"Hey." John had managed the art to walk into a room and make it look like it was just a coincidence but Ronon knew that he was here to talk to him. John had avoided him for the past few days, something that wasn't easy when you were on the same team and lived in a city with a population as small as Atlantis'.
The gym was empty save for them and Ronon knew that John had deliberately sought him out here and now. There was a glint in John's eyes like he wanted to ask a question but couldn't, didn't know how to. They had never asked questions and especially they never had questioned each other loyalties to Atlantis and to each other. Even though it seemed like the Universe got a sick pleasure out of turning them against each other time and again, involuntarily and once voluntarily.
Ronon wondered how much damage, how many hits their bond could survive without breaking apart.
"Are you up for a fight?" John asked with casual interest but Ronon had known him long enough by now to see that Tyre's reappearance had broken open old wounds in him as well.
When Ronon had chosen his old teammates over his new one, he had betrayed every trust John had ever placed in him and yet, after he had come back, they had just gone back to old ways as if the whole thing had never happened.
But ignorance was not the same as forgiveness.
How do you explain to someone you've hurt that you don't want to hurt them anymore?
"'Course." Ronon answered, watching John sharply as he loosened his shoulders and arms before taking a swing at Ronon's head. Ronon blocked him as always. John always gave himself away, less so than in the beginning but it was nowhere else as obvious as in a fight that he was not a Satedan.
On the other hand he had learned to evade Ronon's grip since he couldn't compete with Ronon's sheer strength. He hit with his other hand, kicked with his right foot, hard and fast, stepping back, out of Ronon's reach and when Ronon saw him curling his hands into fists he knew that John had dropped all pretences of this being a sparring fight.
Ronon offered only a token defence. On Sateda they had called it kuatan, where your teammates had punished you as long and as hard as they had seen fit for your failure against them.
John hit him in the face, twice, and Ronon could taste the blood on his lips and feel it running into his eye. He fell to his knees to make it easier for John.
"Damnit, Ronon, fight back!" John yelled at him but Ronon shook his head. "No."
John stepped closer, grabbing Ronon's hair by the back of his head, forcing him to look up at him.
"I betrayed you."
"I shot you, remember? Twice."
"That wasn't you."
"It wasn't you either, the Wraith-"
"Not the Wraith, Tyre." He could feel the hesitation in John's hand and see the flicker in his eyes.
"Ronon..."John trailed off for a moment then asked, "What do you want from me?" Ronon held John's gaze until he saw understanding in John's eyes, who pulled back immediately.
"No." He whispered and turned to go, but Ronon was on his feet again, coming after him.
John would not deny him this.
He tackled John to the ground, pulling him around by his shoulder and hit him in the jaw. John brought up his arms to shield his face against Ronon's blows.
"Ronon. Ronon, stop it!" Ronon didn't listen to him. John kneed him in the stomach where he knew Ronon had a scar from where Thalan had shot him and pushed him off.
"Ronon-" He tried again but Ronon kicked at him, catching him in the knee. John cursed and Ronon could feel it the moment John made his decision: John was over him, tried to take Ronon down while he was still weakened by John's earlier blow. Ronon, however, grabbed John's shoulders and they rolled over the floor, locked in a violent embrace.
Ronon gasped when his back collided hard with one of the pillars. John used his momentary distraction to knee him in the stomach again but Ronon threw his elbow in John's face, hitting him in the temple.
They laid there on the floor, so close to each other that they could feel each other's panting breaths on their faces.
Ara. Rakai. Tyre. Sateda.
Friendship. Trust. Love. Loyalty.
The reasons that had made him go.
The reasons that had made him stay.
He didn't know how to tell John this. Once upon a time he wrote poems and painted pictures and let them speak for him but words failed him ever since he was made a runner and he wasn't Lorne, the beauty of Atlantis didn't inspire, nothing did.
He remembered staying alive and regretting every minute of it because sometimes fighting was not enough.
Sometimes it wasn't even an option.
"I love you," He said because he couldn't not. He'd been trying to find that perfect moment but none seemed to present itself. And John might as well judge him for everything and not just a part of it.
John stared at him, eyes dark and wide and frightened. And Ronon, resigning that he just cut their bond as thoroughly as he could, pulled his hands away from John's arms, showing him that this time Ronon would let him go without a fight.
But John was searching his face like he suspected that this was just another of the universe's moves that always ended up eroding the trust between them little by little.
John was about as good with words as Ronon so he tilted his head and kissed him and it wasn't like Ronon had imagined it, just a simple touch like brushing hands or touching knees. A fleeting caress and it wasn't perfect and no one was forgiven, Ronon for leaving and John for not asking him to stay, but it was a start.