There was no warning. Nothing to tell John what happened as Jumper One leaped from the gate with enthusiastic energy. She gained altitude in the clear blue of the unnamed planet's sky. All systems normal, when the horizon tilted alarmingly, sending McKay lurching sideways.
"Where'd you learn to fly?" Rodney rebuked, one hand reaching for his palmpod while the other inspected his temple with jerky uncertainty.
"You okay?" John asked, eyes still out the windshield as the landscape swept up only to fall away beneath the little ship; the controls ineffective in his hands as Jumper One fed him operational readings.
Everything was normal.
"Sheppard?" Ronon rumbled behind him, a large hand heavy on John's chair. The rasp of knuckles reassuring and warm against John's back.
"Take the chair." John ordered, already moving towards the rear cabin; stumbling when the deck lunged up to meet his feet. "Open the hatch." He had to see what had them, because this fairground ride was anything but normal, regardless of Jumper One's assurances to the contrary.
John had just clipped the carabiner to his vest, was spinning the lock tight when Ronon shouted. John's name drowned out by a metallic screech that sent ice down his spine. The deck lurched, throwing John to his knees, palms smarting on the rubber tread as Ronon tumbled past him; a tangle of long flailing limbs and wild dreads gaining momentum towards the maw of the open hatch.
John lunged; fought the plunge and shift of the roiling deck, scrabbling fingertips over passing leather. No hope of gaining purchase before Ronon plunged to his death. John held safe in the grip of the slow turning winch.
"CLOSE THE HATCH!" John screamed the order, knowing it was too late. They'd lose Ronon long before the ramp closed enough to make a difference. McKay's panic white noise in his ear as John yanked on the thin cable, fingers too shaky to free himself. GODDAMMITALLTOFUCKINGHELL! "RONON!"
Frigid air burned in his lungs, whipped his hair into his face, and stung his eyes. But it was nothing to the sickening hollow in his gut, and the frantic thud of life beneath his skin. Ronon hung by three fingertips, coat flapping against his calves like the wings of a panicked bird. Ronon was fighting down panic of his own. He liked being grounded. The skies were the territory of winged creatures, like the one Ronon could now see held Sheppard's ship between its giant jaws. Its needle teeth scraping for purchase on the golden hull.
Ronon heard Sheppard's scream from above; syllables whipped away before they could sooth him. He opened his mouth to answer, tasted bile and spluttered out ropey hair instead. Ronon coughed, eyes searching for a familiar hazel gaze and a strong forearm reaching down to him, as the thrashing jumper tossed him like a fish on a line; his full weight pulling on his newly-healed shoulder and grinding metal into the creases of his fingers.
The creature was fighting a losing battle; Jumper One's hull too round and slick for it to maintain its hold. Screeches rent the air as the little ship fought the good fight, bucking and sliding to get free; rivulets of drool from the creature's vicious beak making her job easier.
There was a kind of rhythm to the tossing and flexing. A pattern that Ronon was hoping like hell would help get his legs, and the rest of him back into the relative safety of the jumper. And Sheppard, the part of himself he tried to ignore, whispered in the back of Ronon's mind.
But whatever he was going to do, he had better move fast, because the sweat was literally loosening his hold on survival.
"Jesus, McKay!" John barked, stretching his yell-at-Rodney tactic to the limit.
His AF training was for shit, and Ronon had rolled to his death! John couldn't believe things were going down like this!
"Colonel?" Teyla radioed, her voice in his ear unable to offer any consolation.
"NO! Stay where you are! Lock the bulkhead." John's I can't lose anyone else hanging unspoken in the static of dead air.
The doors slammed shut. The remainder of his team were safe. Teyla would keep McKay focused, and if John could just get his fingers to work the way they were supposed to, and the damned winch would move faster, he could do what he'd planned to; get a look at what had hold of them.
Then they'd find Ronon, and take him home.
John choked down the fury, dashed the back of his palms over his face, and stumbled the final three feet to the hatch.
