Picture from: poisontaster
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue! No money exchanged hands.
Is: Adult Themes, Gen.
Summary: But more importantly, the way the man had simply tilted his chin up higher to accommodate the gun rather than trying to take it away finally allowed him a moment of coherent thought.
“Sheppard?” Ronon croaked, before he collapsed.
One night after supper, the lead dog turned up a snowshoe rabbit. The dog lay down low to the race, his body flashing forward, leap by leap.
“Hey, buddy, it’s me.”
Ronon was breathing harshly and had his gun pressed up under the jaw of his attacker so hard a red mark was blossoming under the muzzle. Something about the voice filtered through to the still rational part of his brain, but more importantly, the way the man had simply tilted his chin up higher to accommodate the gun rather than trying to take it away finally allowed him a moment of coherent thought.
“Sheppard?” Ronon croaked, before he collapsed.
“It’s my fault.”
Carson had his head in his hands and looked distraught. Rodney’s eyes were darting around the room and Teyla stood looking calm but John could tell, thrumming with nervous energy and a need to do something.
“What exactly happened?” Elizabeth asked gently, touching Carson on the shoulder but there was an underlying professionalism to her tone and Carson immediately responded to it.
“A minor difference in his physiology, whether by breeding or environmental factors… Christ, it was just a sleeping tablet. I didn’t think,” Carson moaned.
“No one could have forseen-“ Elizabeth began but Carson cut her off with an impatient snap of the hand.
“It’s my job. It’s just… they become so much a part of… you forget that they’re… alien.”
Teyla tensed but Carson’s eyes quickly darted up, probably realising that what he’d said hadn’t come out as intended. “Oh love, you know what I mean,” he sighed and Teyla nodded imperceptibly. “Hell, we had to isolate the Athosians the first time one of us came down with the flu.”
“There are differences, yes,” Teyla relaxed her stance, but still looked worried. “However… such violence. Ronon will never forgive himself.”
“No one died,” Rodney interjected, hopping from foot to foot and looking frazzled and upset.
“Sergeant Erolsen will probably never walk again and Lieutenant Fielding has lost an eye. As for Major Lorne… well, he’s not out of the woods yet.”
“But he didn’t mean-“
“Oh, of course he didn’t Rodney, Jesus!” John snapped, the tension of the last four days snapping out and finding a target. More often than not, Rodney would flail into the line of fire of John’s temper and he would have to apologise later on. It had started to bother John that in a way, Rodney had come to expect it.
He hardly even flinched.
“It doesn’t matter. He still did what he did and men like Ronon, it just doesn’t sit easily,” John sighed.
He was sounding the deeps of his nature and the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the wombs of time.
Ronon had intimately known Atlantis, always having made it a habit to learn the ins and outs of the places he inhabited, never really breaking the compulsion to identify escape routes and defensible positions.
When he’d become a predator, instead of the prey, he’d moved assuredly and taken down those in his path.
He wasn’t sure what he’d been searching for, some way to make the waking nightmare stop maybe, but the devastation he’d left in his wake had been the same.
He had blood on his hands.
Blood of his friends.
He hadn’t been expecting Teyla to be waiting for him after the meeting, but there she was in the hallway, looking expectant and worried and biting her lip.
“Are you going to banish him?” she asked in a rush before John even had the chance to ask her what was wrong.
“What? Teyla, no. We don’t banish people.”
“I just thought-“
“What happened wasn’t his fault. If anything, it was ours. It was the drugs Carson gave him, after all.”
“Doctor Beckett said it himself. We’re alien. If we break your rules, it would be easy to remove us.”
John held up his hands, palms out. “Whoa. Where did that come from?”
Teyla’s head dropped, hair falling over her face like a screen. “I worry sometimes… actually I know that you see us as different. We fight, side by side, yet there was an inspection last week and you hid us.”
“We didn’t hide you,“ John protested, feeling like a heel because that is exactly what they had done. “Ah hell, it’s just the big brass wouldn’t understand. They know you work with us… just not…” John rubbed the back of his head, pretty sure he was digging himself into a deeper hole.
Teyla lifted her head and her expression was closed down, lips a firm line.
“I get it,” she said, her voice neutral and John knew that no amount of football, popcorn and bad jokes was going to fix what he’d just done.
Night came on, and a full moon rose high over the trees
“I have an escort again,” Ronon’s voice was a low growl as he leaned over the balcony, inclining his head at the two men who were trying to be unobtrusive and also looking pained. John had come looking for him, not sure what to say but knowing that not seeing Ronon would be worse than any awkward silence.
“We’re just not… I mean…this isn’t easy, on anyone.”
“Yeah, especially the guy I blinded. I’m pretty sure the guy whose spine I broke would also tend to agree.” Ronon’s tone was hollow and John winced, recognising it. It had the same flatness to it, the lack of hope that had been evident when they had first found him. A man who had forgotten how to smile, to interact, to live.
“If it’s any consolation, Teyla hates me at the moment,” John offered with a light chuckle but Ronon didn’t turn in his direction, his eyes instead on the sun lowering over the ocean.
“I should leave,” he said.
