Prompt: "Endings and Beginnings"
Word Count: 6300
Rating: K+ for language
Warnings/Spoilers: For 'Reunion'
Summary: Escaping from angry natives, McKay has to deal with an injured Ronon.
"Off the path!"
Rodney stumbled but maintained his footing as he frantically tried to obey Ronon's order. Bullets whizzed by frighteningly close as the Satedan somehow managed to simultaneously shove Rodney toward the thick line of trees and return fire. McKay followed the gentle slope toward the woods.
"We're almost to the gate. Where are you?" Sheppard harshly questioned over the radio.
McKay could hear P-90 fire in the distance. "Hiding!" he managed to answer. "They've got us cut off," he realized out loud as another group of natives riding horse-like beasts appeared from the direction of the gate. He turned toward Ronon as the former runner continued to fire on the first group of assailants that were gaining on them.
"What are we " His question was cut off as Ronon lurched back, half spinning and falling against him. Unprepared for the full weight of the larger man, Rodney went down under him with a squawk. Tangled, they rolled twice before coming to a stop.
"What the hell are you doing?" McKay shoved at Ronon with just enough strength to roll the big man off of him. Ronon just laid there, completely unresponsive. "Oh God."
Shaking, Rodney reached for Dex and pulled him close. "No. No. No. No. No." He pushed a clump of dreadlocks back off Ronon's face and out of the way, his eyes widening at the gushing wound just above his teammate's temple. "Oh God." He fumbled at his vest for a bandage, but renewed gunfire had him going for his radio and Ronon's weapon instead. He didn't know what to do first.
The natives were closer now. They outnumbered him by at least ten, and he and Ronon were sitting ducks in the open. "Sheppard!" he hissed for the colonel, unsure if any of their pursuers were close enough to hear him. "Teyla!" The radio buzzed with static. "No. No. No." Rodney grasped onto the collar of Ronon's coat, pulling with all his might and dragging the unconscious man into the forest. He didn't dare fire Ronon's weapon for fear it'd only help the Wyatt Earp wanna-bes to follow their escape route. Instead, he paused just long enough to shove it into his vest and then grabbed Ronon's collar with two hands, ready to drag him deeper into the forest. He froze when he heard voices just beyond the tree line and hurriedly managed to get Ronon and himself behind a wide tree trunk.
"Where'd they go?" The voice was heavily accented and McKay recognized it as that of the leader that Sheppard had tried, rather unsuccessfully, to negotiate with earlier.
"Don't know." Rodney couldn't see enough of the second man as he hovered protectively over Ronon's unmoving form. He held his breath, listening.
"They were here. There is no other way they could have gone without being seen."
"The woods then."
Rodney could feel their eyes, straining to find them.
"Yes sir. I can order my men to "
"No," the leader cut the other man off. "It will be dark soon. Set up guards at the ring and organize patrols. Tell the men to keep watch for the others as well. If the fates allow, these two will simply lose their way and if the woods don't take them, we will when they emerge."
Rodney stayed still until he was certain they'd moved away. Then he started moving, pulling Ronon along with him. He didn't stop until he could no longer see the edge of the forest. The trees thickened the further he dragged Ronon. Branches scratched and grabbed at him, pulling at his clothing and smacking his face. Sweat ran down his face, stinging his eyes. His back burned in protest to the bent over posture and heavy weight of the Satedan. His side ached and cramped.
"Colonel? Teyla?" he whispered as loud as he dared, cringing as twigs snapped and leaves crackled under his footsteps and Ronon's body. There was nothing in response.
Pausing a moment, Rodney strained to listen for any sounds of pursuit in case the leader had changed his mind, but there was no sign of any life. The forest had simply closed up behind them.
Sucking in a deep breath, Rodney decided it was safe to stop for a few minutes. He squatted beside Dex.
"Ronon?" Ronon remained still. "Damn it."
Fumbling in the fading light, McKay examined Ronon's wound and swallowed back a wave of nausea. Blood continued to ooze from the groove the bullet had neatly carved just above Ronon's temple. Finding what few bandages he had stashed in his vest, Rodney did his best to clean the wound, trying to remember the long ago lessons from Carson about field dressing a head wound.
