John's POV:

"Are you sure about that, sir?" I ask the fuzzy video feed of General Landry, my new CO. "I mean, Ronon probably knows more about wilderness survival than I do. He's been doing it for seven years."

"I realize that, Colonel," Landry replies. "I just want to see what, exactly, he knows. See how it matches up to what we teach you boys in boot camp."

I swallow a sigh. I'm really missing General O'Neill right now. If he was still in charge of the SGC, I wouldn't have to take Ronon out and 'evaluate his skill level' because O'Neill took one look at Ronon and saw that he's just like Teal'c. He knows how to do what needs to be done and how to survive while on the run.

"Sir, yes, sir," I respond, just barely suppressing the sarcastic urge to snap my heels together and salute him.

Landry regards me with one eyebrow making its way toward his hairline. "Watch yourself, there, Colonel. That was pretty close to insubordination."

"Sorry, sir," I say, duly chastised.

"Very well, now I trust I will not have to repeat this order a second time?"

"No, sir," I answer.

"Good. Landry out," he says with a stiff nod of his head before the screen goes blank and the Stargate deactivates.

"John?" Elizabeth calls from behind me.

Squaring my shoulders, I turn to face her. "Elizabeth," I respond, trying my best to keep my frustration with Landry out of my tone.

"What did Landry want?" she asks.

"He wants me to take Ronon on a survival training mission." But some of it leaks through anyways.

Her eyebrow does a fair impression of Landry's. "Did you explain that he could probably teach the SEALs a thing or two about survival?"

"Yes, ma'am, but he wants to know exactly what Dex knows and how it compares with what we teach in boot camp."

"Hm," she hums in thought. "That's not such a bad idea. How long do you think you'll need?"

"A week at least," I tell her.

"Very well. Just let me know when you want to go."

Giving a brief nod of my head in compliance, I turn and go in search of Ronon Dex.


"Ronon," I call out when I finally find Specialist Dex in the mess hall.

"Sheppard," he responds around a mouthful of food.

I take the seat opposite him just as he scoops some more food into his mouth with the first two fingers of his right hand.

"We really need to work on your table manners," I tell him, wrinkling my nose as he does his impression of Rodney and shovels more food into his mouth before swallowing what he's currently chewing.

"Why?" he asks after he swallows.

"Because you're back in civilized society," I inform him. "Plus it's grossing out the scientists." I nod my head in the direction of a table of botanists that are looking decidedly green around the gills as they peer Ronan's way in haughty distaste.

Ronon just smirks at me.

"Yeah, I know, that last is not a real good reason, but still," I say while fighting a smile. "If you could do me a favor and at least use a fork when in the mess hall?" I hand him the utensil in question just as he starts to scoop more food into his mouth.

"I have a feeling you didn't track me down just to discuss my eating habits," he states, taking the fork from me with his left hand, as he licks the fingers of his right clean and wipes them on his pants.

"You're right about that," I reply. "Just got through talking to my CO and he's ordered me to take you on a 'survival training mission'." I inform him using air quotes around the last three words.

Ronon looks up, the fork halfway to his mouth. "Excuse me? Didn't you tell him what I've been doing for the past seven years?" he exclaims, his tone thick with indignation.

I roll my eyes. "He knows. He just hasn't ever worked with anyone like you and therefore doesn't know where you fit in."

Ronon shrugs at my explanation. "Whatever you say. Are Teyla and McKay coming too?"

Shaking my head, I reply. "No, but that's because they're more like civilians than military. At least that's how Landry sees them."

He shrugs again. "So, when we going?"

"Tomorrow. 0800. Jumper one," I give him the details of the plans I've already made. "I trust I don't have to tell you what not to pack?" I question, rising from my seat.

A snort is my only answer.


The next morning, after double checking to make sure Lorne will fly out with Ronon and I to take the jumper back to Atlantis, I head towards the bay, ready to get this exercise over and done with.

"Oh, there you are, Colonel," Rodney calls, excitement running through his voice. "You won't believe what I found."

