The 'Lantean military cooks made very good beef. Ronon tore into another bite and looked around the mess hall. Afternoon sunlight filtered through the windows, painting colorful streaks on the floor. Soldiers and scientists mingled together, voices buzzing with conversation, their forks and knives clacking against the plastic serving trays. At the table behind him, Lingstrom, Hayes, Parkes, and Cadman were discussing McKay's sex life. Ronon was amused.
"…God knows, if I ever met a man who needed to get laid, it's McKay," Cadman said. "The trouble is finding someone desperate enough to sleep with him."
"What about Miko?" Parkes said. "She likes him."
"McKay's too much of an ass and would break her heart," Lingstrom said. "Maybe one of the new scientists? Or one of the ones leaving?"
"The new is out. That'd be punishing her for coming here," Parkes said.
"And all the ones leaving would rather kill him," Hayes added with a snicker. "Though, maybe we could pay one of them to sleep with McKay."
Cadman chortled. "We'd have to be millionaires to come up with enough money for that."
Hennish laughter rose in the vaulted hall. Ronon snorted quietly and swiped the beef through the gravy. He spotted Sheppard carrying a tray in his direction and took his foot off the chair in front of him.
"Colonel Sheppard!" McKay's voice rang clearly in the mess and Sheppard stopped and turned. The ladies behind Ronon muffled their titters.
"Hey, Rodney," Sheppard said, when Rodney caught up to him. "Where's your lunch?"
"I ate already in the lab." Rodney tugged at his shirt hem. "What are you doing tonight?"Sheppard shrugged. "Just paperwork on the new staff. Why?"
"The Daedelus is bringing a batch of new movies," Rodney said. "Dinner in my room, say 2100 hours?"
"Sure." Sheppard smiled impishly. "It's a date."
Rodney nodded like the strange bobbing-head statute Lorne had in his office. "Yes. A date – ha-ha. See you then."
Sheppard watched Rodney scurry off, shook his head, and then joined Ronon at the table. "Ronon."
"Sheppard." Ronon speared another piece of beef with his fork. "When does the Daedelus arrive?"
"Around 1600 hours."
"Are they bringing more of this beef?"
Sheppard chuckled. "Probably."
"Good." Ronon chewed and swallowed. He really liked the beef.
Ronon leaned against the walkway rail, idly sharpening one of his knives with a whetstone. Below him, Sheppard was giving a short welcome speech to the new Atlantis recruits who'd been beamed down by the Daedelus. Regular staff bustled in and out of the gateroom, taking boxes and crates to their designated areas.
"Captain Bates will be assigning your quarters. All military personnel will meet at 1700 hours. Be outside your doors at 1650 and one of the SOs will escort you to the briefing room. Scientists, someone from your individual divisions will be around to your quarters at 1730."
"I'm sure you're right, Steven," Weir said, coming out of the control room. She offered Ronon a smile as she passed. Ronon liked her. "Hello, Ronon."
"Dr. Weir." Ronon flipped the knife deftly around his fingers. "Colonel Caldwell."
The corners of Caldwell's eyes tightened. "Dex."
Weir led Caldwell into her office, closing the door behind them. Ronon could still see Caldwell clearly through the windows. He began sharpening his knife again.
Sheppard clapped his hands together, with a smile. "Welcome to Atlantis."
"Protocols are relaxed on Atlantis," Lorne told the new recruits in the briefing room – a converted amphitheater with curving rows of chairs and a podium. Twenty-seven soldiers sat in the first few rows, carrying an air of excitement and nervousness. Ronon and Teyla stood in front, along with Bates and Fisher, as Lorne gave instruction. "The CO doesn't care about saluting, quarters checks, or if your boots are shined or not. Do your jobs, follow orders, and conduct yourselves like Marines, and you'll be fine."
Ronon measured each Marine with merely a glance. Nine of them would stay permanently; the three with gray hair at their temples, five with battle-weary eyes, and the one with the visible chip on her shoulder. The rest, who managed not to get killed, would return to Earth when their tour was completed and never come back to Atlantis.
"Daily PT and weapons training is mandatory. Sergeant Fisher, Ronon Dex, and Teyla Emmagen," Lorne gestured at them, "will be available to kick your asses regularly."
