|Sleeping Together In The Lion's Den
Ronon could have gone back to Earth with the Lanteans -- the new Lanteans, Sheppard said, since the Ancients who had come back were the real Lanteans. Sheppard offered, often enough, said that there was ... precedent for aliens on SGC teams. He could have gone and found the Satedans scattered across the galaxy. He could have been the leader that Kell never was.
Instead, he leaves with Teyla and the Athosians, and he does not regret it for a moment.
Sheppard tried hard to make Ronon feel at home in Atlantis, with the strangers from another galaxy, and after a year and a few cycles, Ronon almost did. But there was too much the Lanteans never understood -- the idea of living your whole life under the threat of a culling, the idea that population, that new blood and new births, always came first before anything else -- and for every moment he trusted the Lanteans to try and do the right thing, he trusted Teyla more, because she understood.
Her culture is different; the Athosians are different than the Satedans were. But the first night they are gone from Atlantis, Ronon shudders awake from a nightmare where the Lanteans -- the rightful Lanteans -- had turned on the rest of the galaxy, allied with the Wraith, rained destruction and death down on all their heads.
In his dream, the new Lanteans -- the ones back on Earth, back in their home, and Ronon's home was gone -- did not care, did not notice. He woke shaking and sweating, the way he hadn't in months, and Teyla rolled over on her mat and met his eyes, gaze steady and sure.
Ronon didn't say what he had been dreaming about. Teyla said, "We have survived and continued before. We shall do so now."
It's dark, and when he kisses her, he doesn't taste cities burning or blood or fear in her mouth.
The Athosians trust Ronon about as far they can throw him, which since even Halling only comes up to the bottom of Ronon's chin isn't far -- but they trust Teyla and Teyla trusts Ronon, and so they tolerate him. Ronon carries rocks and holds tent poles up and contributes all his kills from the hunting to the communal pool, and in return, the Athosians let him sit by their fires and tell stories of Sateda, before.
The sounds of groups of people laughing, voices low and even, permeate his dreams, and sometimes the dreams are not nightmares. He spends the dark hours of the night with Teyla, wrapped up in her skin, his hands on her breasts and her hands on his cock, and if he closes his eyes, he doesn't miss the way things were.
It isn't fair to Teyla, the way he still dreams of Melena and smoke and death -- he loves Teyla, in the best way that he's left with after everything that he's endured. And sometimes she murmurs a name, late at night with stars above him, that isn't his, and he knows that if he asked, she would tell him that she isn't being fair to him, either.
He could have loved a woman like Teyla, once -- could have loved Teyla, had he known her, but they've both lost too much and Ronon doesn't think he can ever feel that way again. But he tries, in the dark late at night, and he almost finds something like comfort. He tries to give the best comfort that he knows how.
The Athosians sing as they work. Songs that Ronon doesn't know, not the traditional folk songs of his childhood and not the drinking and fighting and loving songs that he learned in the military. He listens, the sun hot on his back as he bends to lift and carry, and after half a cycle of the moon, he can raise his voice in the choruses when they sing.
They are not his people, but neither were the Lanteans -- and after seven years, Ronon knows that he cannot have a home when he is running, and so he tries to stay still, as best he can. He could have gone to Earth with the new Lanteans, but he chose to stay with Teyla instead. The Pegasus Galaxy is his home, whatever wrongs it's done him. Teyla is his chosen family, in all the ways she can be.
When he sings, he catches Teyla watching him, her face unguarded and open, and she smiles at him when she sees him watching her watching him. Ronon never believed in the Fates, that life is anything beyond a series of choices made and choices lived with, but the Wraith were not his choice. Kell's betrayal was not his choice. A life on the run, life lived hand to mouth for longer than he could have imagined, before he lived it, was not his choice. He passed roads and archways and cities where he could have made choices, but the paths he took to Atlantis, to Teyla, to the Athosians were not paths he chose himself.
When Teyla smiles, Ronon would not undo the work of Fate for all the peace in the galaxy.
They are learning, together -- Teyla how to lead her people, Ronon how to live with a peaceful people, without the need for weapons. He can't undo the damage of seven years in a single cycle, but when the Athosians drink Halling's mead and raise their voices to the night sky in song, he can try.
On the night of the new moon, they have been on this new planet for exactly one cycle, and their sleeping quarters are darker than they've ever been before. They arrived in the darkness, stars glittering in the moonless sky like jewels in the hair of a woman, and one cycle had passed and the moon was gone again. There's a group of teenagers still sitting by the fire, their shadows on the walls on the tent that Ronon shares with Teyla and their laughter hanging low in the air.
The moon is gone again, and the clouds have covered the stars. Ronon tries to sleep, listening to the laughter and the sound of Teyla's even breathing, and he has almost drifted off when she stirs, props herself up on one elbow. It's so dark that he can only see her shadow, the edges of the planes of her face where her hair slides across the curve of his jaw, but he watches her anyway.
"You are a good man, Ronon Dex," she says, sliding a leg across his thighs. "I am proud to call you my friend."
She's soft under his hands, and when he rocks up against her, she lowers her head, resting her forehead against his before kissing him. He wants her, because she is a beautiful woman and he's only a man, and because even as he halts and stutters his way through a life that doesn't quite seem like his, Teyla is the last symbol of hope that he has. Sheppard was, once upon a time, but the Lanteans are gone and they don't expect them back.
Teyla is warm under his hands, and the curve of her back, the press of her breasts against his chest as she sinks onto his cock, is the promise of better things to come. He isn't a good man, now, but he thinks that he was, once, and he could be, again. When he comes, it's Teyla's name that he whispers into her hair, and afterwards, as she shudders and writhes against his fingers and his mouth, it is his name that she shouts.
The next morning, she lets him sleep until the sun is high in the sky. When he rises, stumbles blindly from the tent into the sharp bright day, the Athosians are singing and Teyla's strong back is bent over her work. Ronon blinks in the sunlight, sharper than the shadows of the night, and Teyla looks up, looks at him.
In the harsh, true light of day, she smiles, and for a blinding moment, her smile is brighter than the sun above.
When the Lanteans come back -- when Sheppard comes back, because Sheppard told Ronon that he never left a man behind and Sheppard is true to his word -- another half cycle has passed. The Athosians still sing, and the sun is still brilliant during the day, burning away until there's nothing left for Ronon to see but truth, in Teyla's smile and the way she touches him.
Sheppard is going to take the city back, and Ronon will go with him, because he can, and because Atlantis is home, now. He doesn't know if Teyla will stay with her people, and he doesn't ask. In all his years, the things that he's learned about love, about the comfort of another body beside yours, is that they are all transitory.
That night, a cycle and a half since they left, Ronon can feel every muscle in her body trembling under his, and he does not ask whether she will come or not. Under the rumble of fire-lit conversation, he can hear the cadence of McKay's voice, the lilt of Elizabeth's protestations about bad ideas, and he is reminded of the family he's picked for himself, this family of chance and fate and survival.
There's family you're born to and family you've chosen -- Teyla has both, and Ronon will not ask her to choose between them.
When she stands beside him in the morning, he is not surprised. Somewhere, off in the distance, an Athosian is singing.
author's notes: title and summary from mason jennings, "fighter girl". maggie did beta duty; all remaining failings (and i'm sure there are some) are mine.