The wind roared in his ears and forced its way into his lungs. But it cleared his head enough to focus. The thing was massive; wingspan of a hundred feet, at least. Ugly, yet beautiful as its leathery wings flexed and fluttered on invisible currents.
"It's a Pterosaur."
Jumper One lurched, the screech of teeth on hull enough for John to want to cover his ears. He held his ground, cable tight at his back, knee and booted foot enough to stop him following Ronon.
John caught the flash of movement down to his right, and nearly drowned in the dizziness of relief flooding him.
"HE'S ALIVE!" John shouted into his radio.
Ronon was grinning up at John. Perfect white teeth brilliant in the tan of his face, while soft brown eyes drank John in.
"Well of course he's alive, Sheppard, or he wouldn't have hold of us. Most likely wants to drop us on some rocks and eat us for lun-"
"Ronon, McKay," John cut Rodney off with expertise borne of long-suffering habit. "RONON's alive!"
John grinned, because Rodney's silence spoke more about the physicist's feelings than his ranting ever would.
Ronon watched, eyes fixed on his CO as Sheppard dropped to his belly. Long lean body belying the strength within as John bent at the waist and reached down for Ronon.
Ronon felt it in his side as he stretched up with his free hand, gravity and wind furious at his escape, seemed to double their efforts to claim him; to separate him from Sheppard. Ronon was done. And the whisper touch of Sheppard's hand before he was clutching air a second time, brought back the panic he'd shoved deep.
"C'mon, Ronon!" John yelled, wind stealing all sound.
But it must've been enough. The next buck and twist of the jumper brought the two men closer, and Ronon's huge hand clamped tight and furious over John's forearm. John slipped, Ronon's weight tugging his foot free from the support beam, both their lives dependant on the thin cable hooked to Sheppard's back. Then Sheppard was rolling, hauling Ronon up onto the ramp; Ronon falling heavy between spread thighs, pulled hard into shaking arms. He could feel the harsh puffs of Sheppard's breath, hot and welcome, over the shell of his ear. He couldn't find words, knew he should have words. Yet there were none. Only the look in Sheppard's eyes; a look that answered the words Ronon had lost.
John tightened his thighs around Ronon's hips as the jumper continued to fight for her freedom; nearly tossing Ronon overboard again. He could feel Ronon wedged against him, but John would have to think about that later. He clipped the second line to Ronon's belt, centre back beneath his coat, thumb grazing warm smooth skin before sliding away and testing the line with a sharp tug.
"Don't wanna lose you." John murmured, cheeks heating with the double meaning.
Ronon nodded dumbly, got to his feet when Sheppard squeezed his shoulder; his other hand already reaching for his ear.
"Rodney, will the drivepods activate?"
"What do you think I've been doing up here?" Rodney snarked, his terror evident.
"A great job." John answered, not a hint of sarcasm in his tone. "We've got Ronon back, now we'll get free and Bill here can order pizza."
"Got any suggestions?" Rodney asked, calmer than before, and John felt his lips pull into a smirk.
"Could stun him." Ronon offered, his blaster already free of its holster as Ronon elbowed the hatch control and the ramp began to close. Too slowly for Ronon's liking.
"He does not seem willing to release us voluntarily." Teyla agreed.
John grinned at Ronon. Very rarely did Teyla agree with any of Ronon's shoot first ask questions never plans. But then John hadn't been the only one freaked out at the thought of losing Ronon.
"Drivepods at sixty-seven percent inoperable." McKay's panic was rising again.
"Still leaves us a third to work with. We close enough to dial?" John asked, hanging from cargo nets as the floor lurched near vertical; Ronon doing the same on the other side.
"If the DHD still works." Rodney grumbled.
John grinned. For someone who couldn't fly in a straight line, McKay was holding his own today.
"Dialing now, Colonel." Teyla informed, words tight with quiet hope.
"Colonel Sheppard? We had not expect-"
"Banks! Send Lorne to give us a ride. Tell him to watch out for the Pterosaurs – yes, you heard right," John interrupted before Banks could query. "No co-ordinates, he'll have to track our signals. Oh, and bring a med t-"
The signal cut out with an ear-splitting screech that had John yanking his radio from his ear and Ronon cursed as he did the same.
