Author's Note: This is, by a very loose definition, a tag to The Daedalus Variation—only because it has a hint of a spoiler in the beginning. While a one-shot here, I plan to follow up with a continuation of this story.
In this tale, I can rightfully be accused of author insertion in John Sheppard's remarks regarding the alcohol he drinks. I'm a huge fan of single malt whiskies, especially the highland single malt The MacAllan and the island single malt Lagavulin. I'm also very fond of Casa Noble tequila, especially the reposado variety. So in this case, mea culpa to the reader. I couldn't resist. And now, on with the show.
One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor – George Carlin
Ronon strode down one of the most highly trafficked corridors in the city these days, glaring at any who passed him. This last visit to the infirmary had left his nerves strung tighter than the strings of an Athosian mandolin. His blood ran hot in his veins.
The fair CMO had insisted he return for a quick checkup a week after their experience on the alternate Daedalus. She'd been no-nonsense in her assessment of the bruises that covered his back from the brawl he'd had with the big, gray-skinned alien.
"Well, those contusions are now a lovely shade of green and yellow." Her fingers pressed gently against a spot below his shoulder, and he winced. "That one's probably the worst, but the bruising is normal."
Ribbons of heat unfurled in the wake of her touch, fluttering over his spine and lower back. Ronon bit his lip to hold back a groan and clutched the edge of the gurney until his knuckles went white. She might be matter-of-fact in her assessment of his injuries. He was about to jump out of his skin.
"Your back took most of the trauma, obviously, but you're healing well. Any numbness or odd tingling in your fingers or feet?"
If she cared to slide her arm around the front side of his body, he'd be more than happy to show her exactly where all the tingling was centered at the moment. "No," he muttered and scowled at a passing nurse.
Light footsteps around the gurney signaled she'd finished. Ronon heaved a sigh of relief and disappointment and reached for his shirt. Jennifer faced him, smiling faintly but with a strangely intent expression. He pulled the shirt over his head but not before catching a glimpse of her eyes. For just a moment, her gaze lowered, swept across his chest and belly. Had he not been watching her so closely, he would have missed it, but a gleam of admiration and desire sparkled briefly in those hazel eyes.
When she met his eyes again, her smile was still in place, if a little stiff, and she gripped the ends of her stethoscope in tight fists.
"You're gonna strangle yourself with that thing if you don't let go, Doc."
Her eyes went wide. "What?"
He gestured to the stethoscope and grinned when her hands dropped to her sides, fingers fluttering nervously until she laced them together in front of her.
"You're good to go," she said and pointed a reprimanding finger at him. "As your doctor, I'm telling you to stay away from the sparring for a few more days. " She held up a hand to forestalling his protests. "I know it's just bruising, but it's bruising on your back, some of it near your spine. Just take it easy, okay?"
He nodded, eager to get out of the infirmary. She was standing close enough that he could smell her—a light floral scent mixed with the ever-present antiseptics of the infirmary and something else uniquely Jennifer Keller. It was the last that made his nostrils flair and his muscles twitch. He was tempted to reach out, lift her and roll back on the gurney with her fitted on top of him. The gurney would squeak, his back would hurt and the nurses would gasp in shock. He wouldn't care. He'd be too busy cupping the rounded contours of her butt in his hands and kissing her hard enough to starve the air out of her lungs.
He growled low in his throat as such an image flickered in his mind's eye, fueled by his pent-up desire for this woman. The image changed, grew more charged as he imagined sweating limbs and twisted clothing, a faint moan and those delicate, capable fingers caressing him with something more than a physician's touch. He growled again.
He snapped to the present, his carnal imaginings swept away by Jennifer waving a hand in front of his face. "What?" He frowned at the increased hoarseness in his voice.
Her eyebrows rose. "You drifted off there for a second. I was asking if you needed any ibuprofen."
It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her the only way to ease the ache he currently suffered from most was if she shucked her uniform and crawled naked into his lap. Something in his expression must have hinted at his thoughts because a tell-tale blush suddenly spread across her cheekbones.
"No, no drugs." But he damn well needed a drink. "Are we done?" He hoped his question didn't sound as terse to her as it did to him. A shadow of hurt drifted over her pale features before she masked it with a polite smile. Damn!
