Sand and Trust
Ronon D. & John S. Angst.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to MGM/Gecko. I own nothing.
Author's notes: Well, im not a native english speaker. Its my first real fanfic. Its not beta'ed. So, consider yourself warned.
Timeline: Somewhere in Season 2. After "Trinity".
Spoilers: Minor for "Trinity".
Rating: Come on, its buddy – fic. Kinda. OK, there is one small moment that can make you queasy...or not.
Step. Sand is shifting.
"You carry a corpse."
Step. Step. Step.
"Dead. Dead. Dead."
Step. Knees weak. Stumble.
"You'll die too."
He stops. He breathes, greedily gulping scorching air. Body on his shoulders is limp and heavy. He shifts his burden slowly, oh so carefully, giving a brief respite to aching muscles and bones. He starts walking again. This time only sound is made by his shoes sinking in sand. No voices.
His world narrows down to yellows and browns around him. Unforgiving blue above. Sun and air that burns him from outside and inside at the same time. Body on his back moving along with his own movements.
He's tired, and hot, and his body is aching all over. But he can ignore all of this, he did that many times already. Ignore, endure, survive. But he's thirsty too – and there is no way around this. His mind obsessively runs in small circle. Water. He hadn't drank anything in more than a day. He should be able to survive three days without water. Wouldn't be easy and pleasant, but doable. Not here. Hot sand. Hot air. Sun. His burden. Canteen. Last mouthful of water he'd saved for his...Who? Teammate? Leader? Taskmaster..no! Not this. He keeps walking.
Ground changes. His body stops. Overheated brain finally catches on. Hill. His knees bend, he falls. Face buried in sand, burden he'd almost forgotten about rolled from his back. Panic kicks in, and he rises from the ground blindly groping around. There – fabric and flesh underneath. He wipes sand from the eyes and for the first time since morning looks around fully lucid. First, his eyes turn back, to where he come from. His lips crack with humorless smirk and absently he licks droplets of fresh blood. Horizon is empty, sand carries only marks of his boots. His trail is a mess. Left, right, forward – at least he didnt walk in a circle...yet. Guess he's been half sleepwalking, half delirious. Heatstroke? Not yet, but close. He shouldn't walk through desert during day, under killing sun. But every hour counts. He looks at unconscious man sprawled nearby. Dark hair blackened and matted by dried blood. Dirty, soaked through bandage on left arm. He really should change it. Healer would look disapprovingly at such disregard for his stern instructions. Doesn't matter – it was last bandage they both had. He checks for the pulse. Its weak and thready but still there. Skin under his fingers is cold...too cold. He frowns, and awkwardly, hesitantly lays open palm on other man's brow. Cold too. He looks at bandaged limb again. Still swelled. Dark, ugly patchwork of purple, blue and red. Poison? Some kind of local germ? Healer in bright, breathtaking city would have know – he doesn't. Seconds start ticking away in his head again. He curses wretched, despicable people living in huts placed around far-off oasis – their greed and treachery. He curses his companion for curiosity that made him land between buildings, for carelessly walking into maze of shacks with clean new clothes and shiny weapons. He curses himself for being so inattentive and distracted. He curses wounded man again – for being faster than he was, for pushing him away, for taking a blade that was aimed at HIM! "Fool." He whispers quietly, too tired and spent to yell. He remembers fight – punching thug with bloody dagger, firing his gun again and again, dragging his swaying teammate to the cover of buildings and narrow alleys. Cowards from the village couldnt stand his firepower, but they could cut them from the craft – and they did. So he grabbed his comrade and steered him away from arrows, spears and stones – into the desert and approaching night. They stopped only once, to wrap the wound and stop the bleeding, then they ran again. He planned to make a circle, wait for villagers to leave their positions in pursuit, and then sneak or fight their way to Ancestor's ship – safely locked and waiting in the middle of central plaza. But man running at his side collapsed without making a sound halfway, and village was brightly lit with fires and torches, and buzzed with angry voices and howling animals that could be trained to track and guard. So he scooped unconscious pilot into his arms and turned away from oasis. They endured cold, seemingly endless night huddled together, hidden between rocks. His companion writhed in pain, shivered and moaned all