A/N2: My bad!! Okay, I only changed one word in this chapter (it was kind of important), so if you've already read it, no need to do so again, if you can't tell which one, more power to you! Sorry for the confusion!
A/N: This is the last chap. One last HUGE thanks to everyone who read and enjoyed this fic. I hope this last part holds true and that you all find it satisfactory (check me out with the five dollar words!) -pj
Disclaimer (for old times sake): Don't own any of the SGA characters or technology referenced in the fic. I only claim the munchkins, but Sci Fi will probably want them too...
Ronon entered the Infirmary Atlantis was nearing the end of it's night cycle, hoping to find the place deserted and therefore, a decent degree of solitude. He'd never been a fan of the hustle and bustle so common to the large city.
The children had been practically glued to him during the entire trip back on the Deadalus, as he tried to reassure the naturally wary trio that the doctors were there only to help them. He'd been able to steal a few moments here and there for debriefings with the Colonel, but never for very long.
When they made it back to Atlantis, Keller had admitted all three into the infirmary for observation and continued monitoring of their vastly disproportionate nutrition intake. He'd gone back to his quarters, under strict doctor's orders, for rest and a meal. Apparently, he had more varied and serious injuries than he remembered, and sleep had come much quicker and deeper than he'd expected.
He stopped and turned, both surprised and not to find Keller there. He was immediately grateful that he'd opted to put on the leg brace she'd ordered him into before coming down to visit.
"Where's your sling?" Jennifer asked, frowning at his arm. He held it protectively to his side, but loose and hanging.
Ronon glanced down at his bad shoulder. He knew he'd forgotten something.
Keller rolled her eyes, clearly not believing him.
"You're just asking for reconstructive surgery, you know," she chastised, and moved past him toward her office, half a dozen medical charts under her arm, "at any rate I'm glad you're here. I wanted to talk to you about the children."
Ronon waited until she'd set the charts down on her desk and turned back to face him.
"Sobiin and Hayn are adjusting well. They're eating and their minor injuries are healing nicely."
"And Kiy?" Ronon asked, he remembered that on the Deadalus Kiy had been subdued. While Sobiin and Hayn were often running from one place to another to gaze out at the stars or pummel the crew with questions, Kiy had not strayed far from his side, her tiny hand always planted firmly within his.
"Well, Kiy is a bit of a different matter. Her injuries, like the boys, weren't very severe. But she's really concerning me. She won't eat, she sleeps all the time, won't speak to anyone," she shook her head, folding her arms tightly and Ronon could see the lines of worry on her face, "She was already suffering from dehydration and malnutrition when she boarded the Deadalus, if this goes on much long I'm going to have to start an IV and with all trauma she's been through I really don't want to do that."
She finally looked up at him and found Ronon watching her closely. He nodded.
"I'll talk to her."
Kelly smiled, "thank you Ronon."
Kiy wasn't asleep when he sat down beside her bed, which dwarfed her small body in white on white sheets.
She was lying on her side, staring blankly at the table beside her, which held an untouched tray full of food from the Mess.
"You gonna eat this?" He asked quietly, removing a vanilla pudding and a spoon from the tray.
Kiy shook her head and continued to stare.
Ronon opened the pudding and stirred it, taking a small bite experimentally. He made a face, put the spoon back and looked at the cup, aware that Kiy's blank stare was now alert and watching him.
He held the snack out to her.
"Does this taste like Ciloth to you?"
She furrowed her brow but sat up in the bed, "Ciloth?"
"Yeah. It tastes sort of fishy to me."
Kiy took the pudding hesitantly and tasted a bite even more miniscule than Ronon's had been. After a moment she shook her head, hair now braided neatly in a single plait down her back swung back and forth with the motion.
But instead of taking the pudding back when Kiy held it out to him, Ronon reached over again to her tray and took the bag of pretzels, immediately making himself at home in his chair.
Kiy looked back at the pudding but made no move to eat it.
"What do you think of Atlantis?"
Kiy sighed and glanced around. To her right were Sobiin and Hayn's beds, both boys sleeping peacefully. And to the left was a curtain, separating them from the rest of the infirmary.
"It's…quiet," she said, absently lifting a spoonful of pudding to her mouth.
This made him stop. A knowing knot of understanding developing in his stomach, "too quiet?"
Kiy shrugged and continued eating her pudding, not looking up to meet Ronon's watchful gaze.
Ronon took a moment to listen. At that moment, all that could be heard was the gentle hum of the city around them, keeping them safe, and Hayn's soft snoring two beds over.
"When I first got here, it was hard. Being still. Being quiet," he began, speaking softly, his eyes defocused as he lost himself in the not so distant memory of his first few weeks on Atlantis, "For so long I'd only been concerned with staying one step ahead of the wraith, I never had time to think. Then, here, all of a sudden I had lots of time. Too much time."
