Ten days, and eleven nights. Two jumper searches and a Daedalus planetary fly-by, and still there was no sign of Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard.
Ronon walked the architectural masterpiece that was the City of the Ancients, the seat of a once-great empire, and saw nothing of value in the miles of glass that reflected the ocean's light on the burnt red walls. Sheppard was gone.
And until he came home...
Ronon ran the catwalks at night; his bootsteps echoing the cavernous space in time with his heart. He remembered when Sheppard had a bug inside him, how he'd gloated at being faster.
Ronon had lost Sheppard then too.
During the day Ronon ran along the pier and out the back of the botany labs. His radio was always on. The constant familiar chatters a harsh reminder that life would always go on.
But the truth was, without Sheppard, the city was just that; a collection of buildings and balconies, piers and pathways. It was nothing more than an illusion of home.
It was said among his people wander far knowing Sateda awaits your return. But Sateda was gone and now Sheppard was gone too. And he'd taken with him the little something Ronon in everything Sheppard.
Ronon's steps slowed with the weight crushing his chest. Out here in the watery winter light there was an awful lot of breathing room, but Ronon could hardly move. The pressure inside him imploded in agony and torment. He wrapped his arms around himself and held on as he fell to his knees. Was this what scared felt like? Ronon thought he was scared; scared he'd missed his last chance.
Air dragged itself into Ronon's lungs, seared on the exhale as if it too sought to leave him. Why? Why had he not told Sheppard? Why had he waited? He would not have entrusted Sheppard if Ronon hadn't known Sheppard was the one. And still he had remained silent. All of him in the care of a stranger who knew nothing of the charge he had been given.
Ronon had meant to reveal himself. Had meant to declare what he knew to be true. But the time had never been right. His window of opportunity closing as mission followed mission, and life on Atlantis conspired against any chance of intimacy.
It was time for Sheppard to come home.
Ronon's radio exploded in a panic of incomprehensible static and he was on his feet. Moving, and gasping for air, as he ran for the nearest transporter; the emptiness filling him with a breathless hope too fragile to cling to.
The faceless voices in his ear were right. It hadn't been a glitch in transmission.
Sheppard stood in the gate room. Black uniform dusted grey, hazel eyes wide, and hair wilder than ever.
Ronon's relief overwhelmed him as if he stood aboard a one man boat in a storm, instead of a giant floating city.
Sheppard was swamped by Carter and the rest. Yet more obstacles between Ronon and all that he craved. As if he had heard Ronon's thoughts Sheppard looked over the shoulders of those who barred his way, and met Ronon's gaze. A warm balm to the dried husk Ronon had become in Sheppard's absence.
He knew. Sheppard knew, and Ronon could not draw breath as heat and relief surged within him in equal measure.
The voice called out to him, a light in the dark of the room where he waited. Sheppard's squawk of startled sound brought a lift to Ronon's lips as he yanked his CO into his arms, and shoved the both of them against the wall.
Ronon's mind was racing with all he wanted to say, must say, before this chance was taken from him too. I think we're just scared, I bet you're hard to get over; I bet the moon just won't shine. But all he could utter was a one syllable prayer.
He had to make him understand, but the way John's beautiful eyes sparked at the sound of his own name made Ronon realise that John did understand. Perhaps he always had. Ronon hands fisted tight in the fabric of John's shirt at the realisation.
"I think we should try, I think I could need this in my life," He growled, felt John shiver and pressed in closer to block any thought of escape. "There's a little something me in everything you."
"Jesus, Ronon!" John whispered, cheeks flushed and lower lip freshly licked. "C'mere."
Ronon did as John bid and ducked his head, dreads falling over the back of his hands where they curved over toned biceps.
John's mouth was new and familiar, soft and hot and welcoming as he rose up on his toes in search of more. Ronon's mind buzzed and his body pressed John harder into the wall as they kissed. The implosion inside eased with each cautious swipe of John's tongue, each sharp nip of scolding teeth, each moan of relief and want.
"I think I'm just scared." John murmured his confession pressed it into the skin behind Ronon's ear with exploring lips and the rasp of stubble, when they came up for air. "It's a problem, I'm dealing."
Ronon huffed a laugh that was cut short by the grip John had on his hips, nimble fingers edging under the hem of Ronon's shirt in search of bare skin to explore. "I can relate."
He couldn't help the moan he offered into John's lush mouth, his own fingers tangling in wild black whorls as he pulled the two them tighter together; a circle of hips that John was only too eager to answer. Ronon's world had righted itself.
John had come home.