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Ronon wakes with a gasp that sounds like a scream, his head pounding. Someone is touching him. He whips his arm out and strikes someone who says Ow, fuck. Ronon grins and drags his knees up to plant his feet on the floor.
"Lie still," John says, and Ronon's shoulders are pressed down, John's hands gentle but firm. He sounds the way he does when he's trying to get Torren to sleep. Ronon could grab John's arms and snap both of them. It'd be easy. It'd feel... good. Instead, he sucks in a breath, and then another, and makes his muscles loosen and relax. Lying in wait. "Yeah," John murmurs, and one hand pats Ronon awkwardly. "I got you."
Ronon reaches up to figure out why he can't see, and John catches his wrist. It's like the man has no idea how much danger he's in.
"You need to leave the bandages alone," John says, like he's in any position to give orders. "And just lie as still as possible until Rodney and Teyla bring Carson here. You remember what happened?"
Ronon tries to open his eyes and feels the drag of tape, and lets that go for now. He keeps breathing, deep and slow, deliberately not thinking about how he might be blind, about fighting for his life in the dark. He can smell damp and decay, and hear the drip of water into puddles. There are scurrying noises that echo along the stone floor, more like insects than rodents. The air is cool, with a steady dank wind. Underground, Ronon thinks. Not a cave. The echoes are wrong for that, broken by walls and furniture. A basement. And then he has a flash of memory, of landing the jumper in a jungle clearing, of Rodney walking through a door saying, "Only good thing about Michael, he knew how to beat the heat."
"A lab," Ronon says. His voice sounds terrible, his throat burning like he'd spent hours screaming. "Michael."
"Yeah," John says, sounding pleased. He picks up Ronon's left hand and starts winding strips of bandage down his fingers. "You walked into... I guess a booby trap. You're going to be fine," he adds, and it's funny how not reassuring it is when John tries to lie. "You went into convulsions. It did something to your eyes. Which Carson will know how to fix," John adds, and wraps the bandage around Ronon's palm over and over before tying it off. There's the quick tug of a very sharp knife cutting through cloth, and Ronon tenses again. Sucks not even realizing how close John was with a blade in his hand. "Don't mean to freak you out, buddy," John says, and starts wrapping Ronon's right hand.
"My hands feel fine," Ronon says, flexing. His palms are sensitive, irritated by the bandaging, like it's rubbing over the raw skin of a newly-healed burn. He wonders if he was burned on his face and his hands. He doesn't feel any pain; he feels like he swallowed down lightning and lived to claim its power for his own. Maybe his face melted, like in that movie of John's. Ronon hopes not.
John stops him from moving his fingers with a firm grip and a tug on the bandages. "Your hands don't look so great from where I'm sitting, so just let me work on my mummy-making merit badge, here."
Something skitters by on the floor. John jerks in either surprise or revulsion, and Ronon grins, feeling a dark mean pleasure at that. He can hear John's heartbeat. John's voice is controlled and so is his breathing, but the rapid beat Ronon hears tells him that John's scared. If he concentrates, the sound swells, loud enough to fill the room, hot blood moving fast, wanting to propel his body into battle or desertion. But instead John breathes down his panic and stays, ignoring the battle drums' call.
Ronon doesn't know what John's afraid of, but he enjoys the show. John acts like he's in charge, but he's not as smart as Rodney or as good a leader as Teyla or strong like Ronon. He's head of the team because they indulge him. But Ronon's sick of pretending that they're friends. He thinks it's time to take what's his.
He lets the power that he's hidden dormant under his facade of calm burst out, launching up from the floor and grabbing John by the front of his jacket. He swings John around towards where he guesses there's a wall or a tall shelf or something. John hits it hard – Ronon hears something like bone break – but John's dropped into a low crouch, using his body weight to rip free from Ronon's grip. Ronon reaches for the bandages, because he's sure John's lying to him, sure he can see just fine, and if John is lying then Ronon's going to kick his ass.
But then there's a familiar whine and the world drops away in a wash of red and pain.
Ronon sucks air in hard as he snaps awake, and then grimaces as he realizes he just gave himself away. His eyes are still bandaged, his fingers muffled with fabric, and John's hand is patting his stomach like that's going to calm Ronon down like a tired toddler.
John's also humming under his breath, a bit wetly, and Ronon realizes that's what woke him. The monotonous rhythm setting his teeth on edge, and the smell of new blood.
"Hey, Sleeping Beauty," John says. He coughs and spits, and Ronon thinks that's going to attract every predator down here. John says in his home country, hunting skills aren't something a kid has to learn to become an adult. John never learned how to think like prey. It makes him sloppy.
Ronon can hear the insects around them now; growing bolder, he thinks. He can hear the scurry of their feet on the walls. Sometimes they run overhead. He bets John would freak out if he knew. He can still hear John's heartbeat, still fast like a watchtower drum warning of fire.
"You shot me," Ronon says, his own anger an inferno only barely banked.
"Yup," John agrees. "You broke my nose and ripped my favorite jacket. It's that crap of Michael's in your system," he adds. "Don't beat yourself up about it. Also, don't beat me up."
"You shot me with my own gun." Ronon lets his anger permeate the words like a threat.
John snorts, and coughs again. Ronon wonders if John's lying about how badly he's hurt. He hopes so. He knows John's fucking with him. John should pay for that.
"I'll give it right back soon as you're not planning on killing me," John says. The words are a little too sharp for a joke, and Ronon hears John move, the susurration of fabric and scuff of bootsoles and percussive heartbeat giving away John's position as clearly as if he was wearing herdbeasts' bells.
