Please see first chapter for disclaimer, rating, warnings, pairing, etc.
He couldn't get comfortable. The unaccustomed feel of his sleeveless tee shirt twisted around his torso, hanging on the covers every time he shifted position, sticking to the bandages binding his cracked and bruised ribs, kept Ronon from crossing that last little distance between dozing and truly sleeping. That, and – other – physical discomforts. Maybe he should have taken the icepacks Beckett had been so insistent about offering. But using them would, he felt, be a flagrant reminder to Teyla of why he needed them; so he'd left them behind in the infirmary. Which was also why he was wearing the blasted tee shirt: to camouflage his strapped ribs. Clenching his back teeth together, he refused to yield to the urge to move just one – more – time.
"I am sorry."
The whisper, so soft he wondered at first if he'd only imagined it, made Ronon drowsily open his eyes. When he'd first eased himself down onto the mattress, Teyla had already been curled into a little ball as far away from him as the bed allowed. At the time, he'd been too tired and, yes, hurting too badly to argue the point. Now, she was even farther away – seated on one of the chairs next to the balcony doors. "For what?" he asked, chagrinned that he hadn't even noticed her rising.
In the dim starlight falling through the tall windows of their quarters, her slender face looked drawn, her eyes dark, shadowed pools. "Since I am your wife, Carson was – quite frank – about your injuries. Injuries," her voice caught and nearly failed on the words, "he was unaware that I caused."
"Huh? Oh." Inwardly cursing the good doctor for his big mouth, Ronon awkwardly sat up, unable to stifle a wince. "It – wasn't you." He shrugged, and the small finger-shaped bruises on his left shoulder added their protest to the overall chorus. "Anymore than it was you who raised the forcefields or shot those crystals to pieces. I wasn't going to mention it."
Teyla pulled her feet up onto the chair and wrapped her arms around her legs. "I did not think so." Resting her cheek on her knee, she closed her eyes. Her shoulders quivered; she abruptly rolled her head so her forehead now rested on her upthrust knees, hiding her face.
"Teyla, Teyla love." Ronon carefully shifted onto her side of the bed and eased his legs over the edge. How could he make her understand that, other than the Wraith Queen, the only other person he blamed for what had happened was himself? He'd noticed the subtle "off-ness" of her body language, but when she'd looked at him like that, started talking about how much she loved him, how much they meant to her— He'd swallowed it. He'd kept his defenses lowered, and paid for it. Quite painfully. "It wasn't you."
"You saw me. It was my hands, my foot, my knee— I cannot remember it, not really, but— I should have been able to stop her from using my body to hurt you, of all people. I – I was not strong enough. You will never be able to look at me again without remembering – what – I did. . ." Voice rising distraughtly, Teyla violently pushed to her feet and began to pace.
Ronon caught her wrist as she passed the bed, gently but forcibly drawing her down to sit on his knee. With his free hand against the side of her face, he made her look at him. "Let me be the judge of what I see when I look at you," he said, tenderly, fiercely. "And I'm telling you, Teyla, I see my wife, the woman I love, and no one else!"
She stared at him, her beautiful eyes suddenly brimming with tears, her lower lip quivering. Whispering again, she said, "I hurt you. It is intolerable to me that she used my body to hurt you. And I could not prevent her." Her head drooped, hair swinging forward to hide her face.
Ronon sighed, frustrated with himself for not being able to find the right words to comfort her. "Look, Teyla," he began, then broke off as he got an idea. "You want to go to the gym?" he asked.
His abrupt, off-the-wall question made her lift her head sharply and stare at him in confusion. "Why – would I want to go to the gym? It is four in the morning."
Ronon gave her a crooked smile. "You can beat me again sparring. You can whack me, kick me, do whatever, and you wouldn't feel guilty, right?"
Teyla tried to pull away from him, to get to her feet, but he easily prevented her. "That is different!" she protested. "We are playing then. Practicing. Our intent is not to hurt, not to cause lasting pain or inflict serious damage."
"Okay, it is different. But my point is," he spoke slowly, thinking out what he wanted, what he needed her to see, "when you fight me there, we make decisions that affect the outcome of our fight, make it lean in your favor or mine. Down on that drilling platform, you made the decision to try to contact the mind of the Wraith you sensed, and I supported you! We both knew there was a risk that something could go wrong. I chose to ignore the signs that something was – not right. And the consequences of that choice are mine alone."