Stifling a sigh of frustration, I turn to face him. Just a few minutes later and I would have been safely locked inside a jumper. "Not now, McKay. I'm late," I say.

My brows lower in a frown when I see that he's got his nose buried in his tablet PC. It's anyone's guess how he manages to get around without running into walls and people.

"Where are you going?" he asks without looking up.

"Don't worry about it," I tell him, turning to enter the jumper bay, hoping he doesn't follow.

"Don't be such a child, Colonel," he responds, following me inside and dashing my hopes of getting out of here without a scene once he sees who's going with me. "What's the big secret?"

"It's really not any of your concern," I reply, stopping just before I get to the back of the jumper and turning toward him; silently begging whatever deities that might be listening that he won't notice what I'm wearing.

"Really, Colonel," he starts to argue, finally lifting his head to look at me.

The look on his face when he sees I'm wearing my flack vest and carrying my P90 has me mentally cringing.

"I don't remember seeing an email about the team going off-world," he mumbles, a note of hurt in his voice.

I take a deep breath and prepare myself for Rodney McKay in full-on brat mode. The tone of his voice and the set of his shoulders remind me of the Rodney I met two years ago. The pain of being ostracized and left out as a kid has turned him into one of those annoying people who invite themselves along on everything from a pizza run to an off-world mission. I think it's probably so he can make sure that the 'cool kids' aren't talking about him behind his back.

"This isn't a team thing, Rodney," I state. "So there's no need to get your undies in a knot."

"You're late, Sheppard," Ronon calls, sticking his head out of the open jumper hatch.

That man has the worst timing in the universe. I think squeezing my eyes shut while gathering my courage before facing the pain on Rodney's face.

"Ronon…" Rodney whispers. "You're going off-world with Ronon."

"Rodney…" I say softly.

He lifts his head and meets my gaze. The pain in his eyes makes me feel just as guilty now as it did six months ago when I broke things off with him.

"It's not what you think," I explain, knowing he's jumped to conclusions again. One of the reasons I ended our… relationship, is because he's so damn jealous.

"No?" he asks so softly I have to step closer to hear.

"No," I reply, matching the volume of my voice to his. This is not a conversation that the whole base needs to hear.

"And it's none of my business, is that right, Colonel Sheppard?" his demands, his eyes narrowing on my face.

"That's right. It's none of your business," I can't keep the hard edge off my tone. "Even if we were still dating, which we are not, it's not something that concerns you."

"I can't believe you!" he hisses, stepping so close the toes of our shoes are touching. "You dump me and then run off with Ronon Dex and it doesn't concern me?" he squeaks in outrage, flinging his arm out in the direction of the jumper.

"I dumped you six months ago, Dr. McKay," I retort, my anger coming through in my tone. "Who I decide to spend my time with is something you have no say in. But I will tell you this," I growl, leaning even closer, our noses now touching. "I do not need your permission to follow orders from my CO. Am I clear?"

He blinks owlishly at me, and then nods his head.

"Good," I say, the anger slowly ebbing away.

"I…" he stammers. "Sorry. I…I'm just…gonna go…" He starts to back away toward the door, pointing in that direction over his shoulder.

"You do that," I reply with a stiff nod before turning my back and entering the jumper, ignoring the surprised look from Major Lorne and the amused one from Ronon. I have the uneasy feeling he heard more of that little argument than I'd like.


"Be careful," Liz tells me when the jumper settles on the gateroom floor.

"We will," I reassure her, just barely refraining from adding, 'mom'.

The grin on her face tells me she heard the unspoken word. "See you in a week," she responds with a slight nod of her head.

"A week," I confirm, turning the jumper and dialing the gate for an uninhabited planet with a gate in orbit.

It never fails to thrill me, the feeling of going through an active wormhole. One second you're on one side of it and the next – poof! – you're somewhere else.

The event horizon spits us out and I see the planet below us. It appears to be more like Earth than Atlantis is. I can see large expanses of land and very little water.

I decide to do something I can't do with my team in the jumper because of McKay's 'weak stomach'. I put the jumper in a spiraling nosedive that cuts smoothly through the atmosphere of the planet.

