A/N: So I was right, The Deadalus Variations did not mention word 1 about our boy's traumatic experience. Harumph...although, I very much enjoyed that new jacket of his. That man makes leather look good.
A/N2: I had this whole scene on New Athos planned and wanted to keep this going for several more chaps, but it was drawing out and I couldn't maintain the angst at a believable, non-stale level. So, instead, I've reworked it and this is the last chap, which is pretty good at the end, if I do say so myself, so I hope you like!
Disclaimer: Not mine...yet.
The short trip from Atlantis to the Mainland, or New Athos, and back was usually reserved for Marines or Scientists who needed more experience flying the jumpers. Dr. Weaver, a young botanist fresh from the Deadalus, seemed to be a particularly skittish new pilot, and having the most intimidating man in two galaxies sitting not three feet away didn't help.
"You have actually flown one of these things before, right?" Ronon growled, the comment coming out more irritated than teasing. He was convinced they hadn't flown in a straight line since leaving New Athos and so far the trip had taken fifteen minutes longer than it should have.
Teyla looked over and bounced Torren in her arms when he started to fuss. Her teammate was hunched over in his seat, glaring out the view screen as usual, but there was something…unusual about him as well.
His shoulders and back were tense, like when he fought bantos with her, and he looked as if he hadn't slept in weeks. She frowned, wondering if the trip to New Athos had had it's opposite intended effect on him, because he seemed even more edgy and irritable than before. She sighed, knowing she could not confront him about it here and made a mental note to talk to John about it later. Maybe he could even convince their friend to see Dr. Bradshaw, the new psychologist, but then she banished that thought immediately. John could often be persuasive, but there were some things, Teyla was convinced not even he could do.
"Leave him be Ronon," she said, then turning a smile on the doctor, "you are doing fine Sam."
"Sam?" Ronon repeated, raising his eyebrows and narrowing his eyes at the scientist.
"Yes. Sam has been most helpful in recommending some herb remedies that may be useful in treating Torren's 'colic'."
Ronon frowned and then addressed the man again, "I thought you were a botanist."
"I am. My specialties are plants that can be used for medicine," He said a bit hesitantly, bolstering more as he clarified, "my doctorate is in plant biology but I minored in natural medicine while in college."
Ronon simply nodded. He wasn't sure of everything Weaver had said, but certainly 'doctorate' and 'college' he recognized from McKay. And if McKay had those same things, which seemed very important on Earth, it was probably all right that he was giving advice to Teyla. Sitting back, he tried to relax and 'leave him be' as Teyla said. So, closing his eyes, he pushed away thoughts of Wraith and Sateda and New Athos and Atlantis and tried instead just to sleep.
Surprisingly soon after that, the jumper went to Auto-Pilot and they were almost home.
"So, Mr. Dex, why have you come to see me?" Dr. Bradshaw smiled and doodled on his yellow legal pad. His brown slacks and dress shirt looked out of place to Ronon, on Atlantis everyone but he and Teyla wore uniforms. Even Mr. Woolsey. But the new psychologist thought he would look less imposing if he wore his own clothes. Ronon didn't get it.
The Satedan hunched over in the soft chair opposite the doctor, his hands clasped and elbows on his knees, "Sheppard said I had to come see you before he would allow me back on active duty with the team." He didn't think that was the reason his friend wanted him to come down there, at least not the whole reason, but if it got him out of talking about what had happened with Tyre, then he would do it.
"Ah, I see. Under orders then?"
Ronon didn't respond, the answer to that question was obvious.
Dr. Bradshaw cleared his throat and shifted slightly under Ronon's stare before smiling again, "Well, I shouldn't be surprised, people rarely come to see me of their own accord. So how are you feeling?"
Ronon shrugged minutely, "I'm fine."
Bradshaw didn't seem phased by the man's lack of response and continued smoothly, "You recently returned from a trip to visit the Athosians, did you enjoy that?"
Ronon shrugged again, "Not really."
