There’s a Satedan funeral song on his lips the first time he sees her. It takes a moment for Ronon’s gaze to focus on her, to take in the pale brown eyes staring down at him in sympathy. It’s the dark curls that allow him to place her and he finds himself hoping she’s a hallucination and not a ghost.
It’s been seven years, at least that’s as close to an estimate as he has. He could be wrong. At times the days, weeks, maybe even months all blend together into the constant horrible push to never stop running that his life has become.
She hasn’t aged, she’s still seven. Does this confirm hallucination or ghost? Can ghosts age? He tries to imagine her older, the first budding of adolescence on a taller frame, but he can’t quite manage it. She’s seven and that’s not going to change.
She frowns at him, “That isn’t a warrior’s song.”
He parts painfully chapped lips and focuses on the stars above him. He finds himself wondering if he can see Sateda’s sun from here, if he’ll have laid unknowing eyes on it one last time. He shudders in a breath. The grounds cool underneath his back. He closes his eyes, determined to wait.
“I said that’s not a warrior’s song.”
“Ana,” he breathes out her name. He’s so very tired. His words barely seem to have any force behind them, “I’m waiting for death. I don’t deserve a warrior’s song.”
He opens his eyes and focuses on this memory of a neighbor from a home he hasn’t seen in seven years, of a life he once had. She tilts her head, concern wrinkling her brow. The Wraith will come, this is the only certainty in his life. All he has to do is wait. He’s waiting for death.
“You’re a warrior,” she tells him.
“As long as you live a memory of Sateda lives on,” she tries.
“What good is a memory if you have no one to share it with? I’m tired, go away.”
What is he beyond a shadow of the man he used to be? He’s been stripped down to his bare essentials, only taking with him anything that might help him survive. If his path does happen to cross with anyone else’s he only brings destruction in his wake.
He might as well be a poltergeist.
He focuses on his ghost, his hallucination, the evidence that he’s gone mad, “Lie to me and say Sateda survived.”
Her lips press together. Sateda survived, he tells himself, as he turns his focus back to the stars. Sateda survived.
Her voice is sweet, a childish alto, as she begins the warrior’s song he’s been denying himself. This forces him to sit up and glare at her, “Stop that.”
“Shouldn’t one have the proper song in death?”
“I should have a coward’s song.” He’s waiting. He’s given up. He’s so very tired and in need of the stillness that death will bring.
She begins her song again. With a growl of frustration he launches himself at her. She disappears.
Today isn’t his day to die.
Two dead Wraith and five worlds later he sees her again. She appears across the fire he’s allowed himself. She smiles at him. He frowns and concentrates on the food he’s cooking.
When she starts humming the warrior’s song he glares and tells her, “If I’m having a hallucination why aren’t you Melena?”
She tilts her head, regards him silently for a moment before pointing out, “You know she’s dead, you don’t know about me.”
He’s no longer hungry, but he eats his food remembering her and her mother and how he and Melena would always share one meal a week with them. The days had varied, all their lives were busy, but they’d been good neighbors.
“Have you?” he finally asks.
She shrugs with a childish grin, “If I’m a hallucination how would I know?”
“Did I hit my head?” his voice sounds gruff, even to him.
“Probably at some point. You’ve been alone for so long, isn’t it good to have someone to talk to?”
He doesn’t allow himself to relax, but they talk, share his memories of Sateda and he’s almost able to convince himself that someday he’ll be able to go home.
She’s gone come morning, but then so is he.
Six worlds later he’s cornered, but the man standing in front of him shoots the Wraith. He captures two of the people who follow. Ana appears as he’s going through their packs, scavenging for food. This is what he’s become, the Wraith have reduced him to a thief.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she asks disdain in her tone.
“And what about them? Are you so heartless that you’ll leave them for the Wraith?”
He glances at her and then their unconscious forms. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s brought the Wraith down on the unsuspecting. He doesn’t answer and drops the packets in his hand back into the pack he’d pulled them from. He starts looking over the weapons instead.
