Note: This takes place after the end of The Last Man, so spoilers through the end of season 4. The story itself is based off some concept art from the first episode of Season 5 posted online, so you might consider that a spoiler as well. I honestly have no idea what this episode will be like, so the following fic will no doubt be AU in a few months. I've finished the entire thing, and it's not too long, but I broke it up into a few pieces so I could get the beginning posted while I worked on some final touch-up edits toward the end. Hope you enjoy!
To Dance With the Clouds Which Follow a Storm
Ronon blinked slowly, watching without moving as the room around him came into focus. Dust floated thick in the air, and a high-pitched ringing sound pulsed in his ears. He stared at the fallen rafters, exposed girders, and blocks of concrete and rubble strewn around him. He was lying face down on the ground, he realized, and he could feel his heart beating against the hard concrete floor.
His mind spit out the words, and his head throbbed with the effort. Explosion. They'd been in a building, found where Michael was going to bring Teyla to deliver her baby, then the walls had shuddered and parts of the ceiling had begun to fall. Lorne's voice had screamed over the radio.
Ronon pushed himself over and onto his back, panting a little as the spikes of pain in his head tried to shoot out of his eyes. He blinked away some of the dust, and licked his lips. Not all of the ceiling had collapsed. He remembered pushing Sheppard forward, trying to get both them out of the death trap of a building they'd been caught in. Then a whooshing, thumping kind of sound, a blast of air…then waking up in quiet, dusty ruins.
The thought jolted Ronon out of his daze, and he jerked up until he was sitting. His head swam at the sudden movement, and the dust swirled thick and gray around him. He blinked again, bringing a hand to his head. Concussion, definitely. He swallowed against the pain and forced himself to take stock of the rest of his body. Bleeding cuts covered his arms, a couple of gashes on his chest and stomach, and his right pant leg was ripped and soaked in blood. He could feel cuts on his face as well, but nothing screamed for his attention. He took a deep breath and was relieved that—miraculously—nothing seemed to be broken.
Sheppard, his mind screamed again.
"Sheppard?" He yelled, coughing slightly as he inhaled some of the dust. His throat was beyond dry. He waited a moment in the silence. He could hear the building creaking and shifting ominously, but otherwise there was nothing. He reached for his radio earpiece, finding only empty space. His radio, usually clipped to his belt, was also missing.
"Sheppard?" He called out again, his voice a little stronger. He rolled over to his hands and knees, then forced himself up to a standing position and looked around. He remembered Sheppard being in front of him, remembered pushing his friend forward as the ceiling came down around them.
"Come on, Sheppard, answer me."
Parts of the floor had collapsed, sinking into the basement level directly below him. There was one such hole a few feet away, and Ronon staggered toward it. He knew, almost before he reached it, what he would see when he looked down, and his chest twisted in a pain unrelated to anything that had physically been done to him.
There, at the bottom, lay Sheppard, his body half buried in the twisted remains of the building. Ronon's heart thudded in his chest: he looked dead. A thin film of dust had settled on his body and in his hair, and blood seeped through it dark and red from cuts on his arm, face, and neck.
"John?" He called out again, not liking the way he had to choke the sound out. There was no response still, but he hadn't really expected one. Sheppard lay unmoving.
Ronon walked around the edge of the hole carefully, trying to figure out how to climb down without raining more debris on top of his friend. His head still throbbed, but the dizziness had receded somewhat, his senses sharpened at the rush of adrenaline and urgency upon seeing Sheppard's condition. One of the girders from the ceiling had crashed into the hole and leaned against one edge. The incline was kind of steep, but Ronon cautiously stepped onto the beam and began making his way down.
The room continued to creak, but the beam he was crawling on seemed steady enough. It took a few minutes, but he finally reached the bottom. Ronon squatted down next to Sheppard, his eyes raking over his friend's body. He could only see his face, part of his chest, and his right arm. The rest of Sheppard was buried under rubble. A block of cement hanging from a twisted piece of re-bar covered enough of his chest so that Ronon could not tell if he was breathing.
He reached, intending to feel for a pulse, and then froze. His gut twisted. He knew he had to do this, but for a split second, he wished he didn't have to. It was almost better not knowing—in this moment of ignorance, Ronon could still believe Sheppard was alive. His fingers wavered in the dusty air, but then he grit his teeth and forced his muscles to comply.