Lorne and Ronon enjoy the steep descent as much as I do, if the grins on their faces are any indication.

"Okay, Lorne," I say, landing in the first clearing we come to. "She's all yours."

Lorne takes my place in the pilot's seat, rubbing his hands lovingly over the controls. "I'll take good care of her, sir," he informs me.

"You're in charge for the next week, Major," I remind him. "There's a list of ways to 'control' McKay in the top drawer of my desk, should you need it."

"Yes, sir," he replies, glancing over his shoulder at me, a small smirk firmly in place. "Don't you worry about a thing, sir. I'll make sure both the city and McKay are in one piece when you return."

"Very good," I respond, slapping him on the shoulder before turning and following Ronon out of the jumper.

"So," Ronon starts, turning toward me when I finally join him in the bright sunshine. "How's this work?"

"Well," I begin, watching the jumper rise like a levitating log into the clear blue sky that reminds me, unwillingly of course, of McKay's eyes after really good sex. "We could always work it like we're equals who were stranded here and are just waiting for a rescue from our friends."

"Works for me," he agrees, turning to survey the treeline. "Which way?"

"East?" I suggest, pointing to the treeline off to my right.

"You really have no sense of direction, do you?" he asks with a laugh. "That's south."

"How do you know? It could be east."

"But it's not."

I frown at him. "Again, how do you know? The sun is directly over head."

Ronon grins at me. "Trust me, Shep. That's south."

"Fine, east, south, whatever. There are mountains in that direction so there just might be some caves where we can take shelter," I say, fighting the urge to do my own impression of McKay and complain like he does that he always tends to be right and no one believes him until it's too late.

We spend the next several hours walking toward the mountains and we soon have several dead animals attached to our belts.

"Well at least we won't starve," I comment after Ronon kills yet another rabbit-like animal.

A clap of thunder has me worriedly searching the sky. Where the hell did those storm clouds come from? "I think it's going to..." I begin just as the sky opens up and we're both soaked to the skin within seconds. "...rain."

"Really?" Ronon asks, squinting at me through the downpour. "Why do ya think that?"

The man has really absorbed way too much earth culture. But then again, his sarcasm is improving. Which I prefer to how he was when he first arrived and spoke only when absolutely necessary.

"Maybe we should pick up the pace, huh?" I suggest, walking faster toward the mountains that I really hope have at least one cave that we can use for shelter.

We can't move as fast as I'd like due to the mud that keeps threatening to pull our boots off with each step and having to dodge puddles as well as ever increasing tree roots.

"Maybe you should put on some more body fat?" Ronon counters. "If you weren't so skinny you wouldn't get cold so quickly."

"Who said anything about being cold?" I respond, a teeth-rattling shiver taking me unawares. "Shut up," I snap when Ronon laughs.

By the time we get to the foothills of the mountain range, which luckily has several caves, I'm shivering almost non-stop. The rain isn't even all that cold. There's just something about being wet that reminds me of my childhood and all the bad memories that I carry from it.

The cave we decide to use is narrow, but long. I can't see how far it reaches into the mountainside.

"You get out of those wet clothes and dry off," Ronon orders, heading further into the cave. "I'm gonna see if there are any dry leaves or twigs to use for a fire."

"Yes, sir," I mutter under my breath as soon as he's out of ear shot.

Pulling a blanket out of my pack, I set about peeling the drenched clothing from my body. Once naked, I wrap the blanket around me like a toga and then slide down the wall to sit curled up in a ball on the floor of the cave.

"You're not gonna get sick, are you?" Ronon asks, jerking me out of the light doze I'd fallen into, when he returns with an armload of twigs and leaves.

"No," I answer. "How far back does it go?"

"About another 100 yards or so, then it turns to the right and appears to have another entrance further down the mountain."

He drops his find in the middle of the cave and begins to build a fire.

"Need any help?" I offer; pushing myself upright and joining him, making sure the blanket covers what needs to be covered.

"No, I got it," he replies just as the pile of leaves and twigs catches fire. "I'll take first watch."