the time, and he tried to quiet him, share as much body heat as he could. And kept thinking and calculating. Hour of flight from the Ring of the Ancestors to village – three days worth of walk, with injured, weak man under his care. Two hours of flight to camp in the mountains, where one of city teams found old mine abandoned by Ancestors. How many days of walking through increasingly difficult terrain? If only they decided to visit newfound settlement first... Now four more days to next scheduled check up with was almost two days ago. How much distance was left between them and Stargate waiting in the middle of desert? How much strenght he had left? How much life was still flickering inside injured man he carried? Was there any possibility that city made contact with camp in the mountains? No, he lived among Atlanteans only for months, but he knew their determination – their loyalty. If woman ruling over great city knew about missing "Jumper" and her military commander sky would be filled with searching crafts, maybe even mighty warship that was supposed to bring new supplies soon. "Make sure Caldwell didn't forgot about my new massaging chair Colonel! And movies. He left half of my stuff on Earth last time. And if you eat my chocolate there will be hell to pay flyboy!" He laughs at the memory of short spastic man. He stops immediately because his throat hurts, and because he realizes how much precious time he wasted recalling past events. Carefully he opens canteen and drip after drip pours remaining water into injured teammate. Its not easy, healer's warnings about giving liquids to unconscious men without choking them are playing in his mind again and again – but he manages it, and Sheppard seems to breathe better now. Empty container lands on the ground – no point in dragging useless weight along. Slowly, gently he lifts limp body in "fireman's carry" Time, time, time – he doubts if his team leader can survive another night in the desert. Blood loss, unknown venom in his veins, shock, dehydration, head injury from earlier fall, lack of proper clothing – chances aren't good. So he walks again. Up the hill, its not very steep nor high - thank the Ancestors. Broad valley with smooth, hard ground – me makes good time there. Another hill. Long stretch of flat land. Without obstacles to keep him occupied tired mind drowns in the rhythm of movement.
Sun is sinking behind him. Shadow he casts is getting longed and darker. He hears his own wheezing and panting, overtaxed muscles in the legs burn. Colonel's body is heavier than ever, hard bones and inert limbs swaying and hitting his sides.
"He died hours ago"
He keeps walking.
"You are wasting your strenght carrying dead man"
He stops. Breathes hard. Starts walking again. Unsteady step. Another.
"Just drop him"
"Leave him here"
"You did all you could"
"Survive, as always"
Step. Step. Step.
"You've paid all your debts to them already"
He sways. Almost falls. Straightens withs effort that makes his eyes burn.
"Say you carried him until he died"
"They will believe you"
"They always do"
"Its the truth"
"SHUT UP!" His own cry drags him out of the fog and haze. "Shut up." He repeats hoarsely. Its cold and dark again. Body in front of him is barely visible. He doesnt remember when he'd fell on his knees. Or how he set his burden down. He sees Kell instead. His old taskmaster – tall, aloof, invincible. Sneering in disdain at awkward recruit. Nodding approvingly at target dummy ripped to shreds by bullets. Looking with greedy, calculating eyes at wads of money he brought to pay for Melena's life. He learned to hate fellow soldier then - with cold and yet burning desire to wring his neck, smash bald head into the wall, spill every drop of blood from his rotten, lying body. He hates Sheppard too now. For slowing him down, draining all his strenght, bringing him here – to the place of scorching sun, grating dust and thirst and death. Lazy. Laid back. Unattentive. Childish. Soft. Bickering, flirting, joking, slouching around, wasting time like there were no Wraiths to kill, dead loved ones to avenge. By Ancestors, what was he thinking back then? Why did he chose to stay with these soft, weak people? For food, safety and companionship? Look at him now – hungry, lost in the middle of desert and alone with corpse. Shaking hands reach out seemingly on their own. Numb fingers grope clumsily for chain and two pieces of metal all Atlantis soldiers carry – for proof that he did everything in his might to save the man. Its his way out. Freedom and excuse to cut all ties and be on is own. No regrets – he thinks. No remorse. He paid all debts. He feels flutter of pulse under cold skin. Scattered pieces of his mind snap together with the force of lightning.
