Author's Notes: This is set sometime after The Return part 2. I started writing it before seeing it. Upon rewatching The Return part 1 and 2, and seeing season 4, I realized that the midway station is so people from Earth can travel back and forth between Earth and Atlantis without a jumper. For this story to make sense, the midway station looks like it did in The Return part 1.

John's POV:

Two weeks after Ronon and I had our 'survival training mission', I'm enjoying – not – my forced desk duty by ignoring the stacks of papers on my desk.

"John," Elizabeth calls from the door of my office, causing me to miss the final shot and lose the game of Chicken Invaders I'm playing.

"Argh!" I yell, hitting the desk with my fist in frustration. "So close! Now I have to start over."

"John?" Elizabeth calls again, a hard note to her voice like a teacher who has caught a student not doing their class work.

"Oh, Elizabeth," I reply with a smile, looking over the top of my laptop at her. "Didn't hear you come in," I explain, closing the laptop with a snap and folding my hands on top of it. "What can I do for you?"

Her eyebrow makes its way up her forehead and I know I'm busted. I give her one of my best boyish grins. She just rolls her eyes at me.

"I do believe this stack of papers has gotten bigger in the two weeks since you broke your ankle," she says, tapping the top of the mountain of papers in my inbox with her forefinger.

"Is that a hint?" I ask, lounging back in my chair and looking as innocent as possible.

"John, seriously," she says, her lips twitching with the need to smile at my feeble attempts at humor. "You can't keep ignoring it," she informs me.

"I can try," I respond casually, not giving in.

She sighs and sits down in one of the chairs in front of my desk. "Look," she begins, "I know you don't like it, but it must be done." I frown when I realize she's using the same tone my mother did when she was trying to get me to be reasonable as a kid. "I'm not a fan of paperwork either, but I do it because I have to."

"I know, Elizabeth. My mom used to give me a similar lecture about the doctor." I give a sigh of surrender and reach for the top sheet. "See, Mom? I'm doing my homework," I tease with another grin. And watch the one on her face fade, causing my heart to start a slow pounding. Something is wrong, I can feel it.

"I didn't come here about your uncompleted reports, John," she tells me gravely, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

"Then why are you here?" I ask reasonably. For some reason something about her manner is making me edgy, and the mood makes my voice just a little sharper than I want.

"Because of this," she states, holding up a memory stick. "You got a personal message in this week's status report."

"I…What?" I hop to my good foot as gracefully as I can manage, holding to the edges of the desk for support and ignoring the protest from my ankle. There aren't a lot of people back on Earth who would send me a personal message; a few old friends, maybe a military buddy wanting a favor, but I don't have a lot of personal ties to warrant such a message.

"Easy, John," Elizabeth urges, jumping up to gently push me back down into my seat. "Here." She hands me the memory stick and stands there quietly, just looking at me.

We stare at each other for several seconds, that little furrow she gets on her forehead when she's worried getting deeper. Not good news, then. So much for the 'friend wanting a favor' theory. I look at the innocent device resting in my hand. "Who's it from?" I ask, the teasing mood from earlier having disappeared entirely.

"Your father," she says quietly, and with that little bombshell setting off alarm bells in my head, she walks out of my office and leaves me holding a little plastic olive branch I never expected.

My father. My father? I sit there for a minute or two, turning the memory stick over in my fingers as the past washes over me. When I last saw him, he disowned me. The words he spoke still ring in my ears.

"Do you have anything further to say in your defense, Major Sheppard?" the JAG officer in charge of my inquiry asked. All the evidence had been heard, all the testimony given, all the facts laid out. I couldn't change any of it at that point, not that I ever considered changing my story. The families of the men I'd tried to save had done their best to plead my case, not that it had done much good.

"No, Sir," I answered, my gaze flicking from her to my father's disapproving stare. It figured he'd manage to call in enough favors so that he could witness this fiasco…

The inquiry Officer straightened the pile of papers before her and looked up at me, tapping a forefinger unconsciously on the desktop. "Very well, Major Sheppard. The court finds you guilty of disobeying a direct order." The words fell like a hammer, and the feeling of impending doom that had gripped me since my father walked into the courtroom solidified into a cold ball of ice that had lodged firmly in my midsection. "However," she went on, and I focused on her again. "Due to the extenuating circumstances, and the fact that the families now have a body to bury thanks to your actions, you will not be court martialed. Nor will you be demoted or otherwise subjected to further imprisonment. While this court cannot and will not condone disobedience, it cannot argue with the fact that you tried to save these soldiers so that they might continue to serve their country. The failure of that effort carries with it its own punishment. Therefore, rather than impose additional disciplinary action upon you, an official reprimand will be entered in your permanent record, and you will be transferred to McMurdo Air Force Base in Antarctica effective immediately. You will remain stationed there until your current tour of duty is completed." She slipped the papers into a file folder and rose to stare me down.

"Given the isolation of that particular base, I imagine you will have ample time to ponder the nature of your actions. And not coincidentally, serve as an object lesson for any other officers who might consider bypassing the appropriate chain of command in favor of independent and unauthorized missions. Should it have slipped your memory, Major, the US government has a great deal invested in a man of your rank. It would be a shame to waste that potential. When the time comes for you to re-enlist, I strongly urge you to do so." With that, she collected her files, snapping her briefcase shut on them, and strode through the chamber doors.

I was suddenly aware that nobody was looking at me. Like they couldn't even stand the sight of me. Was that it, or was it just that they probably didn't want to make themselves feel bad by looking in the eyes of a man that had just been sentenced to what basically amounted to exile? Well, fine, I really didn't want to look at them, either. I took refuge in my training and just stood there, stiff and tall, not looking at anything in particular.

The other members of the board followed the JAG at a slower pace, most of them stopping to speak to my father. Empty dialogue, just pressing the flesh and exchanging false smiles to make sure they're still patting each other's backs. Once again I was reminded of just how influential he is. He has friends in extremely high places. My disobedience caused a crack to appear in the picture of the perfect family that he was always trying to present. If he couldn't control his own son, how could he possibly expect to control negotiations with our enemies?

