Edging Closer

"I should have killed him."

Sheppard turns his head away from the sea, still leaning on the balcony rail, and looks at Ronon. The evening breeze is bringing the salt scent to him with every breath. It doesn't smell like an ocean on Earth would.

He'd said that once to Rodney, who'd stared at him thoughtfully and come to him two days later with a molecule by molecule analysis of the ocean here and the ones at… the ones on Earth.

And when Sheppard had refused to do more than give the printouts a cursory glance, McKay had said bluntly that unless Sheppard's nose rivaled a bloodhound's there wasn't any way it would smell differently.

Well, screw you, Rodney; it does. He doesn't mind, though.

"Kolya was mine," he answers, a little surprised Ronon would even consider denying him that particular death.

Ronon's teeth snap shut on a snarl. "No. Him."

Oh, him. Right. "You can't kill Lucius."

Unexpectedly, Ronon smiles. "If we had time, I could tell you a hundred ways I could do it. Want me to start with the most painful? Or the one that would take the longest?"

He grins, sharing the joke, before he realizes Ronon isn't joking. Fuck. "No."

Ronon's smile widens, lazy and replete, as if he's already killed and fed. "I could do it tonight. Be back before you go to bed."

The implications of that shouldn't make Sheppard hard, but they do. Fucking Ronon after he's killed, bringing him to heel again, is darkly exhilarating, like driving a car at top speed down a mountain road with no lights, no brakes, and, what the hell, a blizzard, too.

It's stupid and he can't not do it because Ronon needs it. Sheppard's starting to see that Ronon's kind of high-maintenance emotionally, but that's okay. He likes being needed. "I said no."

Ronon pushes away from the balcony rail he's been lounging against. "He betrayed you. He deserves it."

His logic's scarily appealing, and on the flattering side, but that's an even more dangerous road to go down than the one winding down the hypothetical mountain.

"Ronon." He uses the soft, gentle voice and watches Ronon stiffen and stand very still. "What do you want me to say the third time I tell you no? How do you want me to deal with you disobeying me? Help me out here, will you?"

Ronon rounds on him, eyes furious. "Do what you want to me." Ronon's motto when it comes to him. "Just do it after he's dead."

"Come here." He waits until Ronon's standing close enough to touch, far enough away that John doesn't have to tilt his head back far to meet his eyes. A respectful, placating distance, as if Ronon's feeling worried that he's gone too far.

Clever Ronon.

Not that John cares if he has to look up at Ronon. It's only a matter of angles, after all.

"You're off my team if you do. For good. I don't give orders to have them ignored, and just so we're a hundred percent clear on this, Ronon, I'm ordering you not to kill him." He takes a slow, deep breath. "And you're going to tell me sir, yes, sir, just like a good soldier." He widens his eyes, jerking his head, beckoning the answer out of Ronon's sullen mouth. "Right?"

Nod. Oh, no. Not good enough.

"Yes, sir."

Getting there…

"Sir, yes, sir."

He can tell Ronon's genuinely puzzled by the order of the words -- not Sheppard's insistence on their correct repetition; no, that he understands just fine. Just the phrase.

Sheppard supposes it is kind of dumb.

"Give me your knife."

"Which one?"

Okay, that was -- "Your favorite one."

It's the one in his boot, a small, savage blade, viciously sharp. He hands it to Sheppard, hilt forward, and braces himself.

And once again, Sheppard fights back a lust that's so off the scale wrong he can't look at it any way but full-on because out of the corner of his eye it's worse. He's getting off on knowing Ronon would let him cut him. Let him kill him.

He moves his hand until the knife's separated from the ocean by nothing but the skin and bone of his hand and waits.

"You're going to drop it?"

There's a resignation there that make him pause. Ronon doesn't own much. Hell, none of them do, but there's the comfort of knowing that in a sense they're still connected to Earth and a million malls. Somehow, he can't take one of Ronon's few possessions away from him. He tucks it into his own boot, wincing as it strikes his anklebone. Okay, that's coming out as soon as he gets the chance.

"You'll get it back when I think you've --"

Ronon quirks an eyebrow, looking amused now. "Learned my lesson?"

John grimaces halfheartedly. "Yeah. Something like that." Or you beg real pretty and I cave.

Ronon kneels and he has a split second of panic because someone could be watching, someone could see, it's not that dark, fuck, so hard, he's so fucking hard…

And Ronon's fingers find the knife and there's a distant splash neither of them hear a moment later as he straightens and tosses it over the balcony.

"I won't kill him. But I won't stop wanting to. And if he shows up again --" Ronon shakes his head. "Don't speak to me. Don't look at me. Because if you do, and I see anything that makes me think you've changed your mind, I'll gut him where he stands." Ronon smiles thin and sharp. "I always have another knife, Sheppard."

"I know that."

They've missed the sunset and the water's gray and dull and it still doesn't smell right.

He brushes past Ronon, heading inside, their fingers catching, twisting, hurting, in a question and a promise.

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