"We're done. Just remember, no sparring."
Ronon hopped off the gurney, searching for something to say that might ease the awkwardness created by his last remark. "Thanks, Doc. You take good care of me."
This time, her smile was a little more genuine. "Thanks. It's my job."
"All the time?" It was loaded question, and he knew it. Teyla had told him of Jennifer's constant vigilance as he came down off the Wraith enzyme, and he remembered, even in the painful throes of withdrawal, the soothing touch of her hands as she bathed his face with a cool compress.
The smile faltered but she met his stare and didn't look away. "No, not all the time," she said softly.
He nodded once and turned away, feeling her gaze on his back all the way to the doors.
His desire for a stiff drink had only increased when he left the infirmary. He was tired of being tied up in knots, of dancing this strange dance with Atlantis's chief medical officer. The promise of a kiss and the scent of her hair was all he'd taken with him from that day in quarantine, but it had been enough to capture his interest and turn it into a near obsession. That obsession had only grown over time as he observed her and got to know her better.
She was brave in her way and resourceful. The infirmary was her kingdom, and she ruled it with a capable and sure hand, despite her misgivings that she would never equal Carson. He liked her smile and the uncanny way she had of getting to the heart of any matter with just a brief observation. For all that she missed out on the social interactions of peers in her childhood, she had a remarkable sense of judgment, sizing people up correctly with nothing more than a quick glance or a few words between them.
And she was beautiful. He'd seen the masculine appreciation for her looks from many of the soldiers on Atlantis. Small like Teyla, but more delicate, she'd been the object of many of his fevered dreams, and not a few masturbatory relief sessions in the shower. His stride lengthened and his expression darkened as he drew nearer to the city's make-shift cantina. His fellow Satedans would laugh at his predicament and his hesitation in not outright pursuing the good doctor.
He'd never been a man to overanalyze a situation or second-guess himself. As others rightly accused, he reacted first and rarely asked questions later, but this was different. The nuances of courting were never straightforward. Not since he'd first courted Melena, had he'd indulged in this particular game of strategy. The quick couplings he'd experienced while here on Atlantis had been nothing more than a way to scratch an itch. Each of his partners had felt the same. He'd been a goal to reach, a possession to acquire, of only for a short time, and bragging rights in the women's barracks.
This was different, far more important and a lot more frightening. His emotions were engaged, and that made him vulnerable in a way he hated, left him open to memory and fear. The pain of losing Melena had lessened with time, but it was still there, a hot coal that sometimes flared to life in the dead of night and left him sick with the agony of regret and censure.
"She chose to stay. Don't put that blame on yourself."
Absolution had come from an unexpected source. If nothing else, he would be grateful to Jennifer Keller until the end of his days for those two simple sentences. This evening he'd drink to her health and to the futile hope he could temporarily calm the very primal and nearly overwhelming need to fuck her cross-eyed.
As with most nights, the cantina was crowded. Many a toast had been, and was still raised to Samantha Carter for her idea of turning three unused storage rooms into a pub. Spartan in its décor, the cantina still sported some of the best views in the city. Tall, two-story windows ringed the converted room, offering an expansive panorama of the ocean and star-filled sky. Luckily, Carter had the forethought to have the doors leading onto the expansive balcony sealed shut.
"It's just a matter of time before someone becomes so inebriated, they wander out onto the balcony and careen off the side. I don't want any of my people drowning because they put down one too many Jack Daniels. I want those doors sealed shut." Her orders had been obeyed with alacrity, and soon the cantina had opened to much fanfare and many shouts of "Salud!" to the commander of Atlantis.
Normally, Ronon avoided the place. Too many people, too much noise. Tonight, however, those things offered a welcome distraction, and he waded into the throng to reach the bar.
A familiar voice shouted his name. He spotted John seated at the far end of the bar, on the edge of the crowd and away from the worst of the noise.
"Hey buddy." The colonel slapped him on the back. "I thought you didn't like this place."
"I don't. Too many people in one spot." He didn't elaborate, and John shrugged before signaling to the bartender.
"What can I get you? It's on me."
"Do they have Satedan stuff?"
"Probably not, but they just got in a big shipment of some really good stuff. The IOA must be feeling generous lately. Wanna try scotch?" John held up a glass a quarter-full with a dark amber liquid.