So… one sentence had been imposed. It only remained for my father to issue his. Mercifully, he waited until the room had cleared. I continued to stand at attention as he approached. Time had taught me how to not flinch when he came to a halt in front of me.

Taking a deep breath, I waited for him to slap me. I had dishonored him, disappointed him yet again. A slap in the face was the least I expected.

He managed to surprise me when all he did was lean in close to yell at me. "Are you trying to commit career suicide?" he screamed, spittle hitting me in the face. "Wasn't it enough that you had to pick the most dangerous of all military careers? You just had to disobey a direct order, too?"

My back stiffened even more. "You don't understand," I began only to have him cut me off.

"Then why don't you explain it to me!" he snarled, his face turning a frightening shade of red. "What do you have to say for yourself?"

"I did what I thought was right," I said as calmly as I could. How could I explain to him? How could I get through to him and help him remember what it's like on a battlefield? How could I ever tell him that saving lives helps me feel better about the fact that I couldn't save Mom?

"What you thought was right?" he repeated, his voice getting more and more shrill with each word. "You are not trained to think. You are trained to obey!"

"Yes, sir," I agreed bitterly. I realized that, just like always, arguing was going to get me nowhere. My father was just too proud to bend or to listen to anyone else. And then I went even more rigid with shock at his next words, which he threw out with galling ease.

"Your mother would be appalled at your lack of respect for your superiors."

At the mention of my mother, all feelings of contrition vanished and were replaced with righteous indignation. How dare he pretend to know how she'd feel about what I did? How could he fucking dare? Mom would have cheered! She would have understood; I know she would have. "How would you know? You were hardly ever home! How could you possibly know how she would react to this?" The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. I knew instantly that I'd made a mistake.

"This is not about me, boy," he snarled, taking a step back as though to give himself room to swing at me. "It's about the fact that I raised you to respect those in command."

"So of course it's still about you. And by the way, you didn't raise me. Mom did." This confrontation had been too long in coming and I couldn't find the strength to stop myself. I wanted to hit him so badly, but I just couldn't mention my mother and then punch her widower in the same breath. Out of respect for her, of course.

"I was off doing my job," he countered defensively, his eyes narrowing on my face, and he instantly went back to an aggressive posture. If I wasn't careful this could easily turn into a knock-down-drag-out, with my father coming out on top and me getting that prison sentence I had just narrowly escaped. Part of me figured that it would be worth it, just to smash my fist into that hated face, but I decided to be better than him, for Mom's sake. I'd just hit him with something else.

"Oh, yes, your job," I seethed, anger making me reckless. I wondered if I would get away with it if I could get him to take the first swing, but instantly remembered that it would be his word against that of his insubordinate failure of a son.

"You are getting very close to stepping over the line, Major," he warned. Not 'John,' but 'Major.' I wasn't a son to him, but another damn peon, and that was the next-to-last straw.

"Like you give a damn about me," I growled through clenched teeth. "All you've ever cared about is your damn career. You left Mom home alone with me. You didn't even hire a nurse to help take some of the strain off her. Do you know what she went through my first years of life?"

"Yes, John, I do," he said so softly that to this day I'm still not sure he actually said it. "Your mother wanted to take care of you on her own since her mother couldn't come and help. I offered to hire a nurse. She refused."

I wanted to challenge him on that, but before I had a chance to decide if he spoke the truth or not, the door behind me opened for an underling to poke his head in. "Colonel Sheppard? You have a phone call."

"Thank you, Airman," my father replied calmly, glancing over my shoulder to look at him. He was polite to this stranger. Much more polite than he'd ever been with me. "When I walk from this room, I don't ever want to hear your name again. Is that clear, Major?"

"Yes, sir," I responded darkly. So there it was. No more having to kiss his ass, at least.

I turned and walked stiffly from the room, knowing I would probably never see my father again and as far as he was concerned I was dead. The feeling was more or less mutual.

Colonel Adam Sheppard isn't the kind of guy who'd change his mind on a whim, so whatever he has to say, it's probably important. The problem is, his weren't the only harsh words spoken when we severed ties that day several years ago. And it was far from the first time we'd argued about my choice of career or his treatment of my mother, either.

But sitting here staring at the memory stick isn't going to answer my questions, or settle the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, so I finally insert it into the drive port and open the message.

The laptop hums while it thinks about what I've asked it to do, and then an older man in a lab coat with silver hair and kind brown eyes in a weathered face comes on the screen. The wall behind him is covered with framed documents that are probably diplomas and awards. Whoever this is, it certainly isn't my father… Wait. Lab coat. A doctor?

"Colonel Sheppard," he says, his voice as kind as his eyes and with a hint of a Southern accent. "My name is Dr. Logan Anderson, your father's oncologist. I'm sorry to have to inform you of this, but your father has been ill for some time. He has pancreatic cancer. We are trying some new and experimental treatments and the outcome looks good. One of the new treatments is to have family members come lend support. I've been told by the Air Force that you are on a classified mission but they assured me they'd give you this message. If you could see your way to come visit your father, I'm sure he'd appreciate it." He pauses here to smile reassuringly into the camera. "We have him at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville so that we can make use of the most up-to-date equipment and treatment options. If you have any questions about his treatment, a General O'Neill has my contact information. And again, please consider coming for a visit. I strongly feel that your father will only benefit from having you here. Thank you." Dr. Anderson then smiles confidently into the camera until the screen goes blank.

My father is dying.

Oh, I know Dr. Anderson said he's confident that he'll make a full recovery but the fact remains that no one can be sure of that. Especially when the patient has cancer. No one knows why one person responds favorably to treatment while someone else with the same cancer does not. And after watching Mom die I no longer have that much faith in the treatment options on Earth. Funny, the first thought that popped into my head was 'benefit, yeah right,' quickly followed by a 'thank God.' But now…

I stand, gripping the railing of the balcony off my office like it's a lifeline, while memories, what few there are, of my father go running through my mind like a DVD stuck on repeat. The one memory that plays most often is of Mom's funeral.

