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Week 21: Tribute

Genre(s): Gen, Friendship, episode tag
Rating: PG
Characters: John Sheppard, Ronon Dex
Spoilers: Tag to Reunion, Common Ground
Word count: 2,532
Disclaimer: I do not own them, I would have treated them better.
Summary: Sometimes, trust is all that matters.
Prompt Week 21 - Tattoo






TRIBUTE

By stella_pegasi

John Sheppard was in his quarters, exhausted and troubled. It had been a hell of a week, after an endless number of bad weeks. Colonel Samantha Carter arrived on Atlantis to assume the director duties after the loss of Elizabeth Weir. Followed by Ronon finding fellow Satedans, he thought long dead, then declaring he was leaving Atlantis, only to learn his friends were Wraith worshipers.

Ronon returned from the ill-fated mission, injured and devastated. As soon as the doctors released him from the infirmary, he walked away from his team without a word. Teyla started to follow him, but Sheppard stopped her. He knew Ronon needed time alone; he did as well.

After leaving the infirmary, Sheppard and Rodney McKay debriefed with Carter, then attempted to have dinner but neither was very hungry. Sheppard was surprised that Rodney had pushed his tray away first and left for his quarters. He remained for a few minutes, letting the solitude of the deserted dining patio wash over him. Visions of Wraith and traitorous friends flooded his mind, memories appearing as rapidly as he attempted to dampen them. More to chase the demons away than anything, he left and headed for his own quarters.

He barely noticed striding through his doorway, opening to his presence alone. Stripping off his clothes, he stepped into his huge shower, allowing the hot-water jets to flow over him, kneading the tension and ache from his body. Eventually, he thought the water off and stood motionless, while hot air streaming from the vents dried him. He stepped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around his hips, and flopped down onto his bed.

"Crap, John…some help you are to your friends." He rubbed his palms across his face, then pounded his fist into the mattress. Ronon was hurting, and he knew he was worthless in helping ease his friend's pain. He was pretty damn worthless easing his own.

Sheppard thought of the times when those he thought were his friends betrayed him. It had happened more than once, during high school, at the Academy, during his first post. He supposed that the isolation he felt from his father was a betrayal of sorts. In each situation, he had trusted someone and that person had let him down.

However, what had happened to Ronon earlier that day was too much for even Sheppard to comprehend. He didn't believe he had enough compartments within him to deal with the layers of pain Ronon was facing. He was still trying to come to grips with the day's events, when his door chimed. Absently, he thought the door open, expecting McKay to come barging in, complaining about something. It wasn't McKay; his visitor was Teyla.

"John, am I disturbing you?"

Sheppard's eyes snapped open, "Uh...Teyla…uh...turn around; I'm not dressed." He scrambled for the blanket.

She laughed softly, "You are certainly modest, Colonel Sheppard. I suppose your people had the luxury of private quarters; the Athosians were not always so fortunate. I will, however, turn around as you request." She turned to face the door.

Sheppard jumped up, grabbing a pair of track pants and a long-sleeve t-shirt, dressing quickly. "Okay, sorry about that." He looked at her a tad sheepishly. "What brings you here?"

"I am concerned about Ronon."

He sat down on the edge of the bed and motioned for Teyla to sit on one of the chairs. "I know; I'm worried about him, too. I just don't know what I can do for him."

"Do you not?" Teyla gave him one of her now patented looks; she expected him to understand. "John, Ronon is a soldier, somewhat like a prisoner of war, as you have described to us. The Wraith took no prisoners of war; they only gave death, except to those they chose as runners. Ronon survived and he is a soldier, and you are his commander. There is only one person who can help Ronon past the betrayal of his fellow soldiers, his friends. The person he looks up to, his commander, you."

"Teyla, damn it, I can't…I can't order him to get past this."

"I am not asking that you order him to do anything, but you must help Ronon understand that Tyre and the others are victims, just as he is a victim."

"Have you talked to him?"

"Yes, when I returned the painting he had done of Sateda after the fall."

"He gave that painting to you?"

She hesitated, "No…Rodney took it." Sheppard frowned and Teyla quickly continued, "I believe Rodney was feeling the pain of Ronon leaving and could not express it, any more than we could. He wanted something of Ronon's. He asked me to return the painting for him."

Sheppard scoffed, "Yeah that's our Rodney, too embarrassed to tell Ronon." He propped his elbows on his knees, resting his head in his hands, staying in that position for a few moments. Sighing he raised his head, "I need to talk to him."

Teyla nodded, "Yes you do." She gave him a slight, brief smile and departed.