Ronon shrugged. "Sure. Why not?" He doubted anything on Earth had the kick Satedan spirits did, but there was nothing else.
Sheppard put in his order. "Same as mine. Neat."
The bartender nodded, pulled a bottle from under the bar and splashed the amber liquid into the glass. He slid the glass to Ronon. "Enjoy."
"Okay, this is good stuff and should be…"
Before John got any further, Ronon lifted the glass and knocked back the alcohol. His eyes bugged as liquid fire, tasting of honey and burnt wood, streamed down the back of his throat.
The stunned cry of "Whoa, Chewie!!" echoed in the sudden buzzing in his ears, and he gasped as the scotch settled into a fiery pool at the bottom of his stomach. He was sure there'd be a hole in his gut in another five minutes.
Sheppard snatched his glass away and glared. "That's MacAllan 25 year, ace. The king of single malts. It's sipping whiskey. YOU DON'T SHOOT IT!"
Ronon stared at him from tear-glazed eyes. He didn't know what Sheppard was ranting about, but he felt as if he'd been shot, taking at least three rounds in the belly from a stunner. "Why didn't you tell me?" he managed to gasp.
"You didn't give me a chance! I'd ask you if you liked the taste, but you slugged it back so fast, I doubt you know."
"Like sucking on a hot wood chip."
This time Sheppard grinned. "Well now, at least it wasn't a complete waste. And that's nothing. You should try Lagavulin." He finished off the last of his scotch and licked his lips. "I might actually have to toast the IOA for that one." He eyed Ronon with a speculative gaze. "Obviously, you're not here for the appreciation of a fine scotch."
"More like drink until you pass out?"
Ronon growled threateningly.
John nodded. "Woman trouble."
He motioned to the bartender again. "A bottle of Cuervo Blanco, two shot glasses and a plate of lime slices."
When the bartender had everything laid out, Sheppard handed the bottle to Ronon. "I like Casa Nobles Reposado more, but we're here to just drink, so this'll work."
Ronon didn't have a clue what Sheppard was talking about and eyed the bottle of clear liquid. It looked like water, but after his experience with the scotch, he wasn't going to make the assumption it tasted like water.
They grabbed a table just vacated by a group of scientists. John took a moment to stare out the window at the starry night and ocean with its gently tumbling waves lit by the city's lights. "Nice view."
Ronon grunted. He wasn't interested in sight-seeing. The explosive fuel Sheppard called scotch had settled to a pleasant slow burn in his stomach, and he was ready to try this new Cuervo. "Is this also scotch?"
John sat across from him and opened the bottle, pouring the clear liquid until the shot glasses were filled nearly to the brim. "Nope. It's tequila. Distilled from a cactus in Mexico called the blue agave. Guaranteed to put hair on your chest if you drink enough of it."
Ronon eyed the tiny glasses. He doubted a serving that small would put eyelashes on anyone much less hair on their chest. He shrugged and reached for his glass.
"Wait!" John thumped him on the wrist. "Be a little patient, eh buddy? There's a way to do this."
"I just want a drink, Sheppard, not a class in how to get drunk."
"Fine. I'll make it quick. Now watch. This is how you shoot tequila."
John grasped a lime wedge between thumb and index finger of one hand. Ronon's eyebrows shot to his hairline when he licked the stretch of skin between the two fingers and sprinkled salt from the salt shaker onto the wet spot. Sheppard then licked the salt off his hand, knocked back his shot of tequila and sucked on a lime slice. "Damn good shot," he said and reached for the bottle to pour another. He grinned at Ronon's dubious expression. "Your turn."
"All that just to drink?"
John rolled his eyes. "Just try it, Ronon."
"Your planet is…"
"Yeah, I know. It's weird. Quit bitching and try it."
Ronon followed John's lead and grunted his approval at the taste of the lime and salt mixed with the slow, clean burn of the tequila. Licking his hand was still strange, but he figured it was just another harmless Earth custom he'd get used to and ultimately adopt.
They were several shots into their drinking when Sheppard raised a hand and called out "Hey Doc! Over here!"
Ronon whipped around in his chair so fast, one of his dreads popped Sheppard in the face.
"Hey, watch the hair, would ya?"
