Title: "The Ties that Bind" (1/6) Gen
Character(s): Ronon and Sheppard Friendship
Genre(s): Stargate Atlantis: Some drama, action and h/c.
Words: 21,000 total –5300 this section
Spoilers: Season 4 "Reunion"
Summary: Ronon asks Sheppard to join him on a dangerous search unaware that some answers are gained in the journey.
Notes: This is all from Ronon's POV, but a study of their interesting friendship. There were a few things from "Reunion" that I thought needed further exploration. For some reason this was a tough nut to crack, but I enjoyed doing so.
This is complete, updates will be every other day as I tweak things.
Thanks to Beth for her invaluable beta service, poking and prodding me until this was my best effort. Also to Mandy for her wonderful encouragement and fast as lightening suggestions.
Ronon stands outside on one of the piers. He's never felt the same need as the others to simply stare out into the ocean, but decides it might help clear his head. The waves slapping the side of the city are darker and the sky is filled with star patterns that he doesn't recognize. He pauses while memories drift along with the rushing waters. He shouldn't dwell upon the past, but recently he has felt overtaken by history.
He scowls at such internal conflict. Duty is duty and old oaths are just as important as new ones. Principles have to be upheld no matter how much time has gone by. He rubs the ink pattern on his forearm; the tattoo is a reminder of conflicted loyalty and awful treachery. The devotion towards his people still burns deeply despite what happened days ago.
His allegiances have pulled him in so many directions, casting doubts about his decisions. This time, he is positive about what needs to be done. Seven years on the run has taught him about self dependence; however, the last three have shown him a new way.
The door opens and Ronon walks inside to the sounds of music. Sheppard sits cross-legged on his bed in BDUs and bare feet, plucking at the strings of an instrument. His friend strums the ending notes of a song before resting it over his lap.
Ronon shifts uncomfortably; it's been a long time since his CO has appeared relaxed and he feels guilty for interrupting. "I… um..."
Sheppard looks at him intensely, his voice tinged with his usual dry sarcasm. "We have another disaster?"
"No." Ronon thinks a beat, walks closer and inspects the instrument. "Didn't know you played anything."
Sheppard studies him, obviously recognizing the stall tactic and lifts up the instrument. "Yeah, sometimes. I'm not very good."
"I used to play a supeka. It was longer and had more strings, but you held it up."
"Like a violin?"
"Don't know what that is, but upright you could pull and press on the strings at the same time for different sounds."
"Interesting. Might try it like that after I get the technique down on the Earth version," Sheppard chuckles.
"Can I try?"
It's lighter than it looks. Ronon holds it the way Sheppard instructs him with the left hand around the long thinner part and the right gripping a plastic plucker.
"We call it a guitar."
The instrumentfeels nice; the vibrating strings produce subtle changes in tone and harmony. It doesn't take long to acclimate to the combination of techniques, pressing on the neck while agitating the strings with the pick.
"You're a quick study," the colonel remarks.
Ronon shrugs his shoulder. "I'm used to more note changes."
He stalls, fingers dancing over the taut strings before handing it back over. "Thanks."
"Any time you want to borrow it." Sheppard rests the instrument on the floor, shoving his hands in his pockets. "What's on your mind?"
Ronon doesn't filter his words ever; it's always better to get to the point. Talking with Sheppard has always been an easy thing, but for some reason he stops to think about what he's going to say. The colonel gives him a quirked eyebrow, followed by an encouraging smile.
"I need your help."
"Okay… With what?"
Ronon sucks in a breath; this is harder than he thought. He watches Sheppard regard him with a mixture of apprehension and desire to try to fix whatever is bothering him. He realizes that the unease is his fault; he put it there and it makes the request all the more difficult.
"I want to go on a mission. A private one."
Sheppard's eyebrows rise, his jaw muscles tense. "For what reason?"
The colonel exhales slowly. "Is this about your friends?"
"Yes...no...it's about someone else."
Ronon can see the walls begin to build, the pilot's eyes flicking towards the ground when he's faced with a subject he wishes to avoid.
"Look, Big Guy, I know you just had a tough time recently---"
"It's not like that," Ronon interrupts. "I'm not looking for more of my people, or trying to leave Atlantis."
Sheppard's shoulders relax a little as some of the tension bleeds away. "Go on."