The soldiers laughed, thinking it was a joke. Ronon smiled predatorily. He'd get pleasure from proving them wrong.
Ronon's feet fell rhythmically, legs carrying him along a familiar path through the city. He enjoyed running when the wraith or hostile humans weren't chasing him. Atlantis sprawled in many directions, her wide halls an open invitation. He passed others running, both military and scientists alike, vigorously pushing their bodies as far as they could go.
Ronon slowed to a jog as he neared the point where Sheppard regularly joined him for their morning run. He didn't see Sheppard there, stretching like normal. Ronon's inner clock told him that he wasn't early. His warm up run had lasted an hour, as usual.
Raised voices drifted through the empty corridor when Ronon reached the juncture. He followed the sound and spotted Sheppard and McKay out on a balcony off the hall. The wind whistled through the open door, bringing with it the sharp scent of the sea.
"I didn't expect it to be a real date!"
"Now you know. I like you, you like me; it's a classic dating set up. All that's missing is the sex and, if I'm lucky, none of the humiliation afterwards."
"Rodney. I can't— you can't—"
Ronon turned away as McKay kissed Sheppard, and continued on his run. The terror written on Sheppard's face wasn't something he'd want observed.
Teyla circled Ronon, fighting sticks at the ready. Her skin was flushed from exertion and coated in a light sheen of sweat. Her breasts rose and fell with each breath, a distraction Ronon did little to ignore. She moved suddenly, swiftly. The fighting sticks in their hands smacked together in rapid staccato. She smiled at his deft blocking, exhilaration in her eyes.
Ronon would pledge himself to her, if this were a different time. She was strong, serene, and sassy. She was his equal in many ways. He hadn't thought he'd ever feel this way again after Melena had died. Teyla revived that portion of his heart subtly, until he couldn't remember a time when she hadn't been in there.
But anger and revenge still twisted him, and he would always put the wraith first. Until that rage was quelled, he was unworthy of offering Teyla his love. For now, he would be content with being her teammate and her friend, and let her beat him with her sticks.
Lorne, Bates, Hendricks, Smith, and Ronon sat around a table in what Lorne called the "O'Club", even though it looked no different than any other room in Atlantis that held tables and chairs. They had a small jug of Zelenka's alcohol, a deck of cards, and pieces of ripped paper piled in front of them.
Ronon remembered when he had first learned the game called poker. They'd had card games on Sateda, with different rules and pictures on the cards. But while the Satedan card games were about accumulating the highest points, poker was about who lied the best and ribbing your opponents. The others were very bad at both.
"I'll raise two papers," Hendricks said, dropping two ripped slips into the pot.
"Call," Bates said, adding his two in.
"You always call." Smith smirked at Bates. "No wonder you're the chief security officer, Captain Plays-It-Safe."
"Your jokes never get any less dumb, either, Smith," Bates said.
Lorne threw two papers into the pot. "Call."
"I'll see Hendricks's two and raise four," Ronon
said, pushing his papers over.
Smith stared hard at Ronon a moment, then sighed and tossed his cards aside, face down. "I fold."
"Wuss," Smith jibed.
Bates looked at Ronon, looked at Lorne, then back at Ronon again. "I fold." Hendricks and Smith cracked up.
"I'm calling, just to keep Dex honest." Lorne added four papers to the pot. "Whatcha got?"
Ronon laid his cards on the table. "Three kings."
Lorne's head dropped with a groan. "Ohhh!" Hendricks yelled and Smith laughed. Bates hid a grin by drinking from his glass.
Ronon added the pot to his very large pile with a pleased chuckle.
The claxon woke Ronon from a sound sleep. He was on his feet, dressed, and out the door in less than a minute. The radio chirped in his ear, Sheppard's and McKay's voices demanding status simultaneously. Marines in full gear tumbled from their rooms and ran for their assigned stations. Ronon caught up with Teyla outside the gateroom.
"Do we know what has caused the alarm?" Teyla said, fully dressed and cradling her P-90 in her arms.
Ronon shook his head. "No."
