Tony had been on Atlantis for three months now and it still felt like a dream every morning and every time the shit hit the fan which happened roughly once a week. When Morrow had told him he had a position in such a remote location for him that even Mossad could not reach him, Tony had not expected to land somewhere that was not on Earth anymore, let alone in another galaxy altogether. Every morning when he woke up he had to remind himself that yes, he really was in an alien city on an alien planet, and no, he had not gone crazy.
Tony had rolled with the change because, after the explosion that had cost Gibbs his memories and his subsequent promotion that no one, not even the Director had taken seriously, he had thoroughly burned any bridged in DC that he had ever built. Because he had not been able to sit back after he had discovered their liaison officer from Mossad was sending confidential file after confidential file to her daddy, the head of Mossad, while their Director was sitting by and covering her up. Tony had known what the fall out would be to go against his own Director, but he had once turned his back on a bad situation and left doing nothing about it and he was not prepared to make this decision a second time.
Morrow had taken him aside long before all had been said and done, and offered him a position in Homeland Security, which he later had learned was actually only a subdivision of HomeWORLD Security. Until the very moment Tony had stepped the first time through a Stargate, he had been convinced it was all an elaborate hoax, despite having been beamed from Morrow’s office in DC to the Daedalus and from there to the SGC under NORAD in Colorado. After that, he had had three weeks on the Daedalus while traveling to Atlantis to get his panic and hysterics under control.
On the plus side of all the revelations he had had, the SGC had been able to heal his lungs and his busted knee. For the first time in over a year, he could run without a hurtful burning in his lungs and he had not even to look out for every step he took as to not aggravate his knee. He felt as good as he had not done since his college days and he took great joy in being able to take his morning run without worrying about the long-time effects of various injuries.
When Tony left his quarters on this morning to go on his run, he found Ronon Dex leaning on the wall opposite to his door. “Good Morning, Specialist Dex.”
“Just Ronon is fine,” the Satedan replied. “Care for company on your run?”
Tony blinked. “I may be all healed up, but I’m not as fit as Sheppard or you!”
Ronon shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Was already running with Sheppard, a small relaxing run is enough for me now.” He cocked his head. “But if you want to, I could help you push through it, if you want to get were Sheppard is.”
Tony snorted. “I doubt anyone from Earth can reach Sheppard or you in physical fitness.”
No one was talking about it, but he had seen the report of Sheppard’s little bug incident and he suspected the Colonel had kept a lot more from his transformation than the scar on his arm. But Tony also understood why no one was talking about it or confirming it in any way. Everyone on Atlantis was especially protective of their Colonel and Tony, like every other new recruit, had fast learned with the first crisis at hand the reason for that. They paid it back by protecting him from Earth and as much as it pained to admit, there were a lot of things out here that needed to be protected from Earth and it’s mindset still very set on colonization because no one seemed to have learned from the mistakes of the past, not even the very recent mistakes outside of Earth in the Milky Way.
Ronon grinned. “I’m sure you could come close enough. Interested?”
Tony sighed. “You interested in showing me how to kill a Wraith in close combat without being fed on?” Because, as good as he was at shooting, headshots at a moving target were hard and everything else was basically useless, as he had just learned two days ago during his first encounter with the Wraith off world.
“That’s the spirit”, Ronon said laughing. “But first we’ll work on your speed and stamina!”
Tony had no idea how it happened, but after that first morning running together, he found himself in Ronon’s company whenever both of them were free. The younger man was an excellent training partner and Tony returned to a high in his physical fitness that he had not thought possible at his age. He was enjoying his newfound fitness and the sudden camaraderie that came with this new friendship.
Up until Ronon had inserted himself in Tony’s life, he had kept himself separated from most of the expedition. Twice now Tony had burned himself by making friends with the people he was working with and the reaction of his ex-coworkers in NCIS still stung. He had come to Atlantis resolved to keep to himself because he was not ready to open himself up again so soon. But somehow it had been completely impossible to resist Ronon. And to spend his time with Ronon meant to spend time with the Colonel, the CSO, and Teyla from Athos. Before Tony knew it, he had actually made friends on Atlantis.
