John wasn't even trying to hide his grin as he hit the showers down by the gym. This was almost as good as when Rodney pried the secret of some new weapon out of the Ancient database. Ronon was amazingly quick on his feet for such a big guy, and after the five-mile they'd just been on John was pretty sure he was more winded than Ronon was. He was quiet, too, and—he'd make a spectacular addition to the team, if John could only talk him into it. Whatever she might think, Elizabeth was already three-quarters of the way to agreeing, so really it was just a question of selling the guy himself.
That shouldn't be too hard. Ronon hated the Wraith plenty, he couldn't go home, and signing up with Atlantis had to sound better than going off to serve as a mercenary and waiting for the inevitable culling or pointless death in some interplanetary squabble. All in all, John thought he was offering a pretty sweet deal.
The shower room was architectural porn, translucent blue tiles and curving edges, silver fixtures and one-way glass looking out over the ocean. He stepped under one of the showerheads, and Atlantis already had the idea, hitting him with a spray that was just the right temperature and pressure, cold enough to refresh, fierce enough to scour the sweat away. He called back without looking, "Just wave your hand by the crystal," and then splashed the water right into his face, scrubbing his hands over his skin and into his hair.
He didn't hear Ronon move, even on the wet tile, but he was already used to that. He was just wiping his eyes, humming to himself, no thoughts in his head except happy ones about rocket-launchers and flame-throwers, when Ronon's hand settled on his shoulder and then slid down to cup his bicep.
"Hey!" John sputtered, inhaling some water and spinning around, coughing and blinking. "What are you—"
"You've been testing me," Ronon said casually, taking his hand back like—like you could just take that back. He was somehow even bigger naked than he was with clothes on, which really shouldn't be possible. And even more muscled than John had imagined, powerful like some giant oak tree and already half-hard and...he really ought to be better at spotting this by now.
"Look..." He paused. This might be some kind of Weird Alien Sex Thing, and John didn't want to offend him. If only Teyla was around to explain—No. John hastily scratched that thought, then took off and nuked the thought's site from orbit just to be sure. "Among our people, superior officers don't really make out with their subordinates."
Ronon gave him a burning look from beneath his heavy brows. "I'm not your subordinate."
For a second, John forgot how to breathe. When he got control of his lungs back, he said, "Really, it's not something you have to do, Ronon."
Or, at least, he was pretty sure he actually got it out, rather than just thinking it, and positive when Ronon answered him. "Yes, it is."
He swallowed, raising a finger. "This may sound like a stupid question, but...why?"
"Satedan soldiers do. Builds loyalty, commitment." Ronon shrugged. "Like the uniform. The oath. You guys have those."
He sounded so matter-of-fact, standing there naked and wet and telling him this, and the comedy value suddenly dropped out of the situation for John. The life Ronon had led—John had seen his share of war, but he knew he could never really get it, what someone like Ronon had gone through. The kinds of things he did to survive. The kinds of things he expected in return. And John had been casually assuming that he could be his leader?
"You're on the team regardless," he said softly. "Do you get that?"
"I hear you," Ronon said, but he was looking at John's cock. He brushed the damp hair out of his face and went to his knees. Somehow he managed to make even that look like pure confidence, like he was getting ready for a fight he fully expected to win.
John hadn't actually meant that to be an invitation, but Ronon kneeling in the rush of water was like a thundercloud massed in front of him, charged with power and not a little threat, and John was suddenly pulsing with desire, dizzy with it. He wanted to dive right down into the center and through to the other side.
Elizabeth thought Ronon might be dangerous. John knew it, but knew it was the right kind of danger, the kind you could ride to a win, even if you were only clinging by your fingernails. And, as usual, whether it was a good idea or not had stopped factoring into it.
"You don't believe in foreplay, huh?" he managed.
Ronon laughed, a low rumble. "I've been here for three days."
"Oh...yeah." John supposed you could see it that way, or at least he wasn't going to argue about it right then.
He started to put a hand out, then stopped, frowning. He'd seen it so many times before, local girls bought for cigarettes or lipstick, and so he had to be clear, had to: this wasn't a trade for blue Jello and decent clothes and a place to sleep. This was Ronon's choice. But Ronon didn't make the next move; he waited until John finally said, "Do you really want this?"
"Yes," Ronon said, and ran his hands up John's thighs deliberately. John's knees almost buckled. It had been way too long, and even longer since it had been a guy, and even in his fantasies it hadn't been anyone as golden and perfect and sculpted as this. His hands climbed convulsively, but he managed to keep them off Ronon's head.