"Coming through!" McKay dodged Ronon and Teyla and took the steps up to the control room two at a time. McKay still wore boxers and a t-shirt that proclaimed Schröedinger's Cat is Dead Because You Didn't Feed It. His hair stood up on one side like a bird's crest.
Zelenka in rumpled sleepwear with pillow-lines on his face entered the control room behind Ronon and Teyla. "What is wrong?"
"Do I look like a mind-reader? I don't know." Rodney typed rapidly on the laptop connected to the command console. Zelenka went to the biometric sensors console and used the laptop attached to it. Ronon and Teyla flanked the door. Anticipation and the desire to fight tingled Ronon's in palms. He liked a good battle. The alarm echoed in the gateroom.
Sheppard thundered down the steps from the hangar. "Rodney, what's going on?" he pressed.
Rodney didn't look up from the laptop. "Shut up. I'm working on it."
"I am reading nothing out of the ordinary here," Zelenka said, moving from the biometric scanner to the short-range and long-range sensors. Simmons, the third shift watchman in the gateroom, got out of his way. "No crafts or anything in the vicinity to raise the alarm. The Daedelus is the only ship in our orbit."
Weir, with Bates escorting, entered the control room. "What happened?"
Zelenka shrugged. "We do not know yet."
"You— person," Rodney snapped his fingers and pointed at Simmons, "what did you touch?"
"Nothing," Simmons said. "I was sitting here, keeping an eye on the long-range sensor and the stargate, and the alarm went off suddenly. That's it."
"Why do I doubt— wait. Wait. I found something." Rodney peered more closely at the laptop monitor. He made a disgusted face and straightened. "The alarm is broken."
"The alarm is telling us the alarm doesn't work?" Weir said.
"Like when a smoke alarm beeps at you when the battery is dying," Rodney said, glowering at the flashing light on the wall, "only a lot less quietly."
Teyla, Zelenka, and Simmons looked relieved. Sheppard came up behind Rodney, to look over his shoulder. "Can you shut it off?"
"Yes. I think so." Rodney bent over the laptop again and started typing.
"Dr. Zelenka, will you please put me on citywide?" Weir said. Zelenka nodded and moved to the communications console.
Ronon frowned unhappily, disappointed that there wasn't going to be a fight. The scowl on Bates's face said he felt similarly. Ronon was a warrior, Bates was a protector, and neither one of them liked inaction.
"May I have your attention, please," Weir's voice carried through the halls of Atlantis, under the blare of the claxon. "We have discovered that the alarm is malfunctioning. At the moment, we perceive no other danger on Atlantis. However, I'd like everyone to stay in your quarters or at your stations until otherwise notified. That is all."
Ronon dug into breakfast that included something called bacon. Across the table from him, Sheppard poked at his eggs and hid a yawn behind his fist. It had taken hours for the alarm to be silenced without shooting it. The others in the mess hall looked worn and spoke in whispers. The Get McKay Laid group sat at the table behind Ronon again – he noticed people tended to gravitate to the same seats for every meal. The ladies had a desperate edge to their quiet voices."The Daedelus departs at 1300 hours," Cadman said. "We don't have much time left."
"We've been through most of the roster already," Hayes said. "Face it, no one in their right mind would want to sleep with McKay."
"Shh. Here he comes," Parkes hushed.
Ronon crunched on another strip of bacon as McKay walked by them. Sheppard looked up from his eggs and watched McKay fill an empty coffee pot from the coffee urn. Ronon stole a strip of bacon from Sheppard's tray while he wasn't paying attention. The greasy, crisp strips of meat tasted salty on Ronon's tongue.
"Hi, guys. Bye, guys." McKay said as he passed the table again on his way out of the mess, the filled coffee pot in one hand and muffins piled in the crook of his other arm.
Sheppard's grip on the fork in his hand turned his knuckles white, in contrast to the reddening tips of his ears. Determination thinned his lips and he stood abruptly. "Later, Ronon."
Picking up his tray, he hurried after McKay. "Hey, Rodney, wait up."
"Maybe Colonel Sheppard knows someone," Lingstrom said, from behind Ronon. "Laura, you can ask him."
"Me? Why me?"
Ronon's chair squeaked on the floor as he pushed away from the table. He wanted more bacon before it was gone. Bacon was delicious.