Sheppard remained seated for a bit. Teyla was right. He needed to talk to Ronon; before she arrived, he was working himself up to doing just that. Teyla simply expedited his decision. She was right, although they were friends, Ronon was considerably younger, and in many ways, other than his obvious role of team leader, Ronon looked to him for guidance. He had no issues with assuming the role of commander and the responsibilities that came with that. He had to be leader, mentor, confidant, and disciplinarian for the men and women in his command. That he could do.

However, Ronon was different. He came from a different background, a society that revered their military, and whose military took their role of protecting their people as seriously as any culture he had ever encountered. Earth certainly didn't revere their military, but then, he was well aware, Earth didn't have the Wraith as enemies. Ronon was as proud a man as he had ever met, and perhaps the most loyal. He knew how the Satedan felt about them; they had rescued him, given him a home and a purpose, a life and a chance to fight the Wraith. Sheppard exhaled deeply; he also knew that Ronon had to rip a bit of his soul away to leave them, even for his fellow Satedans. But to Ronon, loyalty and honor were all that he possessed and all that he had to give. He'd had no choice but to go, despite the pain it caused his Atlantis team.

Sheppard stood up, found his running shoes, grabbed a hoodie, a couple of water bottles, and headed out of his quarters; time to find Ronon.

When he reached Ronon's quarters, he ran his hand over the chime sensor, and waited. A moment passed before the door opened.

"Teyla, I to…" Ronon stopped, "Sheppard."

Grinning, Sheppard nodded, "Yep, that's me. Get your shoes on, I need a run."

Ronon stared at him, not saying a word; Sheppard continued to grin. After a few seconds, Ronon put on his brand-new running shoes that Sheppard had given him for his birthday several weeks before.

"See you decided to wear the shoes."

"Yeah, broke 'em in by running some at night." Ronon stood up, "Figured they'd make me beat you even more than normal. Where do you want to run?"

"Let's go outside, run on the east pier." Sheppard tilted his head quizzically, and Ronon nodded in agreement. Handing Ronon a bottle of water, Sheppard headed for the nearest transporter, Ronon in tow, and soon they were running on the pier.

Thirty minutes later, Sheppard was feeling the burn. He was drained before they began running, he had eaten little, and he had about twelve years on Ronon. Ronon, however, was running with the same vigor that he had begun the run with, but then, Sheppard reckoned Ronon had more demons chasing him across the moonlit pier. Another ten minutes and Sheppard halted, yelling at Ronon's back for him to stop. The Satedan continued for a few more strides, then jogged back to Sheppard.

"You tired?"

"Yeah…I need a break; come on, let's sit down." Nearby was a small ten-story building, surrounded by a raised plaza. Sheppard dropped down onto the steps leading to the plaza, stretching his long legs in front of him.

Ronon swallowed about half of his water before he spoke, "So, what do you really want?"

"What makes you think I want anything?"

Ronon glowered at him, not replying.

Sheppard swallowed, scrunching up his face, "Yeah, okay…we're worried about you." Ronon still didn't reply, leaving an awkward silence. Sheppard sputtered, "I…I…" he exhaled deeply, "Look you just went through a really bad…thing…, I just want to know how you are."

"I'm fine."

"Where have I heard that line before?" He sighed, "Ronon…I've been there; I've had friends turn on me. I know how betrayal feels."

"You don't know how this feels."

Sheppard's heart was pounding; he realized that he didn't know how Ronon felt. He could go home; Earth hadn't been destroyed by the Wraith. Ronon didn't have that option. He took a long gulp of water, attempting to give himself time to think before he had to reply.

"I don't and I know that. What you have to realize is that Tyre and the others, they…they were under the influence of the Wraith. They didn't know what they were doing."

"They should have died with honor, taking as many Wraith with them as they could. Instead they were weak…they gave into temptation."

"You know from what we have learned, the Wraith keep these 'Wraith worshipers' under their spell by alternately draining their life force, then giving it back. It's intoxicating."

"How do you know?"

Sheppard answered quietly, "I've been there."

Ronon's head snapped around, as he remembered that Sheppard had gone through the process at the hands of Kolya, who allowed Todd to feed on him. Todd later drained nearly all of Sheppard's life force in order to save them both. The Wraith then honored his word and returned Sheppard to his normal vitality.

"Sheppard…"

"Hey…I won't lie; it was a rush…especially after feeling the life drain out of me. I thought for a moment that Todd had lied to me, left me for dead. When I felt that energy returning into me…I…well, I can understand how repeated feedings and reversals could hook someone."

"They should have fought…Hemi and Morika fought."