Air is cool. Stars above his head are bright and distant. He's kneeling in the sand hugging limp body to his chest. Rocking back and forth, sobbing, hiccuping, crying. For his grandfather, for Melena, for unnamed girl in hospital, for broken bloodied bodies of soldiers under his command. For Ronon Dex – young, brave, proud warrior of Sateda. Murdered and turned to dust with his home and family. He's begging unconscious, barely alive man in his embrace for forgiveness. For another chance. For more time. But its too dark to safely walk, and he's too weak to stand up – so he wraps his duster around Sheppard, hugs him tighter and settles for the night.
Sudden pain drags him from deep, dark slumber. Something hard and sharp hits his fingers again. He doesn't move, just crack one eye open by milimeters. Its day again. Huge brown bird is standing over them, watching his bleeding hand with ruthless, hungry eyes of carrion eater. Black, glistening beak aims again, but this time his hand is faster. Bird screeches piercingly and dies when bones in long neck snaps with a crack. Hurriedly he fumbles with one of his knives. Sheppard is cold, gray and unresponsive – but he rubs his throat vigorously and finally makes him swallow dark, thick blood. He chuckles grimly thinking how disgusted and appaled his civilized friend would be, if he was awaken of course. But it is only liquid and source of energy available, and there is no place to think about convenances. He eats all edible pieces of meat. Its still warm, it tastes bad, and he's slightly nauseous after his first meal in three days – but its still sustenance and enough water in tissues to keeps him going. This time he's too lightheaded and stiff to load Sheppard on his back, so he scoops him into his arms like child, with guttural moan of pain and defiance raises from knees and starts walking again. This time his mind is clear. No voices. No temptations. No sneering ghosts. He keeps remembering good times he had. On Sateda, on Atlantis. He smiles to images of Teyla in skimpy training clothes, bantos sticks twirling, wicked gleam in dark eyes. Melena is here too, laughing at his failed attempts to cook dinner. McKay is talking animatedly, hands flying around, short man is almost bouncing with excitement. Beckett, clucking and tutting over his bleeding leg. Weir, smiling brilliantly and wringing her hands at the same time. And Sheppard of course, slouching lazily in the corner of the gym, smirking and poking fun at Marines sprawled on the floor, backing away with laughter when they challenge him to take his turn with Ronon. No, he decides then. Nothing like Kell. There would be no laughter, only quick, cruel punishment for challenging taskmaster's authority. No trust, no loyalty, no cameraderie...and so Kell died alone among his men, and no one raised a hand at his killer. And there he was now, tired and dirty and slightly delirious – but still carrying his commander and friend to safety. He was wrong when he cried during the night. Ronon Dex was still here. Older, tougher, rougher, more experienced and less naive – but still capable of caring and trusting and having friends.
He stops again, staring blankly at new obstacle in his way. Round shape, blue center, symbols. DHD. He made it. For almost full minute he stands in place, swaying slightly, gazing at grey ring, gathering strenght. Finally he shifts his unconscious friend around, slungs him over the shoulder and punches address with freed hand. He starts shuffling towards Stargate even before event horizon fully formed. No IDC, but he doesn't need it. He taps headset he took from Sheppard and placed in his own ear.
"Its me, Ronon" - he croaks hoping hazily that technician in Gate Room will recognize his voice anyway. "Sheppard is hurt. Let us in. And call Beckett." Voices buzz in the radio – asking, demanding, calling his name. He doesn't listen. Stargate shimmers calling him home. Like water. He can almost feel the taste. "Beckett is going to kill us both." He thinks with a snicker and fells into wormhole with smile on his face.