Epilogue

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Adeena's brother was waiting for them on the world that she'd taken them too; and after all that had happened that day they knew better then to ask how he had managed to get there. He looked perfectly fine, too; and they could only assume that Adeena had healed him as well.

They offered them both a home on the city, or a lift anywhere that they wanted to go. Adeena smiled.

"Thank you, but we can't. I still need to find my father. But if I ever do, I might consider your offer." They gave them an address to a planet where they had friends, and the name of a contact that they could get in touch with there if they ever did reconsider; as well as the promise that they'd always be ready to help them, after what Adeena had done for them. Then they said their goodbyes; Adeena and Rinn were leaving to search for their father, and the others were going home.

Adeena embraced Ronon warmly.

"Thank you, my friend," she said. "For never doubting me."

"Thanks for saving me," he returned. "I don't know whether you've grown through this, or you just faked the scared-little-girl act for me, but I'm really proud of you."

"Big praise from a Satedan," she grinned. "Thank you, Ronon. I hope you never have reason to think otherwise." she met his eyes.

"Goodbye, runner." Ronon could feel her watching the jumper as they took off.

"Where to now?" Sheppard questioned. "Back home?"

"Not yet," Ronon said. "There's something else that I need to do first." he dialed the gate.

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The Satedan ritual was to brave the mountain to prove yourself, but Ronon figured that all he had endured in the past few weeks was enough; and he had directed Sheppard to take him to the top of the mountain. At the top there was a clearing big enough for the jumper to land in. They did, and Ronon went off alone down a small path that passed a tree covered in pure white flowers. He picked two in an uncharacteristic gesture, and continued down the path.

The ritual was ancient, created long before Sateda had learned of the wraith and been torn apart by war. But it was one of the few traditions that had survived the militarization of his world, though it was used to test resilience for warriors rather then what Melina had asked Ronon for.

They had been on the mountain once when they were children, as a rite of passage. They had spent the night under the tree that he had picked the flowers from. When he had married her, he had told her that he would do anything that she wanted him to do; and she had talked about that tree, remembering that night that they had first become friends. She'd said that it was the start of everything, and that she wanted a flower from that tree, as a promise of his love. His mother had once told him that these flowers, called "Morning Stars", had once been a symbol of love on Sateda. It seemed appropriate.

The path he was on led to a stream, and he stood beside it for several long moments, thinking about Melina and how much he had loved her. He missed her.

He stared as the seven petals of the flowers in his hand, imagining that Melina was standing beside him, ready to receive the gift. Her face would shine like the morning light; and her eyes would mirror the stars. With a heavy sigh, he let the first flower drop into the stream and float away, his promise fulfilled. He's climbed for her flower, but she would never receive it. He stood quite still after that, still thinking and feeling remarkably free, staring at the remaining flower in his hands. This time he imagined Teyla standing by his side, ready to receive the flower. If Melina was a reflection if the sun and stars, Teyla WAS his morning light. Her sparkling eyes were the stars, not just a mirror for them. Everything that Melina had been, everything he had loved about her, was more alive, more real, and simply more in Teyla. And now his promise was fulfilled; he was no longer bound to it. He still loved Melina, he didn't think that he would ever be able to stop loving her completely; but now the door was opened for him to love others, whoever he wished. And he'd found that woman. Finally, after nine years, he was free.

"So what promise was this?" he jumped; he'd been so wrapped up in himself that he hadn't even hear her coming.

"I made it a long time ago."

"To whom?"

"Melina," he admitted, seeing no more reason to hide it. "Our last night before the culling," he paused. "Did you actually kill the queen?" she didn't answer as quickly as he would have expected.

"I am not sure," she said finally. "My memories of our encounter are blurry, vague; I was truly not aware of what was happening in the last few minutes. It was my intention to kill her; but I was not in control." she stopped for a second, gathering her thoughts. "As much as she did deserve to die, I can't help but be frightened by my actions; I was merciless, exactly as I have accused the wraith themselves of being. I don't want to be like them." she seemed to realized that she had revealed too much of herself, and she returned to his original question.

"I felt a flicker of conscious in her at the end, I think," she said. "But it was like a child's mind; she didn't feel ruthless."

"Do you think that her followers will kill her?" he wondered. "Her seekers?" he heard her sigh behind him.

"This is strange, but I hope not. No one deserves to die like that."

"Not even a queen," he agreed.

"What was your promise?' she questioned softly, returning unexpectedly yo their previous conversation.

"She asked me to come up here and get her a morning star," he said. "It was... symbolic, on Sateda."

"I am sure that wherever she is, she is honored that you would fulfill your promise to her in spite of all that you've been through." he heard her sigh, and her soft footsteps leaving him. He spun around, tripping over his own feet in his haste.

"Teyla, no... this isn't for her... I had hers, but I gave it to the stream cause she's dead... but this one's not for her..." she was amused to find him even more inarticulate then usual.

"Why did you throw away her flower?" she asked.

"That's what you do if they're dead when you keep your promise... but that doesn't matter... at least, not right now..." she let him babble on for a few more seconds, until he finally composed himself.

"This flower isn't for Melina," he said again, taking her hands. "It's for you." Teyla looked at the flower he'd left in her hands. She didn't know what to say or even think.

Ronon stared at her, waiting for her response. She didn't know what that flower meant; what he was promising her whether she accepted it or not. He knew he should tell her, he really should. If he was going to give it to her she deserved to know. He opened his mouth to speak... and closed it again. He couldn't do it. For now it was enough that they were alive and safe again. Maybe one day he'd find the courage to tell her what it meant , what she meant to him. But not today. Today, he was content to just be friends, as they had always been.

"Thank you," she whispered, and he broke out of his musings.

"You're welcome." Awkwardly, he put his arm around her and squeezed her shoulders gently.

"Now I'm ready to go home," he said. They walked back to the jumper, feelings still hidden, promises unspoken. And love unashamed.

Fin.

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Author's Note: I hope that you've enjoyed this :) Thank you for reading!