IX: Epilogue: Setting a Blackbird Free

Melena. Now she knew what Ronon had said in his pained confusion aboard the jumper. The affection in his eyes had been for a lost love, not for her.

She gave Ronon his space after that, remaining by his side as he recovered but only when she felt he needed company. She remained composed, calculating her movements and body language so as to not frighten him with any undue insinuations. But this did not last long, for Ronon recovered quickly and soon they were both on the same terms which had previously governed them.

They healed as a team, and Ronon was so excited to finally be able to head out on a mission again that he didn't catch himself playing with the same pseudo-cocky charm that he had used to tease Melena. He drew his gun and made it fly over his fingers in a whirling dance of youthful lust for life. Teyla couldn't help but smile at his boasting of his recuperation and eagerness to once again contribute to the team that had saved him.

His resilience lifted her spirits. Though he had gently pushed her away, she had not given up on him yet. Part of her optimism stemmed from the recovery that she witnessed. She knew that with time and support like he now had, he could continue to heal. Maybe old wounds would also finally begin to close. But another part of her optimism stemmed from the fact that, try as she might, she couldn't shrug off her affections for him.

He wasn't ready yet, and inexperienced, she didn't know if she was, either. Time lay between them and she was prepared to wait. She would wait for her convictions to solidify and strengthen, and more importantly, she would wait for him.

When Ronon had been told that he only had a week at the most before he could resume 'gate travel, it felt as if a weight began to lift. He'd no longer be reminded of Sateda through his healing. He'd no longer be the burden weighting the team down.

His talk with Teyla had loosened the chains of his wings and he no longer felt that they had healed as broken and crippled as he'd once believed. He fought off the guilt that crept through him when he'd think fondly of Teyla with the truth that he knew Melena would have wanted him to remain true to himself.

Even if the Wraith hadn't come and their marriage hadn't worked out, he knew that she would have wanted him to grow into the man she envisioned him capable of being. A man of honor, integrity, and the playful spirit that she so loved. He knew the latter was nearly burned out of him, but Teyla's compliment that she was proud of him and thought him honorable gave him hope that he might yet recover what he'd once thought was lost.

He limped onto his balcony after a visit to the infirmary in which Dr. Beckett had proudly told him that he was healing well and would be fit to travel again soon. The setting sun directly across from him on the horizon caused his eyes to narrow defensively against the light. He closed them and breathed in deeply the sea air as the warmth of the western light soothed over his face and exposed hands. With his eyelids closed, or even cracked, he could see gold.

His heart panged as he remembered the song Melena sang to him when they lazed in his neighbor's field, as if they had forever before them. Her voice in his memory maintained its endearing, spunky husk.

You'll remember me when the west wind moves

Among the fields of barley

You can tell the sun in his jealous sky

When we walked in fields of gold.

He'd long ago realized the irony of the fact that she never finished singing the last verse of the song that day. The power of hindsight made her omitting of the verse even more poignant.

He opened his eyes and traced his fingers upon the cool cylindrical railing that he leaned upon, humming the tune to himself. A warm breeze blew from behind him, ticklishly tugging on a few of his thinner locks. He could barely hear himself when he began to sing the last verse of the song, but his voice strengthened.

"Many years have passed since those summer days

Among the fields of barley,

See the children run as the sun goes down

As you lie in fields of gold.

You'll remember me when the west wind moves

Among the fields of barley

You can tell the sun in his jealous sky

When we walked in fields of gold.

When we walked in fields of gold..." His voice cracked from the pain of his heart and he paused to work out the knots in his throat. The wind cooled tears upon his cheeks and his voice remained intimately quiet. "When we walked in fields of gold."

He let himself choke out tears as he watched the sun set, the seaward wind picking up and whipping his shirt about his statuesque frame leaning against the railings. He knew that a part of him would always love her. But the dormant part of his soul, once shut down out of necessity, was awakening again, and he knew that she would want him to always be as free as his dreams. She'd always loved his roaming thoughts, unconventional ideas, and flights of fancy. She had fostered the dreamer in him.

He would walk now, tall with all she had taught him, and all he had learned about himself from her, armed with what they had once shared, brief and charming as it was. She was all he'd known and he could never let her go. But he could honor her by living as the man she'd seen within the boy she'd known.

"I'll always love you, Melena." His words were almost lost to the sea breeze. The sun was now but a glimmering pinprick above the field-like sea. He placed one hand over the other above his heart. "I carry you with me always." He extended his cupped hands towards the last of the sun, as if setting a blackbird free.

"You could grieve endlessly for the loss of time and for the damage done therein. For the dead, and for your own lost self. ... You can grieve your heart out and in the end you are still where you were. All your grief hasn't changed a thing. What you have lost will not be returned to you. It will always be lost. You're left with only your scars to mark the void. All you can choose to do is go on or not. But if you go on, it's knowing you carry your scars with you." – Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain (p. 420-421).
Author's note: There you have it - I hope you all enjoyed it! Again thank you all for taking the time to read, and even more for reviewing! A large part of writing this was my trying to understand Melena. When I first saw "Sateda" I thought she was the stupidest person on the planet since she didn't seem to get that Wraith human annihilation, lol. So it was somewhat therapeutic for me to try and fashion her as someone understandable, which I hope I did.

The way this story has ended seems like closure, but also a set up for a new beginning. I've been toying with writing a sequel. Should I, or should I just leave it as it is?

Again, thank you all for reading! May much love, laughter and light be bestowed upon you!