Goddammit! He was too old for this shit!
They had stepped through the gate and onto a world that looked more like Utah, than any alien locale, and ambushed before they could declare their peaceful intent or offer the standard trade agreement.
Ronon had gone down. Too quick. The bile in John's throat burned with panic as he kept up defensive fire against their unseen aggressors. Ronon didn't go down. He never fell, always kept blasting; impervious to any injury. A soldier getting the job done.
But as John barked for Teyla to dial out, he knew the image of McKay crouched over a motionless Ronon, one hand splayed on the big guy's chest as he fired, was one he would never forget.
"There's no DHD, Colonel!" Teyla yelled, her diction slipping in the chaos of the moment.
"What do you mean there's n-" John flung himself forward to dodge the lethal bolts of light, elbows and knees snarking as they met unforgiving orange rock. "Fuck!"
This side of the wormhole wasn't a gate, but a stone arch.
McKay was right, they had to move. Move where, John had no clue.
He ducked and crawled his way to Ronon in the intervals between pink laser bursts and Teyla's sporadic cover fire. Ronon was too still. But John wouldn't allow himself to go there. It was a fact of this life they lived. Countless lost, their names on a rolodex in John's mind; always remembered. He'd be damned if Ronon's name would ever be added that list.
"No." McKay answered gruff and choked, and John felt his strength bleed out, muscles giving out as he fell to his knees at Ronon's side.
McKay's face was shock white, wide eyes taking in the gentle way his CO brushed ropy dreads back from Ronon's face. "Oh God, no, I meant no, he's still alive."
"Rodney!" Teyla chastised him like she would Torren, her own gaze fixed on the wall of rock offering shelter to their attackers.
"What?" Rodney whined. "It's not my fault he thought he was..."
Relief washed through John like day chasing away the night; joints turned to rubber as the future he'd begun to imagine, with Ronon at its axis, flooded back surrounded by cartoon sparkly hearts.
"We're moving, NOW!"
Teyla and McKay may have thought John was talking to them, and he was, but it was Ronon that John needed to see move – preferably under his own power. Yet it wasn't until John and Rodney had hauled him into an alcove with high walls and a narrow entrance that he started to come round.
"Easy, buddy." John whispered, ragged from exertion. "Just the four of us hangin' out."
John sensed McKay's gaze between his shoulders but ignored it in favour of searching Ronon for injuries. "Oh, dammit, Chewie."
"What?" McKay squeaked, chin and P90 aimed at the open keyhole of darkening purple-blue overhead.
"Bandages, now." John rasped, throat raw as he pulled the velcro tabs on his vest with bloody hands and yanked out his own supply.
He'd been hoping Ronon'd only been knocked out; his mop of dreads protecting the stubborn-ass skull beneath. But the dark chocolate of Ronon's tunic had concealed the gaping blaster wound in his side. They had to stop the bleeding and they had to get back to Atlantis. What with John's two consecutive impalements and now Ronon, Keller sure was racking up the frequent flyer miles in the OR.
Rodney was uncharacteristically quiet as he applied pressure with steady hands, only lifting off when John added another padded bandage. John was grateful, although Rodney's stream of babble would have been reassuring, he needed to think. Without a DHD they were stranded until Atlantis realised something was wrong and radioed through.
"It appears they have ceased for the moment, Colonel." Teyla whispered from her position at the entrance, and John realised it wasn't the rock muting the sound of laser fire.
"Of course they have," Rodney whispered back, panic setting in now that he had time to think over their predicament. "This planet's night is due to commence in five point four second's time. They're most likely off home for a warm dinner and stimulating conversation, while we hide out here where the temperature almost certainly drops to the point where important appendages freeze and start falling off!"
"Way to stay positive, McKay."
"I am positive." Rodney snarked, hands bearing traces of Ronon's dried blood waving for emphasis. "I'm positive that we will freeze to death without a fire, and I'm positive that with a fire whoever those primitive primates are will shoot us like fish in a barrel before Woolsey even stops to think there might be something wrong writes his dissertation on the how's and wherefore's on proper procedure for getting us back before allowing a rescue jumper to actually get us back!"
"Jeez, McKay, take a breath already."
"Yes, Rodney," Teyla soothed, and John flinched in surprise. He hadn't noticed her join them. "We have enough supplies. We will not starve."
"Apricot Jubilee, water, and power bars; there's a feast of positivity right there."
"And there are other concerns requiring our attention." Teyla finished as if Rodney had not interrupted with his grumbling.
"Give us a hand, Rodney." John muttered, half order half plea as he shifted so he could sit with his back against the wall and support Ronon's torso against his own.
Ronon moaned at the awkward movement but didn't regain consciousness. The tight fist of worry John was keeping locked down in his gut clenched harder at the sound.
"Ronon shall survive this, John." Teyla squeezed John's forearm where it was braced over Ronon's chest; the thud of Ronon's heartbeat thudding in answer to the pulse in John's wrist.
Her eyes were gentle and knowing, and John couldn't hold their gaze for long without feeling heat paint his cheeks. They hadn't told their team yet. Mostly because neither John nor Ronon were ready to label what it was they had together. But it seemed as if, like everything, Teyla had known before either of them had. He offered her his best bashful smirk, only to have it slide off his face before it was fully formed when Ronon shivered in John's hold.
"We must keep him warm."
Rodney had been watching the exchange between John and Teyla and there was colour in his cheeks when he held out the foil square. He might be obtuse when it came to the social niceties, but when he was paying attention, nothing escaped his notice.
"Wrap them both together."
John searched Rodney's expression for any sign of disapproval or animosity but found nothing he felt the need to defend against. He breathed a sigh of relief, if there were to be an objection John would've laid money it would've come from McKay.
"Like a burrito."
John huffed a laugh, wheezed when Ronon's head thunked into his sternum. "Oh god, a chicken burrito with jalapeno and ranch, from that little place on Main..."
Rodney groaned with a longing in his words that made John's stomach grumble in sympathy.
"What is a burrito?" Teyla asked with mild curiosity as she opened the vacuum seal on an Apricot Jubilee fruit bar and fed a bite to John, whose head and shoulders were now the only parts of him visible outside the silver survival blanket.
"Meat wrapped in flat bread with sauce and salad, ready to eat."
"And you wish for John and Ronon to be wrapped like a sandwich?"
John snorted a cough and tried not to choke as he chewed.
"Ah, no, it's just the best way to...ummm..." Rodney stopped what promised to be a long confusing, if not embarrassingly entertaining, explanation in favour of extracting his own fruit bar from its plastic wrapping. "Besides, looks like Sheppard prefers romantic dinners for two, these days."
"That does indeed seem to be the case, Rodney." Teyla smiled, feeding herself another bite-sized morsel as she turned her back to John and Ronon. The only privacy she could offer out here. "And the fact that Ronon no longer harbours intentions toward Doctor Keller may be worthy of your consideration."
Rodney's head jerked up from his crossed legs; blue eyes wide with realisation.
John couldn't help the soft smile that tugged at his own lips. He had the best team. And he had Ronon. John gave into the impulse and pressed a kiss to the top of Ronon's head.
"You're never gonna be alone, Chewie."
It was a promise John was sure Pegasus would do its damnedest to break for him. But then, John'd always loved a challenge.
Summary: In the lengthening shadows of an alien world, John makes a promise...