Before Ronon deemed Tony fit enough to train for close combat with a Wraith, Tony had a second encounter with these vicious creatures during an off world mission. He left Atlantis seldom because his job was in the first place to be the law enforcement on the city. But his prowess at blending in and getting information from people who did not even know they giving him the information he was looking for had proven beneficial in certain situations during any kind of negotiations, and so his job description had been expanded before he had even been on Atlantis for a month.
Tony woke up from his second encounter with the Wraith in the infirmary, hurting all over but pretty sure that he had not lost any years. Mainly because he could distinctly remember that he had somehow gotten his knife into the feeding hand of the Wraith, whom he had gotten up close and personal to. Ronon was sitting beside his bed, arms crossed over his chest, and a dark look on his face.
“Hey,” Tony croaked.
Ronon frowned. “Should have known we had gotten a second Sheppard with you from the physical resemblance alone.”
Tony made his best afford of a grin. “I’m sure I’ll turn out not half as bad as the Colonel with finding the trouble. I’m not leaving the city as often as he is!”
Ronon huffed. “You did hold up better against the Wraith than anyone had expected. Good instincts.” He started to grin. “Good idea to slice up their feeding hand.”
“Rule 9 of my old boss, never go anywhere without a knife.” Tony shrugged. “Let him teach me how to fight with it because otherwise, it would be fairly useless, you know? - And it’s just common sense to go for the weakness of your opponent. Without a feeding hand, they can’t feed and therefore can’t regenerate.”
“As soon as you are back up, Teyla will start instruction you with the batons, and the both of us will start with basic sword training.” The sour look was back on Ronon’s face. “When you asked me to show you how to kill a Wraith in close combat, I had not expected you actually meant to engage them in close combat.”
“I survived and I’ll be up in no time with all this fancy healing equipment here,” Tony tried to reassure.
“If you want to try to kill a Wraith, do it before you are in arms reach of him,” Ronon lectured. “That’s something every child learns here in Pegasus. But all of you from Earth can’t seem to accept that.”
Tony shrugged. “We are very accustomed to fighting in close combat. It’s hard to unlearn a lifetime of experience.”
“You will learn,” Ronon assured darkly. “You won’t die on us.” There was a slight hesitation before the last word, but Tony dismissed any thought about it.
“I’m pretty hard to kill,” Tony said. “I could tell you stories that you wouldn’t believe. Did I tell you how I got infected with a disease that shouldn’t even exist in my country anymore? Additionally, it should have been nearly impossible to survive and yet here I am!”
“Doesn’t matter,” Ronon muttered. “The Wraith are not a disease. You’ll learn to fight.”
Tony laughed. “I wasn’t trying to protest that! I just tried to reassure you that I won’t be killed so easily.”
Ronon stayed by his bed for the two days until Dr. Keller let him leave the infirmary and even after that he barely left Tony’s side until the last of his bruises had vanished. Tony learned in these days a lot about Sateda and the things Ronon was missing about his homeworld. In turn, Tony told him about Earth and movies and everything else Ronon was asking for.
When Sheppard learned about Teyla’s plans to teach Tony to fight with the batons, he laughed and wished him good luck, recounting the tale of his own very harsh first few lessons. Following that, Tony expected a few very embarrassing days and was surprised when Teyla’s lessons started out very soft and accommodating to his level of knowledge. She must have seen his confusion because she started to tell him with sparkling eyes, that her lessons were shaped for her students and that her first lesson for Sheppard had had nothing to do with learning to use the batons. Tony decided not to share this little tidbit of information with the Colonel, because he had a feeling it was a lesson he had needed to learn from a few of the stories he had been told, and it seemed a lesson well learned.
His lessons with Ronon started out a lot more ruthless and Tony realized very early on, that his near miss with the Wraith had terrified his new friend much more than he tried to let on. Ronon’s determination to prepare him for the next encounter was its own kind of terrifying, but Tony knew it was born out of worry and fear and in consideration of how much Ronon had already lost, Tony could not fault his friend. Tony plunged himself into the training with all he had, if only to show Ronon that he took his worry seriously.