Jumper One plunged ass first, suddenly free. The creature screeched its fury, the sound vibrating in John's bones as he tumbled a hundred and eighty degrees, arms and legs flailing; only to be pulled up short by his cable like a marionette. Ronon stood on the closed hatch as if it were the floor; dreads a tangled nest of outrage while his face turned an ominous shade of green.
"McKay!" John yelled, regretting the loss of his radio.
The bulkhead doors flung themselves open as if they sensed the impending peril.
"Sheppard!" Rodney screamed, hands over his head instead of on the controls as they rolled through more degrees. The windshield view changing from white blue to brown leather wings, back to blue, then rich green.
"Drivepods should level us out." John barked as he and Ronon slid down the roof. Their cables shortening as the winch continued to wind them in.
If they survived this, Ronon doubted he'd be able to look at a jumper ever again. He'd clanged his head off the hull, his ears were still ringing and up was a distant memory. But none of that stopped him lunging for Sheppard who was reaching for his knife to cut himself free.
"NO!" Ronon's bellow of terror grabbed Teyla's attention.
"No, John, you must not!"
"What?" Rodney asked, distracted by whatever messages Jumper One was downloading to his brain.
"You can't." Ronon murmured, fist tight in the sleeve of John's shirt; gaze shifting from those eyes to the windshield directly below them.
"I have to." John whispered, adamant.
"Wait!" McKay shouted, full panic mode engaged. "I can do it, just tell me wha-"
John'd cut his line, body plunging through freefall to crumple in a heap between Rodney and Teyla's chairs, the DHD all that prevented him from crashing through the windshield.
"YOU BLOODY IDIOT!" Rodney screamed, petrified, hands white-knuckled on the controls, chest heaving against his safety harness. "You're out of your mind!"
John looked up from the console he was lying on, to the rest of his team. Rodney and Teyla strapped tight, faces red from hanging upside down. Ronon swinging in mid-air like the scene from Mission Impossible; his expression one that suggested John'd be paying for this stunt in some very painful way.
"Whatever power you've got, direct it to the drivepods." McKay stared at him, wide-eyed, and John realised what it sounded like. "Reverse, Rodney, full power in reverse!"
Rodney nodded, expression turning inward.
The jumper jerked, fought one more pull on her determination to go where she wanted; jostling her crew in retaliation.
John had lost all track of time, was lost in the turmoil of emotion and gravitational void. No simulator could've predicted this.
"Pull up, not too fast, seduce her." John bit down on a smirk, Ronon's grunt of amusement loud in his ears. But he kept his focus on McKay. The guy was doing brilliantly – as he'd no doubt boast to Zelenka later. "That's it, coax her, she's a lady."
Jumper One rolled over like a dog wanting her belly rubbed. Gently, with no sense of the impending impact that must come soon. John slid, clung to a passenger chair through the final degrees; rested his brow on the soft pale leather. He breathed deep for two breaths, only to look up when Ronon's fingers bit into his bicep, hauled him to his feet and threw him into the chair. Ronon was pissed, no doubt about it; and even though she had nothing on the huge Satedan in height, Teyla shared her anger with a single quirked eyebrow.
John's relief at being right-side-up and all crew accounted for, was short-lived when McKay yelled his name, gesturing with his chin to the rapidly approaching treetops.
"Still in reverse?" John spoke calmly. This wasn't his first hard landing. "Ease back on the gas, drop your altitude. Easy does it."
The atmosphere in the cockpit softened, John's calm spreading to his team. He felt the knot where his heart and lungs should be, loosen. It'd be rough, but looking at how much speed McKay'd been able to drop, it was survivable.
"That's it, doing great McKay." John twisted into his chair's harness; buckle a quiet snick in the tension-filled silence.
Their first contact with the trees was brutal; almost rolling them upside down again. But McKay righted the controls; kept the horizon level without John's guidance. There was nothing more John could tell him anyway. Reminding McKay that their lives were in his hands would be counterproductive.