The day matched my mood perfectly. Dark, angry clouds blotted out the sun. The rain that had been falling steadily all day finally stopped just as the procession pulled into the cemetery for the graveside portion of my mother's funeral.

My father and I stood side by side, he in his dress blues and me in my best suit and tie. His back was rigid as he stood at attention; mine only a little less so. From the corner of my eye I could see his hand clenched into a fist at his side. I had my right wrist, which had recently been removed from its cast, cradled in my left hand in my own form of standing at attention, my head up, eyes staring straight ahead at the other grave markers.

The priest droned on about how she was now in a better place. Better place, my ass. She might now be pain-free but how could it be a better place without those she loved at her side?

My mother was my best friend, my confidant. I told her everything.

When I realized I was gay, she was the first person I told. She helped me through more broken hearts than I care to think about.

Eventually the priest ran out of words and the other mourners began to disperse.

"John?" Dad's voice, thick with the tears he refused to shed in public, broke through my remembrances of my mother. "We really should be getting to the house. We have guests."

"Do I have to be there?" I asked, choking back my own tears.

For the past three days I had been the perfect son. Allowing strangers, Mom's family mostly, to hug me and pat my shoulder while telling me how truly sorry they were and that she was a good woman who'd be sorely missed. Bullshit. None of them really cared. If they had, I would have met them long before.

"John…" Dad's voice took on the hard edge it usually had when he had to speak to me, like the only tone he could muster was the one that came right before he'd grab his belt and bend me over his knee. "They'll be expecting you to be there."

"I seriously doubt that anyone will miss me," I argued.

"Don't do this. Not now!" he hissed, leaning closer so as not to be heard by those that had yet to leave. Don't do what, go be by myself to mourn my mother, or make him look bad?

"Is there a problem, Colonel Sheppard?" a female voice asked before I could even form a response.

"Mrs. Trask," Dad replied, straightening up to once again stand at attention. "There is no problem. Is there, John?" He looked me in the eye, daring me to contradict him in front of his CO's wife.

"Yes, sir. No problem here," I said.

"It was such a lovely service, Adam," she told him, stepping between the two of us. "Stephanie would have approved."

"It was what she asked for," Dad stated. Empty eyes, empty dialogue… what was the point?

"Oh?" Mrs. Trask replied, her tone that of someone who was no longer interested in the current conversation. "I came to inform you that Collin and I won't be able to attend the reception at your house. Prior family commitment."

Dad smiled a tight little smile that he usually reserved for my teachers. "I understand."

Mrs. Trask then turned her bored gaze to me. "My, how grown up you look, John," she commented, placing her hand on my arm to gain my attention. "How old are you, now?"

My smile resembled my father's. "Sixteen," I replied politely, even though I really wanted to remind her that my father had worked for her husband for the last three years and she had attended each of my birthday dinners at the officer's club.

"So, you're a…junior?"

"Senior, ma'am. Mom had me skip kindergarten." I kept my voice carefully neutral, knowing how much my father hated it whenever I sounded the least bit proud of myself. And speaking of which…

"It's a shame he won't be able to graduate from this school, with all his friends." Dad cut in quickly, as though to remind everyone that the world revolved around him. "Your husband gave me my transfer papers yesterday."

Mrs. Trask's lips tightened. "I told him that could wait until next week," she practically growled. "Insensitive bastard." Suddenly, I liked this lady.

"I didn't mind. Really," he responded.

"He still could have shown some sympathy. You just lost your wife!" she exclaimed. "Wait, are you saying that John has to move just weeks before he finishes school?"

"Yes, ma'am. I have to report in two weeks."

"Hm," Mrs. Trask hummed, deep in thought. "Let me see what I can do about that."

Dad's eyes widened slightly. "I don't want any special treatment, Mrs. Trask," Dad insisted quickly, trying to stop her before she had him labeled a troublemaker.

"Not for you," she replied with a deep-throated chuckle. "For John. You'll still report as ordered, but John can stay here." Yeah, I really liked this lady.

"Seriously, Mrs. Trask," Dad tried again to stop her.

"Nonsense, Adam," she contradicted him, her eyes twinkling with suppressed laughter. "It'll be fun to have a teenager in the house again. Plus, a boy should be allowed to walk across the graduation stage with his friends."

"If you're totally sure…?" Dad questioned. He hates being in anyone's debt, especially if that person is his CO's wife.

"Absolutely," she informed him with a pat on the arm. "Now, John, don't you want to stay until after graduation?" she asked turning to me.

"Yes, ma'am, but I should go with my father." I tried to convince her that this really wasn't a good idea. Dad would be horrified at me not being under his thumb, at me listening to someone besides him and not doing as good a job as he in the aspect of raising me to do whatever I was told. I just couldn't imagine not being at his beck and call.

She raised an eyebrow at my statement, causing me to swallow hard and then nod my assent.

The smile she flashed my father and I before turning and walking away reminded me of the Cheshire Cat.

A week later I moved into General and Mrs. Trask's house and even though Mrs. Trask said that I would join Dad at his new post for the summer, I didn't see him again until my graduation from basic training.

"Sheppard?" Ronon's voice breaks through my thoughts.

"Ronon?" I blink, bringing the view of Atlantis' great ocean back into focus.

Looking over my shoulder, I find my lover standing just inside the door leading from my office to the balcony. His stiff posture is a clear sign that something is bothering him.

"Are you alright?" he asks softly, stepping closer, his eyes narrowed on my face. "I've been trying to get you on the radio for over an hour," he murmurs, cupping my cheek in one of his big hands.

I love everything about this man. Especially his hands. Big, warm and calloused from years of holding a gun, they can be gentle when I need them to be, or rough yet still loving, when that's what I need, too.

I lean into his touch, turning my head so I can kiss his palm. My actions cause a shiver to run through the large body before me.

Giving a deep, bone-weary sigh and leaning even more heavily on the balcony railing behind me, I tell him. "My father is ill. I've been called back to Earth."

"Does his doctor think he'll die soon?"

"No. In fact, his doctor is hopeful that he'll recover."

"But you're not." With the simple tactless finesse that only an outsider can gracefully have, he says what I can't.