His first holiday came seven months after he had come to Atlantis and he convinced Ronon to accompany him to Earth for the ten days of his leave. For everyone in the SGC and the IAO who wanted to protest an alien being allowed leave on Earth, he disguised Ronon’s company as a security measure, because Mossad aka Eli David was still most likely looking for him after getting his daughter thrown out of the States and declared persona non grata. Tony would never be able to see Sateda how it was in Ronon’s memories, but he was able to show Ronon at least part of Earth.
They were not able to go anywhere near DC and therefore kept to the west coast, but Tony managed never the less to arrange a meeting with a couple of his frat brother and to get in touch with a few other contacts, just to send a sign that he was still alive and well. It would not do to lose all his contacts on Earth, because who knew what the future would hold. But most of the ten days he spent alone with Ronon exploring mostly the more mundane aspects of life on Earth. Ronon was able to blend in on many worlds in Pegasus, but Tony wanted to make sure that he would be able to do the same on Earth. Just in case.
Apart from this, it was fun to show Ronon the grocery store, the cinema, the theater, and opera. And to cook with him on an actual stove, because no one was allowed to cook in the mess of Atlantis who was not part of the crew for the mess and it was just not the same to cook over a campfire on the mainland or off world. It was nearly domestic how they spent the ten days in the holiday home of one of his frat brothers near LA and Tony was very much enjoying it. It was with no small amount of wistfulness at least on Tony’s part when they returned to Atlantis at the end of their leave and had to leave behind the relative peace of his home planet.
Ten months after Tony had come to Atlantis during a very, very late dinner after he had been held up by the aftermath of the latest crisis for much too long, Sheppard sat down in front of him.
Tony met the solemn gaze of the Colonel with a raised brow. “I hope the next crisis hasn’t started already, because I really need a good night of sleep. And I know I’m not the only one.”
“I just want to check that you know what you are doing.”
Tony frowned. “O-kay. I’m not sure I know what you are talking about.”
“I mean you and Ronon,” Sheppard said. “And his Satedan warrior courtship thing.”
Tony blinked nonplussed. “Warrior courtship what?”
Sheppard raised a brow. “So, he hasn’t told you yet?”
“No?” Tony stretched out the word questioningly.
“Great.” Sheppard huffed. “Still, I hope you know what you are doing. Because that man has gone through a lot and I don’t want to see him get hurt. He lost his wife in the destruction of Sateda, he lost his world and spent six years being hunted by the Wraith. You didn’t see him when he first came here. Ronon was nearly feral and it was hard work to get him to relax.”
“I know all of that”, Tony replied quietly. “Ronon has spoken at length with me about the destruction of Sateda and his years as a runner.”
Sheppard looked at him full of surprise. “Did he?”
Tony nodded. “So, care to explain this warrior courtship?”
Sheppard leaned back and eyed him warily. “I’m not sure if Ronon actually wants you to know yet if he hasn’t spoken to you about it.”
“And you think I’m just letting you go without an explanation?” Tony asked with a raised brow. “Especially after your very poor attempt of a shovel talk?”
Sheppard sighed. “Ronon hasn’t told me any details and I didn’t ask because I thought you would know all about it. - He is teaching you to fight his way and you are apparently learning to fight any enemy together, side by side. He said something about you substituting your part of teaching him your way to fight with showing him your way to live, which would be good enough. And I agree with that one at least. Because the guy needs to learn how to live and not just how to survive!”
Tony blinked surprised. That was a very adept description of what Ronon and he had been doing in the last few months since the younger man had first started to accompany him on his morning runs.
“It’s some kind of way to determine if two people can go through life together, and with the way life is here in Pegasus, I can see where that kind of tradition is useful. Apparently, it ends with the one who started the courtship providing a weapon to the person they are courting. And that’s the only reason why I know about it because Ronon needed to leave the city to get you your brand new weapon.”
Tony frowned. “I hope you didn’t let him go to Sateda! I mean, his gun is great, but I wouldn’t want him to subject himself to the ruins of his world just to get me one of those.”
Sheppard grinned. “I’m not telling you what he got for you, but he was not on Sateda for it, I promise.”
