At Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane
Our brave fathers side by side
For freedom's home and loved ones dear,
Firmly stood and nobly died.
Our brave fathers side by side
For freedom's home and loved ones dear,
Firmly stood and nobly died.
"Don't think about it," Ronon advised, as Chuck tried a simple spin-toss with the blaster and once again bruised an already tender area across his knuckles. "You gotta just do it till your muscles know."
"Yeah," Chuck sighed. "My muscles are kind of dumb right now."
"Think about other stuff. Start a spin," Ronon said, and Chuck began flipping the blaster around one hand, spinning, clicking it across the hinges, holstering it only to flick it back out again. Ronon joined in after a few seconds, then stopped and smacked the back of Chuck's head when he frowned in concentration.
"Maybe I've, you know, achieved my peak," Chuck said. "In the realm of juggling dangerous weaponry. I mean I'm pretty good as it is."
"You gotta stop thinking," Ronon repeated. "C'mon, gimme some poetry."
"I'm fresh out of memorised stuff, you've heard it all," Chuck said, but he holstered the blaster and pulled his tablet off his belt, hanging it on a headphone rack on the firing-range wall. He scrolled through a list of files and picked one seemingly at random. Ronon moved to stand next to him so they could read together.
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said, "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Chuck started spinning again and then doing simple hand-to-hand tosses.
Half-sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
Ronon cut his eyes sideways for a moment as Chuck executed a perfect spin-toss and then another back into the original hand.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
MY NAME IS OZYMANDIAS, KING OF KINGS:
LOOK ON MY WORK, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR!
Nothing besides remains.
Chuck tossed the blaster up, let it go for three complete rotations, and caught it out of the air.
Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Every time Chuck spun, from then on, Ronon could see just the barest hint of movement at his lips as he recited.
Well, whatever kept you going, he supposed.
Their last mission before Teyla was taken by Michael involved a snow-covered planet with no inhabitants at all but the possibility of a naquada mine. They found the mine easily enough, because Ronon fell straight through the ice and into it, and McKay landed on top of him, and then so did a whole bunch of snow.
"Ronon? McKay?" Sheppard's voice through the radio.
"Okay, seriously," McKay answered, "I have totally filled my quota of death-by-mineshaft moments already. Did you have to pull me in with you, "Potholes" Dex?"
"Relax, Buckaroo Banzai," Sheppard replied over the radio. "Where are you guys?"
"Under some snow," Ronon answered. "Twenty feet, maybe twenty-five."
"You got air? Got your equipment?"
Ronon looked around. The shaft was small and narrow and blocked by a solid sheet of ice, creating a small chamber; they probably had eight or nine hours worth of air, and they both had their packs.
"We're good," Ronon said.
"We are so far from good -- "
"Can it, McKay," Sheppard said. "We're going back to the Gate, we'll get some engineers out here with shovels. Sit tight and cuddle for warmth."
"Sheppard, don't you dare leave us SHEPPARD DON'T YOU DARE -- " McKay cut off suddenly as the snow squealed, shifting and showering them with ice. "Son of a bitch!"
"Sheppard'll get us out," Ronon said, edging up against McKay's shoulder and pulling the pack off. "You got thermal blankets?"
They managed to arrange themselves against a wall of rock rather than snow, wrapped in thermal foil blankets, shoulder to shoulder. McKay complained the whole time in an undertone designed to demonstrate both his fear of further cave-ins and possibly his future as a crazy muttering mad scientist until Ronon got annoyed.
"Don't you stop to breathe?" he asked.
"I am breathing as little as possible in order to conserve air," McKay retorted.
"Yeah, except you're talking, which is wasting air."
"Excuse me for having coping mechanisms. I'm trying not to get frostbite or fall asleep here. Since cards are pretty much out and I left my Playstation back on Earth, I'm a little pressed for entertainment."
"I could distract you," Ronon said.
"I really don't think Prime-Not!Prime is your game."
"I know other stuff. You know Robert Service?"