Bradshaw raised his eyebrows, causing his thick rimmed glasses to slide down his nose, he scribbled on his pad, making Ronon grow a little bit tense, "Not really? From what I've heard the Athosians are a very hospitable people. Kind, generous. And, being that you are from this galaxy," he paused a small, overly sensitive smile growing on his lips, "I should think it would be something of a…family reunion for you. I'm surprised you didn't enjoy it."
Ronon looked away. Bradshaw was right, it was like a reunion for him. That was the problem, "Yeah, well, those haven't gone so good for me in the past."
Then, simply rising and turning away without another word, Ronon left. Sheppard hadn't really specified how long he was supposed to meet with Bradshaw anyway and he'd more than met the expectation. In fact, he'd probably exceeded them, since the pilot probably had more than likely expected him to spend the entire time staring blankly and unresponsive.
"You were way out of line, Dex." John's breathing was slightly heavy and Ronon wondered if it was from anger or exhaustion from running all the way out here. Probably both.
Ronon stiffened at the sound of his voice, but didn't respond or turn around. Sheppard had come all the way out here, to an unpopulated part of the city, and it hadn't been to argue with Ronon over what he did and did not do on the planet they'd just returned from. If his CO had something to say Ronon sure as hell wasn't going to prevent him.
"Don't give me the silent treatment Ronon, I'm not impressed."
Or maybe it was an argument Sheppard wanted, "McKay was pinned and screaming like a wild earin."
"I know that."
"I would have gotten him home safe."
"I believe you."
"Then what's your problem, Sheppard? I saved McKay didn't I?" He finally turned around to face Sheppard who'd obviously just left the infirmary, probably against Dr's orders, since he still wore one of those plastic bracelets the nurses always put on them.
"Yes. You did. And I thank you for that. But in the meantime you disobeyed a direct order, put yourself in the line of fire, endangered yourself and the entire team."
"You and Teyla could've gone through the gate." He growled, his posture growing defensive.
"Oh sure. And pot-bellied rimmie beasts will float." Sheppard scoffed, popping off an expression he'd heard on dozens of planets without even thinking.
Ronon was too angry to be surprised and just glowered at his CO. Sheppard pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath.
"You want to know what my problem is? My problem is him. All I hear is 'I would have gotten him home safe'. 'Nothing would have happened to him'." John stepped forward, and Ronon's posture deflated just a bit, "why weren't you going to make sure you both got back safe?"
"I would have."
"Really? You sure? Because you're whole 'running into cross-fire' thing makes me think otherwise." John raised his eyebrows but Ronon didn't respond. He rubbed his eyes, "Did you go see Dr. Bradshaw like I asked?" he sounded almost resigned.
"You mean like you ordered?"
Sheppard's eyes flared, "Don't argue semantics with me. Did you?"
Ronon stood straight and tilted his head, "Yes. He cured me. We hugged and I feel much better now." Surprise flickered across Sheppard's face but Ronon made no apology for his bitterness.
"Okay, I guess I deserved that," John sighed after a moment, "sending you to the crew psychologist instead of just talking to you myself may not have been the best idea."
Ronon crossed his arms.
"Look, Ronon," He took a deep breath and Ronon ground his teeth, knowing what his next words would be, "I know how you must be feeling but, I mean, none of this was your fault, you weren't yourself-"
"Save it." Ronon snapped, turning back toward the railing and facing the vast ocean before him, "I've heard it all before Sheppard."
There was silence for a moment and then Ronon felt John move to stand beside him, looking out at the ocean. "I know what you're thinking."
Ronon didn't move, but Sheppard guessed he probably didn't believe him, so he kept talking.
"You're thinking that if you were truly Satedan, and worthy of the honor that you hold in such high regard, you would have chosen death over serving the wraith." Sheppard bit his lower lip and leaned against the railing, gripping it tightly, "First off I think you should realize something, I'm glad he got to you." In the corner of his eye he saw Ronon look at him, "because if he hadn't I would have gone to that wraith lab to rescue a corpse. I'm glad that wasn't how it happened, Ronon. I'm tired of burying my friends." His voice dropped low as he finished and his eyes never left the curling waves of the ocean.