"Rakai told me about a person that's still alive." His voice hardens upon reciting the next man's name. "Turesh, an enemy of my people... a butcher."
Sheppard's mouth twitches, his expression impassive as he mulls the information. "This guy was Satedan?"
"No! He was from a neighboring planet, Terinia. He belonged to a bunch of thieves that raided remote settlements outside the city or weakened sectors after Wraith attacks."
"He their leader?"
"Turesh wasn't a leader...he was just the largest dreck among a group of bandits ---A murderer." Ronon paces, balling his fists by his sides. "He was responsible for many massacres."
"And Rakai told you he was alive?" Sheppard inquires with a hint of sarcasm about the Wraith worshiper.
There's doubt in the colonel's face but he urges him to go on. "One of the ops we discussed was to go after him, have him pay for his crimes. I know what went down at the Wraith lab was a setup, but I know that his intel on Turesh was right... I could see it in Rakai's eyes... he was telling the truth."
"Even so... if this Turesh is even alive... what then? Just go and kill him? It's not like we have a galactic prison for criminals."
The colonel has killed many enemies- it's his job, but for Sheppard there are rules. Some things end on the battlefield but Ronon knows that there are circumstances out there that warrant other measures.
"He deserves to die."
"Last I checked, none of us were judge, jury and executioner."
"If you had a chance to find a person responsible for the slaughter of others, wouldn't you do the same?" Ronon sees a hint of the real answer spread over the pilot's face before the more rational and responsible part clamps down. "If someone came and killed some of the people on Atlantis and you watched friends die. I know you wouldn't hesitate."
Sheppard looks torn.
"I'm not asking your permission to go."
The colonel straightens, eyes narrowing. Sheppard could order him to stand down; he's a member of the man's team and under his orders.
Sheppard's voice takes on a harsh, dry quality. "What are you asking me?"
Ronon looks him right in the eye. "I want you to come with me."
"You're both nuts and need to have your heads examined!" Rodney says scornfully.
Sheppard has his arms crossed, leaning in the door jamb.
The annoyed astrophysicist doesn't stop to see if anyone is listening. "The place sounds like the wild, wild west. Full of scum and less than desirable people. We should be scouting out friendly planets, friendly natives, not paying a visit to some saloon town so you two can play cowboys!"
"You're not going, McKay," the colonel explains.
"I mean it's a stupid, stupid...what? Wait, what do you mean I'm not---"
"There's no technology to find, no outpost to inspect."
"Oh, then why are you going?"
"It's always good to get to know all the seedier joints around...see if there are places to drop by in a pinch."
"And Sam okayed the waste of resources and man power for your little adventure?"
"That's Colonel Carter and she still needs to give final permission."
Ronon doesn't like having to wait on their new leader; she doesn't know him. Sheppard still oversees most of the military side of things and they're still repairing the city so it's not easy for him to leave his obligations. Sheppard's willingness to do this and to test the waters with his new commanding officer speaks volumes.
"John," Teyla says as she joins them. "Colonel Carter is looking for you."
Sheppard leaves without a word and Teyla stares at Rodney for a moment before he gets the hint. "I've got stuff to do; I'll let Butch and the Sundance Kid go stir up trouble."
Teyla waits for Rodney to leave then turns to Ronon with a casual smile. "How long will you two be gone?"
Ronon's good at reading her, at seeing the stuff not spoken. "A few days; it's a big area."
She doesn't question why he hasn't invited her along; it's not about trust, never with her.
"You will call if you need to?"
"We'll be fine."
"Do you think you'll find what you're searching for?"
"I'm not sure, but I have to try."
"And you've told the colonel everything about this mission?"
He deserves that; he deceived her the last time he had a desire for revenge. "He knows... it's one of the reasons why I asked him to come with me."
Teyla nods and her eyes sparkle with that all knowing look.
"I never thought I'd spend so much time looking backwards."
Her hands are warm on his arm. "Clearing up the past leaves us free to face the future."
Ronon hopes her words are true; he still feels divided and torn in opposite directions. He owes his old friends justice. Maybe, after everything that's happened during the past few months, tracking a man responsible for so many deaths will make him feel like he's made a difference.
Unlike the Wraith or the Replicators, this is one enemy that can be caught.
There are two gates on the planet. They take the orbital one on the outskirts and park the jumper several clicks away. The other ring is located in the center of town and neither of them want to announce their arrival in such a way. Walking on foot from the edge of the settlement is the best approach.