"That's not necessary," I argue.

"Unless you're willing to get back into your wet clothes, or they've miraculously dried in the last few minutes, it's very necessary," he says with a look I can't read.

"Fine," I grudgingly give in. "Guess I'll cook dinner."

"You ever skinned an animal before?" he asks, tossing me two of the rabbit-like creatures he calls 'gauna'.

I decide to not answer him. Skinning is my least favorite part of hunting, but I'd rather not eat burnt fur.

Pulling out my field knife, I start preparing our meal while he makes sure the fire has caught.

Once done, I place the skinned animals on the spit Ronon made from two twigs that look like the capital letter 'y'and what appears to be some kind of metal bar he must have pulled from his pack, and slowly turn them so they don't burn.

"Is this going to hurt your chances of getting back together with McKay?" Ronon asks several minutes later.

Never thought I'd have to field personal questions from him, so to give myself a minute to think of an answer, I cut a piece of meat off one of the gaunas and take a bite. "No," is my simple answer.

"Really? He seemed pretty upset about us going on this 'mission' alone," Ronon replies. His use of air quotes has also improved.

"Rodney just hasn't gotten used to the fact that we're no longer together," I respond, popping the rest of the meat in my mouth.

"You sure you have?" he questions, squinting at me through the smoke from the fire.

"What's with all the personal questions?"

He shrugs. "Just curious, is all."

Uh-huh. Curious my Aunt Fannie. I raise one eyebrow at his answer. "Sure ya are, Ronon," I say.

This earns me a laugh. The man has a fantastic laugh. "Really, Sheppard. I'm just curious."

"Whatever," I mutter, trying to find a comfortable position on the ground.

"Can I ask why you're no longer sharing his bed?" he asks just when I thought he'd let the subject drop.

"'Sharing his bed'?" I repeat, leaning on my elbows so I can see him where he's sitting on the other side of the fire. "Where'd you hear that phrase?"

"Weir," he answers with a shrug.

Of course. He must have overheard her talking to someone about Rodney and me.

"I ended my sexual relationship with McKay because he only wanted to 'share my bed'. I happen to be looking for something more."

"'Something more'?" now it's his turn to act like a parrot and repeat things.

"McKay's all about the pleasure he can get right now. I want someone I can grow old with."

"And that's not McKay?"

"No. Whenever we were alone he'd be all over me. Didn't want to talk about anything," I state. "Ever wonder why our conversations on missions were so impersonal?"

"I just thought you didn't want Teyla and I to hear things you'd only tell a lover," he informs me.

Seeing his point, I nod my head to show that could have been the reason.

"Get some rest. I'll wake you when it's your turn," he says before I can even think of a response to his last statement.


Dawn finds me standing at the entrance of the cave, staring out at the rain that hasn't let up since it started yesterday.

"Is it still raining?" Ronon's sleep roughened voice asks from behind me.

"Yeah," I respond, my caffeine-deprived brain too sluggish to think of an appropriately snarky come-back. Besides, I doubt Ronon would be able to grasp the concept of 'Here's your sign'.

"I really hate the rain," he mutters, approaching where I'm standing.

"Me too."

"So why are you staring at it like you've never seen it before?"

I cross my arms over my chest and lean one shoulder against the wall. "Actually I'm thinking back to when I was a kid."

"Yeah?" he prompts when I don't continue right away.

"Yeah," I sigh. "My friends used to play 'hide-and-go-seek' in the rain. As long as it wasn't thundering and lightning, of course."

"Hide-and-go-seek?"

"It's a game. Excellent for working on tracking skills."

He frowns at me. "How so?"

"Well, one person is 'it' and they stay at home base, count to 10," I start to explain, a small smile of remembrance of all the times I played this game with my friends as a kid. "While the other people hide. Then the one who is 'it' goes looking for everyone else."

"Huh, sounds like an interesting game," he comments. "Tell me more."

"We could always play it once the rain stops," I say.

"Why wait for the rain to stop?" Ronon asks. "Wait, you said your friends used to play this game in the rain. Didn't you play it with them?"

