Ronon Dex lay on his side on the infirmary bed, propped up with pillows to keep him from rolling onto the fresh incision on his back. Anyone passing by would probably assume he was taking a well-deserved rest after his pursuit and beating at the hands of the Wraith, but his eyes were open the tiniest slit, and he was watching Carson Beckett.
Every time he thought he had the doctor pegged, something happened to make him reevaluate his opinion. At first glance, Beckett was clumsy, timid and soft around the middle – in other words, completely unsuited for the kill-or-be-killed nature of life in the Pegasus galaxy.
Yet the fact remained: Beckett had now saved his life not once, but three times. He'd removed the Wraith tracker from his back, more or less at gunpoint, when Ronon was nothing more than a threatening stranger. The Satedan wondered if Beckett knew the extent of his service. He'd given Ronon his life back, saved him from eventual death and allowed him to resume something resembling a normal life.
And when he'd been laying on the floor, gut-shot and shaking with pain and shock, he'd known he was a dead man. He'd seen men with belly wounds before, and while some of them lingered in agony for days, none ever survived. The most he'd hoped for was that the being inhabiting Sheppard would give him a quick, merciful end. When the darkness had clouded his eyes he'd been grateful. He'd been surprised and confused when he'd awoken, hazy with drugs, to Beckett's reassuring smile and tired eyes. The doctor had assured him he'd make a full recovery. "Nothing to it. I could have done it with my eyes closed. In fact, it was so bloody dark I might well have done."
Amazing as they were, both these acts were in line with Beckett's profession and his nature. Today's rescue, however, was what had Ronon reconsidering his assumptions. Beckett, famously petrified of Ancient weaponry, had gone against Ronon's express wishes and blown the damned Wraith into vapor. And earlier, according to McKay, the doctor had taken up an assault rifle intending to take on two dozen Wraith soldiers and trackers. Of all the things the Satedan had come to expect from Carson Beckett, heavy ordinance didn't even make the list.
Ronon watched through slitted eyes as the doctor moved silently around the infirmary. Feet that managed to find every twig and dried leaf off-world made no sound on the polished floor, not even the muffled squeak made by the nurses' shoes. He had shed his tac vest but foregone his usual white coat, and the snug black T-shirt allowed Ronon to objectively assess the other man's body. Soft in the middle, yes, but Beckett's pectorals were well defined and his arms bulged with toned muscles. His weight balanced easily on legs that were thick and sturdy as tree trunks.
Ronon's leg jumped with a sudden muscle spasm. Beckett was there immediately, digging into the offending muscle with strong fingers. "Give it a moment," the doctor soothed. Gradually the knot released under Beckett's attention, and he straightened with a smile. "Good to see you back with us, son. How's your pain? And be honest, now, we all know you're tough, but you'll heal quicker if you're comfortable."
"I'm okay," he answered. "Doesn't really hurt."
Beckett cocked an eyebrow at him and studied his face, gauging his honesty with a scrutiny that should have been uncomfortable but somehow wasn't. "All right," he said, reaching out to fuss with the IV. "You be sure and let someone know if you want something, okay?"
Beckett smiled and patted his leg before walking away.
Ronon settled deeper into his pillow and considered his problem. Beckett had saved his life three times – four, he amended, feeling the pull of fresh stitches in his back. Obviously a debt was owed, but how should he repay it? Protecting the doctor from danger was a given, but he wouldn't always be there when Beckett needed him.
Ronon's path was suddenly clear. Beckett was physically strong and not afraid to act in a pinch. His confidence was growing by leaps and bounds as he began to realize how capable he actually was. Ronon would be the one to make sure the doctor had the tools to act and the means to protect himself. As soon as he'd healed, he would begin to pass on the knowledge that had let him survive seven years as a runner and numerous years as a soldier before that. He would make sure Beckett was proficient in hand-to-hand combat and a crack shot with every weapon in the Atlantis arsenal.
The Satedan didn't kid himself into thinking Beckett would be especially grateful, but he was confident he'd bring the doctor around to his way of thinking. He'd been told he was very persuasive, when properly motivated. And it was more than just a debt owed that motivated him. He liked the doctor and wanted him to stay alive.
The troublesome matter resolved, he let his eyes close. He was warm, comfortable and relatively safe from the Wraith, and it was largely thanks to Carson Beckett.
And Ronon Dex would not forget it.