John felt Ronon's eyes on him, and tried not to look. Today had brought things to a head. If John did or said the wrong thing it was bound to end badly.
"Here we go!" Rodney yelled, shoulders tense, body braced for impact. "Heads between your knees, kiss your asses goodbye."
Jumper One pinballed between the trees; metal-on-bark screeched and scraped over John's nerves, adrenalin cold and sharp down his spine. The port drivepod groaned and screamed as it was torn from its casing, the shift in weight flinging them on their side. Ronon's arm dangled across the aisle, fingertips grazing John's forearm. He reached out, heedless of witnesses, intent on offering what comfort he could. He shuddered with the press of Ronon's fingers entwining with his own.
Time stretched and silence grew. John felt himself cushioned in a softness that muffled details; mind preparing to protect him from the reality of impact.
He didn't feel the ground reach out and snatch them down, didn't hear the buckle of the starboard hull as it crumpled like tinfoil around rock, nor the terror in Teyla's scream – silenced before it could crest. He heard his own cry of protest when Ronon was torn from his grip. Finally he felt Rodney's chair smack him in the face, and the sweet, seductively warm blackness that followed, enveloped him into its arms.
"Is he breathing?"
"Do not move him."
He knew he should answer. Ronon would be pissed if he didn't. But...
John felt like the last guest to a party he'd forgotten the beer for. Everything was muffled and blurred around the edges. But the warmth and weight of the large hand on the back of his neck, thumb stroking his hairline, kept panic from blooming.
A light squeeze, more stroking.
John could stay like this forever. Ronon's hands on him, Ronon's solid thigh under his cheek. But everything was flooding back in graphic technicolour. He lunged upright, bright flare of pain replacing Ronon's soothing touch. His own hand fluttered to his head, finding padded dressing and dried blood. The desire to puke was strong, but John forced it down with a dry swallow. He couldn't afford the weakness.
"We are well enough, John." Teyla spoke gently; the delicate shape of her hand on his arm belying its strength. "Rodney did very well."
"We're down a jumper." Rodney grumbled, eyes wide in his ashen face, as the snap crackle pop of dying circuitry punctuated the truth of his words.
"No one is dead Rodney." Teyla spoke again, the sharp edge to her tone bringing everyone's eyes to Ronon.
John felt the big man, who he'd been using for a pillow, shift uncomfortably; felt the creak of leather on leather as muscles tensed.
"Easy, Chewie." John murmured, squeezing hard over the shifting tendons in the other man's wrist, thumb mimicking Ronon's earlier caress. "You're...here."
John had been going to say safe, but was glad he hadn't. It would've been a lie. Especially since a second later the bent soda can of the jumper was being shoved sideways with a protesting screech that made John's teeth ache.
It seemed endless. Ronon watched Teyla and McKay brace themselves, kneeling on the bench seat opposite him and Sheppard; fingers tangled in the overhead cargo webbing. White knuckled and wide eyed, swaying with the Morse code shoves to the ship's hull.
John knew what was happening; he'd seen the movie. It made sense if there were Pterosaurs there'd be...others - land-based, territorial, and terrifying.
Could this really be happening?
The look on Rodney's face had John's own hands fisting the black straps until his knuckles turned white. Sweat, and Ronon shoving into him with each deafening hit Jumper One took to her hull, threatening to throw John to the deck.
Teyla opened her mouth to speak and John gave the signal to freeze. He hoped at least that much was fact.
Silence; sudden and more threatening than the barrage of sound had been, settled over John, chilling his blood. He tried to brace himself without moving, tried to signal the others without speaking, felt Ronon tensing against his flank and hip. All that gorgeous sexy strength puny in the face of what thumped outside.
Glass exploded, flying inward; a skin-slicing shower of jagged edges and deadly spears. Ronon yanked John against his chest, strong back turned to the threat. John resisted, tried to turn so he could protect Ronon; fists balled in Ronon's shirt. John felt rather than heard the amused rumble in Ronon's chest, heat flaming his cheeks. Dumbass, Ronon's leather coat was a far better defence than two layers of black cotton and bare skin.