"And it cost them their lives; Ronon, your friends at first did what they needed to do to survive. Once they were under Wraith influence, they didn't know anything else."

Ronon was quiet, when he spoke, his voice was steely; his anger barely contained, "They tried to bring me, and all of you, into their nightmare. I only wanted to protect them, to do what I had always done, keep them safe." Ronon ran the fingers of his right hand along the tattoo that Rakai had given him. The tattoo encircled his left forearm, a repetitive pattern of dark and open triangles.

Sheppard asked, "Does it hurt to get one of those tattoos?"

"Yeah, a little, sometimes; Rakai was good at tattooing. He did my new rank when I became squadron commander."

"Does that pattern mean anything or is it just decoration?"

"It's the design of the front windows of the Satedan army's main headquarters. The triangles fitting together to make a whole was a symbol of the unity of the military."

"It's nice."

"You ever thought about a tattoo?"

"No…never had the urge to get a tattoo. I remember when I was twelve, Dave came home after school with a tattoo of a skull and crossbones on his upper arm. He was seventeen at the time, and all hell broke loose when my father saw it. He screamed at Dave for getting that damn tattoo; told Dave he expected that kind of foolish behavior from me, but not from him. Turned out the tattoo wasn't real, Dave was playing a pirate in a school play. It was the first, and only, time I remember Dave knowingly baiting our father."

Ronon chortled, "Surprised you didn’t get one just to make him mad."

"Yeah, you'd think wouldn't you; but like I said, never had a desire to have designs on my body. Lots of guys in my units had 'em; the Air Force allows some discreet tattoos," Sheppard scoffed, "but considering the fine line I walked most of the time, tattoos would have just given the brass something else to rag me about."

"I…I wanted to do something to honor the Satedan military."

"I think the tattoo is a fitting tribute."

"I trusted them."

"I know what happened today was difficult. Trust is something we have to earn from each other. You trusted your friends, and they trusted you; but circumstances changed."

One of New Atlantia's two visible moons was setting, its orb magnified as it dipped toward the horizon. Ronon and Sheppard fell silent, both watching the silver glow the moon was casting across the ocean.

Sheppard couldn't shake the perception that something else upsetting Ronon; reluctantly, he asked, "What else is on your mind?"

"I turned my back on all of you, and left," pain was evident in Ronon's voice and he hesitated before he continued. "How can you trust me again?"

"Ronon, you didn't turn your back on us; you made a decision that you thought was right for you."

"After all you've done for me, the first chance I got, I took off."

"You believed for years that you were alone, that your people were gone, then you find out that's not true. It's only natural that you would want to be with your fellow Satedans."

"Sheppard, you warned me that things wouldn't be the same, you told me that I might think I was going back to find what I lost, but that it wasn't there anymore. You were right."

"I didn't want to be, but that's what I thought."

"You also told me that I was only one man, that I couldn't protect them all. But you do the same thing; you think you can protect all of us by yourself."

Sheppard shifted uncomfortably, "It's my responsibility to try, but, in truth, I know I can't. If I could, Elizabeth would be here, Carson would be here, Peter, Ford…all of them. That doesn't stop me from feeling like I've failed them."

"I failed you."

Sheppard stood up abruptly, spinning around to face his friend, "Damn it, no you didn't. We respected what you decided, this was never a question of trust. We all trust you."

"Even you?"

"Yes."

Ronon stood up, "You ready to head back."

"Yeah…I'm hungry; let's go grab some food. Bet Rodney and Teyla could use a midnight snack."

Ronon grinned, "Yeah…food is good."

The big Satedan started running toward the building housing the transporter. As Sheppard followed, he thought that the tattoo on Ronon's arm might be his friend's way of paying tribute to his military comrades, but the fact was the real tribute to Sateda was the man brandishing the tattoo.

The end…

Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
londonsabre
Oct. 18th, 2011 07:35 pm (UTC)
A beautiful team fic! (with Rodney hiding in the wings!!)
stella_pegasi
Oct. 18th, 2011 09:46 pm (UTC)
First...love your icon...so adorable.

Glad you enjoyed the story...thanks!
rubygirl29
Oct. 18th, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
I liked your explanation of Ronon's tattoo. Nicely done!
stella_pegasi
Oct. 18th, 2011 09:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you...so glad you enjoyed. I always wondered why Jason got that particular tattoo, so I racked my brain trying to figure out what that pattern could represent for Ronon.