Damn, I was hoping he wouldn't catch that. "Not if it was raining or cold out," I reply, fighting to not let my remembered frustration show.

"Why not?"

How did I know he wouldn't let this drop?

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly before explaining. "I was born six and a half weeks early. The doctors told my parents I wouldn't make it past the first night. Then I wasn't supposed to live past that first week. Then the first month. I think you can see where I'm going with this?" I state, turning to meet his eyes.

"So how old were you when the doctors stopped telling you, you were supposed to die?"

"When I was 10 and had my tonsils out," I answer with a chuckle. "My pediatrician was so convinced I wasn't going to live to adulthood that he tried to get my mom to not agree on the surgery."

"Glad your mom didn't believe him."

"She didn't believe him because she had been keeping me inside during bad weather my whole life. I wasn't even allowed to play sports," I say with a hint of the old resentment. "Not that I really could have played a sport, what with the way we moved around," I finish under my breath.

"So how badly did your mom freak out when you told her you were joining the Air Force?"

I blink at him. "Freak out? Where did you get that phrase?"

Ronon shrugs. "I heard Lorne say it."

Of course. "You spend way too much time listening to other people's conversations," I tell him.

He chuckles. "Learn a lot that way. You should try it some time," he informs me.

I just shake my head. "People on Atlantis see me coming and they tend to shut up."

"Then stop walking around with McKay. His non-stop chatter is what gives you away," he grumbles.

A laugh escapes me at the look on his face. "Been on the receiving end of one of Rodney's non-stop chatter sessions, have we?"

"Yeah," he mumbles. "So, your mom? How'd she react to your joining the military?"

"You never let anything drop, do you?" I ask.

Ronon just grins at me in response.

I don't like to talk about my mom, those memories are just too painful, but somehow I think Ronon will understand my pain. "She didn't 'freak out'," I finally say softly.

"Why not?"

Mentally rolling my eyes at his dog with a bone impression, I answer him. "She died when I was 16."

"Shep, man, I'm sorry. I had no idea," he says, sympathy heavy in his tone.

"It's alright. She'd been sick for a long time," I reassure him. "It's ironic that she's the one who ended up getting sick. She'd spent so much time and energy keeping me healthy that she ignored her own health," I say, with a shake of my head and a bark of humorless laughter. "But enough of that. What say we play in the rain?"

His eyes light up just like McKay's with a new piece of Ancient tech. "Which one of us is 'it'?"

"Well, since you've never played before, I'll be 'it' first," I state. "I'll stay here, at home base," I pat the wall next to me. "You go hide. After I count to 10…"

"50," he interrupts me.

"15," I counter.

"45."

"20."

"40," he responds, rocking back on his heels.

"20," I say again.

"35."

"20," I state in the tone of voice I use to get McKay to listen to me.

He heaves a huge sigh. "Fine. 20 it is."

With a stiff nod I continue. "After I count to 20," I raise one eyebrow, daring him to contradict me. "I'll say, 'Ready or not here I come!'. That's your cue to hide, if you haven't yet. Once I find you, I'll touch your arm and say, 'Tag, you're it!'."

"And when you're tired of looking for me?"

Leave it to Ronon to think I won't be able to find him.

"If I get tired of looking for you after an hour, I'll say, 'Ollie, Ollie oxen free!'."

"Huh?" the look on his face is beyond funny.

"I have no idea what it means, exactly, just that when the person who's 'it' says it, everyone can come out of hiding and approach home base."

"Okay. So, you're 'it' first?"

"Yeah, I'll be 'it' first," I say with a sigh. "Now go, hide," I urge with shooing motions of my hands.

"Are you supposed to watch me hide?" he asks with one eyebrow raised.

"No," I answer, turning and burying my face in my arms on the wall. "1…2…" I start to count.

"Remember," he says, tapping me on the shoulder. "Count to 50."

I lift my head to glare at him. "20."

Ronon just chuckles as he turns and jogs out of the cave.

"1…2…" I start counting again. "3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10…11…12…13…14…15…16…17…18…19…20. Ready or not here I come!" I feel really foolish playing a childhood game with a grown man.