With a small nod of agreement, I begin to make my way back inside, Ronon on my heels. "I watched my mother die from a similar disease. Once it gets to the stage his doctor hinted he's at, it's nearly impossible to recover from it."

"When do we leave?" he asked next, as though it was the most natural question in the world.

I turn to gape at him. "Excuse me?"

Ronon gives me the grin that no one else ever gets to see. And as usual, my heart skips a beat before beginning to beat faster in anticipation of what that look promises.

"When do we leave?" he asks again, slower, as if that'll make any difference.

"You want to go to Earth with me?" I ask stupidly.

"Yes," Ronon answers, laughter underlining his tone. "I want to go with you to Earth. It's not like last time. We know for a fact that you'll return, right?"

"Yes, but I'll be there for several weeks, at least." I'm not trying to talk him out of this. I just want to make sure he knows that we're not talking about a weekend trip.

Ronon steps in front of me just before I reach the outer door to my office. "You'll need help opening doors and carrying your bags, correct?" he asks, crossing his arms over his chest and raising one eyebrow, daring me to find fault with his logic.

Ronon can out-stubborn Rodney McKay as I've discovered to my frustration, and pleasure, over the course of the years since we met.

"I was gonna ask Beckett to remove this cast," I say, raising the foot in question. "And put me in a walking boot." I try to move around him so I can go to the infirmary.

He easily blocks my exit. "Is your ankle healed enough for that?"

"I'm not a doctor, how should I know?" Again I attempt to pass him and again he blocks me. "Ronon, this is getting on my nerves!" I growl.

"Then stop avoiding the issue," he tells me.

I did mention his stubborn streak, right?

Taking a deep breath, I collect my thoughts to try and get him to see reason on this. "You've said before that you don't think you'd be happy on Earth," I remind him.

"That was before us," he leans close to whisper in my ear.

Oh, Jesus… A shudder trips down my spine as images of how he woke me this morning come unbidden to the front of my mind.

"Ronon…" I moan. His name is both a plea and a curse. He knows the effect he has on me and he delights in exploiting it to his advantage as often as possible.

His chuckle tells me this was his plan all along. The man is insatiable. "Give me the answer I seek and I'll end your torment," he murmurs huskily, his breath warm on my neck.

For once I'm thankful my office doesn't have walls made out of glass like Elizabeth's.

"Not here," I finally manage to stutter, my voice breaking on the last word when he sucks a small patch of skin into his mouth. God, he knows what that does to me.

"Answer me, Sheppard," he orders with a warm, wet swipe of his tongue up my neck.

"Do you… ohgod, do you, um, really… want…?" How the hell does he expect me to put two thoughts together, much less spoken words, when his tongue is fucking my ear?

"I don't want to be separated from you any longer than necessary. Not even for a few weeks." And with stubborn finality, he answers the question I haven't the breath to finish asking.

"Fine…" I pant, having decided it's easier to just give him what he wants. Most days are like that. I don't mind, really, not when what Ronon wants is – Oh, Jesus. Ronon's hand finds the fly of my BDUs and unbuttons them, slipping inside to tease my dick to full arousal.

"Ronon!" I yelp when he gives it a none too gentle squeeze.

A chuckle is the only warning I get before his hand is gone and my pants are refastened with both speed and ease that would make a stripper jealous. "Your quarters are closer, I believe," he purrs, stepping back and walking from my office without looking to see if I'm following. Of course I'm following, bastard.

Once in my room, Ronon pushes me back against the wall after setting my crutches out of the way. We stare at each other for several seconds before we dive for each other's mouths. Our teeth knock together as we each try to control the kiss, noses mashing together and his facial hair scratching my chin in the most arousing of ways.

I bury my hands in his dreads, holding his head still so I can make sure his tonsils haven't been removed since this morning. Wrapping my right leg around his hip, I grind up against the hardness in his pants. Suddenly I need him, the urge much more intense than any other time I've been with him. After all that's run through my head today, I just need him.

Ronon pulls back with a groan to take in some much needed air. "I think you'd be much more comfortable without clothes," he informs me while removing my shirt and unbuttoning my pants, pushing them down as far as he can with my leg still wrapped around his hip. "And most definitely more comfortable on the bed." And he again puts action to words, picking me up as if I weigh nothing at all and carrying me to the bed. I don't mind. God, I don't mind. Just having somebody that strong nearby makes a thrill of lust shoot all through me, especially knowing that all that strength is dedicated to making me comfortable and happy.

Placing me gently in the middle, he removes my shoe and finishes stripping off my BDUs and boxers. He then steps back and slowly begins to peel the clothes from his body, and oh Jesus am I hard.

Ronon is a god. The light turns his skin the color of warm honey, making my mouth water as I remember exactly what it tasted like this morning when I drew lazy patterns on his abdomen with my tongue. His muscles bunch and flex as he gives me a personal strip tease. I drag my gaze down his torso, cataloging each scar and remembering what they feel like against my tongue and fingers. His dick is standing tall and proud from a nest of black curls, a drop of pearl-colored liquid glistening at the tip. I lick my lips in anticipation of licking that drop off. My eyes worship his naked form from his head to his feet in the few seconds it takes him to return to the bed.

"God, I don't think I'll ever get tired of looking at you," I breathe once he's completely naked.

He knees my legs apart and settles his beautiful body on top of mine, pulling a moan of pure pleasure from deep within me as our erections bump together. I wrap my arms and my left leg around him and pull him even closer.

He leans down to nibble on my lips. "Will there be time to 'look at me' when we're on Earth?"

"I want to spend as much time as I can at the hospital," I inform him. "We will have a hotel room nearby, though, since I have a feeling the nurses will be kicking us out as soon as visiting hours are over."

"So that's a 'yes'?" he asks for confirmation.

"That's a 'yes'." I answer with a chuckle.

"Good," he purrs, reaching between us to run one finger down the length of my cock, over my balls and back to press against my entrance.

Oh, God. Pushing down against his finger, I plead with my eyes for him to do something, anything. Suddenly I'm seized by another thought that only Ronon has ever been able to do this to me, make me instantly rigid with want, and I really wouldn't mind begging him. Just please God let him do something.