MXP-369 is a barren world, a wasteland of blacks, grays and heavy plumes of smoke. The air is heavy with soot, dusting both their jackets with a fine coating of particles. The hills surrounding them stretch on forever, the choking acidic pollution billowing out of excavation shafts. Ronon looks up at the smog in the sky; the sun is nothing but a fuzzy spot over the horizon.
Sheppard lets out a dry cough, covering his mouth and muffling the hacking. Ronon's chest itches in sympathy.
The colonel walks a few paces ahead of him with his P-90 at the ready and swinging the barrel at any odd noise. "This reminds me of coal country."
Ronon gives him one of the looks he uses whenever the man makes an Earth reference.
"Just a place with a lot of mines."
"If this area is an energy source, it's a magnet for the Wraith."
"Maybe... Mines take a long time to produce anything useful. Still need some technology to do anything with it. It'd might explain why this place has become such a hot spot for trade."
"Not the type we're used to. This place is rough... all black market. Weapons, thugs, sex, whatever you want... you find it here," Ronon explains.
"We'll need to stay on our toes and whatever happens... don't hold back." Ronon gives his CO a sidelong look. They have to act the part to get close to Turesh. There's no time for charm and smiles or anything resembling politeness.
"Good thing I brought my leather jacket. Makes me look tough."
Behind the usual humor Ronon knows Sheppard is taking this seriously since he'd strapped a second gun to his ankle and another knife to his belt before they'd left. Sheppard does look the part of an intimidating soldier, dressed all in black with sunglasses that conceal his expression.
It's all about perception. They have no back up and they'll need every advantage if the reports about the dangers of this trading post are even slightly accurate.
"So, Turesh is a thug for hire?"
Ronon clenches the blaster in his right hand tighter. "Rakai said he is involved in weapons dealing, contract work, murder, robbery; whatever will pay him the most."
"Then we'll need to be the right scumbag employers."
Two large towers loom closer as they enter the outskirts of the area. There are a few other people entering and leaving, but everyone avoids eye contact. The stone boulders that make up the brick walls surrounding the entrance are covered with grime from years of raining ash.
The guards glare at them suspiciously; the blowing wind whips their long black hair around the scarves that cover up most of their scruffy faces.
There's no confrontation unless a staring contest counts and Ronon grabs Sheppard's elbow to steer him out of the center of town. "We need to blend in."
Sheppard looks at him in exasperation. "And nothing about our weapons or our clothes doesn't scream new to this neck of the woods?"
What they need to do is begin poking around for information. "Let's find a bar," Ronon announces as he scans for a sign of one.
"Kind of early for shots, isn't it?"
"It's never too early."
The bald gap-toothed bartender is covered in tattoos including those all over his pudgy face. He reminds Ronon of an earth pig, grunting a "Whatdaya want?" only after he asks for a drink a third time.
They sit there, sipping over-watered ales and observe a large crowd for the middle of the afternoon, but soon learn that the sun won't go down for another two days. No one speaks to the Lanteans; attempts at idle chit chat with the barkeep earn them smoke in the face from a putrid cigar.
"Place is pretty chilly," Sheppard remarks, swirling his drink around.
There appears to be two focus areas of action and Ronon studies the circle of people in the left hand corner hollering, cursing and cheering. He smiles to himself when he gets a peek of an arm wrestling match. The colonel finds a card game off in the other end and both men look at each other.
"You want to give me some money, Big Guy?" the colonel asks with a glint in his eyes.
Ronon shakes his head, forgetting that his CO doesn't have use for currency. "Don't lose it all."
"Gonna try to make a good impression," Sheppard answers with a crooked smile.
He watches the pilot approach the table, his muscles tensing as the rough looking group stops what they're doing. The hooligans seem annoyed at the interruption, but after Sheppard pulls out some money and drops it on the table, he's dealt in on the next hand. Ronon observes a little while longer, making sure there are no sudden movements from the motley crew. He doesn't like the fact that Sheppard had to lay his P-90 next to his leg and out of reach, but as time goes on without incident he feels marginally comfortable about leaving his CO at the game.
Ronon's adrenaline has been pumping since they entered the city and his strides have extra juice in them. The crowd near the fight shifts to allow him room as they appraise his possible might and he flexes his biceps and puffs out his chest at every look.