"Come on, big guy." He talked as he worked. "This is not good, you know." When the wound was clean enough, he peeled open two large adhesive bandages and shakily pressed them over the gash. Out of clean bandages, he wet the edge of his sleeve with his canteen, and carefully attempted to wash away as much blood as possible from Ronon's face and neck, hoping the cold water would rouse the Satedan but it didn't. There was so much blood. "Head wounds tend to bleed a lot," he whispered, wondering where in the world he'd heard that. From Carson? God, he didn't want to think about Beckett right now. Finishing, he frowned, not quite satisfied with the job but there was nothing more he could do.
"Ronon?" His voice sharpened, but Ronon still didn't so much as twitch. "Not good." Rodney wiped his bloody hands on his pants and unbuckled his vest. He slipped it off and then shrugged out of his jacket. Balling it up, he shoved it roughly under the Satedan's head. "You better wake up." He threatened before pulling his vest back on and re-buckling it.
Shivering slightly he pushed himself up and peered through the trees. "Sheppard?" He tried to figure out which way might lead them closer to the gate as he waited for any answer, but none came. "Crap." He pulled the radio off and stared at the cracked casing and ripped wires. He must have broken is when Ronon fell on him, or dashing through the woods. Dropping back to his knees he reached for Ronon's only to find it was gone.
"Well, this sucks," he mumbled. He glanced around but found only a wall of trees on all sides. Tall, looming and closing in as darkness continued to settle over them. A wave of panic washed over him and he fought for control.
"Perfect, Rodney, perfect. Panic now," he scolded as his heart rate quickened and it got harder to breathe. "Not enough that you're being chased by trigger happy cowboys straight out of a Clint Eastwood flick or that Ronon's been shot and is probably brain dead already or that you're cut off from anyone who might be able to help you, but now you have to freak out because the damn trees are closing in on you. Perfect. You know nothing about wilderness survival. Your teammate is hurt and you can barely remember first aid training and the rest of your team is God knows where by now, hopefully back on Atlantis mounting a rescue but until that comes what the hell are you going to do?" Gasping by now, McKay pushed back to his feet and paced in the tiny space beside Ronon. "Calm down. Calm down." He focused on breathing, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. Closing his eyes he counted to twenty in Russian and opened them again. He glanced down as he turned and stopped, surprised to find dark eyes staring up at him.
"Oh thank God."
Rodney dropped down beside Ronon again.
"Wha' happened?" Dex groaned as he tried to sit up. Rodney grabbed his arm, holding him still and helping him stay upright.
"Careful. You got shot, sort of grazed the side of your head."
Ronon swayed slightly and began to swallow compulsively.
Rodney found himself staring at Ronon's adams apple. "Are you going to puke?" he questioned as the Satedan paled drastically.
"Maybe." Ronon squeezed his eyes closed, pain lines deepening across his face. "Where are we?" he asked once he obviously had regained control.
"Woods on P9J-433." McKay waved his free hand around. "I dragged you in here to hide from John Wayne and his posse."
Rodney frowned, realizing suddenly that Ronon's eyes didn't seem to focus on him the way they should. "Nevermind. Point is we need to keep moving. They said something about sending patrols to find us."
Ronon nodded slowly as if testing himself and then pushed himself up. He brushed off Rodney's attempts to help, choosing instead to use a tree trunk to steady himself. "Where are the others?"
Rodney gathered up his jacket and shrugged it on over his vest. "I don't know. Last contact, Sheppard and Teyla were close to the gate but then we lost our radios."
Ronon frowned. "What about Tyer, Ara and Ra Kai?"
"Who?" Rodney stared at him. "What?"
"My people." Ronon spit out harshly. Rodney swallowed slowly, his fear growing. If Ronon didn't remember
"They're...they're gone. Don't you remember?"
Ronon's scowl deepened. "What do you mean GONE?"
Rodney gestured nervously in the empty space between them. He did not like the look Ronon was giving him. "We lost them on our last mission. Their mission. Things " He paused. How much should he tell Ronon right now? "Thing didn't go as planned. They were never here on this planet with us."