Ronon smirks and rubs harder, the tip just barely slipping inside. I moan, throwing back my head, exposing my neck to his questing lips. More please more.

Like the infuriating bastard that he is, Ronon then casually removes his finger, trailing it back up to fondle my balls. Before I can stop myself, I whimper at the loss of pressure against my hole.

"You're such a slut," he chuckles against my right pectoral muscle.

My eyes narrow in offense. Slut, indeed! "You're the only one who's ever made me this horny," I hiss in response.

He leans up to smirk down at me. "It wasn't an insult, Sheppard. I know how to touch you because I've been paying attention to your body," he tells me, answering a question I've yet to get the nerve to ask.

"I've wondered about that," I murmur, trailing the tips of my fingers up his spine, causing him to purr like a big cat. "So what's it to be tonight?" I ask playing with his pert nipples and trying not to smirk at the rumbles of pleasure my actions are pulling from the large body covering mine. "Hand jobs, blowjobs, both?"

"How about," he places his mouth against my ear to whisper, his hot breath going straight to my groin. "We try something new." Jesus.

"Something new?" I squeak. Those two words have had the power to make my heart pound in terror ever since an ex-boyfriend asked me to tie him to the bed and whip the shit outta him with a bamboo cane. I realized that night that I am not the type who would enjoy the leather lifestyle.

His finger returns to rubbing against my anus and he leans back up to stare into my eyes. "I want to fuck you," he says, his voice a rough growl. "I want to shove my cock so deep up your ass that when I come you can taste it in the back of your throat. I want to feel this tight heat," he continues to rumble, slipping his finger into my ass up to the first knuckle. "Wrapped around my hard, hot dick. Will you let me fuck you, Sheppard?"

Ohhhhh, Jesus God, yes. My heart begins to pound, my breath is coming in gasps that are leaving me very close to hyperventilating and my cock is steadily leaking pre-come at the images his little speech has produced.

We had agreed to wait until my cast was removed before engaging in intercourse so that I could enjoy it better. But now, with the talk of my father's impending death, we're both feeling the need to reaffirm the fact that we're still alive in the most basic way possible.

"Yes," I pant. "My God, yes. Now, Ronon. Fuck me now and fuck me hard."

His pupils widen with arousal at my impassioned plea. To see that look on that face has my cock twitching even more, seeing in his eyes that gaze that says he'd like to do nothing more than throw me on a table and eat me alive.

"Lube is in the drawer," I urge when he doesn't move right away.

This seems to snap him out of his stupor and he reaches to his left. "No condoms?" he asks when he gets the drawer open.

"By the time Rodney and I had broken up we were no longer using them," I answer, glossing over my ex and that somewhat awkward point in my life. I want him to be comfortable, though. "There might be some in the bathroom," I suggest.

Ronon shakes his head. "Don't need a condom. We're both clean. I don't even want this lube between us but I refuse to hurt you our first time." Jesus, he's gonna start out gentle and then fuck me through the mattress and he's already got me squirming on his finger like a fish on a hook.

"No matter how gentle you are, it's gonna hurt," I manage to gasp, wiggling around to try and get his finger deeper. Just a little more to the left…

"Why? It hasn't been that long since you and McKay broke up."And with infuriating timing, his finger is out of my ass so he can pop the top on the lube.

"Rodney's an exclusive bottom," I growl, giving my best glare to let him know what I think about him taking his time prepping me. Judging by the look on his face, he probably thinks it's funny.

"So just how long has it been?" he prompts when I don't continue, slowly rubbing lube around the puckered skin of my entrance, the bastard. I growl low in my throat when he presses even more slowly and gently slips his finger back inside. He laughs. "Patience, Sheppard," he soothes. "We've got all night."

"It's been several years since I've had a dick in my ass, so excuse me if I'm ready for you to just take me already!" Take me, please, for the love of God.

"Are you sure you don't want me to at least stretch you a little?" he asks, resting his head on my right thigh so he can watch his fingers going in and out of me.

It also gets me to look at his cock hovering near mine, and just a tiny little part of me is glad he's still thinking with his bigger brain. "Maybe…just a little…" I concede, realizing that he's much bigger than my last top and I really don't want to be uncomfortable on the trip through the gate bridge tomorrow.

"I thought so," he murmurs and I can feel him smile as he rubs his stubbled cheek against my skin.

Oh, that is it. The fingers of my right hand tangle in his dreads while my left hand wraps itself around his wrist, guiding his fingers deeper. When he has three fingers in me he turns his hand over and begins a search for my prostate. My hips jerk and I give a startled gasp of pleasure when he finds it.

"Hm, there it is," he mutters almost blandly, rubbing tiny circles on the sensitive spot.

Waves of pure lighting are shooting up my spine and all I can see is white-hot sparks, and I arch my back and try not to scream. "Enough, Ronon, please!" I exclaim when I begin to feel my balls pull up toward my body.

Ronon must sense my urgency, finally, because he suddenly surges up over me and his fingers are replaced with his dick. Oh God, he's huge and thick and wonderful and I can feel my legs shaking as he sinks himself into me with maddening slowness.

The feeling of being filled to capacity is so amazing I have to squeeze the base of my cock to keep from coming. I lay there and try to give myself time to adjust to this hot heavy rod that's impaling me. It feels absolutely fucking fantastic.

He pauses when he bottoms out, and I can feel the faintest of tremors run though his body just as easily as I can feel the veins on the side of his dick pulsing calmly with his heartbeat, and it's every bit of amazing. "You okay?" he pants, concern heavy in his tone.

Words escape me, so I just nod my head, doing my best to not wince when he begins to move. It hurts, yeah, but it hurts so good…

Ronon pulls back until just the very tip of his shaft is still in me. "Look at me, Sheppard," he orders.

I open my eyes and find my gaze captured by his. While we stare into each other's eyes, he slowly pushes back in; once again pausing when he bottoms out. He repeats this rhythm for several minutes, slowly picking up speed until there are no pauses, when all I can feel is his hips slapping into my ass and that wonderful cock plunging into me with all the regularity of a piston. A frustratingly still-too-slow piston.

