Tag to The Lost Tribe.
The mess hall was empty, which wasn't exactly unusual for 3 am. Rodney grabbed a nearby tray and loaded it with leftovers before making his way to a secluded table.
A minute later, John appeared in a badly wrinkled shirt and pajama bottoms. The bags under his eyes were large and dark.
"You look awful."
"So do you."
John didn't bother grabbing food. He pulled out the chair by Rodney and kicked his feet up on the table, ignoring Rodney's glare as the scientist pulled his tray away from the messy boots.
There was an unwritten rule at these late night gatherings: Don't discuss what's bothering you and no one will ask. Rodney wanted to break that rule when he noticed the guilt in John's expression, but he didn't. If he broke the rule than John would break it and Rodney would have to fess up to his own guilty feelings.
You didn't know what the device did. You shut it down. That's what his brain kept telling him anyway. Hearing John say it wouldn't make him feel much better.
"Did you hear Torren's starting to crawl?" John asked as he stole one of Rodney's jello cups.
"Yeah. Kanan's going to have his hands full. Which is just one more reason I am never going to be a stay-at-home dad."
"Do the universe a favor and never be a dad, Rodney."
Rodney smiled. Banter with Sheppard was better than any beer when it came to ameliorating painful memories.
They didn't die because of you. They died because of those evil Asgard, Boba Fett wannabes.
Too bad banter didn't cure guilty feelings entirely.
"Have you seen Ronon around?" John asked, forcing away the looming silence.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. He was beating up a defenseless punching bag a while ago. He'd knocked a quarter of the stuffing out so I figured it was best to leave him alone. You know how he can get when he's pissed."
Rodney still remembered the many Wraith bodies that painted the Satedan landscape. The sheer number Ronon had killed that day made him a living legend.
"Speak of the devil." John motioned to the door where Ronon came in looking oddly dejected. Even his dreadlocks seemed to sink low.
John and Rodney glanced at each other, each deciding to break the night's rule.
"You okay, buddy?" John asked.
Ronon looked up as though noticing each of them for the first time. His mouth opened to form words, but they never came out. Instead he raised his head, straightened his shoulders, and nodded.
"It's been a long day for all of us." Sheppard reached for Rodney's second jello cup despite protestations. Rodney in turn kicked John's chair, causing John's feet to fall to the floor.
"Get your own."
"Listen," Ronon interrupted, "I need to talk to McKay."
"Okay. I'm right here."
John and Rodney exchanged confused glances, but neither of them moved. After a moment of awkward silence, Rodney finally gave in. "Fine." He pushed away from the table and followed Ronon to another secluded spot.
At first, the Satedan said nothing. He looked at Rodney with an almost menacing glare. Rodney immediately flinched back. If he hadn't known Ronon better, he'd think this was about to end in blows. Ronon never did attack, though. Instead, his expression changed from anger to melancholy. The emotional roller coaster was so unlike the Satedan, that Rodney had to ask once more if he was okay.
Ronon once again nodded before holding out his right hand. "Congratulations"
Rodney stared at the hand but did not take it. "Did I miss something?"
"Won? Won what? You're making absolutely no sense, you know that right?"
Ronon didn't lower his hand. "Take it. You won fair and square. I'm not mad. It's important that you know that."
Despite his words, Rodney couldn't help but feel Ronon's slight anger. Or was that more disappointment? "What makes you so sure I won?" Rodney asked.
"She said she was interested in someone else."
"Oh. Oh!" Rodney couldn't help but smile, but he quickly forced it back. "Oh."
Finally he took Ronon's hand. The shake was anything but genial.
"Ow ow ow!" Rodney tried to wrench his hand free but Ronon's grip was tight.
"Be good to her."
"I'm sorry, perhaps you didn't hear me say 'ow'!"
"Sorry." Ronon released his grip.
Rodney shook his hand furiously in the air. "You could have broken my hand!"
"I wouldn't have."
Rodney stopped whinning when he saw Ronon's solemn expression. "You really cared for her?"
"It's okay. Just wanted to let you know it was over."
Whatever elation Rodney might have felt from Jennifer's decision, it all fell to the wayside. How could he be happy when his friend was so obviously hurting? This is why he didn't do feelings; feelings were a cacophony of contradictions.
"C'mon, we'll go raid John's beer stash."
"Everything okay?" John asked when they returned to the table. He'd managed to eat most of the food on Rodney's tray and was now feigning interest in the remaining banana. The guilt in his eyes was from something else though. Something Rodney couldn't quite place. Maybe at the debriefing tomorrow, Rodney would figure it out. Or maybe after a few beers.
Rodney fought back his instincts to argue over the missing food or to ask John what was bothering him. Instead, he reached for his jacket. Ronon wasn't the only one that needed a drink.
You didn't explode the Stargates. You didn't kill all of those people.
"We're going to the pier and we're going to drink all of your beer. You coming?"
John didn't hesitate. He dropped the orange on the table and made for the door. "I only have a few beers left. We might have to raid Lorne's quarters.".
"I'm good with that," Ronon quickly responded.
"Why am I not surprised?" Rodney massaged his still sore hand but smiled. Sometimes sleepless nights weren't so bad. Not when there were friends to share them with.