Ronon didn't know whether to grin like an idiot or groan in despair. He'd come here to get away from the consuming temptation that was Jennifer Keller. Now, she was making her way to their table, a pleased smile and faint blush on her face.
She'd taken her hair down, and it flowed over her shoulders in soft, straight skeins. The uniform was gone, replaced by a plain green, sleeveless shirt that hugged her curves and a pair of khakis. Ronon liked her out of uniform. He knew he'd love her out of clothing period.
"Hey," she said. Her gaze at John was friendly, the one at Ronon distinctly shy. She was out of her element, and it showed.
John pulled out the chair between him and Ronon. "Have a seat, Doc. I can order you a drink or you can join me and Ronon here."
She took the offered seat. "I'll join you. She eyed the shot glasses and bottle. "I used to do these in med school after exams. "
A waitress came by at John's signal and brought back another shot glass. "You want me to start a tab?" She smiled flirtatiously at both men.
"Yeah, we'll probably need another bottle soon."
Jennifer watched the waitress leave. "I think she liked you two."
Ronon grunted and poured her shot glass full.
John smirked. "I think she liked the potential of a nice tip." He pushed the salt shaker and limes to Jennifer. "Drink up. We just got started. It won't take you long to catch up."
Ronon watched, mesmerized as Jennifer expertly held the lime, licked her hand, salted the spot and shot back the tequila. A sudden rush of heat started at his toes and went straight to his head. He knew it was more from watching the doctor's small pink tongue lave her hand than the alcohol running through his system. He swallowed his own tequila neat without taking his eyes off her.
"You're doing it wrong, Chewie."
"You're a bastard, Sheppard."
Unfazed by the insult, John shrugged and smirked at Ronon, his eyes glittering with the knowledge of his friend's growing discomfort and increasing bewitchment at watching Doctor Keller drink her tequila.
The bottle was more than half way down and Ronon was suffering the tortures of the damned when Jennifer asked John a curious question.
"Did you tell Ronon about body shots?" Her face was flushed a light pink, and her hazel eyes were slightly glassy with the effects of the tequila. The smile she gave Ronon had a wicked slant.
John shuddered a little. "No. As I don't see the two of us engaging in that in this future or any alternate one for that matter, I didn't think it important."
"What's a body shot?" He tried to imagine what it might be and could only come up with images of blasters going off while downing tequila straight from the bottle—more practical than this nonsense with little glasses. Considering it was Jennifer who asked the question, he doubted he had it right. That, and that mischievous smile she'd just given him hinted at something less violent but far more fascinating.
"Tell him, Doc." John gestured at Jennifer to continue.
Jennifer did another round, and Ronon swallowed a groan. She blinked and took a deep breath. "A body shot is where you and a partner play. Same idea as this, only your partner licks a part of your body like your neck…or other places…" she paused, turning bright red. John grinned. Ronon scowled and tried not squirm in his chair at the vivid images suddenly springing to mind at her words. "They then sprinkle the salt, lick and do the shot."
He would kill Sheppard. Use him as a human dartboard and pin the colonel to the wall with all the knives he kept hidden on his person. His senses, which should have been numbed by the alcohol, screamed in reaction to Jennifer's nearness. Her scent, the occasional brush of her calf against his under the table, the sight of her tongue playing across her hand as she did her shots—all were heightened to agonizing proportions. He doubted all the tequila in the bar could dull the lust and heat running at high tide in his body right now. Her description of the body shots worsened it exponentially. It was fodder for more vivid dreams and longer times in the shower.
"Ronon." The rude snap of fingers in front of his face snapped him out of his musings. "You there, buddy? Had enough to drink?"
John snatched his hand back when Ronon snapped his teeth. He reached for the now nearly empty tequila bottle. "Not nearly enough. Best order another bottle."
Hours passed, and the cantina emptied as the three slowly grew more and more inebriated. They'd played a drinking game at Jennifer's suggestion, one that guaranteed their drunken state in short order.
"See the woman over there?" She gestured with a rise of her chin to a nearby table where three scientists, all women, sat nursing large glasses of frosty concoctions with umbrellas in them.
John squinted in an effort to bring them into focus. "Which one?"