McKay twisted around and looked at him. "I'm sorry, did you just say Robert Service?"
"I can't know Robert Service?" Ronon asked, honestly intrigued. Maybe it was a secret Canadian thing.
"Where the hell did you learn about -- "
"Chuck taught me."
McKay barked out a sharp laugh. "Yeah, it'd be him."
"I have good recall. I could tell you Sam McGee. Sounds like McKay." Ronon grinned ferally. "The night on the marge of lake LeBarge I cremated Mer McKay."
"Okay now you're officially freaking me out and also you do not ever get to call me Mer."
"Well, if you don't know it..."
"I! Don't know! Hey, he's my cultural heritage, you syncretic freak of nature. I know Sam McGee. I had to memorise it for -- "
"Grade ten English?"
McKay looked annoyed. "Grade six. Waste of colossal time and now it's stuck in my head, where there could be Nobel-prize-winning mathematics."
"Bet you don't." Ronon challenged, pleased with himself. McKay was well and thoroughly distracted and also looked warmer.
"I know Robert Service, Ronon the Barbarian."
McKay rolled his eyes. "There are strange things done 'neath the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold. The arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold. The Northern Lights have seen strange sights, but the strangest they ever did see was the night on the marge of the Lake LeBarge I cremated Sam McGee."
"Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows..." Ronon joined in. It felt good; it felt like a chant, like something the regiment would do. Not this story, maybe, but the rhythm was right.
"...a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code. In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load," McKay's teeth chattered a little, but chattering was all right; when they stopped shivering, that'd be when the trouble started.
"In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring, howled out their woes to the homeless snows -- O God! how I loathed the thing," they said in unison.
They recited the whole poem, right up through Sam McGee being stuffed into a makeshift crematorium. McKay only tripped up once, and that was on the funny verse, where he couldn't remember Plumtree, down in Tennessee before It's the first time I've been warm!
Ronon whooped enthusiastically when they finished. McKay laughed a little, even, and elbowed him in the ribs.
"I don't know if it's all the time you spend hanging out with Chuck or my own genius," he said solemnly, "but you have the soul of a Canadian, Ronon."
And that was when they heard Sheppard shout "LOOK OUT BELOW" and in a rain of snow and ice the roof caved in.
Good times, man.
And then came Michael, and Teyla's abduction, and Ronon didn't think he really thought at all until she was safe again, with Torren sleeping fitfully in her arms.
Ronon knew that McKay and Sheppard weren't intending to be so obvious. Sheppard was notoriously unaware about this kind of thing, though Ronon thought possibly much of that came from, you know, not being interested in women. McKay wasn't unaware, he just wasn't very good with people, so he didn't bother much with the opinions of people who weren't in his immediate orbit (Ronon, Teyla, Sheppard, Keller, Carter, Zelenka).
"I'm running a book," Chuck said, sitting down across from Ronon, tilting his head at the wide glass windows at the other end of the mess. McKay and Sheppard were sitting at one of the small tables there, having some kind of heated argument which was probably their version of foreplay, McKay gesturing with his bandaged hand. "I need your help calculating odds."
"What on?" Ronon asked.
"Sheppard and McKay. Are they doing it?"
Ronon finished chewing before he answered. "Who wants to know?"
"They're my team," Ronon said significantly. It didn't have to be spoken aloud: Don't fuck with my team.
"Like anyone cares about it," Chuck rolled his eyes. "Half the Marines are betting they are, and if they were the assholes they are generally painted to be, they'd already have taken Sheppard out for a beating. This is Pegasus. Nobody gives a fuck. Does that mean you know?"
Ronon shrugged. "It's not like they'd go at it in front of me."
"They probably wanna be, if they aren't."
Chuck gave the pair a measuring look. "Neat love story."
Ronon nodded. He'd put some thought into this. "Not the one you think, though."
Chuck raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"You think it's Sheppard and McKay, but it's not," Ronon continued. "I've been watching movies."
"Oh god. What did they inflict on you?"
"No, I get it," Ronon protested. "It's a classic. In my home too."