When I step out of the cave I discover that the rain makes it extremely difficult to tell which way he went.

"Eenie, meanie, minie, moe," I figure if I'm playing a child's game, I might as well use a child's method for picking something. "He went thata way!" I say, pointing off to my left.

I know it's not possible, but it seems like the rain is on Ronon's side. Just as I find his tracks, it starts to rain harder, making it even more difficult to see.

Eventually the rain begins to slow. But the sun stays hidden behind ugly looking clouds and my boots make squishing noises in the mud.

A glance at my watch tells me it's been almost an hour since Ronon went off to hide. I start preparing myself for the ribbing he'll give me, when I notice his boot prints in the mud at the base of a huge tree.

A smile splits my face as I tilt my head back and meet Ronon's startled gaze. "I found you," I inform him with a laugh.

"But you haven't tagged me yet, so you're still 'it'," he sing-songs back.

"So c'mon down and I'll tag ya," I coax with a wave of my hand.

Ronon shakes his head. "I don't think so."

"Fine. I'll come to you, then," I warn, eyeing the lowest branch.

After several seconds judging the distance from the ground to the branch, I jump and swing myself up. Just as I get ready to pull myself to the next branch, he moves down one and then jumps to the ground.

"You want me to chase you?" I ask, following his example and jumping to the ground.

"Think you can catch me?" he asks back, taking off back toward the cave.

"No fair!" I yell, giving chase.

I can't remember the last time I had this much fun. Luckily Ronon realizes that this is supposed to be for fun and allows me to almost catch him several times.

Getting tired of chasing him through the woods, I decide to cut him off. But as soon as I step to my right, pain shoots up my right leg, causing my knee to buckle and throwing me off balance. I land on my back and slide down into a ravine.

Biting back a scream of pain, I activate my radio. "Ronon!"

"Sheppard?"

"I need your assistance," I say through gritted teeth.

"Where are you?"

"I had cut to the right to try and get in front of you and I think I twisted my ankle. I'm in a ravine."

"Leave it to you to get hurt when we have no way to get back to Atlantis."

"Yes, yes. Stupid of me, I know. Now get your ass over here and help me up!"

Several minutes later a chuckle alerts me that my rescuer has arrived. "I swear. You and McKay can find trouble anywhere, can't you?"

I glare up at his smirking face. "Whatever. Just get me out of here."

"Give me your arms," he instructs.

I lift my arms and suddenly find myself being lifted, almost effortlessly from the ravine. Tears of pain spring to my eyes when the ex-runner sets me on my feet.

"Can you put any weight on it?" Ronon asks, wrapping his arms around my waist to help me find my balance.

Pressing my lips firmly together, I shake my head.

It's slow going with me not able to put any kind of pressure on my right foot. After almost falling over yet another tree root, Ronon stops.

"This isn't working," he states.

"Tell me something I don't know," I reply.

We stare at each other for countless seconds, then he bends down and drives an 'oaf' from me when his shoulder meets my belly a bit harder than is really necessary.

"Well, now I know how a sack of potatoes feels," I comment as he carries me, fireman style, back to our cave.

"I really could have sworn we left McKay back on Atlantis," he responds.

I glare at the back of his head. "I don't sound anything like McKay. I was just saying that I've never been carried like this. At least not while awake," I sniff just as we enter the cave.

"Whatever you say," he mutters, dropping me onto the pile of blankets I had slept on last night.

"Hey! Watch the ankle!"

"Sorry," he says, but I can tell he doesn't really mean it.

"Should probably get out of those wet clothes," he suggests while building another fire.

"Yeah, guess I should," I agree, unzipping my flack vest and shrugging it from my shoulders.

Once the fire is going, he returns and starts removing my boots.

"Hey," I protest, pausing with my shirt half off.

"What?" he asks, not even bothering to look at me.

"I can undress myself," I tell him. "Been doing it since I was three."

"I want to take a look at that ankle," he comments, gently holding my right ankle in his hand. "Gonna be black and blue tomorrow. Can you wiggle your toes?"