Really appreciate the comment and again, thanks!
kazbaby
Oct. 19th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
I think I saw or read in an interview that the tat Jason has represents something to do with his family. You gave it the right meaning for Ronon's character.
stella_pegasi
Oct. 19th, 2011 08:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks...I always wondered why Jason got that tattoo...good to know!
jendavis
Oct. 18th, 2011 07:42 pm (UTC)
Aw, this was great! *loves this* Your characterizations were spot on, and the meaning behind the tattoo, I'm convinced, is canon. Dammit. :)
stella_pegasi
Oct. 18th, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks....:D...glad you liked. We'll just pretend it's cannon...I swear I have read and written so much SGA fanfic that I have to stop and think what really is cannon anymore.

Thanks again...appreciate the comment!

Love your icon...
sexycazzy
Oct. 18th, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
Great fic! Always wondered the story behind Ronon's tattoos and you did it beautifully! :D
stella_pegasi
Oct. 18th, 2011 09:54 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed...I always wondered about that tattoo as well...another great prompt gave me a chance to play with it.

Thanks!!!
gaffsie
Oct. 18th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
That's lovely. Such a heart-warming take on the prompt.
stella_pegasi
Oct. 19th, 2011 01:13 am (UTC)
Oh...thanks...I always thought this was a heart wrenching episode...one of my favorite scenes is Ronon and Sheppard walking away from the meeting in the village when Ronon tells Sheppard he's leaving...that look on Sheppard's face was a heart breaker.

Glad you enjoyed!
sherry57
Oct. 18th, 2011 08:59 pm (UTC)
I love this story hon. So much friendship and examination of how this friendship and trust is affected by Ronon's actions. I love the symbol of the tattoo. You have addressed thngs that were not addressed in the series with an insight that makes me really feel like you know these characters and their backgrounds personally!!!

Excellent story hon and your banner as always is beautiful to look at. The colours are wonderful. Thanks for a great experience...reading and enjoyng your creativity.
stella_pegasi
Oct. 19th, 2011 01:35 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I really appreciate your comment...these are such wonderful characters and they are such fun to play with. There was so much the series could have explored with these characters but didn't. I miss these guys.

Glad you liked the banner...

Thanks again!!
leesa_perrie
Oct. 19th, 2011 02:40 pm (UTC)
Great fic - very believable and in character!
stella_pegasi
Oct. 19th, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much...glad you enjoyed!
kazbaby
Oct. 19th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
God, this is so perfectly them. In every way. The final line is so so true that I teared up reading it.
stella_pegasi
Oct. 19th, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC)
Thanks....ah...I didn't want you tear up but so glad you enjoyed!

hoktauri
Oct. 19th, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is great! I loved that last line, and Sheppard *can* be good at dealing with pain when he has a mind to. I absolutely loved the idea of Rodney taking the painting and then making Teyla return it when Ronon came back. And John's modesty, Ronon's honor, Teyla's guidance, and the whole thing about the Wraith returning life being a rush--all wonderful points.

Thank you for this!
stella_pegasi
Oct. 19th, 2011 08:53 pm (UTC)
You are most welcome and thank you for your comments. So glad you enjoyed!
eccentricweft
Oct. 19th, 2011 11:48 pm (UTC)
Very lovely! Like everyone I really like the meaning you gave to the tattoo. I also like the line about Rodney wanting something of Ronon's - I wish there could have been more of their friendship on screen - and yet him asking Teyla to return it for him is so believable because as much as he cared about Ronon and was genuinely grieved for him to be leaving, he probably still couldn't figure out that was what he was feeling.
stella_pegasi
Oct. 20th, 2011 02:50 am (UTC)
I think you are so right...that Rodney couldn't face taking the painting back to Ronon because he didn't understand what he was feeling. I love these characters...such depth in their relationships like you said, and was never explored on screen.

So glad you enjoyed, and thanks for the comment.
black_raven135
Oct. 22nd, 2011 12:06 am (UTC)
~~Lovely~~
I am particularly touched by how understanding and forgiving Sheppard is when Ronon begins to lament about how he turned his back on Sheppard and the rest of the team.........betrayed them

BTW your artwork is lovely also........
So much talent in this community...

stella_pegasi
Oct. 22nd, 2011 12:18 am (UTC)
I think Sheppard's been through so much himself that he can find the capacity to forgive Ronon. Glad you enjoyed the story and liked the banner. Really appreciate your comment, as always!

Thanks!!
trillingstar
Oct. 24th, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
Well done! I love the Teaminess, and the ending is great. *heartclench*
stella_pegasi
Oct. 24th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC)
Thank you, I'm so glad you enjoyed. Writing this team is so much fun, really pleased you like the ending.

Thanks again, appreciate the comment.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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