"The redhead. That's Carolyn Marstin. Specializes in biophysics and is the bane of Dr. McKay's existence at the moment."
Sheppard straightened in his chair, eyeing the woman with renewed interest. "Really? Why's that?"
"Listen to her for a minute. Every third word is 'like', as in 'Like I went to the cafeteria, and like I saw Lieutenant Carruthers, and like he is the most beautiful man in all of Atlantis.' Drives Rodney crazy."
All three sat in silence for a minute, eavesdropping on the nearby conversation.
"I'm with Rodney on this one," John said. "That would make me nuts in less than five minutes."
"We could play a drinking game to that, you know." Jennifer grinned. "You up for it?"
Ronon hesitated. He enjoyed drinking games. The ones on Sateda were challenging, and he was a good player. His favorite involved avoiding having your hand stabbed to the table by your opponent's dagger. It got harder the drunker you got. He loved the game but wasn't too keen on the doctor participating in such a sport.
"What do you have in mind?" he asked, both curious and cautious of her answer.
"Listen to her. Every time she says 'like' you do a shot. Simple."
John snorted. "Ha! Not so simple. You hear how many times she's saying that? You better be damn fast with licking and shooting to keep up."
Jennifer laughed. Ronon loved the sound. "We'll up the anti. You miss a shot, and you have to double it the next time."
"Christ, we'll be passed out in no time."
Ronon filled his glass and topped off the others. "That's why I'm here. Let's do this."
John's predictions were right. Marstin's conversation had them good and plastered. Jennifer muttered a heartfelt and slurred "thank God!" when the women finally left, and they were the only ones remaining in the cantina except the staff. Outside, the sun was slowly cresting the horizon, spiking bright runners of morning light across the water.
Sheppard looked over his shoulder out the window and turned away fast. His features, haggard by the all-night bender, were now a faint shade of green. "Ugh. Big mistake." He crossed his arms on the table and lowered his head to rest in their impromptu cradle. He was snoring in seconds.
Ronon and Jennifer stared at him, bemused. The bottle of tequila had one last shot in it. He hefted the bottle. "Want the last?"
She waved a hand in refusal. "No thanks, I'm done." Her words slurred and blunted by her inebriation, still had the power to seduce him.
He poured the shot, took her hand where it rested on the table and lifted it to his mouth. Jennifer gasped but didn't pull away when Ronon ran his tongue from her palm, over the flesh between thumb and index finger and across the back of her hand. His gaze locked with hers, never wavering as he sprinkled the salt on her skin, licked it and took the shot.
She whimpered faintly, a sweet sound that belied the fires burning hot in her eyes. Ronon handed her the last lime slice.
"Suck," he ordered hoarsely, and she did as he commanded, the flesh of the lime sliding over her lips as she pursed her mouth and pulled the juice out of the fruit. Ronon grasped the back of her neck with one hand and pulled toward him.
Her lips were soft beneath his, sweeter than Satedan wine and spiced with the tang of lime and cold tequila. Her mouth opened beneath his seeking tongue. He stroked and sucked her tongue in a drugging kiss, groaning his pleasure as he possessed her mouth.
He'd dragged her half out of her chair by the time they broke the kiss to breathe. Jennifer's eyes were the size of dinner plates, and she breathed in short staccato pants. Her mouth was swollen, and she gulped. Ronon watched her, waiting for a signal, some small sign that she wanted more of what he was desperate to give to and take from her. They were both drunker than Satedan priests after a spring festival, and his CO was passed out across from him. He didn't care. In that moment he desired Jennifer Keller more than anything in his life, and for a man who'd lived years as a hunted Runner, that was saying something.
The alcohol sloshed in his belly and made his senses whirl, but it didn't alter how he felt. He'd wanted her when he was sober, sleeping, angry, cheerful—it didn't matter. He'd even craved her touch while suffering through the Wraith enzyme withdrawal. It had been her touch that had comforted him most. Now he wanted more and hoped she felt the same. He'd take her to his room, or hers. Hell, he'd shove Sheppard to the floor and take her on the table in front of the bar staff if that's what she wanted. And he'd make sure she wouldn't regret it, even in the cold, sober light of day.
A small smile curved her mouth, and the look she gave him was clear-eyed and sure. She raised a hand and signaled to their waitress. "Check please."