"They're dead?" The devastation in Ronon's tone hurt to hear again.
"I-I don't know." Rodney lied, hoping that for once in his life he looked convincing. He couldn't tell by Ronon's reaction if the other man believed him or not. "We need to move. Can you?" He motioned in a direction he hoped was away from danger.
Ronon simply stared a moment. Rodney wondered what was going through the bigger man's mind. "What direction's the gate?" Ronon asked finally, standing straighter and letting go of the tree he'd been clinging to.
Rodney shook his head. "I'm not sure. I know it was northeast of the settlement but in here " He started wringing his hands worriedly. "They took the scanners. Thought we were spies for the wraith. We made a run for it but they managed to separate us. I don't know where "
"Let's go." Ronon cut him off and started walking weaving through the forest.
They moved in silence, climbing over rotted tree logs and squeezing through tight clusters of growth. There was no path to follow and Rodney hoped he was right in trusting Ronon to lead. Even befuddled, Ronon knew more about surviving in this setting than he ever would. Rodney's mind raced as they plodded along. Thoughts he didn't dare say out loud overwhelmed him. He was worried about Ronon. The former runner was moving slowly with none of the stealthy grace McKay was used to seeing. Was moving this much even good for Ronon? And what about his lack of memory? Had Ronon simply blocked out the whole incident with the Satedans? He obviously remembered finding them buthow could Rodney tell him that his friends had turned out to be Wraith worshipers? It already burned to remember how quickly Ronon had been willing to leave Atlantis for them. Rodney didn't understand it. He'd tried, but he was still kind of angry that he and Teyla and Sheppard had obviously meant so little.
"I've gotta stop." Ronon's voice startled Rodney from his thoughts. He had little time to react as Ronon immediately started to go down.
"Whoa. Whoa." Rodney tried to help catch the man, but just barely kept him from full on collapse.
"I can't " and Ronon was unconscious again.
"Damn it." Rodney eased Ronon onto the forest floor, sliding underneath him so his own legs provided a pillow for Ronon's head. He didn't know what to do. They hadn't made a lot of progress really. The woods were thick and there were no paths. Absently he plucked at random leaves and twigs untangled in Ronon's hair feeling foolish that there wasn't more he could do. He left the bandaged wound alone, noting that it at least hadn't started bleeding again.
They were almost out of natural light, he could barely see. Did he dare use his flash light? What about indigenous creatures? He shivered at the thought of what might be lurking around them. He didn't know what to do. He covered his face with his hands, suddenly overwhelmingly tired and he wondered exactly how cold it would get when it was totally dark. He wasn't sure he could do this. "Come on Colonel," he muttered, leaning back against a tree. "Now would be an excellent time for one of your famous rescues."
Rodney wasn't sure how long he'd been sitting there before Ronon began to stir again. All he knew was that the darkness had come too quickly and stayed way too long. He'd expected it to be dark but he'd not expected the blinding pitch blackness. He'd been unable to see anything. Not the shadows of the trees, not his hand in front of his face, not the sky above or any stars that might be out. It was a terrifying feeling and his only comfort was the heavy weight of Ronon's head on his thigh and the flashlight from his vest.
He'd only dared to turn the light on twice, knowing that he had to both conserve batteries and not give away their location to anyone who might be still searching in this hell. The first time to check his watchonly to find his wrist scratched and bruised where the accessory used to be. He didn't remember losing it. The second time, the night was just too much and he'd sworn that Ronon had stopped breathing. In the light, he'd discovered Ronon was okay. Rodney had to force himself to turn the flashlight back off after that and instead tightly grasped Ronon's wrist, assuring himself that Ronon was there and he was not alone.
It was pure relief when the night began to lift. He had no idea how long it had lasted but now that a dim gray mist settled about him, he didn't care. Ronon was beginning to stir and he knew they needed to get moving again.
"Easy," he whispered the warning as Ronon blinked several times before focusing up at him.
He watched, half amused, when Dex's eyes widened with confusion and then shock. Before he could react, Ronon sat up and half shoved him away.