I can't stop the gasp of pain that escapes when I try. "No," I pant. "Don't make me do that again."

He looks up at me, a smirk firmly in place. "Big baby," he teases.

"I got an Ace bandage in my pack," I state, trying to get him back on track here.

Ever since I took my shirt off, I've noticed him sneaking looks. While I'm glad the attraction is mutual, now is not a good time for us to begin a relationship.

I squirm out of my pants when he gets up to get my pack. By the time he returns, the evidence of my reaction to his closeness is safely hidden under my blanket.

"Give me your foot," he orders, stooping down in front of me.

"I can do it myself," I argue, holding out my hand for the bandage.

"You ever wrapped a twisted ankle on yourself?" he questions, grabbing my right leg instead of waiting for my answer. "Damned hard to get the right angle to wrap it tight enough."

Despite his gruff manner, Ronon is surprisingly gentle while wrapping my ankle. The throbbing has slowed to a bearable level by the time he's finished.

"Wish we were back in Atlantis right now," I mutter. "Could really use some of the good drugs."

"I know something that's better for pain than drugs," he tells me, meeting my eyes and licking his lips.

"That is so not a good idea, Dex," I warn.

"Why? Because it's me?"

"No. Because of why I broke up with Rodney. I. Don't. Do. Casual. Sex." I respond, stressing each word so that there's no misunderstanding.

"Who says it'll be casual?" he dares me, the look in his eyes making all the blood rush to my groin.

"Ronon…" I moan. "Don't do this to me!"

"I'm willing to give whatever you ask of me, Sheppard. And I mean, whatever," Ronon informs me, his hand rubbing arousing circles on my calf.

"And what if what I want is forever?" I refuse to allow myself to be open to the kind of heartbreak Rodney put me through.

"I can do that."

"Can you?" I whisper, afraid that too loud a word will scare him off.

"Yes," he assures me, just as softly. "Shall I prove it?"

Ronon doesn't wait for my answer; he just shifts his grip higher on my calf, just below my knee, gently pulls me to him and captures my lips with his.

Our first kiss is everything all of my kisses with McKay never were. It starts out soft and slow, as if he's afraid I'll push him away, and quickly turns hot and demanding. I end up flat on my back with Ronon leaning over me, his tongue halfway down my throat.

Pushing on his shoulders, I turn my head and suck in some much needed air. "There's another reason this isn't a good idea," I say on a groan of pure need when his teeth discover my ear lobe.

"Why's that?" he pauses in his sweet torture to ask.

"No lube," I pant.

"There are other things we can do," he tells me.

"Yeah? Like wh…?" I begin to ask only to be interrupted by his hand finding my erect dick and giving it a squeeze through the blanket covering it. "Fuck!"

Ronon chuckles at my reaction. "Been awhile since it was someone else, huh?"

"Yeah," I breathe when he starts slowly stroking my length.

Ronon seems to know exactly how I like to be touched and where. Rodney didn't know that, even after over a year of dating, I mean fucking, on a regular basis.

"Wait!" I shout.

"What now?" Ronon asks his tone heavy with frustration.

"You're still dressed," I state, slipping my hands underneath his shirt and slowly pulling it up and over his head.

He steals another deep, tongue-tangling kiss the second his head is free of the cloth.

"And now the pants," I purr, running my hands down his back to the waistband of the offending article of clothing.

I can't resist squeezing his ass cheeks when I slip my hands inside his pants before trailing my fingertips around to the front and unhooking the closure.

Ronon stands up and steps out of his pants and underwear, giving me an excellent view of his erect cock.

A burst of laughter has me glancing up to meet his gaze with a brow raised in question.

"You're drooling, Sheppard," he informs me.

A smirk graces my face as I wipe my chin on the back of my hand. "Can't help it. You're beyond my wildest dreams."

Ronon drops to his knees between my spread legs, reaching for the blanket that's still pooled there. "Now it's my turn to drool over you," he says in a deep growl that has a shiver of anticipation coursing down my spine.