Her eyes narrowed. "You are trying to make this your fault. To make me feel better."
His wife knew him far too well. "No, I'm not," he hedged. Ignoring her immanent protest, he took her face between both hands so he could kiss her forehead – brushed his lips down the line of her straight little nose to hers, quieting her. "Shh," he murmured against their soft warmth. "I don't blame you, and I don't want you blaming yourself."
Her breath sighed into his mouth, filling it with sweetness. Her slim, strong hands came up to caress his face and hair delicately, and he sensed the wistfulness in her touch. "It was unforgivable, what she did, but I am forewarned now. I will never allow it to happen again."
There: she'd finally used the third person to refer to what had happened. He knew she was beginning to come to terms with it. Relief spreading outward from his heart, Ronon kissed her again, more deeply this time, as his hands moved from her face to her shoulders. He brushed aside the thin straps of her camisole, carefully sinking back onto the bed, drawing her with him—
–Until a particularly vicious pain snatched his breath and his desire simultaneously away. For a brief moment, the darkness swam sickeningly around him. He tried to hold back a deep groan, but wasn't sure if he succeeded. Okay, not a good idea. . . !
"Ronon! Ronon, let me go, your ribs—" His arms dropped to the sides, fingers digging into the mattress, allowing Teyla to lever herself off him. "Your lung— Perhaps I should call Carson—"
He managed to catch her hand, cracking his eyes open at the same time. "No, not necessary," he gasped. "'M okay. Just – give me a minute. Please," he made his breathing even out, "go ahead and lie down, I'm all right, I promise you."
Still watching him worriedly, she did as he asked, settling onto her side. He wanted to curse himself when he saw the drawn look back on her face. Reaching out to smooth a hand over her hair, he whispered, "I love you. I will always love you, no matter what happens. Just," and he allowed his lips to kink ruefully, "not tonight. Probably not for a few nights."
Teyla's eyelids lifted as her lips rounded, so clearly at a loss for what to say that he couldn't hold back a chuckle. She narrowed her eyes at him, but he saw an answering gleam in their depths as she said, "I love you, too. For now and forever. And – and I thank you for relieving my mind. Will you do one more thing for me? Will you finally take one of the pain pills Carson gave you?" Her hand lifted to rest over his, her green marriage bracelet sparkling in the moonlight now slanting across their bed.
Freeing his hand so he could run a finger across the cool beads, Ronon thought of how far they'd come. From tentative acquaintances, to strong allies, to good friends. . . To true soulmates, with a love for each other that would never run out. And now that he knew she was no longer punishing herself over what had happened, "Sure," he agreed.
Beckett had promised the painkiller would put him "oot like the proverbial light," and he hadn't exaggerated. Not long after he swallowed the pill Teyla brought him, a buzzing swept though his head, carrying him into an irresistible dark. Nevertheless, whispered words worked their way into his dreams; and though he couldn't understand them, he knew they were nice things.
When he woke, feeling muzzy and still very, very sore, Teyla had curled herself into his side, one arm over his chest, lips against his jaw. Maybe it will take a while, for both of us to put this completely behind us, he thought, tangling his hand in her soft hair. But we'll get through it together.
Cherishing the preciousness of her presence, he allowed himself to drift on the fringes of sleep until she should wake, knowing the world was right again.
Hannah554: Thank you! I absolutely love writing Ronon, so I am very glad to know you think I write him well! I very much hope you enjoy this final chapter, and thank you so much for all the reviews!
Mistryja: Thank you! It was originally going to be a 5 moment fic, but then I got the idea for this chapter. . . And I had to make it into a six-moment fic. LOL I hope you enjoy this chapter, and thank you so much for the review!
SpaceMonkey0941: Thank you! I know, "Echoes" is my favorite Atlantis episode to date! There was just so much squee!-ness in it. And, I figured – I couldn't write a five-moments-in-their-relationship-that-actually-turned-into-six-moments fic without "Echoes"! I hope you enjoy this final chapter, and thank you so much for all the reviews! -hugs-