The horde of bodies reeks of smoke, alcohol and old sweat. It doesn't bother him; the harsh aroma of violence is one of the few things he's used to. Arm wrestling is kid's play. It doesn't involve the risk of death and he wonders where the real action is hidden away. He outweighs both participants by several pounds and decides he wants to get a better look by shoving his way to the front of the circle of onlookers.
The ringleader sports a set of sunglasses and a crown of spiky blue hair and sits off to the side on a stool. He wears a button up black shirt under a jacket of dark animal skin with buttons made of tiny bones. People approach the man and whisper in his ear but his only response is a nod or a shake of the head.
The fighter on the right is sweating bullets, his meaty hand quivering from the strength of his opponent. Ronon observes the obvious champion, a scraggly bearded oaf with two different colored eyes. The larger man toys with the challenger, allowing him to bend his thick, coiled arm a few degrees before pulling it back to the center of the table. Money changes hands over and over again as the odds increase with the possible profits.
Ronon towers over everyone and turns around to check on Sheppard, verifying that he's still playing and in one piece before bringing his attention back to the battle. The table rattles as the weaker arm is slammed down. The hulking warrior slouches and downs a glass of ale.
"Who's next?" the victor challenges.
If that's not an invitation, he doesn't know what is. Ronon checks on Sheppard one more time before sliding off his coat and taking the vacated seat. The noise level increases with excited chatter over the stranger and a minion of the ring leader wanders over, his stale breath repugnant. "You have the fee required?"
Ronon holds up the right amount, gripping it so that the minion can't pull the currency free. "What's my share?"
The taskmaster glances at his boss first. "Forty percent."
"Not good enough."
His opponent pops his knuckles, sharing a look at the ringleader before setting his sights on Ronon. "It's been a while since I've had a real challenge."
The buzz gets louder, voices murmuring between the spectators and Ronon tightens his hold on the money.
The crowd closes around the table, but everyone awaits the response from the ringleader. The man replies by pushing his shades over his nose.
"Done," the good little taskmaster says with a nod, grabbing the money and scampering off.
Ronon places his elbow on the wooden surface and clamps his fingers around his opponent's in a firm grip. The ringleader gives the signal and instead of screwing around, Ronon jerks with all his energy, startling his foe.
The tendons in both their arms shake and ripple, causing veins pop to the surface like rivers.
There's real fortitude in his opponent's arm, but Ronon focuses on his shoulder, the muscles there bulging into hills and valleys. Before it's begun he slams the opposing hand to the other side of the table with a whack.
There's a hush of silence or maybe outrage at the quick resolution and he scans the onlookers, spotting a few delighted expressions among many angry losers.
Shock makes the strongest impact.
His opponent's chair falls back as the guy rises to his feet quickly and Ronon matches his moves. They stare at each other before the tension is broken by his challenger's admission of defeat with a short nod.
Ronon grabs his coat, slips it on slowly, and the crowd departs like ocean waves as he heads towards the minion for his winnings. The ringleader stands, pulling out a cigar and lighting it up as he counts out the money before personally handing it over to him.
"Let me know when you want to go another round."
Ronon smirks; he's gained the desired attention and decides to check out how the colonel is doing. He elbows his way next to where Sheppard plays and watches as the pilot is given another card.
The colonel silently slides it with the rest of his hand before pulling a few bills from his stack and adding them to the pile. "I'll take another."
The game looks like Earth poker except each player has seven cards and the battered pieces have simpler symbols painted on them. There are various shapes in three different colors, red, blue and black. He's not sure what each 'suit' is worth, but obviously Sheppard's picked up on the game from the amount of money that is in his pile and the pot looms even larger.
The dealer slams down another card, his fingers holding it still. "You're sure lucky, stranger... Not everyone asks for more cards after the streak you've been on."
"We all have our moments," the colonel replies, grabbing it.
"Well, I'm not buying yours," the player to his left slurs.
The roughneck next to the pilot has a big enough scraggly beard that a bird could make a nest in it. The growth of his facial hair merges with the equally mangy mop on his head and the players growls at whatever card he's received.
Not a good poker face, Ronon muses.
There are more rounds during this game than what's played on Atlantis. There's more betting and the money accumulates in the pot until the dealer taps his hand on the table.