I'm nowhere near as big as him but I've been told I'm big enough. Will he think so? Lying there, letting him look his fill, is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. And one of the reasons I've never had a one-night stand. That moment when your partner sees you naked for the first time is just too nerve wracking.

"Exactly how I pictured you," he murmurs against the skin of my belly.

Fuck! The man's going to be the death of me if he keeps saying things like that.

I grab fistfuls of his dreads when he licks a stripe up the underside of my dick. "Not gonna last long if you keep doing that," I warn him, pulling him up so I can see his beautiful brown eyes.

He just grins. "We have five more days, ya know," he reminds me.

"True, but I think our first time should last more than a few measly minutes. Don't you?'

"Okay, okay. Enough talking," he says, reaching between us and taking me in his hand.

"Oh, yeah…" I say on a moan.

Ronon leans down and seals his mouth across mine, his tongue coaxing mine to dance in time with his strokes on my cock.

When I feel the telltale tingle in the base of my spine, I wiggle one hand between us and wrap it around his erection. Locking my other arm as tight as I can around his neck, I deepen the kiss and speed up my strokes, urging him to do the same.

An eternity later, my orgasm washes over me like a tidal wave. I toss back my head and howl my pleasure to the heavens just seconds before I feel the warm splash of his come hitting my stomach.

"I think I really like this game of 'hide-n-seek' if this is how it ends," he pants in my ear.

How the hell does he have enough breath to speak? Or for that matter how does he have the strength to put two thoughts together?

"Not…every…game…" I begin, trying to catch my breath. "Oh, the hell with it," I mutter, pulling his head down so I can suck on his tongue some more.

"If that's how it was with you and McKay, no wonder he was all over you whenever you two were alone," he says some minutes later, just as I'm about to fall asleep.

"Nice way to ruin the mood, Dex," I grouch.

"Sorry," he apologizes, shifting us around until we're both comfortable, or at least as comfortable as we can be on the stony ground.

The position he settles on puts the least amount of pressure on my ankle; me on my left side, pressed against his right side, my injured foot resting on his left thigh, my leg draped across his abdomen.

"Sleep, Sheppard." he murmurs into the hair at my temple.

Sleep. Good idea. I think just as my lids get too heavy to keep open and I drift off.


Five days later, I'm standing in front of the vid screen in the gate room on Atlantis, leaning heavily on a pair of crutches and trying to ignore the throb in my newly casted broken right ankle.

"Don't know how much of a success this mission was, sir," I tell Landry. "But seeing as how we both came back, mostly in one piece…" I give a one-shouldered shrug.

"I'd call that a success, Colonel," he informs me with a chuckle. "So, how did you break your ankle?"

"Well, Ronon decided I needed to improve my tracking skills. I decided to try and cut him off but when I turned to my right I either put my foot down wrong or I stepped in a hole."

"Good thing you weren't alone."

"Yes, sir," I agree.

"So his survival skill level?" Landry finally asks the question I've been waiting for.

"Ronon Dex could be a Navy SEAL, sir," I say.

"Very good. You have excellent judgment, Colonel."

"Thank you, sir."

"Take care of that ankle. Landry out," he states with a brief nod.

"Well?" Ronon asks, walking up to where I'm staring at the deactivated Stargate. "And shouldn't you be sitting down?"

"Landry now agrees with me about you, and I'd much rather go lie down," I comment, turning to make my way to my quarters, Ronon tagging along.

"Want some company?"

"Sure," I reply, glad he can't see the smile on my face.

We continue on to my quarters in silence but just before we reach the door we run into McKay.

Rodney looks me up and down, he hasn't seen me since Ronon and I returned from the planet, then looks over my shoulder at Ronon. "At least I didn't break him," he says before stepping around us and continuing on his way.

"Did he just give us his blessing?" Ronon asks quietly from behind me.

"I'm not sure. Do you need his blessing?" I respond, turning to enter my room.

"Nope. You?" Ronon answers, following me inside and wrapping his arms around my waist before taking the crutches from me.

"Not at all," I tell him with a smile, pulling his head down so I can nibble on his lips. "Not at all."