Ronon pressed his hand against Sheppard's neck, noticing immediately that the skin was still warm. A faint beat under his fingertips had him sagging in relief. Sheppard was alive. He was obviously in bad shape, but he was still alive. Ronon reached out his other hand, resting it on top of his friend's head.
"Sheppard," he called out softly. He wanted to scream and shake him until he got a response, but common sense won out, and the edge of panic he'd been skirting faded a little further into the background.
"Sheppard, buddy, wake up."
Again, there was no response. Ronon tried to move some of the rubble off of his friend. He was buried deeply, and getting him out would be difficult. Sheppard's skin was pale, and the bloody scrapes stood out in sharp contrast, but luckily none of them seemed to be too bad. At least, not the ones he could see. His one visible arm was bent at an unnatural angle down near the wrist as well, and Ronon cast around for something to splint it with.
There was little he could for his friend at this point. He found a relatively straight piece of wood that would work for a splint and tore strips off the bottom of his shirt to secure it to Sheppard's arm. He tried waking him up one more time, to no avail, then climbed back out of the hole. Even if Atlantis was looking for them, it was going to take time to get Sheppard out, and it didn't look like he had much to spare.
Ronon roamed around the small room, looking for a way out. He and Sheppard had been on the first floor, and it looked like most of the top levels had crashed down on top of them. A few steel girders crisscrossed overhead, no doubt holding back the rest of the building and likely the only reason he and Sheppard were still alive. He found his radio in one corner, crushed beyond repair, and wondered if Atlantis was looking for them.
The silence was oppressive. Ronon had been used to silence once, but his days as a runner seemed far away, almost like a dream. He had climbed back down into the debris hole after determining there was no way he could dig his way out from beneath the weight of the building. If he had to wait for help, he would wait with Sheppard.
His mind replayed the last few minutes before the explosion. They'd run into the room with all of the equipment, including the long machete-like knife. He'd looked at Sheppard and saw the barely concealed horror and fear for Teyla he'd felt reflected in his team leader's eyes. The building had shaken and shuddered and then started to fall apart around them. He'd pushed Sheppard forward in his haste to get out. His stomach clenched as he looked down at Sheppard now, buried in debris, maybe dying. Had he caused it? If he hadn't pushed Sheppard, would he have awoken next to his friend, both of them cut and bruised and concussed but otherwise okay?
Ronon reached out again, pressing lightly against the top of Sheppard's head. It seemed like the only place he felt he could touch him without causing further harm. There was too much time to think in this place—way too much time. He called out to him to break the silence more than anything else, like he'd been doing for hours now, and was surprised when Sheppard groaned. The sound was almost too quiet to hear.
"Sheppard," Ronon called again. He felt his heart rate quicken when Sheppard groaned again. In the dim light, he could see Sheppard's eyes beginning to flutter open.
"Sheppard, wake up." Ronon spoke louder, forcing a note of command into his voice. Sheppard moaned, blinking a few times, but finally managing to keep his eyes open.
"…R'nnn…" he rasped.
"I'm here, I'm okay."
"…happ'nn'd?" His voice was weak and slurred and he hadn't moved other than to blink a few more times as if he was trying to focus on the thing in front of him but couldn't figure out what it was.
"Building blew up. With us inside."
Sheppard coughed at that, and his eyes squeezed shut in sudden pain.
"You okay?" Ronon asked, but Sheppard just moaned. "Where does it hurt?" He pressed.
"…uh…mm'kay…" he mumbled.
"Don't know, Sheppard. He was with Lorne when this place went up and my radio is broken."
Ronon peered closer at Sheppard, trying to make sense of the injured man's mumblings.
"Are you hearing McKay right now?" He asked on a sudden hunch.
"…yyy..yeah…M'kay…you need…stoppp…loud…head hh'rtss…" Sheppard groaned again, and his eyes fluttered closed as he slipped unconscious again. Ronon reached forward, feeling gently underneath the side of Sheppard's face pressing into the ground. His right ear was visible, but if he had his radio earpiece in his left ear, and it was still working…
Ronon worked his fingers under Sheppard's head, being careful not to move him. He grimaced when something warm and wet dripped onto his hand. Blood. His fingers inched forward a little further, and then brushed against the earpiece. Extracting it from Sheppard's ear and working it out again took another few minutes, but Ronon almost sighed when he pulled it out.
