The Runner moves in with Ronon and Melena when he’s released from the hospital. There’s really nowhere else for him to go. The hospital would have sent him to a state-run homeless shelter. Melena says John would be eaten alive there, and she’s probably right.
Ronon isn’t jealous that Melena calls the man ‘John,’ since she also uses her most seductive arsenal to convince Ronon to let him move in with them. And it’s pretty hard to be jealous of a guy that still looks like a walking skeleton and yet simultaneously has a personality just like the most stubborn, most aggressive pigs on Ronon’s father’s farm.
Even after half a month in the hospital, Ronon doesn’t think Sheppard knows he isn’t Running anymore. The guy still skitters around, his movements jerky and frantic. He eats ravenously with his hands. It does make meals kind of gross. Ronon knows for a fact Melena’s cooking isn’t gourmet and he doesn’t mind no longer having to eat leftovers. He tries very hard not to startle the poor guy, not to come up upon him without warning. Sheppard still sees Wraith, everywhere he looks. That much is obvious.
Living with Sheppard is interesting. He isn’t very talkative. Ronon can’t tell if that’s innate or just because it’s been so long since he’s had anyone around to speak to.
Ronon knows Melena tries to have conversations with him, about his obliterated home and his life as a Runner. He’s not sure how that goes, but figures she’s kinder and gentler than he is at that kind of thing.
Sheppard doesn’t talk to Ronon, much, though. When he does, it’s usually arguing. Maybe he feels he can’t fight with Melena since she’s a woman or something.
It’s all stupid stuff, though.
Ronon gets that the guy is traumatized. But Sheppard doesn’t seem to have noticed that about himself. He’s mad that he’s not allowed out of the house by himself. If they let Sheppard go alone, Melena’s not sure he’d come back. Ronon thinks he’d manage to get hit by a train or arrested in less than an hour.
They make him a bedroom in their apartment, in the room that used to hold a lot of Ronon’s stuff that Melena didn’t want in her way. He has to put his things in the basement storage, because most of it is weapons or sports equipment that’s also sort of weapons.
It’s not a big room; they have a little home. Once Ronon’s stuff is all cleaned out, it looks pretty barren. Melena worries it resembles a cell. Ronon thinks it more likely looks like what Melena was intending it to be when she painted it light purple all those years ago: a nursery.
Sheppard doesn’t say anything about it, either way. He sort of glances around, nods once.
“Thanks,” he says, so softly Ronon can barely hear him.
Having Sheppard around is almost like having a kid, Ronon thinks. What little he knows about infants, they sleep about as much as Sheppard does and also wake up screaming in the middle of the night. But Sheppard can walk and talk, clothe and feed himself. It’s sort of like having an obnoxious teenager in the house. Ronon vaguely remembers going through a phase where he may have treated his parents like he was their hostage. It’s embarrassing, but it actually really helps him not lose his temper with Sheppard.
They’re not so much holding him prisoner. If Sheppard really wanted to leave, Ronon would let him. Report him to the security forces and make sure they took him in before he got in trouble, yeah, but Ronon would let him go. They don’t lock Sheppard in the house or anything, but he never ventures beyond the front porch by himself.
That doesn’t stop Sheppard, however, from arguing with Ronon about it.Sheppard doesn’t yell. It’s mostly very quiet, very intense whining. And it’s completely insane, because the door is right there and Ronon wouldn’t even get up off the couch if Sheppard ran outside.
Sheppard goes to the food market with Melena every week. She says it’s a good way to introduce him to the city and teach him how Sateda works. Ronon agrees, sort of. After the first week, they figure out that Sheppard can go if he wears clothing without pockets. Otherwise, he compulsively steals anything he can carry and it’s really embarrassing. It’s a good thing the market proprietors are suckers for Melena’s smile. Well, good and annoying because Ronon gets tired of people hitting on his wife.
Some of the squad teases Ronon about the Runner, about the guy he allows to spend so much time with his wife. In return, Ronon reminds them how much faster, stronger, and meaner he is in a fight and eventually the taunts stop.
As part of Sheppard’s rehabilitation – that’s what Melena calls it and Ronon can see the comparison to an injured patient, except it isn’t Sheppard’s body that’s busted but his soul – Melena decides the Runner should workout with Ronon. For his part, Ronon thinks it’s a dumb idea because he doesn’t want to do it. He spends enough time with the guy, as is. Sheppard’s too fragile and weak and will totally ruin Ronon’s workouts.
But Melena insists and Ronon sucks at telling her no. It’s almost appealing to have another guy around for team sports like Ras-ta-nok and Usa-lee-ti. Except Sheppard probably isn’t in good enough shape for those, yet. Despite stuffing his face with Melena’s food, the Runner is still lithe and skinny. Ronon needs to put some muscle on him. Also, Sheppard’s still very wary around other Satedans and might wig out if they attacked him, which rules out Ras-ta-nok and Usa-lee-ti, as well as pretty much every other game Ronon can think of.