Ronon's familiar with post-stunner enervation, but he's mad enough that he's sure he can move when he needs to. He licks his cracked and dry lips and pretends to smile, pushing up on his elbows. "Thirsty."
John's heart skips a beat, and Ronon lets his teeth show a little more, parodying friendliness. But then John huffs and mutters something under his breath, and Ronon hears the rasp of screw-threads as a canteen lid's removed.
"Here," John says.
Ronon sits up and reaches out one hand. John presses the canteen against his palm, not letting go until Ronon's got a firm grip. Where John held the metal it's warm.
Ronon drinks sloppily, then twists the cap on and waggles the canteen like bait.
John takes it, and Ronon pulls down with one hand and grabs John with the other, twisting so when John falls Ronon's perfectly positioned to pin John down. John sucks at self-defense.
"Fuck you," he says, John twisting under him. He leans his weight against John's chest, testing to find where John's hurt from earlier, and when he finds the spot that makes John try to jerk away, he digs his elbow in. With his other hand he gropes at John's waist for his gun, finds it, slides it across the floor, listening to remember the position.
He can feel John's pulse hammering through his whole body now.
"Easy," John says, and tries to yank out the hand Ronon's got a knee on. "I'm not the enemy."
"You took my gun."
John breathes out impatiently. "You were endangering the team."
"You call yourself my friend."
"Because that's what we are," John says, and coughs. "Buddies. Got each other's backs."
"Then why are you lying to me?" Ronon roars, frustration breaking him like a dam. He shakes John, cracking his head back against the floor so he'll stop struggling, and finally has to punch him in the chest, over and over and over to get him to stay still.
The insects are buzzing so loudly in the room that Ronon can hardly think, but he's aware of having shown John his place and shut him the fuck up. He gets up and finds his gun and stuns Sheppard for good measure. Make the bastard think twice before crossing him. Maybe Ronon'll get some respect when John wakes up. If not... well, this is a lesson he doesn't mind teaching.
Ronon's got a horror of losing his eyesight – it's not hard to defend himself against one human with crappy defenses, but he doesn't want to fight the Wraith in the dark. He fingers the bandages, weighs the evidence. His hands work just fine, even with Sheppard's careful wrappings winding off. Nothing hurts. He can move his eyes behind the tape. The only stink of blood comes from Sheppard.
Ronon undoes his eyes carefully, squinting, swearing as his small hairs tug off with the tape. Everything's blurry and greenish, out of focus, indistinct. Sheppard's just a dark still shadow on the floor. Ronon shoves the bandages in his pocket so he can put them back on if he develops any worrying symptoms, and finds the door to the stairs. He climbs. Rodney and Teyla are back, finally. Stupid to send for a doctor, when Ronon's fine. He feels better than he has in years.
He meets them just as they're unloading from the jumper. Rodney's bitching, as usual, and Beckett's carrying big hard-sided medicine cases.
"Ronon," Teyla says, and gives him a smile. She's better than Sheppard is at hiding the rapid trip of her heartbeat, but the wariness in her greeting hurts. Ronon knows her. He can feel the pull of like to like. She takes a breath and glances at Rodney, who's holding his little hand-scanner and looking abstracted. "I am glad to see you well."
"Whatever," Ronon says. "Let's go."
"Aren't you forgetting someone?" Rodney asks, and at the same time Beckett says, "But what about the Colonel?"
"Taking a nap," Ronon says, and meets the challenge in Teyla's eyes with a hard stare. "He was being a dick," Ronon explains, and flexes his arms. He feels like he could kill a thousand Wraith, rip them limb from limb, burn every trace of them into oblivion. Blow them out of the skies. He wants off this backwater planet. He wants blood on his hands.
Rodney gives Teyla a pleading look, and holds his scanner up. "According to this, Sheppard's... sleeping." There's a terrible, pleading gentleness in his voice, and his heartbeat is as fast as a bird's wings. Beckett sets his packs down heavily and disappears into the jumper. His fear isn't nearly as interesting as Rodney and Teyla's; Ronon wonders if that's because of what Michael did to him, too.
"I can't lose Ronon as well," Teyla says, simply. Ronon can feel emotion washing off her in waves. "Rodney...."
Rodney pockets the scanner and takes his weapon out of its holster. Ronon's glad for the challenge, and to have yet another demonstration of how little friendship and loyalty mean to these people from another galaxy. Ronon feels for his knives – gone; Sheppard must have taken them – but decides Rodney'll look just as good red-faced and choking for air.
Beckett's heartbeat doesn't give any signal that he's about to shoot Ronon in the back. Ronon gives him points for that, even as he's falling to his knees from the stunner blast.
"One more," Teyla says, her voice distant, like she's speaking at the top of a well. "Even a newly-made Wraith will be at its strongest–"
"When he has just fed well, aye," Beckett says.
The next stunner blast topples Ronon over. Teyla shoves at his shoulder with her boot until he's rolled onto his back, staring dazed at the sky. Ronon can see the stars in the pale green sky and hear the life in the forest around him, the shrill of wings, the click of chitinous exoskeletons.
"You can fix this?" Rodney asks, far at the edge of consciousness. "With the retrovirus?"
"Yes," Beckett says distractedly. "Of course. But do you – ?"
"He's part of our team," Teyla says. "And we'll take him to a world where he'll never find out what was true and what was nightmare. John," she swallows, "would want him to be happy."
Rodney interrupts sharply: "He's still listening. You need to stun him again."
This time, Ronon feels the world slide away from him for good. But he's heard enough. They're going to take away his home and make him run again. He'll find them, he vows to himself, and he'll make them all pay for turning on him.
He'll start with Sheppard.