Ronon thought his eardrums were going to burst. Sound like nothing he'd ever heard before filled every crevice in the jumper, every empty space within his bones, and threatened to shake his teeth loose. A sound to strike terror into the bowels of even the bravest enemy. The roar of the victorious.
Sheppard's curse was a hot puff of air against Ronon's cheek as his CO leaned up to see into the destroyed cockpit. Lean body vibrating with justifiable fear against the arm Ronon tightened across Sheppard's back. The other gripped tight to the webbing overhead.
The eye was huge, acid yellow with a vertical pupil dilated in an effort to pinpoint its elusive prey. John darted his eyeballs in Rodney's direction, saw the disbelieving awe shining on his face fighting fascination for dominance, as he held a shaking but silent Teyla in a one-armed hug.
The roar's echo had ebbed away, leaving a sense of someone, or something doing some serious thinking. John imagined a tapping toe and buried a hysterical grin in Ronon's shoulder.
"Hold on!" John heard Rodney whisper, fierce and urgent, and felt Ronon's arm squeeze harder; crushing John between solid muscle, and the imminent threat of pain.
They were sliding, slammed sideways by one pissed off reptile, plummeting – or not. Jumper One fell for three breaths, impacting with a stunning force that tore Ronon's fingers free of the cargo straps, and flung him and Sheppard into Teyla and McKay. The four of them landing in a twisted heap of tangled limbs on the ramp with the cockpit towering ominously overhead for a moment before Jumper One groaned and toppled sideways. A final bellow and the fading thuds of huge feet, her only eulogy.
There was barely a moment's silence before McKay was complaining. Letting loose a stream of pent up fear and incredulous outrage. "Sheppard, kindly take your boot out of my kidney. Can you believe that just happened? Elizabeth will never let me fly again. Are you okay Teyla?"
John grinned so hard his cheeks ached. The normality of Rodney making their situation somehow easier to process. Ronon's palm sliding across the small of his back however...
Ronon was aware of Sheppard lying full length on top of him - how could he not be. McKay was offering a distraction that Ronon was absolutely taking advantage of. He slid his palm over Sheppard's lower back, tucked fingertips beneath the rucked up shirts, while Sheppard's attention was elsewhere. Ronon nuzzled into vulnerable throat, laid his lips to the spot where his own neck wore ink, as Sheppard rolled his hips. Ronon hooked a foot over Sheppard's ankle as the other man realised what he'd done. Stopped Sheppard from backing away, building those stupid walls between them yet again.
"John," Ronon whispered, hoarse, fierce, and pleading. His eyes wide with all John would not allow himself to say.
John couldn't move, had no desire to move from where he lay sprawled over Ronon; Teyla and Rodney not two feet away. He rolled his hips, felt Ronon hard and alive against him, and shuddered.
"Ronon," John breathed, and pressed his lips to Ronon's open mouth.
Ronon's lips were softer than John had imagined. They parted before John's tongue could ask permission, drawing him into a heat that was all Ronon; alluring, seductive, and all-consuming. He felt Ronon's long fingers tangle and tug in his hair as he sucked on John's tongue, nipped at his full lip with those perfect teeth. John wanted more, wanted everything. Ronon. Air. Dammit, he needed air, but that'd mean taking his lips from Ronon; and he didn't want that, not now that he finally had him. Lights danced behind his eyelids and John broke their kiss on a sigh he'd be embarrassed about later. Ronon chasing his mouth with a groan John felt sure the other man would blush about later, too. The thought of Ronon blushing had John's gut doing a crazy flip-flop-swoop thing, and he didn't notice just how quiet the space around him had gotten.
He looked up, the heat in his cheeks signalling just how busted he and Ronon were. This was his team, and yet he couldn't help the cool prickle of dread over his skin as he pushed up on his hands in an attempt to put distance between himself and Ronon. Ronon, of course, wasn't having any of it; tugging John flat again, fingers scribing soothing spirals between John's shoulder blades.