When he tries to leave, determined to escape this world and the Wraith that will be here soon, she blocks his path.
“Maybe they can help you.” There isn’t enough hope left for that to be true, but he waits.
His rank feels good on his lips, but he still wants to edge away from them and their people. Ana is insisting he trust them and it takes everything inside of him not to scream or swat at her. He can’t let them see he’s gone mad.
After talking with them and ending their escape he finds himself wanting to trust so he makes his deal to get their friend back. Ana plays with rocks while he waits with Teyla. She dances around Beckett when he shows up, a carefree happy smile on her face. A look only a child can have, even if that child is an illusion.
It’s Ana’s voice that prods him to consciousness, telling him their backs are turned and he can slip away. He allows himself a momentary annoyance at himself for passing out before he begins to track their friend.
He doesn’t see Ana again until after they’ve shown him the images of what’s become of Sateda. She’s sitting on his bed, eyes large and sad for him. He glances at his guard and doesn’t say anything, just sits on the bed beside her, feeling as tired as the first time he’d seen her. He wants to leave, wander, spread out and see if he can find his people among the stars.
“I never lied to you,” she starts.
He also wants to destroy the Wraith.
“You should stay here,” she continues as she wanders over to the window. Exhausted he lies down and contemplates leaving. Then she points out that they're in the City of the Ancestors. There’s an excited bounce to her as she skips around the room, dancing around the guards as she chatters on about how all the technology here might mean the destruction of the Wraith, that if there is any chance of defeating them it will be found here.
It’s Ana who calms him when he learns they were the ones who woke the Wraith.
He does his best to keep them all at a distance, but he finds himself wanting to impress Sheppard when the testing starts. He wants to be a part of a team again. There’s also another need, just under his skin, to keep moving. He tries to tell himself that stillness no longer means death, staying in one place no longer means the Wraith will come.
He works out a routine that quiets the edging towards panic he can feel building every time he’s realize how many days, turning into weeks, he’s been on Atlantis. He teaches, he spars, he runs and he lets several of the cooks take turns trying to ‘fatten him up’. He finds he wants to follow Sheppard’s orders. He learns to let McKay’s brashness roll off him and if it becomes particularly annoying he imagines the tactless doctor upside down in an orange jumpsuit asking for help. He and Teyla eventually reach an equilibrium after he kills Kell.
Thirty three hundred of his people survived, but not Ana, not her mother. His only consolation is that he’d already known Melena was dead and that his parents had died long before the culling.
“So what are you, a ghost?” he asks her the next time she appears.
She’s staring at the sunset, doesn’t even turn to look at him, “If you died would they know how to give you a proper funeral?"
He squats down so that they’re the same height, “What are you?”
“Maybe I’m a hallucination. Maybe I’m a ghost. Maybe I’m a manifestation of the part of you that doesn’t want to die incorrectly. Maybe I’m just here to point out the things you want, but are too stubborn to admit even to yourself. Maybe I’m something else entirely,” she tells him before disappearing.
He finds it surprising how well he’s fitting in, becoming a part of this community. They're going to become his people, Ana has told him so.
He and Sheppard start spending time together after Sheppard has a falling out with McKay. There’d been an experiment that went wrong, Ronon wasn’t too sure about the details as he hadn’t even been on Atlantis at the time. Sheppard eventually becomes John and John joins him on his runs. He’s still Sheppard when they’re offworld. The more time he spends with John, the harder it becomes to push aside thoughts of wanting more than friendship.
They're on a run the first time John asks him, “So you dating yet?”
“You mean like a woman?”
John laughs, “Or a man.”
He has to quell the urge to push John against the nearest wall and kiss him. Instead he picks up the pace of their jog and answers, “No one.”
To start a relationship with someone, to allow himself that, means that he really has stilled and he hasn’t reached a point where that doesn’t bring thoughts of his inevitable death.