"Careful, you brute." Rodney rubbed feeling back into his legs as Ronon swayed precariously. "You were unconscious, you nit. You got shot in the head. Do you remember?" He waited anxiously, hoping Ronon was 'back' with him again.
Ronon squinted and reached up to rub his head before McKay could stop him, hissing when he touched the bandage there. "Damn."
"Yeah. Shot in the head, remember?"
"No," Ronon snapped. "Where are we?"
Rodney sighed. "P9J-433. Please do not pass out again. I'm already tired of repeating myself."
"Why are we in the woods?"
Shaking his head, Rodney explained again. "Locals didn't like us. Thought we were allies with the Wraith."
"Sheppard and Teyla?"
"I don't know. I'm hoping they got through the gate, but we lost radio contact. We need to get moving. We're being chased here."
"How long was I out?" Ronon slowly climbed to his feet and Rodney was relieved to see the large man was much steadier than he had been the first time he'd come to.
"I don't know. I lost my watch." He held up his arm, his sleeve sliding enough to show his scratched wrist. "Felt like forever, but with the dark and all, I have no idea."
Ronon nodded, as if testing his own balance. "You hear them?"
"Not since we came into the woods."
"Where are Tyer, Ara and Ra Kai?"
Damn it! McKay closed his eyes not knowing how or wanting to try and explain this again.
"McKay, where are they?" Ronon didn't like his pause and Rodney knew he wasn't going to like his explanation much either.
"They're gone. Our last mission. Do you remember any of it?"
But Ronon had stopped listening at "They're gone."
"We've got to find them!" Ronon searched frantically in the grayness. "Which direction?"
"Ronon, they're "
"Come on." Dex grabbed his wrist and yanked him forward and suddenly they were running.
"Stop! Slow down. You're gonna get us killed!" Rodney tried frantically to keep up, afraid that if he pulled free from Ronon's grasp, the faster man would leave him behind and he knew that getting separated was not a good idea.
He jumped over a fallen log, scrapping his shin on the way over. "Ronon!"
"They need our help!" Ronon kept going, intent on his search.
Rodney bounced between one tree and the next, barely keeping his footing and wondering how the hell Ronon could suddenly run when moments earlier he'd barely gotten to his feet on his own.
Branches smacked and tore at his face. "Oh for god's sake," he muttered ducking under a thick branch just before it clothes-lined him. Ronon kept running. Kept searching.
"Will you just stop?" Rodney knew he was in trouble. He could barely breathe now and was stumbling more and more. The grip on his wrist was painfully tight and he could hear Ronon growling with frustration that McKay wasn't moving faster.
"Keep up." Ronon ordered, pulling Rodney under another clump of brush and branches.
Rodney tried, but his foot caught on a root and he went down hard. Pain exploded through his leg but he didn't have time figure out what happened as Ronon hauled him up to his feet again, half dragging him and continued on.
His leg was on fire as they moved. It burned and ached and he could feel the blood trickling down over his knee and down his lower leg. This was bad.
"Ronon!" he snapped, as another fiery burst of pain shot up through his thigh and the whole leg just gave out under him. He went down hard and let Ronon drag him until the former runner finally realized he wasn't getting up again.
"Get up!" Ronon shouted.
"No!" Rodney yelled, grabbing his leg and trying to figure out what had happened. God it hurt. "I can't."
"We have to find them." Ronon pointed out, turning in a circle, still searching the woods. "They need my help. They need me." He stared down at Rodney as if McKay would understand and Rodney thought for sure Ronon was going to leave him behind again.
His anger flared.
"No. No, they don't! They're GONE, Ronon. GONE. They're dead! They conned you and us into helping them, only it was a set up. They led us into a God damned trap! Two of them are dead. Hell, you probably killed them and God only knows where the other one is but the point is, they are GONE!"
His voice echoed in the silent forest as Ronon seethed over him.
"What the hell are you talking about? They would never " Ronon shouted back, but Rodney cut him off.
"Yes, they would! They did! They were captured and tortured until they gave in and did whatever the Wraith wanted."