It feels good enough to keep me hovering on the edge but it's not quite enough to push me over. I need more, God. More of that cock, more of him, please. "Ronon," I beg, running my hands down his back to clutch his ass, trying to get him to go faster, harder, deeper.

My pleading seems to fall on deaf ears because he continues at the same pace. I growl again in frustration, wishing for the first time in two weeks that I could remove my cast. I can't get the proper leverage to force him to fuck me the way I want, need, him to with it on.

"Patience," he repeats calmly, shifting the angle of his thrusts so that he hits my prostate on each in-stroke, fireworks going off in my head again. The sensations are intense; Jesus, but I need more!

"Not feeling very virtuous right now," I gasp. "Please, Ronon," I whimper in my torment, planting my left foot and arching up to meet him as best I can.

Frustrated at not being able to get him to move faster, I decide to take matters into my own hand. But when I reach between us to wrap my hand around myself, he swats it away. "Oh, no you don't," he growls.

"Ron-non!" I'm begging again. I don't care; I'll squeal if he wants me to, just please, GOD. "I need to come. Please let me come, Ronon, please."

Either I've said what he wants to hear or he's finally taking pity on me because he wraps his thick fingers around my length, his thumb pressing under the crown. Yes, the sweet spot! His hand is so huge, so hot and slick with sweat, and when he hits that spot just… right… there!

The pressure is just what I need. My back arches so sharply my muscles protest the movement, jack-knifing my spine so my head sinks into the pillow, my legs quaking. I throw my head back even farther and scream his name while supernovas flash behind my eyelids and my cock shoots stream after stream of semen all over my chest, loving every single feeling of my ass clamping down around his hard wonderful cock. I grip his back with bruising force in a desperate attempt to not be flung to the stars.

My journey into nirvana is cut short by sensations still coming from my ass, and when I come back to myself I notice that Ronon is still thrusting at that same maddening pace; Jesus, the guy's got control. Clenching his back for support, I lean up and suck on his left nipple and then suddenly and gently bite it. It's enough to push him over and he gives a choked grunt and thrusts deep one last time, stiffening as his dick begins to pulsate wonderfully inside me, emptying his seed deep within my guts. He hovers above me for a moment and the sight of his face is enough to make my cock twitch. The sight of a peaced-out Ronon is going to be keeping me maddening company for weeks.

It's cut short when the moment is over, and he collapses on top of me. "Damn," I mutter, feeling him drape himself over me like a living blanket, his breath warm against the sweat-soaked skin of my neck.

"Yeah," he agrees. "Gonna have to figure out a way to thank McKay." And on that note he pulls gently out, shifting until he can pull the covers up over us. Bastard.

The man really does know how to kill a mood, and I stifle a curse. I just can't find it in myself to be mad at him, though. "Why would you need to thank Rodney?" I ask, settling even further down under him and the blankets.

He nuzzles the back of my right ear. "Because if he'd been willing to give you what you need, you wouldn't have been available when we were on that planet."

Duh. I mentally slap my forehead. "Mm. Thank him for me, too, okay?" I say around a yawn. It's been an extremely long and emotionally stressful day and tomorrow is looking to be even worse.

"Sleep, Sheppard," he murmurs, tucking me more securely beneath him.

"Sleep sounds good," I yawn again. "Don't you need to pack?"

He leans back to give me a really good impression of Rodney's 'you must have been dropped on your head as a baby because you can't really be so stupid as to have actually asked me that' look.

I roll my eyes. "Right. Forgot who I was talking to for a minute," I apologize, snuggling more firmly into his warmth.

"Of course you did. Can't think of any reason why…" he chuckles.

Oh, no he didn't. I do not need this sort of emotional jerking-around after mind-bending sex, and I crack one eye open to glare at him. "Can I get some sleep now?"

"Sure," he answers with a chaste kiss to my forehead before he lowers his head to the pillow.

Within minutes his even breathing tells me he has slipped into slumber and I soon follow.

"I wish I knew what to say," Elizabeth tells me the following morning over my radio. I bring the jumper to rest on the gate room floor in preparation of going through the gate bridge to Earth, and I hear her give a deep sigh. "You and your father are in our thoughts."

"Thank you, Elizabeth," I reply.

"Be safe," she whispers, and I catch a glimpse of her up on the balcony and see her nod. The way her voice catches on the last word tells me that she is fighting back tears. Like I'm going to run into any hostile aliens on Earth? What, exactly, can I say to that?

Ronon does the talking for me. "We will."

Biting back a bitter smile, I turn the jumper and dial the gate bridge. Ronon is as quiet and solemn as he usually is, but there's an extra measure to his silence that seems almost comforting. It's suddenly reassuring that I know that no matter what happens, Ronon will never judge me. I give a very minor sigh of relief at knowing he's next to me, and it's only the eyes of the people on the balcony that keep me from reaching for his hand. Instead I watch the event horizon pop up and nudge the jumper through it.

Despite Ronon's presence, the thrill I usually get when going through the gate can't get rid of the dread I feel at the thought of seeing my father again after all these years. There's not many things that can get rid of that, I suppose.

When we reach the mid-way point, I start to reach for the DHD but find myself pulling back. I discover that I'm not in that big of a hurry to face the disappointment I know I'll see in my father's eyes. Ronon see it, of course.

"If your father had died after his doctor had recorded that message, there would have been an addition at the end telling you that," he rumbles reassuringly.

"Unless he died after the SGC got it," I respond, wincing at the petulant note in my voice.

Ronon's brows lower into a small frown. "Are you hoping that he's died?" he asks, like I've said something I maybe shouldn't have.

"What? No! I just… I want to at least be given the opportunity to apologize for what I said all those years ago."

Ronon sits back and crosses his arms. "Then stop acting like you're going to the man's funeral," he orders, and his voice drops into a deep growl when I hesitate. "Dial the gate, Sheppard."

Mindlessly, I tap the gate address and watch as it obediently springs to life, my usual amazement beginning to return.

"SGC, this is Jumper One requesting permission to land," I announce over the radio stream that's running through the wormhole, sending my personal IDC for identification.