“Good. - And this courtship, is that ending in fighting buddies or actually something sexual?”
“You mean, you aren’t sleeping with him already?” Sheppard asked with a raised eyebrow.
Tony snorted and shook his head. It was not that he hadn’t already thought about it, even before their trip to Earth, but he had long ago learned that one shouldn’t mix friendship and sex. Their time on Earth had made it hard to ignore his attraction to Ronon and his yearning for the other man, but Tony was not prepared to disturb their friendship in such a way.
“Uh.” Sheppard blinked several times. “Everyone thinks you are sleeping with him at least since you took him to Earth with you! And just for your information, no one cares. Or would care.”
Tony sighed. “I wasn’t worried about that. It is very much clear from day one for every newcomer that Atlantis is not your everyday military base. You haven’t answered my question.”
Sheppard shrugged. “Could be both, if I understood that correctly. But I think Ronon would very much prefer the second one.”
Tony sighed again. That had not been his plan and now he needed to figure out how to handle this situation without breaking up his friendship with Ronon. He tried to ignore the warmth that spread through him when he thought about the effort Ronon had undertaken for him because that feeling would not help at all to hold onto his resolve to never again try his hand on a long term relationship. He was not able to maintain such a thing, but now he needed to convince Ronon of that.
And yet these treacherous thoughts and dreams were creeping up, about the possibilities of Ronon being his lover and partner additionally to being his friend, which Tony could not quite as easily shut down as he would like to do.
Tony did not disturb Ronon on that same evening, because he had been the one to send his friend to bed hours earlier to find some much-needed sleep. He was not prepared to interrupt Ronon’s sleep, just because he could suddenly find barely any sleep himself after the talk with Sheppard. It had been one of the most pitiful attempts of a shovel talk he had ever had or witnessed, and Tony was sure sometime in the future he would find the resolve to make fun of Sheppard for it, but for the moment he was much too disturbed by the prospect of his and Ronon’s friendship changing.
Tony found Ronon in the gym on the next morning, much too early for the restless night he had had, but he had given up on trying to find sleep before he had cleared up this whole situation with Ronon. Because he did not want Ronon to hold up his hope any longer for something Tony was not able to give, as had been proven time and time again.
Ronon was going through a combination of moves, most of which he had taught Tony in the last few months and it remembered him involuntarily on Sheppard’s words. It was true, Ronon had essentially taught Tony his own fighting style and they had worked a lot on being able to fight side by side. But it was not entirely true that Tony had not reciprocated, because he had taught Ronon a couple of his own moves when he had managed to actually surprise his sparring partner on one occasion or another. And they had grown quite adept at fighting as a team. As of yet, there had been no chance to test it against the Wraith and Tony was not interested in changing that any time soon, but the Wraith were not the only ones prone to attacking them, so there had been ample opportunity to test their teamwork.
Tony sighed deeply. Somehow his new knowledge about their shared time put these moments into another light altogether and he really wished he would not have to put an end to it.
He was so lost in his thoughts, that he did not notice Ronon stopping and stepping in front of him until the other man spoke. “Are you alright? You didn’t work through the whole night, did you?”
Tony shook slowly his head. “I went to bed sometime in the early morning, I just couldn’t find any sleep. - I did tell you that I’m commitment-phobic, right? And what that meant?”
Ronon raised his eyebrows. “It means that people hurt you in the past, but I won’t be one of those people.”
Tony closed his eyes and shook his head again. “No, it means that I’m incapable of maintaining a long term relationship other than friendships.”
“A relationship means both parties involved need to be working for it and as I see it from the things you have told me, your partners in the past were the ones not very interested in putting the work into it,” Ronon replied and took another step towards Tony.
Tony frowned. “I’m pretty sure that’s not what I said about any of this.”
“No.” Ronon shrugged. “But the first thing I learned about you was that you are searching for the failure for everything firstly by yourself if it’s not related to your job. Doesn’t mean I can’t see the mistakes your ex-partners made, even though you are not pointing them out by yourself. You are very invested in your relationships, with old and new friends. I had the privilege to witness both of those. I can’t see how you wouldn’t be as invested in a romantic partner.”