One thing Ronon knows Sheppard can do, of course, is run. Really fast, too. The first time Ronon suggests it, Sheppard just blinks at him like maybe it’s a sick joke. Which it kind of is. But they go together to a park on the edge of the city and Sheppard takes off. For a second, Ronon thinks Sheppard has genuinely decided to flee. And that thought puts a spur in his step as he races after the Runner. And Ronon likes to think that he’s in good shape, especially since he has to pass the Satedan military performance requirements every month, but he can’t catch Sheppard. It pisses him off and also kind of scares him since if Sheppard is really making a break for it and Ronon can’t stop him, Melena is going to be really mad.
But Sheppard eventually glances back over his shoulder, where Ronon is panting and gasping and pondering lassoing the man’s ankles to catch him. Sheppard halts up just a bit, allowing Ronon to pull even.
“Hey,” Ronon says, breathing like a bellows through his mouth.
“Hey,” says Sheppard, infuriatingly not out of breath at all.
It wasn’t supposed to happen, but the workouts actually end up doing Ronon as much good as Sheppard. Ronon refuses to run behind the man and the extra exertion melts a little weight off of Ronon’s middle. Melena says he looks like he did when they first met and then she tries to find something she can still pinch. Ronon’s grabbing her hands because being tickled by the wife isn’t very manly, and Sheppard carefully leaves the room, smirking.
Ronon does manage to get Sheppard into the training room at the base, even though technically it’s against the rules for civilians. Especially alien civilians, but Kell approves it. Sheppard seems to think the room is some kind of torture chamber and he doesn’t recognize any of the equipment.
“You didn’t have anything like this?” Ronon asks, trying to fit Sheppard’s body into one of the machines.
It’s among the first times Ronon’s asked about Sheppard’s former life, about his people. He doesn’t fully expect Sheppard to answer, but he does.
“Yeah,” Sheppard snaps. “I know what a gym is. But ours had treadmills and bench presses, not iron maidens. Ours weren’t scary.”
Ronon doesn’t follow any of that, but considers that it’s probably a good thing Sheppard answered the question and did it without freaking out.
The training room does make Sheppard stronger. But his frame stays slender, refusing to pack on the muscle. Ronon also thinks it makes him better in the head, like he’s calmer and more centered now. They still do their runs in the park at night, sometimes stretching into the city blocks. One night when they get back, there’s a local Ras-ta-nok team practicing on the field. Normally, they head back after the run since they both smell and Ronon has to go into the base in the early morning.
But Sheppard’s eyes are on the team playing, so Ronon doesn’t protest and follows him to the bleachers. They watch in silence for a while, although Ronon isn’t all that entertained. The team sucks, but it’s pretty interesting watching Sheppard react to the game.
“What’s the objective?” Sheppard asks, after a few minutes. “What’s the objective of the game?”
“Guys in blue want to get the ball into the red square at the end,” Ronon answers. “Guys in red want it into the blue square on the other side.”
“Okay,” Sheppard says. “And you’re allowed to hit your opponent in the face with a pointy stick?”
Sheppard makes a noise that might have been a laugh. “Is anything a foul?” he asks, then.
“Hitting in the balls,” Ronon says. “No fouls in the women’s leagues, though.”
Three months after Sheppard arrived on Sateda, he’s a lot better. Melena has managed to get him to use utensils to eat most of the time now, although Sheppard has almost converted Ronon into using his fingers, too, because Melena’s adorable when she’s exasperated. Sheppard still wakes up screaming in the middle of the night, but he’s pretty normal in the daytime. Normal for his people, maybe, still kind of strange by Satedan standards. But he can go out by himself without frantically dodging all the people in the crowded city streets, can even run errands and buy groceries.
But, Sheppard’s bored. Ronon and Melena aren’t home all that much, especially since Melena increased her hours once Sheppard no longer needed baby-sitting. They don’t mention it to Sheppard, but he probably knows. Ronon’s squad is probably going to get deployed for war games, soon, and all the preparation means he’s pretty busy, too.
If Sheppard were a kid, they’d have him in school or something. But he’s not a child, he’s a fully grown man with nothing to do.
“What’d you do in your military?” Ronon asks Sheppard, one night when they’re in the training room on the base. Sheppard’s doing upper body exercises, flat on his back in a weight machine.
“Ugh,” Sheppard says, but it’s more about the weight he’s trying to lift than Ronon’s question. “I was a pilot,” he answers, heaving out a breath and lowering the weight down. “This machine is barbaric.”
“Were you any good?” Ronon asks.
Sheppard turns his head and glares through the machine slats that outline his body. “Yeah,” he says, almost hotly. He pauses. “Why?”