Ronon realized Kiy had stopped eating and looked over at her. Her eyes were glassy with tears and she was worrying her bottom lip mercilessly.
"I miss my Mai and Pad," she said in a broken whisper. She finally looked up and Ronon's gaze softened at the raw greif in her huge brown eyes. Before he knew what was happening, she had crawled across the bed and curled up in his lap, half-restricted sobs forcing themselves from her throat. He remained stiff at the sudden contact, and her sobs grew louder and more desperate, her tiny fingers vice-like around the straps of his leather vest.
Finally, as if jolted alive by a vague memory from his childhood, he allowed his arms to loosen and fold around her small, trembling body, his hand rubbing soothing circles on her back.
Ronon was unaware of his uncertain frown until he looked up and saw Keller peaking at them from behind a curtain. Somehow her small smile and nod of encouragment gave him the assurance he needed. He leaned his chin down to rest on top of her head, waiting.
Ronon was in mission debriefings and some required physio therapy for the rest of the day and unable to come to the infirmary to visit until it was nearing the evening. When he got there, both boys had joined Kiy on her bed and had three half empty lunch trays spread out between them.
They looked up at him and Kiy offered him her pudding when he sat down. Apparently several of his teammates and some other expedition members had stopped by to say 'hello' because almost immediately the children began bombarding him with questions. About Atlantis, about the Earthers, about their strange words and actions and why exactly was the Canadian Football League better than the National Football League? Apparently McKay had been among the visitors.
"Sounds like there are about as many rules as there is walls," Sobiin commented, sucking down the last of his milk after about half an hour of explanations which, weren't really all that enlightening. Ronon didn't know the difference between the CFL and NFL either.
Ronon glanced at the boy over a spoonfull of vanilla pudding, "what do you mean?"
Kiy rolled her eyes, "just look."
Ronon did. He looked all around. Aside from being surrounded by medical personnel and a medley of both Earth and Ancient tech, a thought occurred to him that he hadn't noticed in nearly four years.
There were no windows.
He looked back at the children. Kiy had returned to her meal, having made her point and not yet satisfied her recently rediscovered appetite. Hayn, who had potatoes in his hair and gravy on his face, had never really left off eating. But Sobiin met his gaze squarely, and in it Ronon could see the same restlessness he sometimes still saw in his own reflection.
He dipped his chin once, "finish up, I've got to go talk to Keller."
John swung his bantos and twirled it around his fingers before tossing it in the air and catching it with the opposite hand.
"What are you doing John?" Teyla asked, a smile in her voice.
"My sister was a majorette," he said, by way of explanation, "she taught me."
Teyla 'ah'ed in a way that meant she still didn't understand but was willing to let the subject drop.
The two had just finished their bantos exercise when Keller radioed that Ronon had yet to return to the infirmary with the children as promised and the two, having a pretty good idea of where he might be, volunteered to retrieve the radio-less Satedan.
As they approached the west pier, the suns descending low in the horizon were turning the hallway stripes of gold where the windows allowed light in.
By the time they got to the pier the light was almost completely gone and the sky was more than half filled with stars.
"I see one!"
They looked out over the peir to find the source of the call. They were just barely able to make out their shadows against the failing light. Ronon and the three infirmary escapees were lying flat on their backs side-by-side looking up at the sky.
As they began the long trek out to the edge of the peir, Ronon's rumbling voice intermingled with high pitched children's voices floated toward them on a half-whispered breeze.
"I see Oriin." Kiy thrust her hand up into the sky and traced a constellation of four stars on the South-West horizon.
"No you don't," Sobiin countered, antagonizing her for no reason other than he knew he could.
"Yes I do, it's right there!" Kiy insisted, sitting up to glare at him across Ronon and Hayn who lay between her and the other boy.
"There's Pegasus," Ronon pointed to seven stars directly overhead and effectively distracted the children out of their argument.
"I see Sargintor," Sobiin piped up, "the warrior. He killed a hundred wraith in a single night," he continued, his voice full of awe.
"So what? I do that all the time," Ronon said, sounding uncharacteristically playful. Sobiin rolled his eyes, Kiy giggled and Hayn joined her, not really knowing what was funny but more than a little amused anyway.
"And Ronon'kaffa," Kiy turned to look at their adult companion, "is that where you get your name, Ronon?"
He glanced at her with a small smile, "it was my mother's favorite star-pattern."
Kiy nodded and looked away, even in the dark he could see the sadness cross her young face, "my mother's was Delphian."
Ronon felt a newly familiar pain in his chest, only this time he wasn't sure if it was caused by anger at not being able to protect the girl from the grief he knew to be her burdon, or the fact that he didn't know how to make her burdon lighter.
Without warning, Kiy scooted across the smooth space that separated them and curled up at his side. Ronon stared down at the top of her head for a moment and then, somewhat hesitantly, wrapped his arm around her and she turned her so she was still looking up at the sky.