This stopped Chuck cold as he was about to launch into a diatribe about popular film (Chuck was a hardcore noir fan, whatever noir was).
"Boy meets boy?" he asked.
"No," Ronon answered disdainfully. "It's not about them."
"What's it about?"
"Atlantis," Ronon said, gesturing with his fork. "It's classic. Pretty girl has to choose between the -- uh. The jock and the..."
"Oh my god," Chuck covered his mouth to keep from laughing. "The jock and the geek!"
"Yeah. And everybody's always supposed to root for the underdog."
Chuck scowled. "Duckie was robbed," he said darkly, which was some reference Ronon was going to have to call him on at some later date.
"Atlantis is the girl and they're chasing her," Ronon said. "McKay's winning, by the way."
"How do you figure?"
"He's the one people call when they want her fixed."
"But shouldn't they hate each others' guts, then, McKay and Sheppard?"
"Fine line," Ronon said, grinning.
"Hmm." Chuck said, and sipped his water. "They're totally doing it, then?"
"Yeah, probably." Ronon paused. "McKay says dudes can get married in Canada."
"Yeah, that's true." Chuck got that look he got, whenever he felt he was being one-sided about all this cultural exchange and wanted to ask Ronon about Sateda but thought it might annoy him. It was kind of amusing, in an awesome sort of way.
"On Sateda marriage was about kids," he said. "So we didn't have a lot of rules about it. If you got married you were gonna have kids. If you were gonna adopt a kid, you had to find someone to marry."
Chuck frowned. "So like...you didn't have to be in love."
Ronon shrugged. "I'm just saying, nobody cared. You could marry your best friend as long as they were gonna help you raise the kids. Who you hung out with was your business."
"Well, that seems...enlightened."
"Earthers are weird about sex."
"You're telling me. I'm the one taking bets on whether my boss is sleeping with Colonel Sheppard."
Ronon's literary tastes were pretty catholic, and after a while he broke away from Chuck's recommendations and began reading on his own. One particular Daedalus delivery for him carried three Stephen King novels, a translated Plato's Republic, and a book called The Group Of Seven which was about Canadians. Ronon thought it was probably their version of The Dirty Dozen.
Turned out, not so much.
There wasn't even that much to read, but that didn't matter, because Ronon sat in the mess with the cellophane wrapper still crumpled next to him and ate without looking at his food as he pored over the full-colour reproduced paintings that the Group of Seven had done. The book said they were a part of the Canadian national identity, but this wasn't the Canada he'd seen. It was all wilderness and mountains and houses that looked like Sateda's, plank-board, weathered-paint, surrounded by scrabbly wind-blown trees. There were huge rock formations and nude portraits. They were weird and vibrant, and Lawren Harris painted like he'd known Atlantis, all smooth crisp angles and rounded corners.
"Whatcha looking at?" Sheppard asked, sliding into the seat across from him. "Looks like chocolate cake."
"It's a mountain," Ronon informed him.
"Of chocolate cake?"
Ronon sniffed. "It's Canadian."
"Canadian chocolate cake."
"Dude, seriously, no wonder McKay's so high strung," Ronon remarked, and Sheppard shut his mouth and stared at him.
"No wonder I'm what?" McKay asked, setting his tray down next to Sheppard. "Is that Group of Seven?"
"Yeah," Ronon said, turning the book around and offering it. McKay waved it away with his spoon.
"Not interested. Lawren Harris always makes me think of chocolate cake."
Sheppard looked supremely vindicated. Ronon just rolled his eyes. McKay offered him his juice bottle and Ronon obligingly inched his baked potato off his plate and onto McKay's tray.
"TEYLA!" Sheppard called, and Ronon looked over his shoulder. Teyla was standing at the serving table, helping herself to a sandwich and some potato chips, Torren slung in a knotted shawl around her shoulders. She joined them, carefully shifting the baby out of the way of the table and, in so doing, directly into McKay's arms.
"Thanks," McKay said sourly, but he clutched the kid as if too much freedom of movement might kill it.