He stuck it in his ear, and heard McKay's frantic voice on the other end. Someone answered him—Carter. If she was here, then Atlantis knew what had happened and they would be looking for them right now.
"McKay!" Ronon barked, but McKay continued jabbering away in full panic. He set the earpiece down and studied Sheppard for a moment. If the earpiece worked, then somehow the radio had survived. If he could just find it, he would be able to call for help. In his mind, he saw Sheppard geared up for a mission—P-90 in right hand, earpiece in left ear, radio clipped to his vest on the left side…
He pulled at the rubble covering Sheppard's chest, hoping the radio was still clipped to the vest. The block attached to the re-bar wouldn't move, and Sheppard's breathing hitched as Ronon tried to move it around.
"Sorry, buddy," he muttered. He reached under the cement, again using his fingertips to feel what he could not see. His hand ghosted over the shredded remnants of the vest until finally they closed around the bottom of the radio. He tugged at it and heard Sheppard's breath hitch again at the same time as the block of cement jiggled, and he realized the radio was pinned between the cement and his friend's chest. He pulled a little more gently, wiggling the radio as carefully as he could. Sheppard's eyes fluttered open.
"…hh'rrts…" He moaned.
"I know," Ronon soothed. "Sorry about that."
"…hh'rd to…b-breathe…" Sheppard rasped. His breath stuttered again and he whimpered in pain.
Ronon froze for a moment, then continued to work the radio free. He was half horrified at causing the man pain, but he needed the radio. They needed the radio. With one final jerk, the radio came loose and Ronon pulled it out. He was amazed it was still in one piece. Other than a deep scratch along one side, it looked perfectly normal.
"…bb-better…" Sheppard panted and the lines of pain around his face relaxed as his eyes slid closed again.
Ronon reached under the cement block again and could feel the space where the radio had been. The cement block, skewered with the re-bar, had been pressing against the radio, which in turn had been pressing against Sheppard's chest. With the radio gone and the cement block balanced against the debris on either end of the re-bar, Ronon figured Sheppard had a little more room to breathe.
He flicked the radio on and stuck the earpiece back into his ear. Someone else was talking about the best way to sift through the debris to get to their people. Ronon cut him off.
"This is Ronon."
"Ronon! Thank God! I thought you were dead. You weren't answering your radio. Why didn't you answer your radio? Is Sheppard with you? Is he okay? He's not answering his radio either," McKay instantly cut in, and Ronon could almost see the worry, panic, and impatience warring across the scientist's face.
"Rodney, slow down," Carter interrupted. "Ronon, good to hear from you. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm okay. I'm with Sheppard, though, and he's in bad shape."
"What's wrong with Sheppard?"
"McKay, stop." Carter's voice came across as stern, but Ronon could hear relief in it as well. "I have Doctor Keller here. I'm going to put her on."
"Ronon? This is Keller. What is Colonel Sheppard's condition?"
"I think his right arm is broken, but I can't see his left arm or his legs. He's buried pretty deep in debris," Ronon reported. "There's some blood on his face, but his head is turned away from me so I can't really see how bad it is. He said he was having a little trouble breathing, and he's been in and out of it. I can't keep him awake."
"Sounds like a head injury, trauma to the chest as well," Keller responded, more to herself than to Ronon.
"He hasn't moved much the few times he's been awake. He fell part way through the floor when the building exploded."
"If he wakes up again, try to keep him awake for as long as you can. He could be very seriously injured, so whatever you do, don't let him move."
"Got it, doc. How close are you guys to us?"
There was a pause, and then Carter's voice came back on.
"Not close. We've got your transponders on our sensors, but it's going to take us some time to dig our way safely to you. Hang in there, Ronon."
Ronon nodded, then remembered no one could see him and signed off on the radio. His head was beginning to pound. He checked Sheppard's pulse yet again, then settled back into the debris. It sounded like it was going to be a long wait.