The voice of Sergeant Harriman responds. "Permission granted, Jumper One. The iris is open."

I give the jumper enough of a nudge to get her close enough to the gate to allow the gravity of the wormhole to take over, then sit back and enjoy the slide through space.

All too soon, the jumper glides to a stop in the gate room of the SGC. What I can see of the control room through the bullet-proof glass is full of people. Some I recognize, some I don't.

"Welcome to Earth," General Landry says, smiling at Ronon. Ronon just grunts a reply, but thankfully nobody calls him on it.

"I'm sure you remember where to park her, Colonel?" Landry asks me next.

"Yes, sir," I answer, putting the jumper in motion once again. It's easier to obey orders than to think.

I barely get the jumper parked and the rear hatch open before Dr. Lee is climbing inside. "Welcome back, Colonel," he says in my general direction, already focused on opening one of the control panels in the rear compartment. "How long do I have this time?" Typical scientist, irritated at having only rare opportunities for research.

I give him one of my most contrite grins and a shrug. "Not sure. Depends on what my father's doctors say."

A cough from behind me reminds me that we're not alone, and a pointed tap against my shoulder reminds me to take my crutches.

Throwing my lover a look of apology over my shoulder while maneuvering awkwardly to the open hatch, I introduce them. "Dr. Lee, this is Ronon Dex."

"A pleasure," Lee says absently, already deep in his work.

"If you say so." Ronon answers him in the monotone he used to use when he first arrived in Atlantis.

"Ronon," I scold, fighting a smile. "Play nice."

The look he gives me tells me he's being ornery just because he can, and he grabs our bags as though they weigh nothing at all.

"Colonel Sheppard?" I turn and notice a kid who looks like he just graduated from high school standing at attention at the end of the ramp.

"Yes, Airman?" I prompt. I can't really salute right now, what with the crutches and all.

The kid stiffens even straighter. "General Landry asked that I escort you and your friend to the infirmary."

"Of course he did," I mutter under my breath.

Ronon steps closer and lowers his voice so only I can hear. "Is there a problem, Sheppard?"

I growl to myself for a quick moment and make my way out of the jumper, at which point the airman spins and begins walking briskly. My irritation at the whole situation manages to crack through just a little. "I can't believe Landry thought he had to send an escort. I know I'm supposed to report to the infirmary first thing after a trip through the gate."

"Is that all?" Ronon murmurs, shortening his stride to keep pace with me. The airman has also slowed down a little, and I can tell he's fighting the urge to look behind him to make sure he's not embarrassing me. Go ahead; coddle the guy with the crutches.

I manage to restrain myself enough to just give Ronon a grunted "Yes."

"You sure?" he challenges instantly. I can tell he doesn't believe me. "It seems to me you might be a bit impatient to get on to the hospital where your father is."

Seriously, the guy is too perceptive for his own good. "There is that, too," I concede with a grumble.

Ronon laughs. "You are so transparent," he informs me, brushing the knuckles of his right hand against my left as he passes me. If anyone had seen the touch they'd've assumed it was accidental, but I know better. The brief contact has its usual effect on me and I have to stop to wipe my sweaty palms on my pants legs so I can grip the crutches better. Ronon, the bastard, knows exactly why I stopped and is smirking at me over his shoulder.

"Jerk," I hiss when I pass him on my way into the infirmary, the heavy smell of disinfectant causing me to wrinkle my nose in distaste. Having completed his mission, the airman gestures toward the door and keeps on walking.

Ronon waits until our escort is out of earshot before leaning a bit closer to me. "You know you love me," he teases, and he opens the door for me.

I just barely stop myself from stiffening at his too accurate words. I do love him. Figured it out on that damned planet two weeks ago. I'm just not ready to admit it to him yet, not until I know for sure he feels the same way. He may have said he's willing to give me forever but I'm still not sure he is. I mean, it's one thing to say it in order to get in someone's pants and it's another thing entirely to actually mean it.

I'm grumbling under my breath when I hobble into the infirmary and make my way to the attending physician, who gives me a sweet and almost maternal smile. "Up on the bed with you, Colonel," Dr. Lam says, patting the bed next to her.

I set the crutches aside and sit down, giving a small moan of relief at being off them. Gravity can be a real bitch sometimes.

"Are you in pain?" Lam asks, a frown marring her beautiful features.

No, of course not. I've only got a fractured tibia and fibula. I manage to keep my face neutral and my voice calm, though. Past experience has taught me to play nice with doctors. "Some. But it's to be expected. It seems to happen when I get a broken ankle." I point to the appendage in question.

She clears her throat. "Which is why you should have been given a prescription for pain meds," she states, her voice taking on a hard edge like she wants to throttle Carson for not following through with the drugs. How does she know? Oh, wait, doctors and their medical records. There's something not quite right about the fact that a doctor can so quickly get hold of classified information that takes other organizations way too long to see.

"He was," Ronon tells her snippily. Traitor.

Dr. Lam turns her attention on him and takes the file that he hands to her. "When was the last time he took one?" she asks, opening the file and skimming my records.

"Day before yesterday," he replies.

"Hey!" I exclaim. "He is right here."

They both glance at me with identical blank expressions before turning back to finish talking about me like I'm not even there. Great, an irritated doctor and a traitorous lover. Can this day get any worse?

Lam glances away from the file and fixes Ronon with her best 'doctor's orders' face. "He should take one tonight."

"But he won't," I inform them blithely. "I need to be sober tomorrow to get us checked into the hotel in Jacksonville. I promise I'll take one once we're settled in our room." I change the subject, or at least try to. "Isn't there another doctor that can examine Ronon while you finish with me, or vice versa?" Anything to speed this process up.

Ronon ignores me completely. "I'll make sure he rests tonight and during the trip tomorrow and that he takes a pill as soon as we're in our hotel room."

"Good," Lam responds, placing my x-ray on the light board. "My, Colonel, you sure did a number on this ankle bone. Just what where you doing at the time?"

"Trying to catch me," Ronon chuckles as he, once again, answers for me. I'm wounded, not deaf and mute and blind.