"Your turn anyway," Sheppard said.
"I thought this was your job after you lost the Rock Paper Scissors for doting godfather," McKay retorted.
"Won, McKay. I won. You're the only one who's allergic to kids."
"I just don't see why we have to interact with beings whose brains and chemical bodily functions haven't fully developed," McKay replied, trying in vain to get a hand on his spoon and still maintain his death-grip on Torren. "If you're so happy about it, you take him."
"I have a sandwich in my hands," Sheppard said, picking up his sandwich. McKay gave him a withering look.
"Plato says parents shouldn't raise their own kids," Ronon heard himself say. "He says the state should do it so they all think the same way."
Everyone at the table looked at him.
"Plato's kind of full of crap," he added.
"Two vast but accurate oversimplifications," McKay observed. "Besides, it doesn't account for genius. Exceptional people require exceptional education."
"Are you saying my child is exceptional, Rodney?" Teyla asked, smiling.
"First native-born Atlantean citizen, stick-fighting alien princess for a mother, suicidal thrill-junkie mathlete for a godfather, Uncle Ronon keeps knives in his hair and recites poetry, and Uncle Rodney's a future Nobel-Prize winner who, if Torren is very good and doesn't puke on him too much, will teach him how to build bombs when he's older. If he isn't exceptional it won't be our fault," McKay said.
"Yeah, he is Atlantean, isn't he?" Sheppard said thoughtfully.
"He is Athosian first," Teyla reminded them.
It took Ronon a minute to understand that she meant he was the child of Athosians, nothing more. He listened as McKay bickered with Teyla about Torren's future upbringing, but his head was elsewhere -- caught up in the problem he kept having, which was that nobody actually belonged to Atlantis as a tribe, not even him, and that still left him tribeless after the destruction of Sateda.
Atlantis wasn't actually a country, no matter how much it united the people living there (and besides, it also antagonised them and routinely tried to kill them all). It didn't have a flag or a standing independent army. It didn't even have a national food like Poutine or Big Macs, though he supposed they could count the giant, carnivorous, and delicious bat-things that Sheppard uncovered in the lower levels of the city. No national anthem, no tribal standards or tattoos. Not A Real Country.
Still, Ronon wanted it to be, because then he could be a citizen there. Sateda was fading from his memory and perhaps that was just as well. He'd listened to anthropologists talking about preserving heritage and native arts and all the rest of it, but he thought Sateda should be laid in peace. She deserved that much, his homeworld.
He was pretty sure he'd never be evicted from Atlantis again, not without dying first. But, if he was, he made the decision that he wasn't going to go back to the Athosians and Teyla. Teyla was fine, but the Athosians made him jumpy, weren't like him, weren't his people. Except Teyla, and maybe Torren.
Maybe Chuck would let him crash in Canada for a while.
" -- think, Ronon?"
Ronon looked up guiltily from his soup. "Huh?"
"Six too young to teach someone how to fly a Puddlejumper?" Sheppard repeated.
"No six-year-old is going anywhere near a Jumper," McKay insisted.
"Hey, my dad let me drive his Mustang when I was six." Sheppard made a steering motion. "You know, sitting on his lap."
"And was your dad's Mustang capable of direct neural interface and multiple G's of acceleration? Do you want the kid brain-damaged for life?"
"Ancient kids must have used their technology all the time," Sheppard pointed out.
"Yeah, and let's look at some of the Ancients' brilliant ideas, like computer-assisted Ascension, time-warp booby traps, and unsecured biohazard areas filled with horrible virii," McKay replied. "Forgive me for not trusting them with Torren's delicate growing neurons."
Ronon wasn't too worried about Torren Emmagen. He had Teyla to teach him about being an Athosian and fighting and diplomacy, and Ronon could help with the fighting and maybe get him his first tattoo, and Sheppard and McKay could teach him math and...other stuff. The point was, Torren had a family and a country, and Ronon had the team for family but he felt a little stupid lacking something that a two-month-old baby had.