watch.”
Jack said nothing as Ronon moved past Cameron and down the stairs. “How did you manage to keep him on Atlantis?”
“Don’t really know… I sort of figured every day that he would tell me was done with my bullshit and move on. And then his tiny doctor arrived and he was well and truly stuck. Oddest courtship ever. The man spent six months getting hurt on purpose so he could go to the infirmary. But she appeared to be so shy and reserved… probably was the best choice. Then the next thing I know she’s carrying a knife and claiming breeding rights.” John slid down and sat against a wide post of the railing. “They work. He’s so mean, big, deadly and she’s so not.”
“Why her? Wouldn’t he have more in common with a woman in our military?” Daniel asked.
“He asked Rodney why anyone would think he’d want a female version of himself.” John shrugged and glanced towards the patio doors as Samantha Carter and Jennifer laughed past them armed with snacks and soda. “I guess when you spend seven years of your life wondering if you’ll live to eat your next meal you deserve something as soft and as pretty as that woman.”
“You want us to concentrate on the naquadah source?” O’Neill asked.
“Yes, please.” John nodded. “I’d like to talk to a few Federal type branches—put out some feelers for information on any funky terrorist organizations or cult type situations. They keep a list of shit like that. We’ll separate tomorrow—I don’t think we were followed out here but if you’re investigating the Trust they probably you have under surveillance already.”
“The Trust and the NID always have my ass under surveillance. I’m their hobby.”
* * * *
“You seem more settled.”
Ronon grimaced and glanced towards the Jaffa. “I was hoping to avoid talking by coming out here, T.”
“I know.” Teal’c laughed softly. “The people of the Tauri talk a lot.”
“Yes.” He nodded. “And yes—I feel more settled.”
“You are happy with your mate choice.”
It wasn’t a question but a statement but Ronon felt himself nodding. “She’s more than I deserve.”
“Then you have a life time of work ahead of you.”
“Indeed.” Ronon grinned when Teal’c glanced his way.
* * * *
John watched Jack O’Neill and Jackson disappear into the house and then turned his head to Cameron. “Did I make a mistake admitting that to him?”
“No.” Cameron stood up and walked over to him. “The man has been with Samantha Carter for years. Literally years. The fact that they haven’t gotten caught is like some kind of modern wonder. It’s like SG1’s biggest secret and he let you in on it that means he trusts you. Just don’t make him regret it.”
“You want to communicate with Atlantis?”
“Yes. First thing.”
“Prep a message and we’ll get Sam to encrypt and I’ll send it in the morning. McKay and Lorne need to know what’s up so they can prepare or at least watch each other’s backs. That’s pretty much a given considering their relationship but… ya know.”
John swallowed hard and told himself not to respond to that. He was just not going to respond to that, at all. “Goddamnit.”
Cameron laughed. “Relax John. They are very discreet. I’ve never heard a single rumor about them or Evan in general. I wouldn’t know at all if I hadn’t been particularly close to Rodney when he was here on Earth.”
“OH.” John’s beer bottle hit the deck with a thump. “You’re the ‘friend’ from Earth?”
Cameron laughed softly. “Well, yeah, I guess you could say we were ‘friends’. I was stationed at Area 51 – he did a lot of work back and forth during the X303 project. Smart man and smart men do it for me.”
“Does Evan know?”
“No. Doesn’t want to know either; but I imagine if he ever sees Rodney with me he’ll know. The man has a few tells and a lover would spot them in a second. It’s not something Rodney is keeping a secret on purpose – he sent me a pretty long, perfectly innocent email that looked like babbling to anyone paying attention but his message was clear. Evan just doesn’t want to know.”
“You served with Evan, right?”
“Yes. We were in the same X303 squadron for a while. I didn’t know of his… I didn’t realize what he had going on for McKay or I would have never went there.” Cameron shrugged.
“I thought you were doing Dr. Lam,” Sheppard muttered.
“Oh, I am. Every single chance I get. Man, that woman…so smart, mean, and quick tempered. Makes me forget my name sometimes.” Cameron chuckled. “A man doesn’t have to pick a team when it comes to sex, Sheppard. He can play on both sides.”