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Duty Versus Heart

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“They need me. They always have. I’m the one that took care of them, got them home alive whenever we went into battle,” Ronon explains, hoping Sheppard will understand. When he made his decision to leave Atlantis and help Rakai, Ara, and Tyre he thought that Sheppard above all others would understand. Sheppard is a military man, a leader charged with protecting his people, just as Ronon was on Sateda.

There was something in Sheppard’s eyes that said he did understand, yet the man still persisted. Sheppard may understand, but he clearly didn’t like it. Ronon wanted to smile as warmth began pooling in his stomach.

Whatever happiness he got from knowing he would be missed was quickly squashed by thinking about what – and who – he would be leaving behind.

For a moment he longed for the solitude of being a Runner. While on the run from the Wraith he never cared about leaving people behind or thought about protecting others. On the run he only thought of his own survival, there were no emotions involved.

The moment passes quickly, however, when he decides that he’d rather have the bittersweet farewells and reunions than not having met these people at all. The past few years have been some of the best of his life and he wouldn’t give them up for anything, no matter how much it hurts now.

“Don’t you get that that’s what you do here too?” Sheppard desperately implores, shaking his head. “Every mission we go on, I know we’ll be okay because you’re there. You’re the one that gets us home, not me. What are we gonna do without you?”

The two men seated at the table just look at each other for long time. There are a thousand things that should be said but neither has ever been very good at talking.

Making the decision to leave his home here wasn’t easy, he spent many nights tossing and turning in his bed. He owes the people of Earth for removing the Wraith tracking device and over the years he’s formed a real bond with them.

Then again, he’s known Tyre, Ara, and Rakai since childhood. They went through training together and even served together. A bond such as theirs never goes away.

Ronon can see a place for himself with both groups. Maybe he lies a little to Sheppard, maybe part of his decision is to reclaim a bit of Sateda, but who could blame him?

Sighing deeply, Ronon lowered his gaze. They both knew Ronon wasn’t the type of man to change his mind once it was made. He was still leaving Atlantis and Sheppard knew nothing he could say would change that.

Several solemn hours later Ronon is trying to pack away his belongings when his door slides open without his permission and in bursts McKay. Ronon raises an eyebrow as the frazzled scientist waves his hand to close the door before launching into one of his well-planned rants.

Before he even starts speaking, Ronon can tell this isn’t going to be a usual McKay rant. There’s a sadness and vulnerability in McKay’s eyes that have Ronon worried. Rodney McKay never lets his vulnerability show.

“I was never good at connecting with people or having feelings or caring about anyone but myself, but then I came to the Pegasus galaxy and everything changed. I changed. I was surrounded by brilliant scientists that could keep up with me and some of them have become my closest friends, but if you tell them that I’ll deny it.” He points his finger at Ronon who can’t help but let his lips twitch into a smile. McKay shakes his head and gets his monologue back on track. “Then I had a team and maybe we didn’t know each other all that well but we worked, you know? I finally felt like I belonged and that I had people that wanted me around, not just because they needed my brain. Then we lost Ford and I realised how much my team means to me.”

Ronon’s only heard McKay sound that sad when the man was packing up Carson Beckett’s belongings. It hurts to hear such a proud man crack and Ronon wants nothing more than to make McKay passionately argue again; anything to make that sadness go away.

“McKay –“

“The first time we ever met, you saved me,” McKay interrupts, his eyes flickering from Ronon to the floor and back again. “You had no idea who I was, you had no reason to help me, but you did. When you joined the team I’ll admit I was terrified but I also trusted you. I trusted you with my life and the lives of Teyla and John. I know you get along with them better than you do me, but we have something, right? You’re always there whenever I need you and I don’t know if I can go on another mission without you.”

McKay holds Ronon’s gaze even as his eye fill with tears. “I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t go. I already lost Carson and now Elizabeth is gone, I don’t think I can survive losing anymore family.”

There’s a long pause, filled only with Rodney’s ragged breathing. Ronon stands there, still as a statue, staring at his team mate. McKay has always been an odd one to connect with but there was never a single moment when Ronon didn’t consider him one of the team, someone special and important in his life.  

Stepping forward, Ronon grabs McKay’s shoulders and roughly pulls the scientist into a crushing hug. McKay squeaks at the rough handling but when Ronon buries his face into McKay’s hair and holds on, the smaller man hesitantly brings his arms up to wrap around Ronon. Tightly.

“Love you too, McKay,” Ronon whispers, squeezing the man tighter when he lets out a small whimper. It’s an involuntary noise that both of them will take to the grave, as a sign of respect and comradery.

Stepping back, Ronon claps McKay on the shoulder and offers up a smile, small and sad as it is. “You’re not as helpless as you think, just remember… eyes.”

McKay laughs wetly as Ronon points to his eyes, calling up memoires of their training sessions and Rodney’s inability to keep his eyes on Ronon, usually resulting in a lot of pain and bruises.

The moment is short lived and bittersweet. Ronon is still leaving.