"I have always thought you would look beautiful together." Teyla smiled, amusement gleaming her eyes.
"Though I don't share that sentiment, I will say it's about time Sheppard. You sure kept Ronon waiting long enough." John couldn't help his bark of laughter and ducked down to press his forehead to Ronon's. "But if you don't mind, could we put this newfound man love on hold till we get back to Atlantis, where I don't have to watch you two suck each other's faces off?"
John laughed again as Ronon tried to do just that. He laid soft teasing pecks to Ronon's kiss-swollen lips, pulling away only to dive back for more. "Sure Rodney, we can spare your delicate sensibilities."
Ronon grumbled disagreeably, but let John clamber up and off him. Just how much of a sacrifice it was, evident in the hard line tenting his leathers. John's hands fisted at his sides as he traced a line up Ronon's body, eyes locking with shared want. How would he ever keep his hands off this man again?
Lorne had better get here soon, because suddenly John didn't want to keep Ronon at arm's length, didn't want to obey the rules like a good little soldier. He wanted to bite, suck, kiss, and lick his way over every single inch of Ronon's smooth honeyed body, then do it all over again until Ronon was begging John to fuck him.
"Sheppard!" Rodney barked, snapping John from his thoughts. "Help me with these before they fall and kill us all. I'd hate to survive Pterosaurs and Tyrannosaurs, only to die under falling storage cases."
"Yeah, Rodney," John exaggerated a sigh and rubbed the back of his neck, gaze still on Ronon as the other man got gracefully to his feet. "I'm comin'."
They spent the hour-long wait stripping Jumper One down to her carcass and repacking the storage cases in makeshift nets that would fit through the windshield. Turned out the hatch would never open again. Which Ronon was, quietly, more than fine about.
He couldn't keep his eyes from lingering on the twist and stretch of John's body either. Remembering how it felt beneath his hands. Smooth heat and the rasp of stubble as they'd kissed. The way strands of messy black silk had wrapped around his fingers when he tugged on them.
"Ronon, hey," John was there, a mere breath between them, concern shadowing now-green eyes. "You okay, buddy?"
Ronon nodded, dreadlocks dancing, unable to trust his voice.
John smirked, a sexy tug at the corner of his mouth – a mouth Ronon would never forget the taste of - and murmured, "Later, after we're cleared."
Ronon groaned, he'd forgotten about the hour they'd spend in debrief and post mission medical. He was tempted to hold John hostage here, in a broken ship surrounded by terrifying beasts, but where he could keep his hands on John for as long as he wanted. And Ronon wanted.
"Me too," John murmured, squeezing Ronon's forearm and dragging his palm down over the bone of Ronon's wrist where it peeked out of his coat sleeve; a teasing grin crinkling his eyes. "Waiting's damn hard!"
They were too far from the gate to hear it engage, but the DHD's frantic spark of life before dying again gave hope that rescue was only minutes out.
"Colonel Sheppard!" Came the call from above and out of sight.
"Engage your shield before your hollering brings the hostile natives back." John yelled up, nervous fear a cool sweat in his armpits.
"Already done, Sir." Lorne assured, his perpetual cheerfulness overflowing his words. "Sky's clear too."
John frowned, it'd be a while before Lorne let him forget this one. If ever. The Lorne-to-the-rescue stories were mounting uncomfortably high.
"She's pretty banged up. Can you open the hatch?"
"No." John wasn't keen on remembering earlier events, any more than Ronon probably was. "Windshield'll have to do. Send down a cable for the gear."
The retrieval of gear and Team Sheppard progressed without any hiccups, until there was only Ronon and one net of cases to go. And of course, that was exactly when their friend with the tiny arms and booming outside voice returned; a buddy in tow.
"Shit!" Lorne tightened his fist around the retracting cable and hissed as it burned his palm. "You weren't kidding."
"Nope." John whispered, signalling the two teams into silence with a raised fist.
