Ronon sees everything broken.
In the aftermath of Sateda, after the destruction of his world, when everything that had existed was laid in ruins, over bodies and under memories, stone and metal and glass. Broken.
He walked, miles, searching, until the grey of the skies matched the grey of the rocks at his feet, and then everything, everything, was grey as ash.
There was no one left. He crouched in the dirt and could not cry.
When the Wraith had him, he did not break. He took the pieces of his old life and held on, past the pain, past fury and rage to that place inside him like steel, like naquadah. And then they dropped him, gave him a head start, and he ran like a caged animal freed, every step like courage breaking, like glass windows exploding, every pound of his heart the thud of a body to a cold floor. Her body. Melena.
He ran until there was nothing in his head but shadow, and his vision was fragmented and sharp, until he could see a bush rustle from a hundred feet away. He ran until his blood stopped boiling and cooled like lava, turned to rock.
He never stopped running, really, until the day he ran into a dead end and these people, these Not-Ancients carved him a doorway out of his back, dug him an escape route.
The sunlight filters in like stained glass in the training room, all blue-green like light underwater, and broken like waves on shore. Ronon is still, for once. His legs don't itch anymore with the need to run. He has no desire for the shock waves up his spine, of his feet pounding the ground like drums. Or for his heartbeat, a mantra, keeprunningkeeprunningdon'tstopdon'tstop in his ears, the wind raking its fingernails through his hair.
He does not tell himself that he is tamed.
He is content now with sitting. Here, in the sunlight, a warm floor beneath him, friends nearby, Wraith oblivious. He does not tell Teyla he has mastered meditation.
It is his own private victory, in his long line of loss.
It is his way of fixing reality like old wounds, with bandages and pressure and air.
He can already feel the world stitching itself back up, closing gaps where people once smiled, red and raw where he once felt her fingertips over his heart, flesh re-knitting and fusing together.
It is painful like a broken bone, like a split lip. Like a knife wound, slow and twisting and blue-hot.
It is slow-going, and still he sees broken things out of the corners of his eyes, empty spaces where people he knew once stood. At night it is worse, when he cannot see anything but feels everything, fractured. No body next to him in his small bed:
No lips on his tattoo, feather-light and precious. Nothing, sometimes, but the shriek of a Wraith dart and the silence of a dead village.
He is still learning how to trust again.
They think he cannot hear them but he can. He can hear a Wraith hunter step on a twig in an empty forest; he can hear their half-whispered gossip.
Outsider. Trustworthy? Savage, they say. Things in his vision snap like brittle bones when he hears.
Friend. Trust. Strong. He hears replies. He hears friendship and loyalty in shadowed hallways, he hears John and Teyla and even Rodney stand like giants and defend him.
He hears hope with every step.
When he helps them in the training room, every move a dance, a quick-step turn and smack, he remembers dancing on Sateda.
Spinning and the orange of her dress like the rising sun, her eyes on his, her body against his for an instant before she whirls away.
Away and back.
But she did not come back.
Here on Atlantis, the people are strange. They walk like they are unsure in their own skin. They are polite and wordy, saying in several sentences what could be summed up in a word or two.
They think him taciturn. They are wary around him.
He hears them play games: how many knives does he hide right now? How many...
He does not tell them thirteen: three in his boots, four in his waistband, five in his hair, one in his heart.
Another thing these people underestimate is his ability to observe.
He notices things, like the connections between them. John and Rodney, close enough to touch each other, hands on shoulders, eyes on backs retreating.
Teyla and the marines, how she is like the Lara Croft of John's videos in their eyes, long-legged, beautiful, strong and untouchable.
Elizabeth's fierce loyalty to people whose names she does not even remember.
Carson's self-sacrificing love for his patients.
He notices even himself, falling into ranks with strangers, opening up. He has been careful for so long, never treading firm enough for the glass he walks on to hurt him. Too long.
He can feel himself breaking.
There are too many cracks and fissures already... He senses them, running like white ridges of half-healed scars, on his mind, across his body, markers of wounds and grief and pain.
But he has held on too long to the memories. He is slipping, slipping, losing his grip.
When will he stop trying?
Melena is gone, Sateda is empty, he is not alone.
He is not alone.
No, he has people again.
He is as much Satedan as he is now Atlantean.
The light is different now. He sees it not in mosaic patterns on his bedroom wall.
It is early. He has not been able to completely shake old habits.
He does not sit up immediately. He does not do warm-ups in the quiet dawn of his room. He does not close his eyes and imagine warm skin beneath his palm, gently shifting against him with every soft sigh of breath on his cheek.
He does not sleep in his clothes anymore with an ache in his muscles, he does not wake with a murmur of panic behind his eyes.
He rises with the sun.
He slips on his clothes.
He goes to meet John for their morning run.
He remembers the glory of his past but does not let it weigh him down. They do their stretches.
He spares a glance at the sun on the water, orange like Melena's dress. But Ronon shrugs off his bittersweet rememberings and they run.
They run and he is scarred but whole again.
They run and he is free.