~ ~ ~

Ronon watched Teyla leave after returning his painting and for once he realises he doesn’t want to be alone. In the quiet of his room on Atlantis he can hear Ara choking on her own blood, can feel the strength it took to plunge the knife through Rakai’s chest, and see the shadow of Tyre running back to his masters. Alone, all he can feel is the utter heartbreak and betrayal his old team put him through. Wraith worshippers.  It leaves a bitter taste in his mouth and a hollow feeling in his chest.

He’s never felt more alone.

For a split second he thinks about chasing after Teyla and asking to spar, or asking Sheppard to go on a run, he’d even take listening to McKay explain something scientific that Ronon has no hope of ever understanding.

The thought is a brief one, there and gone again.

Shame overwhelms him, drowning out the heartbreak. He was ready to abandon these people, just run without so much as a look back, chasing phantoms and memories. In Atlantis he had a home and people that cared for him, people that would risk their lives for him, and he threw it all away. He doesn’t feel like he deserves their company right now. Ronon knows he has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to earn the team’s trust again.  

His door beeps and before Ronon can answer it, the door slides open and his team bustle into his room. Teyla is carrying all the Athosian blankets she owns – meaning she’s practically drowning in fabric. Sheppard has his arms laden with food – Ronon spots some popcorn and chocolate bars hidden in there, meaning Sheppard dipped into his own personal stash. McKay is fiddling with the door crystals, making sure no one can disturb them, and then turns his attention to hanging up a large white screen.

“Teyla’s job was to figure out if you wanted company or not, we were just waiting outside the door,” Sheppard shrugs as he passes, placing the mountain of food on Ronon’s table.

McKay fiddles with his tablet for a moment before turning it into a projector. The screen he hung catches images of an Earth movie, one Ronon hasn’t seen yet but knowing McKay as he does he bets it’s one designed for children.

In one of their ‘team bonding’ moments off world McKay revealed that as a child he was never allowed to do the normal things children do, so as an adult he indulges. The hitch in his voice made sure none of the team poked fun at him.

Whenever he’s having a particularly bad day McKay can be found watching one of his children movies. On those days the team make sure no one bothers the man – unless the city is in actual peril – and make sure to bring him food every so often.

Shocked as he is at the flurry of movement happening around him Ronon can’t help but smile a little at the image of a spiky haired little boy and a large white creature. Despite common theory, McKay is actually very good at discerning others feelings and knowing how to remedy the bad times. He doesn’t apply this knowledge to everyone, only the special ones, only family.

Ronon already feels a little better knowing he is included in this small, exclusive circle.

Teyla gently reaches out for Ronon’s hand, her skin as soft as a feather but her grip as strong as a hardened warrior, and tugs him to sit in the middle of the pile of blankets and pillows she’s arranged on the floor. As soon as he’s sitting, the team pile all around him.

Sitting on his left is Teyla, curling herself under his arm and intertwining their legs. She is warm and soft against him and Ronon’s chest unwinds a little just having her close.

McKay settles in behind Teyla next, fitting himself around her smaller body but making sure he is touching Ronon as well. A cold foot nudges at Ronon’s calf and those clever fingers find their way into his hair, massaging gently.

Tension begins to seep out of Ronon, but there is something missing.

Turning his gaze from the projector Ronon looks at Sheppard, who stands there fondly watching his team. Ronon tries to smile but, from the way Sheppard’s mouth tightens, he figures it comes out more of a grimace. Within seconds Sheppard moulds himself to Ronon’s right side, his body slotting perfectly against Ronon’s like they were made for each other. Sheppard’s warm hand lands on Ronon’s thigh and squeezes reassuringly.

Ronon sighs, his body slumping into the warmth of his team.

This is where he belongs.

Sateda will always be important to him, will always have a special place in his heart, but it is not home – not anymore. The survivors will always mean something to him but they are not family anymore.

It is these people with him right now – the loyal leader, the kind warrior, and the brave scientist – that are his people. Sateda is not home, that honour belongs to his team. They saved him, they accepted him, and they love him unconditionally. He has found his place in life and found people to stand by his side through it all.

He vows to himself, safe in the comfort of their warmth, that he will never put them second ever again.

“I love you guys,” he croaks, his throat tightening up with emotion. It is relief, it is love, but it is also sadness and longing.

His experience with Rakai, Ara, and Tyre will not be forgotten quickly, the wounds they left on his heart will surely scar. But he knows his family will help him stand in his moments of weakness, they will protect him just as surely as he protects them.

“We love you too buddy,” Sheppard says freely, no hesitation in his voice.

Ronon places his hand over the one Sheppard still has resting on his thigh and sighs, squeezing Teyla closer to him and nudging McKay’s foot with his own. On the screen an animated boy wins a lot of money from playing with robots and Ronon sinks deeper into his family, letting his fears and doubts wash away and knowing Sheppard, Teyla, and McKay will always be there to catch him.

Loneliness is a thing of the past when surrounded by his family.