Ronon moved so fast, Rodney was certain he was a dead man. Huge hands grasped the front of his vest and pulled him close. "You lie." Ronon's whisper was more terrifying than his shouting. His face was sweating and his anguish was palpable.
"I'm not," McKay whispered back. "You just can't remember right now, but really. I'm not. I'm sorry, but they-They were Wraith worshippers."
"NO!" Ronon shoved him away and Rodney fell back, grasping for his leg as the motion jarred it again.
"Damn it," he hissed through clenched teeth. He let his head fall back onto the cold dirt and glared up at the canopy trees and the gray sky beyond them. "Damn it."
Rodney closed his eyes, not wanting to see any more of the anger and the agony the other man was feeling. Not wanting to see it directed at him. God, he never should have said that but how else was he going to get Ronon to snap out of it? This whole situation just sucked.
He startled and jerked back, hissing again at the sudden touch to his leg. He opened his eyes and started to scramble away, but Ronon just grabbed his ankle. "Be still," he ordered.
Rodney obeyed and tried not to shrink back as Ronon pulled out a knife. Quickly and with frightening ease, Dex sliced Rodney's pant leg up to mid thigh. The wound was on the side of his thigh, right above his knee and really hadn't seemed to bleed an awful lot.
"What?" Rodney blinked, propping himself up against a fallen log and meeting Ronon's intense gaze.
"Idon't have anymore." He gestured toward Ronon's head. "I used them all cleaning you up."
Ronon didn't show any reaction to that, he just grunted and proceeded to cut Rodney's split pant leg all the way off. He tore it into three strips and put two aside. When he grabbed Rodney's canteen, Rodney stiffened. "Oh God."
"Just hold still."
The shock of the cold water stung, but it was when Ronon began to clean the wound that Rodney began to shake. It may not have bled much, but the puncture was deep and he could tell by Ronon's growing frown that they didn't have enough water left to care for the wound thoroughly and, with their packs long gone, taken by the natives along with the scanners and most of their weapons all they had was what Rodney had stashed in his vest and that wasn't much now.
Rodney ground his teeth together as Ronon prodded the wound again and then decided to wrap it up. He wound the last two strips of McKay's pant leg around it and tied them off tightly. That finished, he sat back and just stared for a moment before reaching for Rodney again. McKay couldn't help his instinct to pull back, but Ronon didn't notice or ignored him.
Dex pawed through his vest pockets until he found what he wanted. Pulling the Power Bar out he tossed it at Rodney. "Eat."
Rodney hadn't realized he was hungry until he ripped open the package and could smell the peanut butter snack. He tore it in half and offered part to Ronon, but the Satedan ignored him.
Ronon had stood up again and was staring through the trees. Rodney didn't know if he was watching for the natives or looking for his Satedan friends still. He didn't dare ask either, choosing instead to eat his half of the Power Bar and tuck the rest away for later. Tentatively, he tried flexing his leg. It hurt and he could tell the area around his injury was already starting to swell. He poked it once and hissed as the pain radiated up his leg.
"Leave it alone," Ronon reprimanded without looking at him.
Rodney tried to stay still and quiet, but the silence was too much for him. He had to say something. He did manage to keep his voice low.
"I'm sorry," he began, looking up at Ronon. "I'm sorry that I blurted that out the way I did." Ronon didn't turn or look at him so he rushed on, his hands flying in sync with his jumbled words. "I'm sorry that, that your friends that they didn't turn out to be who you remembered them to be. I can't imagine how it felt to find them and then to discover that they had changed so much, that they betrayed you. I just," he looked off to the side and watched a tree branch sway in the light breeze. "I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow here, in Atlantis somehow Sheppard and Teyla and C-Carson and Elizabeth," his voice trembled and swallowed the lump in his throat as he got past those last two names. "And you," he managed, refusing to look at Ronon. "Somehow, you all became the family I never really became my family." He took a calming breath. "I just hope, hope that you know wewhat's left of us, that is,--we can be your family, too." He plucked at the makeshift bandage and tried not think about how hard it was to breathe all of the sudden.