"Alright, now show 'em."
Each player displays a single card and the group becomes more angered at Sheppard's dominant hand. The colonel reveals a three of red squiggly lines and the buddy next to him begins to shake in his seat in anger.
"You dreck! You've won the last three games and we had to tell ya how to play!"
Sheppard remains unaffected by the outburst, but that doesn't change the fact that things are becoming hostile. He keeps his eye on the hairy guy who shoots his mouth off some more before taking a swig of a bubbling purple drink. Sheppard doesn't say a word, letting the pissed off player cool his heels and waiting his turn to bet.
Sheppard reveals his second to last card-- a black background with a single star and instead of calming things down it fans the flames.
Ronon trains his blaster at the hairy one's forehead, but not before the guy slips a knife under the colonel's throat.
The blade rests under the carotid and for his part, Sheppard remains perfectly still. "No need to shed blood over this," he says.
"Oh, I'm gonna spill blood… gonna bleed you all over those tainted cards," the guy sneers, eyes flicking over to Ronon's. "And don't think I won't cut your pal open before you get a shot off."
"You'll be dead," Ronon promises.
"Maybe... maybe some of my friends will take you out before then," the bastard laughs.
"Or maybe I'll blow a hole in your belly and you'll die a slow, horrible death," Sheppard adds.
Both Ronon and the other player look down to see the colonel aiming his Glock under the table at the bad guy.
Sheppard cocks his head to the side in a way that betrays how sly he can be.
Ronon grins devilishly.
"Why don't we see who wins. Then you can kill each other if ya want," the dealer says, annoyed by the interruption of the game.
"Fine," the ticked off player replies, flipping his card over.
The colonel rests his left hand on his final card before displaying a set of blue dots.
"I win," the man says surprisedly, slipping his knife away from the colonel's throat.
"Lucky you," Sheppard replies dryly.
The tension thaws away as the jerk collects his winnings. Sheppard grabs his money, a stack larger than what he'd begun with. Ronon still glowers at the other player. He's itchy to slam his gun against his skull just for the threat, but the colonel drags him away as he attaches his P-90 back to his vest.
"Come on, think we've attracted exactly the kind of attention you desired," Sheppard whispers as the crowd around the bar watches their every move.
They are almost out the door when the ringleader of the arm wrestling match stands in front of them. "You guys are new to the town of Aurgulas."
"Yeah," Ronon answers.
"Got a place to stay?"
"You can get a room upstairs," the guy says, staring at them through his shades.
"That's nice of you, what's the charge?" Sheppard inquires.
The ring leader pops his neck, twisting it side to side. "And that's an interesting weapon you have there."
The colonel is very calm, not even gripping the P-90 any tighter out of possession.
"First night's free… Come back down later, maybe we can discuss what brings you here."
The barkeep steps up as the ringleader slips away. "Here's the key, second room on the left," he says before going back to tend to new customers.
"That was odd," Sheppard remarks.
Ronon doesn't say anything as they go around the back and up a set of stairs. Sheppard inspects the small accommodation that consists of a creaky bed, a tabletop, sink and bathroom.
"Looks like the guy that owns the joint might be the best way to look for Turesh. He seems like one of the local business men. Runs the bar, lodging, and all the gambling might be just the tip of the iceberg."
"Maybe," Ronon answers gruffly.
Sheppard pauses before sitting down on the bed. "During the game I learned that the really 'good' trade happens further in town, but you have to be invited in."
This interests Ronon. "They say how?"
"No, but I think it's based on reputation and we're going to have to come across a bit more bad assed than we are."
"I can do that." He smirks, remembering the card game. "Blowing a hole in his belly?"
"Not evil sounding enough?"
"You're getting there."
Ronon's adrenaline scours his veins and he resists the urge to go back down. It's time to let things simmer and let word spread of the new strangers. He glances back over at the pilot, a little curious about something.
"You never play during poker night, how come?"
Ronon watches as Sheppard tries to hide a guilty look, but the corner of his mouth curves upwards. "I don't like taking advantage of others."
"You that good?"
Sheppard laughs. "No...I um...can count cards."
Ronon quirks an eyebrow. "That's a lot of cards."
The colonel shrugs and Ronon doesn't try to understand how he could memorize that many items and still get lost on occasion. "So you cheated."
"No, I knew when a certain card would come up in the rotation...I kept up with patterns."