The water warmed against his back as Ronon studied him. Ronon's broad palms were framing his hips, his thumbs doing little circles in the hollows. John thought that if he had to wait much longer, he was going to forget all that stuff about who was taking the lead here, but then Ronon leaned in for a long, thorough lick from the base of John's shaft to the head. John rocked forward onto the balls of his feet, and Ronon had to steady him.
Ronon looked up, giving him a wicked grin. "You taste good."
About fifteen different thoughts collided in his head. "I..."
"You want me to suck you?"
"That would be," he groaned, "really great."
Ronon shook the hair out of his eyes again, sending water spraying, and bent his head to take him in. John gasped, and now he had to grab at his shoulders. Ronon's mouth was hot and the low purr in his throat was sweet and pure and right like a jumper engine's. He sucked at John with total concentration, as though it were the most natural and the most important thing in the world to do. As if he hadn't just spent the last seven years of his life killing and trying not to be killed.
Ronon's skin was rough against his palms but warm. John leaned forward, breathing raggedly, his hips trembling from the effort to not just let go. Ronon looked up at him again and muttered around him, "Go ahead."
John didn't wait, but braced himself and drove in hard. Ronon took him all without flinching, his hands tightening around John's ass, and John forgot it all, everything that wasn't warmth and friction. Better than running til he was out of breath, better than taking a curve forty miles above the speed limit, better than flying through a firefight on instinct alone—just pure sensation and reaction, no conscious thought to drag at him at all. He came, and it was so sweet, so intense that he didn't even realize what was happening until he was sagging over Ronon's shoulder and Ronon was half-carrying him over to the wall.
"Christ, Ronon," he mumbled as Ronon set him down and crouched in front of him. He was still hard, cock bobbing between his legs, and John reached out to curl his hand around it. Ronon took a sharp breath and caught his wrist, hard enough to bruise, teeth drawing back in a reflexive snarl. That cleared the fog away instantly.
"Hey," he said instead, smiling casually, though it suddenly didn't feel very casual, "I like it better when it's kind of a mutual thing, you know?"
Ronon stared at him. "Do you have to?"
And he would let him, John realized, if he insisted, but. "Not if you don't want me to, but really..."
"Let me," Ronon said. He reached for himself, big warm brown hand wrapping around big cock, and that turned out to be pretty hot, actually. John was happy just to tilt his head back and watch, resting his hand lightly on Ronon's knee.
Ronon worked himself fast and hard, like a guy would who slept on the ground with an ear always out for the incoming Dart, and, God, John would have liked to see him slow and drowsy and lingering, burnished in the early morning Atlantis light, but he'd take this instead. Ronon's eyes were locked on him, his mouth twisting with effort and maybe something else, his chest heaving. John rubbed his palm around Ronon's knee and kept his eyes until Ronon came, stiffening all over, losing his balance and spattering the floor.
"That," John said after he'd gotten back his own breath, "was great."
"Yeah, pretty good." Ronon started to push himself back up. John put his hand on the back of his neck and he shivered all over and went down again, resting his head on his arm across John's lap. His dreads fell against John's bare legs, surprisingly soft.
He closed his eyes, breathing the steam in deep, and stroked Ronon's skin. His beard tickled John's thigh. Give him a little more time, he thought wistfully, and he'd be up for another round, but...there was a briefing in half an hour.
"How're you doing down there?"
"I accept," Ronon said.
"What?" John's eyes snapped open.
Ronon was regarding him again, that faintly amused expression on his face. "I said, I accept. I'll join your team."
"Well. That's great." Funny how he'd forgotten all about that, too. "But...I mean...not because..."
"...you're a great fuck?" Ronon only just didn't laugh. "No. But I see now. You're not selfish. You look out for your people."
John's eyes widened as he did a quick retake on the past few days. "So, I guess I passed?"
Ronon glanced down at his naked body and then back up at John's. He raised an eyebrow.
"Well, good." John smiled ruefully. "I do my best." He waited, but Ronon didn't smile back. A faint unease curled in his stomach. "Ronon, your last commander..."
"He's dead, Sheppard," Ronon said simply. "All of my people are dead."
"Right." Better not to push the issue. "I have to get back. So do you, if we're going to be outfitting you."
Ronon pushed himself up. "I don't need anything."
"If you're going to be serving with us, actually, yeah, you do. And"—he hesitated—"I meant what I said earlier. About officers and subordinates."
Sometimes, irony was a real bitch.
"If you say so," Ronon said, but his tilted head told John just how much he believed that.
"I do." He got to his feet and clapped him on the shoulder. "C'mon. I bet I can beat you back to the armory."
Ronon rose, too, stretching his arms carelessly, sculpted muscle moving beneath the skin. John shook his head and turned to grab his towel. There were some delusions he was going to need to cling to.