» COVER!And So And So And So Forth
On the planet that looked like summer - bright and golden and lush - but felt bitterly and sharply frozen, Ronon found an egg. A giant egg, about the size of his head, cradled in the thick blue-green grass.
"It's cold," Ronon said, smoothing a palm over the shell, cream and speckled amber.
Rodney huffed and tugged on the collar of his jacket. "I wonder why," he cracked. His fingers were brittle and red around his datapad, and his cheeks burned and his nose was runny and he was completely miserable, and he glowered at Ronon as the man slipped off his coat and tucked it gingerly over the stupid egg. "What are you doing?"
Ronon grunted. "Picking it up."
"Why? You can't keep it. Colonel!" Rodney yelled stridently.
John's head snapped up across the clearing. Then he pressed a finger to his ear. "Radios work, Rodney," he drawled through the comm. link.
"Yes, whatever, tell Captain Caveman here he can't keep it."
"Keep what?" John started towards them, moving far slower, Rodney thought, than he should have been, and Rodney flailed a hand towards Ronon.
John frowned as he drew closer. "Is that an egg?"
"It's a cold egg," Ronon said, shifting almost impatiently on his feet.
"Can we eat it?" John asked, placing his hands on his hips, and Rodney snapped his fingers.
"Okay, yes, can we?" Because then he'd be willing to risk deadly alien contamination. Maybe. If they could find some bacon.
Ronon glared at them. "No," he growled, hugging the egg protectively to his chest, and wasn't that just the weirdest sight ever?
John eyed the egg, bounced his gaze to Ronon and back, half his mouth quirked up. "If it hatches and eats McKay, you're gonna have to give it up."
"Hey!" Rodney squawked.
John slapped his shoulder and flashed him a grin, and Rodney grumbled about abuse and rubbed a hand over his heart.
Ronon, it turned out, had a disturbing mothering instinct, and Carson confessed to Rodney that he didn't have the heart to tell him that the egg wasn't viable. The scans showed hundreds of tiny bones, arched like a wing, tucked carefully over a fully-formed, nesting body, frozen in a gentle curl.
"Isn't that a little unhealthy?" John asked, wrinkling his nose.
"Ah, well," Carson hedged, and Rodney rolled his eyes.
"He's not stupid."
John stared at him.
"What?" Rodney snapped, waving a hand. "He's large and hairy and verbally retarded, but he's not stupid. He must know it won't hatch."
John's brows shot up. "Then why's he carrying it all over Atlantis, stuffed in a pack?"
"Who do I look like? Heightmeyer?"
And that was that.
"You know it's not going to hatch, right?" Rodney asked, crossing his arms over his chest and blocking Ronon's way in the hall, which was a dangerous move, but Rodney was relatively sure he was close enough to the big guy to risk it.
Ronon narrowed his eyes at him.
"Seriously," Rodney prodded, because he stood by his assertion that Ronon wasn't stupid, but he could be weirdly sentimental about things - his leather chaps, for one - and the egg was starting to smell. Like old potatoes.
Ronon side-stepped around him and strode off towards the commissary.
"Good talk!" Rodney shouted at his back.
Teyla and her concerned facial expressions were no help at all. Secretly, Rodney thought she was amused by the whole situation. If she'd been on the mission in the first place, she probably would've been able to talk the behemoth out of adopting it.
"He is going to name it Arthur," she told Rodney, nodding.
"And you don't think that's crazy?"
She very carefully did not smile. "It is a strong name."
When the egg actually hatched, no one was more surprised than Rodney. Well, except for maybe Carson. And Major Lorne, who was sitting directly opposite Ronon at the conference table, and almost got clipped by a wing after the thing exploded out of its shell. No gentle peck-pecking of the embryonic casing. It was a full-on flurry of sharp bones and leather-skin and claws and little pieces of speckled cream shell.
Ice blue and wrinkled and slimy-wet, it looked like a dragon, only much, much tinier. Everyone watched, stunned - though Ronon had a frightening Proud Mama light in his eyes - as it circled the room, a smoky, small roar rasping out of its pointed maw, and then perched on John's shoulder, wings folded up neatly against its sides.
John grinned at it, his you're-a-cute-little-thing grin that he saved for babies and robots. And then it started eating his hair.