"Sounds like cheating to me."
"I did lose that last round," Sheppard says as if that makes up for everything.
"Because if I did win every hand then people would have caught on."
Ronon can't pace, the room is too cramped and he ends up leaning on the wall. The colonel is quite capable of taking care of himself. He's a good leader and a great soldier, but if things had gone the wrong way, he'd be dead.
And it would have been his fault.
"Thanks," he says quietly.
Sheppard looks down at the floor. "I wasn't going to let you do this without backup."
Ronon stares up at the ceiling as memories pour in and instead of hording them, he decides to share. "I had one bunkmate throughout my military training. Kanesh wasn't the toughest Satedan; he used to piss me off with all his pointless ideas. He'd say there was more to life than fighting."
Sheppard doesn't break eye contact.
"He wrote poetry and stories about other worlds without the Wraith… senseless dribble. One night I caught him... painting."
"He wanted to illustrate all his ideas. It was dumb, a waste of time... but one day he picked up my supeka and dared me to explain the difference in my playing and his expression."
Clearing his throat he went on. "Kanesh showed me how art could be used the same way. That there's no difference in my playing and using things like color to paint my feelings. All the glory of our best fighters could be saved on canvas."
"Sounds like he wasn't much for the military--"
"That's where you're wrong...where I was wrong," Ronon says, shaking his head. "He showed me how to use a sword the right... Taught me techniques passed down from his family...Stuff only to be shared with blood kin. He was good in the military ...he was just odd about death."
"Turesh hit a supply line carrying material for our weapons...our defenses. He strung Kanesh's body up on a pole with the rest of his unit as a message.
He'd booby trap roads on patrol; some of the leftover explosives would kill civilians, children, families. As long as there was a profit, he'd violate Sateda and sell the spoils to other worlds."
The colonel rests his elbows on his knees. "When the Wraith came..."
"We thought he was killed...the surrounding planets were culled including his home world Terinia. It wasn't until I talked to Rakai that I found out he was still alive. His operations are smaller and his little army has been killed and disbanded, but he still holds power here."
"And his people never did anything about him?'"
Ronon snorts. "No, the Terinians were a bunch of cowards, always trying to provoke conflict and never doing anything to track down one of their own. It didn't matter to them about the blood of Satedans."
"I guess a common enemy didn't mend rivalries."
Ronon looks up to read his CO's next expression. "So, you understand what I have to do?"
"I told Colonel Carter you had something that you wanted to take care of and you asked for my assistance in a personal matter. I didn't lie to her when I said I wanted to come along as a friend."
"And she bought that?"
Sheppard looks uncomfortable. "Yeah, it was the truth and, you know... with everything that's happened the past few weeks..."
"If it had been Earth culled and you had continued your fight with us and discovered humans elsewhere…" Ronon pauses to allow the implication to sink in.
Sheppard's eyes burn brightly, anger lighting up his face. "I never stopped you. It was a mistake, but I knew...I knew why you did it."
"It still made you mad."
"Doesn't matter now, it's over."
Translation. The colonel didn't want to talk about it. They both hate dragging out emotions.
The disturbing thing was that he needed to know something...needed Sheppard to speak of something even more unsettling.
"Can I ask you a question?"
Ronon doesn't feel the right, but he really has to know. "They were fed upon...my friends. Fed upon and their life returned to them. Over and over again."
"They were tortured."
"They gave in to the Wraith."
"There's more to it than just physical pain."
"They threw everything they believed in away."
The pilot gets a far away look in his eyes. "Their minds were...were..."
"They broke! Then accepted a life of servitude to the very people who destroyed our world!" Ronon growls. "Countless millions dead and they groveled at their feet!"
"It's like having your soul ripped out of you, one bit at a time!" Sheppard growls back. "You want to die! You wait for it!"
"But you didn't!"
Ronon waits for more ...holds on for some secret answer.
"I couldn't imagine having to endure that more than once." The colonel walks as far away as he can and into the bathroom. He turns on the water at the dingy sink and splashes it over his face.
Sheppard stares at his reflection in the mirror longer than is needed and slowly comes back out. He looks like he's been punched in the gut and Ronon knows he's the one to have delivered the heavy blow.
He walks towards his commanding officer and looks him right in the eyes. "You didn't break ---and we'll always get you back," he declares in all conviction.