"Where is it?" She asked softly.
"What?" Ronon rumbled back, his voice equally quiet.
"Delphian. I…I never learned it."
Ronon studied the sky for several minutes and he was almost afraid it wouldn't be visible from this planet. Then he spotted it, eight of the ten stars that made up the constellation were peaking out from behind one of the Eastern Spires.
Kiy didn't say anything, but in the small amount of light given off from the glowing city behind them, Ronon could have sworn he saw her smile.
Sheppard and Teyla approached quietly, and could hear two voice whispering to one another as the sound was carried across the water.
When they were only a few feet away, he saw them. Ronon looking positively maternal with both the smaller children curled up beside him and sleeping soundly and carrying on a whispered conversation about past wraith battles with the eldest boy.
Sobiin and Ronon both looked up, and Teyla smiled warmly at the scene.
"Ohh you're in trouble." John said teasingly and shook his head, "you kept the kids out way past their bedtime."
Ronon nodded, moving to stand, and surprised to find he couldn't with Hayn and Kiy propped against him the way they were.
"Little help?" he gestured at the smallest boy and John nodded, moving to pick Hayn up. The child curled deep into John's arms and continued snoring contentedly after the shift in altitude.
Sobiin climbed to his feet slowly, "I'm not tired," he muttered, not even noticing when his sleep addled mind caused him to stumble and Teyla reached out to prevent a fall.
"Of course you're not," she said quietly, used to dealing with men who were in denial, "but Hayn and Kiy need their rest, and the pier is not the best place for them. You would rather keep watch over them than stay out here, would you not?" Teyla asked leadingly, appealing to the protective nature she recognized from having spent so much time with Ronon and John.
Sobiin considered this and then nodded and started back toward the city, Teyla at his side. Behind them, John carried Hayn and Ronon, Kiy.
"Did you find them?" Ronon asked, his voice low enough that it did not carry forward to reach Sobiin's ears.
John sighed, "we've put out feelers all over the galaxy. If Sobiin's parents are out there, we'll find them."
Ronon nodded, accepting the uncertainty of the situation. He was filled with a strange mixture of elation and sadness that he wasn't sure he fully understood. While on the one hand, he knew what was best for the children to be returned to those that knew them and cared for them, on the other the thought of losing them sent a sharp pain through his gut and straight to his heart.
"And if you don't?"
John hesitated, shifting Hayn in his arms when the boy started to fuss. "Woolsey hasn't made a formal ruling one way or the other. They can stay on Atlantis under the care of the Infirmary until they're back to one hundred percent. After that…"
"They can't stay on Atlantis."
John glanced at his friend, surprised that it was a statement, not a question.
"Too dangerous." The Satedan clarified when he felt John's questioning stare. Hardly a week went by when the city wasn't under threat of Wraith or Genii or some strange unknown virus hell bent on wiping the 'Lanteans from existence. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if something happened to the children while there.
"Teyla says the Athosians would welcome them." John said after a moment, understanding the silent reasoning of his friend and having come to the same conclusion.
Ronon nodded, "I'll go with them. Make sure they get settled."
"Do you think they'll be okay with that?" John didn't want to think about what the children had been through in their short lives. Judging only by what Ronon had told him about their brief stay on the planet, it had been one terror after another, and their young wards had been there for months before Ronon even entered the picture. God only knows how they survived alone. And before that, from what he'd gathered, the life of a Ring Walker was anything but easy. He hated to wonder what one more move, more time with strangers, could do to the fragile mind of a child.
Ronon looked down at the girl in his arms, sleeping peacefully, the lines of fear and worry completely forgotten in the light of the moon and the safety of dream.
"They're strong," He assured both himself and John, and they traversed the rest of the way to the infirmary in silence.
When they arrived, Sobiin fell onto his bed, asleep in seconds. Hayn and Kiy were placed on their beds as well, each still sleeping soundly and curled up in the thin blankets. Ronon stood sentry at the foot of the beds, his hands buried deep in his pockets. Teyla ruffled Sobiin's hair fondly and then turned to leave, squeezing Ronon's arm as she passed and sending him a gentle smile.
John sidled up beside him, mimicking his hands-in-pocket posture.
"I think you're right, Big Guy," John said, his eyes landing on each of the young faces in turn, "they are strong. Too young to be so strong," he added as an afterthought.
Ronon straightened and threw a glance at his CO, "Maybe. But better 'too young', than 'too late'." Leaving John to think on this, he took a long, deep breath and pulled up a chair beside Hayn's bed, sitting in the midst of the sleeping children.
John watched him settle his booted feet up on the side table and pull a knife from his hair, absently sharpening it on a rock he always kept in his pocket. When he turned to leave, John smiled, knowing the children were under the watch of their Satedan guardian, for tonight and, he guessed, many nights to come.