Title: Hope
Summary: The fact that it was their fault was something they never let themselves think about. This Mortal Coil tag.
Characters: Sheppard & Ronon
Rating: K plus

"Sheppard."

John halted for a moment allowing the Satedan to catch up with him. He nodded a hello when Ronon reached his side and began walking again, his mind resuming its aimless wandering from one thing to another. He was tired – exhausted even; their last mission had been tough, draining and so not what John's already waning time needed. The Vesuvians had not wished to evacuate, despite John's teams warnings of an imminent Replicator attack. It was only when the four Aurora-class ships appeared in orbit that the Magistrate had called for evacuation. But it had been too late, John knew, because the Asurans had blocked off the Stargate and John and his team were forced to stand back and watch from their cloaked Puddle Jumper.

When he'd opened his eyes to glance at his team, he saw their eyes closed, blocking the sight before them out in a futile attempt to avoid the nightmares.

There had been no survivors.

Outside the gym, he and Ronon glanced to one another, the haunted look present in both their eyes but they glanced away, an unspoken agreement made years before that they say nothing about what they'd seen – especially now of late. Both had thought that nothing could have been worse than the Wraith – now they weren't so sure.

The fact that it was their fault was something they never let themselves think about.

Sticks clattered, replacing the words that neither wanted to speak, beating the restless energy out blow after blow after blow. The familiarity of the moves, the twists and turns – it was comforting in a way that speech could never be. In tandem they parried, Ronon going easy despite John's orders not to.

When they paused for breath, a gulp of water, Ronon spoke, breaking the vow.

"Do you think McKay can figure this thing out?"

John didn't answer straight away - couldn't. He turned away, his eyes resting on the darkening horizon just outside the window, ominous clouds rolling in from the south. When he blinked, the base code he'd stared at for hours flashed across his eyes; Rodney valiantly trying to re-write the base code the last time; Magistrate Kalin's pleading calls for help; the charred remains of a once prosperous world; Elizabeth, ordering them to go...

He looked from the horizon to Ronon's tired eyes watching him with the same desperation that John could feel to the very tips of his toes.

"I hope so," he murmured walking to the centre of the room; not exactly a lie but all that he could give right then.

He waited a beat, knowing that the same realisation was seeping into Ronon's bones as well, he saw it in the nod; slow, deliberate, once – the Satedan's surrender was graceful, the knowledge nestling itself in both of their chests.

For a moment, John closed his eyes.

"I hope so."

It was all they had.