Rating: Gen, PG
"He's not military." Aunt Denise tilted her head back so that she could look down her nose at John despite being a foot and a half shorter than he was. She was tiny and elderly and still, John considered gloomily, terrifying. Weren't mean aunts supposed to stop being scary by the time he hit middle age?
She had him pinned with a beady-eyed glare. As far as he knew it was the only expression she was capable of, but it still gave him nasty flashbacks to when he was a kid and she would punish him for random and minor crimes by making him clean her toilets and bathe and pedicure her six smelly schnauzers.
"I realize that you somehow manage to defy regulations with that ridiculous fuzz on your head, but you cannot tell me they allow long, dirty hair like his in the Air Force these days."
"I didn't say he was in the Air Force, Aunt Denise." John hadn't actually said anything to her yet. She had been standing on the patio just outside the parlor's open French doors when he and Ronon walked through and had stopped them in their tracks through the force of her knee-jerk disapproval. Before he could even say 'hello' she'd started refuting all the lies she was absolutely sure he was going to try to sell her.
"He's just a friend of mine, actually. Um, Aunt Denise, this is Ronon. Ronon, my dad's sister Denise."
"Nice to meet you," Ronon said with a distinct lack of sincerity.
Aunt Denise didn't notice. She didn't even look at him; she just continued to glower at John. "He looks like a terrorist. Is that what he is, a terrorist?"
Okay. Unexpected. John turned and squinted at Ronon, who raised an eyebrow. Ronon had left all visible weapons in the car and was wearing a fairly nice suit and the least threatening expression he was capable of. Admittedly that was still a whole lot more threatening than your average retired small town Texas school teacher was used to.
"Er," John said.
"Is that what you've been getting up to, John Sheppard? Nobody knows where the hell you've been for the past four years, wouldn't surprise me one bit to find out you've been AWOL overseas, probably going native. I can see that tattoo on his neck -- is that some kind of terrorist propaganda? Did you bring him here so he can steal your father's money for his terrorist plots?"
Ronon said, "She knows I can hear her, right?"
John gritted his teeth. "He's not a terrorist, Aunt Denise. He's from -- he's from, uh, Hawaii. He surfs, and I met him when I was on leave in Kauai and..."
And she wasn't buying it. There was a time when all he had to do was mention surfing, and the drug culture and lazy-ass-beach-bum stereotypes would have distracted her. Unfortunately, terrorism was a lot more interesting than drug addicts these days. Aunt Denise had that look in her eye that meant she was about twenty seconds from ditching them so she could go tell everyone that Jack Sheppard's no good son had finally gone off the deep end just like everyone knew he would, and joined Al Qaeda to boot.
"I'm his boyfriend."
For maybe the first time in her life, Aunt Denise was struck speechless. John would have enjoyed it if he hadn't been gaping at Ronon right alongside her.
"You -- you're not -- Aunt Denise, he's not my boyfriend --" John clapped his hands over his face and took a deep breath. "Ronon, please don't help."
When he dropped his hands, though, Aunt Denise had edged away, heading toward where Aunts Alice, Vanessa and Colette were huddled around the vodka punch. John figured it would take just under the speed of light for this juicy bit of gossip to make it through the hundred and fifty Sheppard relations scattered over his parents' manicured lawn.
He sighed as he watched her shuffle away. "Yeah, that went well."
"Sorry." Ronon said. "I figured boyfriend was better than terrorist. Guess not."
"Not really. Well, not in Texas, anyway." John shook his head wearily and shrugged. "Ah, never mind. At least this will be an entirely different argument than I usually have with my dad. You want to hit the buffet?"
They headed toward the huge spread of food. Ronon nudged John with his elbow and tipped his head in the direction of a slender, gorgeous brunette standing alone in the shade by the corral, watching the horses.
"Who's that?" he asked.
It took John a moment to come up with a name. "Oh, that's my cousin, or cousin once removed, maybe? Her name's Christine, I think."
Ronon gazed at her appreciatively. "Think you could introduce me?"
John glared. "Oh yeah, that's a great idea. Aunt Denise would love that -- first time anyone has seen me in years and I'm getting dumped by my terrorist boyfriend at my dad's 70th birthday party."
Then it occurred to John that he still had no idea what he was going to tell his family about where he'd been and what he'd been doing for the past several years -- and now he didn't have to worry about it. His gossipy aunts would take care of it for him. All he had to do was play along.
And actually, 'jilted gay terrorist' had potential. He scratched his chin.
"You know what? What the hell." Christine, or whatever her name was, must have felt them staring at her; she had turned and caught sight of them, and was smiling a little uncertainly. John bet she had no idea who he was. He waved brightly and said to Ronon, "Come on, honey. Let me introduce you to the family."
PG-rated John/Ronon tag for this story here.
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