Ronon didn't respond at all and Rodney didn't have the courage or energy to look up and see how the man was reacting. Instead, he closed his eyes and leaned his head back. He heard movement and jerked up, looking to see what Ronon was doing, where he was going.
He was surprised to find the former runner sitting down next to him. "Rest, McKay."
"But we've got to keep "
Ronon cut him off with a look. "Just rest, I'll watch."
Rodney hadn't intended to fall asleep. Hadn't thought it was possible, but between the fear that had kept him awake all through the darkest part of the night and then the worry over Ronon, he was exhausted. The next thing he knew, he was opening his eyes to the gentle rays of the sun breaking through the canopy of leaves above him.
Thank god for sunlight.
He glanced at Ronon, surprised the big man was also asleep or "Ronon!"
Ronon had slumped over against the log and lay half facing him. Carefully, he nudged Dex's shoulder. "Ronon, wake up!"
Ronon groaned and managed to quell Rodney's fear. He wasn't sleeping, but he'd slipped into unconsciousness again. Dark eyes opened and tried to focus, but Rodney could tell that Ronon was not completely with him. He was about to say Ronon's name again, louder when he heard it
Something was coming.
He listened intently, fear growing in the pit of his stomach.
Branches snapped and crackled. Voices murmured indistinctly.
Some ONE was coming.
Fear drove him to his feet and he stifled a shout as agony burst through his leg. What the hell? If he'd thought his leg had been on fire before, now it was a freaking inferno. Swollen twice the normal size already, he could barely put pressure on it, but he knew he had to. They had to move or they were going to be found and captured. That was the last thing he planned on dealing with right now.
"Ronon, come on. Get up," he hissed as loudly as he dared and tugged on Ronon's arm. Ronon moaned incoherently, but obeyed. He staggered and Rodney was forced to hold him upright for a minute. "Come on, I can't carry you right now. Walk, you idiot. Walk!"
It took some coordination Rodney was sure he'd never had before, but he managed to drape Ronon's arm over his shoulders and half support, half use Ronon as a support and start them moving. He was certain that he was going to screw this up. They weren't being quiet at all or stealthy or fast. God, they were like a lumbering mutant beast. Plod, crash, grunt. It wasn't pretty or effective, but it was moving.
Rodney tried to figure out where the voices were coming from. Were they behind him and Ronon? To the left? To the right? Which way did he need to go to avoid them?
The voices seemed to be getting louder and, as much as Rodney tried to go faster, he couldn't. Ronon was leaning heavily on him now and his leg buckled every other step, forcing him to grab onto or lurch into trees to simply stay upright.
"Come on. Come on. Come on," he chanted as he dragged Ronon another step. "Don't make me do this by myself, Ronon," he pleaded and it seemed to work as Ronon's weight shifted a little.
There were more voices. He heard them now. They must have signaled to their search parties or something, because it sounded like they were everywhere now. No matter which way he turned, he felt like he was headed into a trap. He tried to move faster.
He felt confused and hot and dizzy and what the hell was wrong with him? He needed to think clearly, but he couldn't. He didn't know which way to go and it felt like the trees were starting to spin around him. His leg began to feel numb and useless beneath him. He couldn't feel his steps and, with each one, the limb gave a little more until finally it just stopped functioning altogether. One minute he was standing, dragging Ronon along, and the nexthe was falling, landing hard as Ronon came down with him.
Blinking back tears of pain, Rodney rolled and tried to push himself back up, but nothing in his body would cooperate. Ronon was on his knees beside him, shaking his head with obvious confusion.
The voices were loud now. Rodney could hear the words, but they didn't make sense. Oh God, they were gonna die, strung up by some cheroot chewing Pegasus cowboy.
Hands were on him, pulling and rolling him over. He could hear Ronon struggling and tried to put up his own fight until finally a voice broke through his haze.
"Rodney! Stop it! It's us." Sheppard's voice was the best thing he'd heard in his lifetime, but he made note never to tell John that.
With effort, Rodney managed to focus on the face leaning over him. "What?"
"Yeah, I know. I don't know what's wrong with you, but your leg is the size of a watermelon and you're running a fever. Just let us do the work."