“You can’t know that,” Tony insisted. “Believe me, I am...”
Ronon interrupted him. “Are you trying to find an excuse, so you don’t have to be straightforward and tell me you don’t want a romantic or sexual relationship with me?”
“What? No!” Tony protested. “I’m just … trying to tell you, that we shouldn’t risk our friendship, because I’m…”
Ronon grinned and interrupted him again. “I would like to kiss you.”
Tony swallowed. “I…”
“And we aren’t risking our friendship.” Ronon took another step towards him so that there was barely any space left between them. “I’ll still be your friend, even if it turns out that a more intimate relationship isn’t working out for us.”
“In my experience, that’s not how it works,” Tony muttered.
“Only because in your past no one wanted to make it work,” Ronon assured. “May I kiss you?”
Tony stared at him a long moment before he nodded slowly. This was not how he had imagined this conversation to go, but he had no time to think about it because to kiss Ronon was everything he had dreamed about and there was no room to concentrate on anything else but Ronon’s mouth on his and Ronon’s hand in his hair and their chests pressing against each other as Tony pulled his friend against him. The kiss was hot and deep and full of desire and ended much too early for Tony’s liking. He had no idea how it had happened, but when Ronon pulled his head back far enough to look at him, he found his back pressed against a wall while Ronon was pressing against his front.
“What brought this on? I hadn’t thought you had noticed yet what I was trying to do.”
Tony grinned. “Sheppard tried to give me a shovel talk yesterday.”
Ronon frowned. “A what?”
“Basically, he tried to warn me not to hurt you,” Tony explained. He was not ready to tell Ronon where this proverb was coming from, like ever. “And he was very bad at it, let me tell you.”
Ronon snorted. “Of course he was. I asked him not to talk to you about it. I wanted to ease you into it because … of your bad experiences.”
Tony sighed. “I think you have somehow gotten the wrong impression about my past relationships. - I’m still not sure … but I’m willing to try because I have thought about you and me and sex even before I invited you to Earth.”
The crucial point was, he wanted to believe Ronon in what he had said and he had learned to trust him in the these last few months. When Tony had come out here to Atlantis, he had thought he would never again be able to find trust, because he had been burned one time too many. To live regularly through life or death situations on a scale previously unknown to him had changed that opinion pretty quickly because there could happen only so much mutual life saving before the trust came automatically.
Ronon laughed softly and it sent a shiver down Tony’s spine. “I had thought you had caught onto what I was doing at first when you invited me. - Your … what was it, frat brothers? They did catch onto it very quickly and two of them gave me a long talk about how I should better take proper care of you.”
Ronon nodded. “Steve and … I can’t remember the name of the other one. And they confirmed what I already thought about your ex-partners.” He enclosed Tony’s face with his hand. “I won’t be one of them. And I tried to show it to you, but I can understand that it will take more time for you to understand that. - I have something for you.”
“Sheppard told you about it?” While Ronon’s tone had earlier been exaggerated about Sheppard’s action, this time he was clearly irritated.
Tony shook hurriedly but carefully his head, so to not prompt Ronon to let go. “Only that there is a weapon. And that it was not one of the Satedan guns, because I was worried you had gone back to Sateda. I would never want you to open up those scars, neither for me nor for anything else.”
“When I started my courtship you ask me to teach you how to fight a Wraith in close combat.”
Tony frowned. “Yes, I remember.”
“A gun’s no weapon for close combat. And your knife is too small to be effective enough.”
Tony blinked. “You brought me a sword?”
He really should have thought about that earlier, because Ronon had started to teach him how to fight with his sword from the very beginning, though he had graduated only recently from the wood sword to Ronon’s sword.
“Not brought”, Ronon muttered. “I made it myself like I did my own. I wouldn’t trust the craft of anyone else for your personal weapon.”
Tony grinned brightly. “And when were you planning on giving it to me?”
“Soon. It’s not ideal for you to train with my sword because the center of gravity is a little bit off for your build.” Ronon pressed against him. “It’s in my room waiting for you. But if I bring you to my room now, you won’t think about the sword for at least a couple of hours.”
Tony laughed. “That’s perfectly okay with me.”