XI. Epilogue – An Intimate Whisper

His movement in the hospital bed next to hers caught her eye and she smiled at him as he awoke. His injured leg had been operated upon and was now wrapped in gauze, propped on some pillows so that the incision on the back of his thigh didn't touch the mattress. His chest felt stiff and each breath expanded tired muscles, but the crippling pain was gone and the light-headed warmth of pain killer was softly humming through his system. His lazy mind began to attempt to remember how he had wound up in the hospital but Teyla's voice interrupted his thoughts. "How are you feeling?"

He turned to look at her, a little surprised and confused to see her also in a bed, but upon noticing the bruise on her cheek and her cracked lips, he remembered everything that happened in the past week. His throat was burning in its dryness and he swallowed before he spoke. His voice was raspy and he tried to clear his throat but to little avail. "I'm good. You?"

She smiled again then wiggled the toes of her bandaged feet. "Dr. Beckett saw it fit to treat the silliest of injuries."

A corner of his mouth lifted in a smile as he saw her toes peeking out of the gauze. "It's not silly if they're hurt."

She followed his gaze to her feet. "They are certainly on the mend."

His eyes had moved back to her face. "Good." His voice squeaked and he winced a little at the unintentional sound.

"Carson warned me that your throat may be sore. He had to place a tube down it to help you breathe during the surgery."

Ronon nodded a little. "On my leg?"

"Yes. You will have to take it easy for several months."

His eyes widened a little and his voice squeaked comically once more. "Months?"

She tried to look away to hide her amused smile but was too late.

A light danced in his eyes as he narrowed them. "You're laughing at me."

She shook her head no yet her giggle at his squeaky voice betrayed her. He looked away in mock-disbelief and she apologized to his profile. "I am sorry. Truly."

"Yeah right," he tried to drawl but it came out as a rasp. He looked back to her. "How'd we get back here?"

Teyla sobered and told him of the events while he was unconscious. "Carson wanted me to remain for a few days so that my feet could heal and he could be sure that I rested."

He sighed, looking up at the ceiling, wondering at all that had happened without his knowing and at the risks his friends had taken to help him. Knowing that he was safely back in Atlantis after all that had happened was surreal. When he felt Teyla's eyes lingering on him he looked back to her.

Her elegant features seemed chiseled of stone as she gazed at him with the penetrating brown of her eyes, a thin line between her brows. His face relaxed questioningly beneath her gaze and after a few heartbeats she spoke. "You had a very high fever, Ronon. I could not wake you. I was so frightened that..." she trailed off and she didn't need to voice what her morbid fear had been.

He swallowed hard, studying her face then extended his IV-free arm, hoping it could reach hers. She glanced to it then looked around before swinging her legs over the edge of the bed and hobbling over to his. He greeted her with a smile as she perched on the opposite side of his bed as his injured leg then lay down beside him.

He kissed her cheek as she did so and she pecked the corner of his lips before resting her head on his shoulder, tangling her hand with his and draping the other over his abdomen. "I am not hurting you, am I?"

He shook his head no with a small smile, feeling a tickling warmth spread through him as he breathed in the scent of her hair and felt the gentle bump of her heart in her breast pressed against his side. "Not at all."

She smiled again then kissed his shoulder. "I am so grateful for you." She squeezed his hand. "Thank you."

His voice was quiet as he gazed at her, his eyes adoringly tracing what he could see of the gentle curves of her face. "No. Thank you."

She lifted her head to look him in the eye, raising her brows questioningly. "For?"

Her expression teased another smile out of him and for a few heartbeats all he could do was attempt to memorize her face. "...For saving me."

Her eyebrows twitched together as she parted her lips, ready to respond with what he knew was an explanation of her actions to get him help in the forest, but he needed her to know that her aid when he was wounded was certainly not all that he meant, so he leaned forward slightly until their lips met.

For a moment a question was on her tongue until she understood, but within a few heartbeats time and space disappeared and all she felt was her blooming affection for Ronon and the pleasant thrill of the pulse of his lips. He made a squeaky, happy sound and she giggled lightly, pulling away as she did so to bump her nose against his and cup his cheek. "Would you like to know what you are going to be doing for those resting months?"

He leaned up and pecked her lips again with a quiet "What?"

She returned his kiss then gently slid her hand back to its resting place over his abdomen, laying her head back down on his shoulder. "...Just this." She gave him a small squeeze and she felt his nose and lips brush against her forehead in gratitude.

He sighed as he laid his head back against the pillow, feeling the sluggishness of sleep dulling his senses. His voice was an intimate whisper. "Your nearness gives me such strength."

She smiled, raising her chin to look up to his heavily-lidded eyes. "As does yours."

He faintly returned her smile and she shifted her weight to raise their entwined hands to her lips as she kissed his knuckles, knowing he was on the verge of sleep. His smile faded slightly as his eyes slipped shut and she laid her head back against his shoulder. Though she wasn't tired, she was more than content to lie there beside him, listening to the strong, steady beat of his heart that had so captivated hers.

Author's Note: Thank you so very kindly to all who have read, and especially to those who have reviewed! I hope that you have enjoyed this tale. Now it's off to school... and working on my next fic:o)