“No, you shouldn’t. We can fix this.”
“No Sheppard, we really can’t.”
“No one’s talking,” Rodney sighed, flopping down onto Teyla’s bed without invitation. She looked at him with an arched eyebrow as she crossed her legs to lace her boot.
“It is a difficult time,” she said gently.
“In the McKay household we screamed at each other until it was okay again. This silence… it’s horrible. Plus, Elizabeth keeps getting called in to communications with Earth and that’s never good.”
“The division between our people has become apparent and has made everyone’s lives difficult. We were naïve to try and ignore them.”
Rodney threw up his hands, indignant. “What the hell! Wraith bad, us good. That’s all there is to it.”
Teyla couldn’t help it.
And the strain of the primitive remained alive and active.
“Why do you believe that this is still within you?”
Ronon looked across at the blonde woman on the other couch and sighed deeply. He’d always liked Kate Heightmeyer. She had hair the colour of the sun and eyes the same as the sky.
“It must have been within me. The drug just… released it.”
“That’s not necessarily true. Do you think it was within Colonel Sheppard to maliciously attack people? To almost strangle Doctor Weir to death?”
Ronon looked up sharply. “No!” he said automatically.
“Well, he did, while under the influence of the retrovirus. Why can’t you believe about yourself what you know to be true in others?”
Ronon looked down at his hands and imagined he could see blood in the lines of his palms, so ingrained into the skin that it would never wash off, even if he scrubbed down to the bone.
“You don’t understand. The difference between me and men like Sheppard is that I feel this way all the time.”
“Like hell!” John shouted and everyone in the room flinched except for Elizabeth.
“That’s what I said,” Elizabeth assured calmly.
John blinked. “Oh. What did they say?”
“They tried to insist and I assured them that he was an intrinsic part of our survival, he had saved many lives and I wasn’t going to do without him.”
“He’s going to leave anyway,” Teyla murmured, looking at her feet.
Yet he retained his wildness and wiliness
Ronon looked up from his packing when his door chimed and bade the person enter. He figured it would be one of his ex-team mates, giving it one more, as Sheppard called it, old college try.
He wasn’t expecting who was standing on the threshold.
“Are you going to ask me in?” Lorne waggled his crutches and Ronon stepped back, pulling up a nearby chair that Lorne sank into gratefully. “So, I hear you’re leaving,” he said, moving the casted leg around and up until it was resting on the end of Ronon’s bed.
“I thought it was for the best.”
“Crap you did,” Lorne snorted and Ronon looked at him, eyebrows drawing down. “I never figured you for a coward, Dex.”
Ronon thought it would be bad form to hit a guy on crutches so he clenched his fists and ground his teeth. “I’m not.”
“You’re running away from what you did. They asked if I wanted to be shipped Earthside and you know what I said? Hell no, I got space vampires to fight.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re needed here, Dex. I know other people have probably tried to talk you into staying but I figured I’d give it a shot, you know… considering.” Lorne turned his head to the left and Ronon could see the patina of bruising that laced his cheek, down his neck and disappeared under his shirt.
I did that, he thought grimly.
“I’m not asking you to forgive me-“
“I’m not offering that,” Lorne snorted. He put out his hand and Ronon looked at him in confusion for a moment, before he realised Lorne was merely asking him for a hand up. He gripped the Major’s forearm and eased him to his feet, handing over the crutches. “There’s nothing to forgive. We both got our own wounds to heal. If anything, I feel sorrier for you.”
Ronon blinked in surprise. “How so?”
Lorne offered him a cheeky grin. “You weren’t getting sponge baths off Nurse Anderson.”
Lorne made his careful way to the door, only turning when he’d reached the threshold. “I’m not asking you to stay. I’m telling you that you should.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry about what happened,” Ronon said, his voice quiet.
Lorne’s lips turned up in a wry grin. “Me too, for both of us.”
John stood in front of the event horizon, his face bathed in the rippled glow of the open wormhole. He always marvelled at how something could look so much like water and yet feel nothing like it at all.
He looked to his right and Teyla inclined her head, shouldering her pack. She noticed Rodney fidgeting beside her and reached across; tugging taut the strap that had been bothering him.
John looked to his left and Ronon’s eyes ticked sideways. John wanted to ask what had changed Ronon’s mind, but knew he never would.
“I feel good about today,” John said.
“Oh great, completely jinx us! Now we’re going to be hogtied by natives that want to marry you off to the tribal daughter and eat me by the end of the day.” Rodney protested, throwing up his hands in exasperation.
“What about us?” Teyla asked, amusement quirking her lips.
“Oh well, you’ll both save us… eventually.” Rodney waved a dismissive hand, too preoccupied with the notion of being stewed alive in a pot to see the genuine affection on Teyla’s face as she reached across and patted Rodney’s shoulder.
“Yeah, after I’ve had dinner, I’m sure we’ll get around to it,” Ronon said with a predatory glint in his eye and Rodney squawked in protest.
John was still chuckling as they were given the go ahead to pass through the ‘gate.
And from the depths of the forest, a call still sounded.
**Excerpts from ‘Call of the Wild’ by Jack London**