"He will be fine, Rodney," Teyla's voice soothed.
"Who?" There was confusion in Lorne's voice. "What's he talking about?"
Rodney swore he could hear John's smirk. "They're taken care of, McKay. Now, relax so we can get you back home."
" 'kay." He couldn't find any reason to argue with that order.
Rodney woke in the infirmary back on Atlantis, hearing snippets of conversation around him as he floated in a haze of pain and drugs.
"Fast spreading infection"
Keller's tone was calm, but sober, and though Rodney knew he should be concerned about the things he heard her saying he couldn't find the energy and simply let himself drift off.
When he awoke again, the questions were now serious, but Keller's tone was much lighter.
"Surgery went fine. Nothing complicated. It looks like the operation did what our antibiotics couldn't."
"He's going to be okay?" Sheppard was asking.
She must have nodded, because Rodney couldn't hear her response, but he did hear John's "Good. Good."
"His leg?" Ronon's voice was laced with concern.
"You're not supposed to be out of bed yet," Keller reprimanded, then continued, "his leg will be fine too as long as the infection stays out of it."
Rodney let himself relax again at hearing her response.
The next thing he knew, Keller was looking down at him and smiling. "You awake, McKay?"
He grunted a response, his mouth not quite communicating the way he wanted.
"Charming as usual," she teased, patting his arm. "You're gonna be just fine, okay?"
"Yeah," he managed. She smiled again and moved out of his line of sight. He felt like he should be asking her more questions, but he wasn't quick enough to think of them before she was gone.
"Your leg's gonna be fine. Won't even need physical therapy."
Rodney looked over to his side, surprised to find Ronon sitting in the chair beside his bed. The Satedan looked better than Rodney last remembered. The rough bandage Rodney'd slapped over his wound was replaced by a new one.
Ronon must have sensed him staring at it because he shrugged and touched his bandage lightly. "I'm fine. Still have a slight headache, but Keller says that'll fade eventually."
Rodney nodded slowly. "Good." He tested out his voice, finding it raspy but working.
"You did good out there." Ronon continued looking decidedly uncomfortable. "Getting us into the woods and keeping us safe."
" I didn't " Rodney felt like he hadn't done nearly enough.
"Keeping me in check."
"Ha. Yeah." He grimaced sarcastically. "I did a masterful job with that whole..." He waved his hand as much as he could with the IV tethering it down.
Shaking his head, Ronon leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He looked at Rodney and then down at the floor. "Look about back there."
"Don't worry about it." Rodney shifted in the bed, trying to find a comfortable position and not wanting to rehash the whole thing under the bright lights of Atlantis. " I'm sorry about what I "
"I remember some things and " Ronon interrupted and shifted again, sitting back. "When I first came here, and Weir and Sheppard showed me what was left of Sateda... I felt more alone than I had the entire time I'd been running."
Rodney wasn't sure what led to Ronon's sudden openness, but something told him to shut up and let the man talk.
"I thought I'd lost everything, and then Teyla and I ran into Solen, and I found out that there were actually survivors out there." His voice seemed to deepen but he went on. "At that point, I had hope again that I might be reunited with my people and maybe even my family." He looked at Rodney. "I held on to that hope, and when we found Tyre and Ara and," he paused swallowing hard. "And Ra Kai, I thought I'd found my family again."
Sitting back, Ronon ran his hand over his face and then met Rodney's gaze again. "It took what happened, losing them, realizing what they'd done it took that to make me realize and truly see that it was over. I had to let it go. I thought, when I did that that I was losing something irreplaceable. Something I would never have again."
He stood up and grinned somewhat sheepishly as he laid his hand on Rodney's chest with an uncharacteristic gentleness. "Thank you," he whispered. "For reminding me that what I was looking for was right in front of me the whole time. All I had to do was stop being an idiot and accept it."
Rodney wasn't sure how to say "you're welcome" or if he even could without slipping into emotion he didn't want to deal with so instead he grinned. "Took you long enough."
Ronon's laugh brought a genuine smile and Rodney closed his eyes again as Ronon patted his chest twice and let himself slip back into a restful, healing sleep.