He froze, wide-eyed, and Rodney leaned over and hissed, "Don't. Move."
"It's eating my hair," he said tightly, visibly panicking. At a tug he jerked sideways with a yowl, and then the little dragon had a beak full of fluffy John-hair and John looked like he wanted to cry.
Ronon cooed at it and his dreamy-cast face hurt Rodney's brain.
Teyla serenely stated, "Arthur will be a fine hunter," and Ronon's chest puffed out, and Elizabeth grimaced.
Arthur landed on the back of an empty chair and bobbed its head at them like a featherless vulture, blinking black, beady eyes.
"He can't keep it," Rodney snapped.
Elizabeth shook her head. "No, of course not."
"It ripped out my hair," John growled petulantly. He had a square of gauze taped to his scalp, right over his ear.
"Yes," Elizabeth agreed, lips twitching at the edges, eyes glittering, "but it'll grow back, John."
No one wanted to tell Ronon he had to get rid of Arthur. Mostly because he was so damn happy, but mainly because anyone who even looked at Arthur wrong was subject to Ronon's Loom of Intimidation or a more vicious than usual smack-down in the gym.
John tried to make it an order. Well, he practiced on Rodney first, and after he said firmly, "Ronon, you need to release Arthur into the wild," Rodney said, "You might want to try it without your hands on your hips."
Crossing his arms, he repeated, "You need to release Arthur into the wild."
Rodney called up his best blank stare.
John pursed his lips. "Rodney? You gonna help or what?"
"Shhhhhh, I'm channeling my inner Ronon." He slouched along the edge of his desk, trying for Ronon's bizarre enraged-but-totally-relaxed-about-it posture, but something was missing. He snapped his fingers. "I need a sandwich. Or a gun."
"Oh, come on, this is useless. Just," he flailed a hand, "tell him he can't keep Arthur, but that we'll... visit him or something. Promise him a snack and a bedtime story if he behaves."
John's brows arched and he looked ridiculous with his messy hair and the white bandages - two of them, now, because Arthur was a sneaky fucker - but he also looked exceedingly hot, and Rodney rubbed his hands together. "So. I helped. Sex now?"
John's mouth said, I am not amused, but his eyes said, Hell, yeah.
They were back on the frigid planet with the summer-green leaves and the golden sun, and Arthur cough-roared down at them from the third branch of a thirty foot tree.
Rodney jabbed a finger at him. "If you start crying, I'll lose all respect for you."
"You don't respect him now, Rodney," John drawled, though his cool was downplayed mammothly by the dorky stripy knit cap he insisted on wearing. Hat-hair was apparently preferable to no hair at all. He clasped Ronon's shoulder. "Go ahead and let it out."
"Dirt in my eye," Ronon said gruffly, rubbing the side of his hand under his nose.
"Right. Dirt," Rodney scoffed.
Ronon slanted him a watery glower, then gazed up at Arthur, who was hopping back and forth on his clawed feet, pathetic puffs of smoke snorting out of his nose.
"We will visit him," Teyla said in her best comforting-the-natives voice.
And then a shadow fell over them, gray-dark in every direction, and flames came out of nowhere to lick the air above their heads. Only they didn't actually come out of nowhere. They came out of the giant, razor sharp teeth-filled mouth of an Arthur the size of Idaho.
John screamed and Rodney whimpered in response, and he didn't even have enough time to insist it was a manly whimper before John was pulling him towards the 'gate and shouting at Teyla ahead of them to dial the fuck home.
Post-mission in the infirmary, Ronon pulled off an impressive pout that somehow still managed to seem menacing.
John refused to take off his knit cap. He leaned back and flattened his palms on the exam table and said, "So. None of this goes in the official report."
Rodney'd been hoping their sounds of blatant terror had been muffled by the echoing rage of the giant dragon, but by the way Teyla was quietly laughing to herself - Rodney could so tell - he kind of doubted it. "Right," he agreed.
"You promised me a snack, Sheppard," Ronon growled.
"Don't forget the bedtime story," Rodney teased suggestively, then caught John's constipated look and went, "Wait, uh."
"I'm pretty upset," Ronon said, flashing teeth. "I might need more than one."