Ana shows up while they’re still running and it’s very obvious she’s not real for she keeps pace running backwards in front of him as she says, “That was stupid. Tell him and then make sure they know how to bury you properly.”
She disappears and he redoubles the pace. John’s leaning over his legs trying to catch his breath when he starts a cool down run. He avoids John the next day and gets called out on it, but he reveals nothing.
The second time he answers the same, but doesn’t pick up the pace and doesn’t avoid John.
He learns about T.V. and he doesn’t quite understand the appeal, but he likes the way watching it makes John light up. He prefers the guitar lessons he’s getting, learning how to read music and the hands on approach John takes doesn’t hurt.
Eventually the panic is no longer there. He hasn’t seen Ana in over a month.
Then he learns about Beckett’s idea that the Wraith can be turned into humans. It makes his skin crawl. He’s not sure how to take what Ellia did to John, but the panic’s back. He has to avoid John, he can’t take the thought that someone he could feel for would become a version of the Iratus bug, of the Wraith. Ana angrily tells him he should remind John of their friendship, but he ignores her. The offworld mission is just the distraction he needs.
He waits till John’s been released before he approaches him. He stands in the doorway feeling awkward, “Hi.”
John gives him a tired smile, “Hi.”
He stares at his feet a moment, not sure what to say, except that he knows now that he has to learn to be still or he’s not living the life that they’ve given back to him.
“You coming in?” John asks as he frowns at his computer.
“What’re you doing?” he asks as he steps inside.
“Trying to decide if I like any of these changes Caldwell instituted.”
He finds a place to sit, “Beckett’s wrong.”
John turns to look at him, “About?”
“You can’t turn the Wraith into humans, they aren’t human.”
“He can try.”
“He’s being naïve. It’s a bad idea.”
“And you’re approaching me first because of what happened to me?” John asks with arched eyebrows.
“No, to give you this,” he holds out the sheets of paper.
John eyes them with a frown, “That’s not a resignation is it? Cause I’m back to being me, one hundred percent human.”
“Yeah, sorry about that.”
“What? The you not visiting me?”
“Can’t stand the Waith,” he admits as John takes the papers from him.
“Yeah, I get that and its okay, you’re here now,” John gives him a brief smile and opens the paper, he frowns, “So what’s this?”
“It’s a Satedan funeral song, it’s a warrior’s song. If I die…”
“Okay,” John tells him as he sets it on his desk, “I’ll put it somewhere safer in a moment, it’s just…oh man you should see some of these team roster ideas, they’re just wrong.”
Ronon finds himself smiling as he rises to his feet, “And I lied.”
John looks up from his computer, “About?”
“I’m not dating someone, but I’d like to.”
“Yeah who, maybe I can help…”
John blinks at him a moment and he’s wondering if he’s miscalculated. Then John grins, “Cool. I should probably stand up or something, huh?”
He gives John a bemused smile as he sets his computer on his desk and moves towards him, “So, I’m like cool with that, but I probably need to let you know that the military…”
“Already heard McKay bitch about it.”
Not really interested in talking he kisses John, relishes in the way he responds, the way their arms wrap around each other. He only pulls away, pauses, when he sees a figure out of the corner of his eye.
Ana stands there with a pleased smile on her face, “I’m only here to say goodbye.”
A light shines behind her, engulfs her, and she’s gone. He knows it’s the last time he’ll see her.
“Ronon, was there a little girl standing in my room?”
A chill runs over him, “You could see her?”
None of them had seen her before.
“She was standing right there, said she was here to say goodbye and then disappeared.”
He grins and shakes his head, “Then she was real.”
“Yeah, she was right there.”
“I thought she was an illusion.”
“There’s been an alien here and you didn’t say anything?”
He steals a brief kiss because he can already tell that they’ll be getting scientists involved and it’ll be awhile before he gets another opportunity to do so. He’s just starting to explain about the first time he saw her when John’s earpiece clicks to life and the security team arrives to respond to the energy fluctuation in his room.
He never sees Ana again.