He licked his lips and took a deep breath, leaving an opening for Ronon to interrupt. The Satedan remained silent.
"You remember that time I was captured by Kolya?"
"Yeah, that's when I met Todd." Sheppard nodded, looking down briefly at his boots and then back up at the ocean, "When we broke out the first thing he did was feed on one of the guards. But he was still hungry I guess, because when he got shot a little while later, he wasn't able to heal fully. I, as you know, wasn't quite myself so the next day when the guards started to approach our position, I couldn't do anything to fight. So Todd fed on me so he could heal and take out the surrounding guards." Sheppard took a deep breath.
"He took all that he could without killing me, left me so close to death I could taste it and smell it, but I…I just couldn't reach it. And I tried, because let me tell you, being on an enemy planet with no hope of rescue and a wraith as your only ally leaves you very little other option. Not to mention the fact that being that close to death hurts like hell," he added with a touch of mirth, "But no matter how far I reached, I just couldn't," he slowly reached out for the horizon, as if beckoning the Grim Reaper himself, "couldn't get it."
He squinted at his memory as it played out before him, "Then he came back and he put his hand on my chest and…I braced myself for the end, you know. I taunted him, wishing he would just finish me off so it could all be over. But then…he gave it all back. Every year of my life that he'd taken, he gave it back and it was…" he paused, as if searching for the words to describe the feeling, "it was like nothing I've ever felt. Like vertigo on an adrenaline rush and terror and relief all rolled into one. If I hadn't been so concerned with not letting you blow a hole in the guy I probably would have just sat there enjoying it." He smiled and shook his head at himself. Then, he turned slowly and the smile faded when he saw Ronon staring at him intently.
"Anyway, my point is…I don't blame you. I've been there. Being terrified of dying and wanting nothing more than death at the same time. I've known the agony of repeated wraith feedings. I've felt the rush of wraith enzyme skyrocketing through your system after your youth is restored and I don't think I could have held out as long as I know you did," he paused, searching Ronon's face for a sign of understanding and almost afraid to hope that he'd seen it.
"And I don't think the fact that you," he bit his lip, and then set it in a firm line. Ronon wasn't a child and he didn't want to be treated like one, "the fact that you broke… that doesn't make you any less Satedan. Or any less worthy of honor. I think, that if you'd been given the choice, you would have chosen death without hesitation. But the wraith didn't give you that choice. They didn't allow you even the most basic of human rights. The right to choose when we die. So you made the one and only choice you had. One you've made before and, I hope, you'll make again. To survive."
He finally looked up, connecting with Ronon's steady green eyes, "and no one can blame you for that." He waited a moment, allowing his words to sink in and then, with a slight nod at Ronon's lack of response, which was really a response in and of itself, he turned to leave the balcony.
He was almost to the doorway when he heard his name.
He stopped and he heard Ronon's footsteps as he walked up beside him, both staring down the darkened hallway that led back to the heart of the city.
"It's pot-bellied rhmna beasts." He turned then and clapped his CO on the shoulder with a small smile, "but you were close."
Sheppard rolled his eyes and Ronon stepped ahead of him down the hall, "I don't even know what a rhmna beast is."
John shook his head but smiled. He was back. It would take a while for the healing process to complete itself, but at least now, Sheppard knew, it was started.
He ran down the hallway to catch up to Ronon, "By the way, where' d you pick up sarcasm? 'He cured me' and 'we hugged' and all that?"
Ronon rolled his eyes, "You're kidding right? You have met yourself and McKay?"
Sheppard smiled and nodded, "Well you're going to have to stop spending so much time with us. Can't have my entire team get into the habit of being insubordinate."
Ronon's chest rumbled with laughter and it made John smile.