a Stargate: Atlantis story
by dirty diana
beta'd by serial karma. my Valentine's Day story.
Elizabeth tells him that the drawing is meant to represent a heart. Ronon lays his hand flat on the piece of paper, the symmetrical pink lines coarse with bits that sparkle, and thinks that it looks nothing like a heart. Ronon has seen men on the battlefield, men with their chests split, their eyes still open and their hearts still throbbing, not knowing the body was already dead.
Elizabeth watches him in the still of her chamber, and doesn't say anything. She takes her shoes off, and pours a glass of something red. Her hands shake, the only sign her slender body gives. It has been a long day. She offers him the bottle, but he shakes his head. He doesn't like the smell.
"Valentine?" He sounds the word out, suspicious of it, and of the sparkles that stick to his skin. "This represents the giving of one's heart?"
She frowns, thinking seriously. She reacts this way to every question that he asks her, and he asks her many questions. "It could," she says, carefully. "Or it could simply be something nice, to do for a friend."
He doesn't believe her, and doesn't conceal the sharpness in his shoulders. He picks the paper up, turning it over. 'To Elizabeth, Happy Valentine's Day.' "Who gave this to you?"
She only seems to see it then, the next question that's coming. She holds her glass close to her, and stares at him. Neither of them flinch. Eventually she has to look away, a flush creeping gently along the underside of her throat. "It's only a card."
Ronon looks down at his hand, and imagines the lines of ink pulsing blood.
"It's a fake holiday. It's stupid." In a crowded mess hall, McKay steals a French fry off Ronon's plate. The first time this happened, Ronon nearly fought him. Now he barely notices, and he knows that one day he too will take the plate for granted.
Ronon licks gravy from his fingers, considering. This isn't the answer he expected.
"No woman is stupid enough to let McKay buy her anything," Sheppard drawls. His eyes are easy as he watches Ronon, but there is just a little tightness in his voice.
"Listen." McKay rolls his yes. "Just because I haven't dated every woman in the Pegasus Galaxy..."
Teyla laughs at both of them, a stifled smile that shows no teeth. "Ronon, who is that requires such a gift?"
Ronon turns his head to look at her. He wonders if the Athosians have any such holiday, a day for giving sweets. He doubts it, but her words have caught Sheppard and McKay's attention.
"Yeah," Sheppard says. "Who are you shopping for?"
Ronon shrugs, wiping the food from his fingers. He wonders if it was Sheppard that presented Elizabeth with a picture of his heart.
He will say nothing else, to any of them. One of the first words she used to him was 'secret', and she uses it still.
Ronon understands the things that Elizabeth tells him, and some that she doesn't. He sees the way men's eyes follow her, and involuntarily his muscles will tighten, prepared to fight. He understands that the balance of her power lies in words, not all of them true. So if she hides, then he hides with her, and tells no one which strokes cause her moans to come loudest, with his fingers wrapped tightly around her wrist.
One of the first words he used to her was 'please'. He had been alone too long to be embarrassed over this. Over anything.
On Sateda, before the Wraith came, before a winter that seemed unending, Ronon knew a girl. She had smooth pale skin that turned pink when she grew angry, and the foulest mouth of any girl that Ronon had ever met. Ronon brought her flowers, and told her that he liked her eyes. She said she liked his smile. Ronon smiled then less than he does now.
When Ronon joined the army, she put her arms around him and told him he was very brave. Ronon didn't see what was brave about it. The Wraith were coming, they were always coming, and he could fight or he could die.
That wasn't what she wanted to hear, though, and he could tell after he said it.
When Ronon came back from training, six months in the desert, he stank of sweat and dirt. He was harder, in his body and in his mind.
He had sent her letters. She had answered only one. By the time he came back, she lived with another, and Ronon couldn't be surprised.
Sometimes he thinks that if he could have stayed there, with her, he wouldn't have gone back to the army, to have the Wraith bury a slow death under his skin.
But the whole town is ashes, now, and Ronon forgets what he can.
He watches her, to start. He likes to feel her anticipation building. He can smell it on her, want and fear, though the latter he has never deciphered. She's safer here than anywhere. She undresses, leaving her shirt and pants hanging carefully. The blush shows across each patch of skin as she bares it, across her shoulders, down her belly.
"How are you?"
Ronon doesn't answer. He draws her down instead, onto the bed, into his lap, where she is small and warm. He kisses her throat, and when she shivers he traces the goosebumps with his thumbs. He cups her breasts with his hands, wanting. She stifles her moans in the crease of his neck, her thighs spread to hold him.
Elizabeth is shadows, stretched out against the sheet. He lies beside her, not asked to stay but not yet asked to leave. His eyes follow the sweat that runs in rivers across her skin, and the uneven sounds as she struggles to control her breathing.
Her eyes flutter closed, almost, with dreams of Earth forming in peace on her face.
"You don't need a gift."
He hadn't realised he'd spoken aloud. It has been months since he's done that, said a thought without meaning to.
Before, there was no one to hear. Her eyes snap open. "No," she says softly, and her mouth is still wet from kisses. "I don't."
Ronon doesn't quite know what she means, but knows they don't speak of the same thing. "I'm not brave," he tells her.
Elizabeth looks surprised. "Of course you are. All of you here, you're very brave."
Ronon gives up. He fucks her again, in the come and sweat-covered sheets, and says nothing else.
He meets Sheppard in the morning, and they run. Ronon stretches first, to loosen tired muscles. Sheppard watches him with something to say.
"Spit it out," Ronon says.
"I'm glad you've found someone," Sheppard tells him, tugging absently at the band around his wrist. Their eyes don't meet.
Sheppard nods hastily. "Right. No, of course not. I'm sure there's nothing inappropriate going on. I just meant I'm glad you're starting to feel comfortable here."
Ronon nods. If Sheppard is the one who sent Elizabeth the paper, in the shape of a heart, he's not sure that friendship or military protocol would be enough to stop him from breaking Sheppard's arm. They don't solve things that way here, he's figured out that much, but it would feel good.
He's ended up in a strange place, he thinks, where no one is allowed to fight or touch or fuck. He manages not to say this aloud, looking at Sheppard as he stretches. "Yeah," he says quietly, and Sheppard seems to think it is enough.