Lorne flicked a switch and the winch fell silent; leaving Ronon dangling outside the safety of Jumper Three's shield, a hideous parody of the worst moment in John's life. John felt sick, his throat closing so dry and tight, it hurt to breathe as both deck and ground vibrated beneath his boots.
They waited, barely a breath between any of them. The larger group no greater source of comfort or safety than before.
Sound split the air; louder than John's memory deemed possible. Lorne stumbled into him, blue eyes wide in terror. John steadied his 2IC just as the shield was tested. Ginormous bodies swung into the invisible bubble surrounding Jumper Three and her freaked out occupants. They could hear the impacts, growing more frustrated with each attempt; could see the shimmer of iridescent blue and silver, as the shield warped and billowed back into place. John wondered if the Ancients had seeded this planet too. Had made allowances in their technology for such predatory strength.
John wondered about all kinds of things in that eternal stretch of space and time. Anything to keep him from running over, and hauling Ronon bodily up the drop between them. Sure, he couldn't do it alone, but his action would bring Lorne and McKay, and the others to help. It'd also bring Rex and Rambo down on Ronon, and Ronon was John's to feast on, dammit!
The concussive blows rattled inside his head until he couldn't think anything at all. Teyla's tight grip on his arm, and McKay at his back were all that anchored him. God, Ronon!
Ronon clung to the feeder vines of some alien plant to keep himself close into the cliff face. Sap trickling warm and sticky between his fingers and down his wrists. He couldn't believe he was here again! Quite literally hanging out to be rescued, while some infernal beast messed with the future Ronon had chosen for himself. He knew the shield didn't cover him, knew the jumper was visible but protected, so John was safe. The thought eased his muscles and allowed him to remain still; the ancestors having offered him a small consolation in the form of his coat being the exact colour of the crumbly rock scraping against his cheek.
But how long would the beasts toy with them before they left, or worse, the shield failed and Jumper Three joined her sister over the edge? Ronon tried not to think about being dragged and bounced behind it, like a toy after an exuberant child. After all he'd lived through, could Destiny really be that cruel?
Ronon had his chin tucked into his chest and eyes squeezed tight, when he felt the pull of the ridiculously thin woven metal on which his life had been balanced, and shuddered a relieved sigh. He hadn't heard the beasts leave, but he was grateful for their departure all the same. John was leaning out, gripping the hull as he kept eye contact with Ronon. Determination etched deep in the lines around his mouth. Ronon wondered if John would let Ronon hug him. Teyla and McKay were one thing, but Lorne and the others?
As it turned out, the second his foot landed on the cabin floor, John yanked him close and pounded his back.
"Damn, Chewie," John growled around the lump in his throat. "The report's gonna read like a movie script as it is, without you almost being eaten too."
The sporadic chuckles helped Ronon understand John's blasť attitude. The fleeting squeeze of John's hand on his, hidden between their bodies, soothing the sting.
"Gentlemen, ladies," Lorne announced, as he strode from the closing hatch to the cockpit and took his seat at the controls. "I don't know about you, but home's looking pretty good right about now."
Everyone shuffled around the extra bodies and cargo to find seats, a staccato of clicks as harnesses were latched tight, the only sound in the crowded jumper.
"If you run into trouble, Major, just let McKay drive."
Rodney looked up from his seat in the back, squished between Teyla and Sergeant Cole, preening under John's praise and Lorne's nod of acknowledgement.
Ronon pushed his feet into the floor in an attempt to anchor the frantic pace of his heart. Teyla's hand gripped tightly in his own. He was probably grinding the bones together but she didn't complain. John's thigh pressed hot, and a little shaky, against his. Ronon tuned out his surroundings, trusting Lorne as he'd trusted Teyla, McKay, and John, and thought of how good it would be to finally have John Sheppard spread out on his bed. His CO hot and naked and needy for Ronon's touch.
Ronon must have said something aloud, though he couldn't think what, because John leaned in, voice hot and intimate as he murmured, "Anything you want, Ronon. And I do mean anything."