“I was thinking of asking Kell if there’s something for you to do around here,” Ronon says, casually. He doesn’t know how Sheppard will respond. The military aircraft mostly consist of civilian evacuation transporters, not so much for fighting as fleeing cullings. If Sheppard can even fly them.
“I can shoot stuff, too,” Sheppard says, after a moment. They’re both silent, and then Sheppard speaks: “You still have my gun.”
“Your gun sucks,” Ronon says, because it does.
That’s how they end up at the firing range, not with Sheppard’s gun but with the stuff the Satedan military actually uses. Sheppard’s not totally comfortable with it all, evidently used to smaller weapons.
“Everything’s a machine gun,” Sheppard comments, but after months of training with Ronon he can actually hold the weapons upright and steady. And he doesn’t suck, once Ronon points out the firing mechanism.
“Not bad,” Ronon says, after Sheppard completely destroys the practice target.
He’s not sure that it’ll be enough to convince Kell. Sheppard’s still scrawnier than a first year cadet and who knows if the military he came from had any kind of structure or hierarchy.
“Tell him I really enjoy killing Wraith,” Sheppard says, maybe reading the uncertainty on Ronon’s face.
Kell approves Ronon’s request, gives Sheppard a field commission equivalent to a recent academy graduate and assigns him to Ronon’s squad. It’s a little suspicious how easy it is, and a couple of the other specialists tell him Kell’s interested in the Ancestor technology they saw on Sheppard’s world. Ronon doesn’t point out that what they’re getting is the man, who has nothing material from his home.
Getting Sheppard ready to report for duty is actually the hardest part. It takes a while to find armor narrow enough for his frame and the supply clerk makes endless fun of Sheppard because some of the equipment is in women’s sizes.
“I’m not little,” Sheppard retorts, trying to lace up the chest plate.
“Yeah, you are,” Ronon tells him, watching but not helping.
“I look like something out of Gladiator,” Sheppard says, looking at himself in the mirror. He knocks on the metal shoulder. “Or the Tin Man.”
Ronon has no idea what he’s talking about. “Don’t let them give you shit,” he says, referring to the rest of the squad. They will, because Sheppard is little and he really does look strange and somehow more alien in Satedan armor. But he was also a Runner and he survived for seven damn months, so if they give him too much shit, Ronon will help him distribute beatings.
Sheppard’s eyes are big, the only sign of anxiety. His chin is set firmly. “Klingons of the Pegasus Galaxy,” he says, nodding.
“What’s a Klingon?”
For a second, Sheppard pauses. “People from my galaxy,” he says, after a moment. For the first time, his gaze is distant and cloudy. “Badass,” he says, coming back and blinking at Ronon. “Honorable badasses.”
That sounds alright by Ronon.
Sheppard fits right in on the squad, mostly because he can handle himself. Ronon only catches him fighting a couple of times and both times he’s holding his own. He doesn’t intervene because Sheppard doesn’t need it. Rakai, however, has probably earned the ass-kicking Sheppard deals him. Evidently, someone is still holding a grudge about being taken hostage.
Kell sends Sheppard off to get trained to fly troop transports. He stays in the training barracks and for the first time in forever, Ronon and Melena are home alone. It’s strange and quiet, even though Sheppard isn’t exactly a noisy presence.
“He’s coming back, right?” Melena checks, arms crossed. “Right?”
Ronon shrugs. “Unless he crashes,” he says, which makes Melena punch him hard in the arm.
Sheppard doesn’t crash, though he comes home with a few choice words about how he thinks Satedan aircraft suck. He also has a black eye, which means he probably shared this opinion with a mechanic or flight instructor. He passed the tests, though, so he’s certified as a pilot. Shortly, Kell officially designates him as the Flight Officer in Ronon’s unit.
Technically, it’s a promotion, even if it’s still a field commission. Ronon’s unit takes Sheppard out to the tavern and gets him completely wasted. While he’s feeling no pain, Rakai tattoos the unit symbol on Sheppard’s neck. Ronon doesn’t even think Sheppard notices it, too busy drunkenly trying to free himself after being pinned to the sticky floor. They get home around daybreak, staggering inside together. Melena wakes up – or was waiting up for them – and immediately scolds them both for letting Rakai do that in a place as unsanitary as the tavern floor. She said the same thing to Ronon and slapped him, when he got his.
Melena plants Sheppard in the bathroom and Ronon follows because the guy is still having trouble staying upright without falling over.
“She’s gonna clean it,” he tells Sheppard. “It’s going to hurt.”
Sheppard is staring into the bathroom mirror, neck craned to get a better look at the mark. He reaches up to touch it and winces. For a second, Ronon isn’t sure Sheppard’s happy about the tattoo.
“That okay?” he asks, even though it’s too late.
Sheppard looks at him with eyes that are red and wet with more than inebriation, and nods.
~please feed the author~