"I can speak for myself, you know," I growl. "Been doing it for some time now."

Dr. Lam gives me a quizzical look, encouraging me to explain further now that I've convinced her I can answer her questions. I fight the urge to clap my hands together and screech like a primate. Don't antagonize the doctor, John.

I take a breath. "We were on a survival training mission; I was evaluating Ronon's survival skills when he decided I needed to improve my tracking skills." I deliberately avoid mentioning the game of hide-n-seek we were playing. "I got tired of chasing him, so I decided to try and cut him off. When I stepped to my right I heard a snap and down I went," I finish with a shrug.

"Well, this is a twisting break on the tibia, so I'm guessing you cracked it somehow, and then when you landed the weaker fibula couldn't hold up the rest of your weight." She 'explains' it to me as though I'm a little kid. Oh, so not only am I mute, I'm apparently the only Air Force pilot alive that doesn't understand basic physics.

"Gee, ya think?" I snark back, earning myself a disapproving glare from her and a deep-chested chuckle from Ronon.

That did it. Lam calls out to a passing orderly, "Sergeant, please take Colonel Sheppard to radiology." The orderly nods before going to find a wheelchair. "Play nice and I won't force-feed you a Vicodin," she warns, and just like that she's pulling Ronon over to the bed opposite me and beginning his examination.

Ha, revenge is best served with a cold stethoscope and an irritated physician. I can't help the cheeky grin that only Ronon can see before I'm urged to move off the bed and into the wheelchair. It doesn't take long before my grin fades, though.

Getting x-rayed is always so much fun. Except when you're wearing a cast. Luckily I'm pretty flexible; otherwise I doubt they'd've been able to get the proper angles to see if the bone is healing or not.

I return to the infirmary in time to see Ronon pulling a pair of tight jeans up over his toned ass. God, I wish we were alone. I don't like seeing someone else's eyes on his ass. That body is mine, dammit. Ronon notices my look, and he smirks at me when I squirm in my seat and try not to draw attention to myself.

When he's fully dressed, he steps over to help me out of the wheelchair. "Bastard," I hiss.

"What?" he blinks at me, all innocent looking.

I roll my eyes and bite my lip to keep from laughing. The sight of Ronon's innocent face gets me every time, and the look in his eyes tells me that it had been his intention all along. He gives me another smart-alecky look and helps lower me back to my exam table.

Another orderly pops in long enough to hand my new x-rays to Dr. Lam, and she places them on the light board next to my old ones. "All right, Colonel. Let's see how well you're healing." Dr. Lam says as she places my new x-rays on the light board next to the ones from two weeks ago. She studies them for a moment. "Hm." Uh-oh. She turns to me with that blankly accusing doctor's glare. "Do you always use your crutches?"

"Yes," I answer.

"No," Ronon says at the same time.

I glare at him. "Traitor."

He just raises one eyebrow in question.

"Colonel?" Lam inquires.

Well, crap. "It's just easier to hobble to the bathroom when I wake up in the middle of the night, than to try and locate the crutches," I explain.

"I see," she responds way too calmly, and gives a nod that really means that in her eyes I'm just this side of screwed. "So what you're saying is you'd rather have a limp than protect your ankle. Is that right?"

With a deep sigh, I concede defeat. "No, Dr. Lam. I don't want a limp."

"Then stay off this ankle," she orders.

"Yes, ma'am. How much longer?"

"Another six weeks, minimum."

"Six weeks!?" I protest. "Carson said it would be a total of six weeks. I've already had it on for two."

She crosses her arms. Oh yeah, I'm screwed. "And it hasn't healed like it should have because you keep putting weight on it," she informs me. "Your body just doesn't heal like it used to, Colonel. Not at your age."

Rub it in, why doesn't she? God, what I wouldn't give to be 20, hell even 30, again.

"I know," I reply with a deep sigh of frustration. In a last-ditch effort, I fake a yawn. "Are we about through here? I think I need a nap."

I can tell from the looks on both their faces that they don't believe me, but luckily neither one presses the issue.

"Sure. Just remember…" Dr. Lam begins.

"I know, I know. Don't put any weight on my ankle," I finish for her. I stand awkwardly and grab my crutches and make a hasty break for the hallway, and I'm very happy when she doesn't try to stop me.

Ronon falls in step beside me. "Are you hungry?" he asks as we approach the guest rooms we've been assigned.

"A bit," I admit. I pause at the door to the room I've been assigned and indicate the hallway behind us with my chin. "The mess is back that way. Why don't you go grab us both a tray and we'll eat in my room?"

He gives another one of those all-knowing chuckles. "Not in the mood to be social?" he teases.

"Not at all," I answer truthfully. "My ankle is really killing me."

"Okay. You lie down, try to rest and I'll go grab us some food." He holds open the door for me, and I hobble through it.

I know he means well, but I still can't help grumbling at his mother-henning. "You do realize I wasn't serious about needing a nap, right?"

"You might have been faking that yawn, but I can tell you're tired. You have circles under your eyes." He shuts the door behind him before stepping over to me and running one careful thumb under my eyes.

"I've never really slept much," I mumble, tilting my head into his touch.

"And it shows."

I give him one of my patented smirks. "Well, you have to admit that I've been sleeping better the past couple of weeks."

One corner of his mouth quirks up in a half smile. "Gee, I wonder why."

A laugh escapes me as I shuffle backward a bit to sit down on the bed and prop my crutches against the wall next to it. "I have no idea."

Once I get situated, his demeanor changes. "I'm gonna go get those trays," he tells me, turning to leave the room. He pauses at the doorway to give me a stern look. "Rest, Sheppard. Or I'll let Dr. Lam force-feed you a pain pill." His eyes tell me that he means it, too.

"Big meanie," I pout, and he gives a soft chuckle as he closes the door behind him.

With a sigh I flop back onto the bed and stare at the ceiling, running through different scenarios about my upcoming meeting with my father. The only thing I have to look forward to, I figure, is more angry words and disproving looks. With a melancholy sigh and with his disappointed scowl glaring at me from within, I somehow manage to drift off to sleep.