1. Every morning Ronon’s mother leaves smelling of soap, and every evening she returns smelling of sharp, unpleasant, nameless things, but Ronon wraps himself around her legs anyway, presses his face against her knees, holds on as if he will never let go. Says “Mama,” and means ‘you’re home; never leave again’. And the next day it happens all over again.
2. It’s mostly over now, the Security Corps done with their questioning, friends and family allowed back in. Ronon’s sister Rissa sits huddled in a chair older than both of them put together, swathed with blankets, as though she’s suffering from a fever instead of a broken heart. “Did you love him?” he asks her, feeling as though he’s juggling broken glass instead of words.
“I don’t know,” she replies, voice sounding so dead he almost doesn’t recognize it as hers. “I thought I did, but maybe that’s just because he wanted me to. I should’ve....”
She falls silent, and a dozen true but useless platitudes leap onto his tongue. Swallowing them is perhaps the hardest thing he’s ever done.
“I didn’t believe them when they told me, you know,” she finally continues, voice steady even as her fingers twist and untwist the closest blanket-hem. “Not until they showed me the reports he’d written, detailing the offworld movements of the Specialist Corps, the security we have on the Ring. And even then I doubted, right up until he admitted it to me. He was proud—said he was doing it to keep me safe. I would have killed him then, if they’d let me,” she says, looking up at Ronon almost shyly, finally, finally sounding a little like herself. “All I could think about was you—what if you’d died because of him?”
There’s no answer for that, so Ronon just hugs her awkwardly, trying not to remember the days when she’d been his shield against everything bad. For a moment she’s stiff as ice or crystal, but then she shatters in his arms, sobbing into his shoulder as though the world really had ended and it was all her fault.
3. He’s been running long enough to know a single afternoon on one world should be safe, so after bouncing through a dozen Rings in a row he stops long enough to help with a fruit harvest. Payment is what he can carry away with him, which is fair, but when evening’s almost come (and Ronon’s almost ready to crawl out of his skin from being around so many people for so long) the orchard’s owner invites him to stay for the meal.
And he shouldn’t. He knows he shouldn’t, but he can’t remember the last time he had actual food, had something given to him that he could accept, so he stays; sunfall should be safe. He’s been pushing and pushing and pushing himself to build a lead on his pursuers, and now he’ll use it to remind himself that he’s still human.
It’s hard, to sit and eat neatly, politely, to smile at his host’s young daughter as she peers out at him from underneath the table. Hard, but good.
The afternoon finally settles into evening, sun touching the rim of the sky, and he has to leave now, even as he finally remembers who (what) he used to be. He can’t bring himself to say his farewells, just nods to people as he collects his earnings and begins the walk back to the Ring. Which perhaps explains how he misses the thoughtful look on his host’s face, the sudden subdued scramble in and around the house. So the man and child waiting for him by the Ring come as a surprise—first bad, then good as he realizes that they’re not there to execute or rob him. (The Wraith aren’t the only hunters he’s had to run from.)
“What do you want?” he asks, torn between hanging onto the food he’s earned and preparing himself for a fight. There’s the girl there, though, so he winds up doing nothing, just stands there uneasily.
“You’re a good worker,” the other man says. “If you could stay, I’d gladly take you on permanently. But since you can’t,” —and oh, but Ronon’s heart goes tight at that word can’t— “I’d like to at least give you a gift to remember us by.” There’s a basket for the fruit, and a large bundle of things that he doesn’t have time to look at. Not now, not here, not until he’s run awhile again. And Ronon can only nod silently, afraid to say anything in case he can’t stop once he starts.
But before he goes through the ring, the little girl throws her arms around his leg and squeezes, the way he used to with his mother when he was little, as though he actually means something to her, and he almost, almost can’t bear to walk away.
She’s the last person he touches (fighting doesn’t count) until John Sheppard and Teyla and Atlantis.
4. He hugs no one in Atlantis, is hugged by no one in turn. It isn’t like that there—he isn’t like that. Instead he presses his forehead to Teyla’s in greeting and farewell, hits Rodney in the training rooms in an attempt to get him to hit back, slouches down alongside Sheppard when the other man is utterly relaxed, their shoulders touching, unnoticed.
5. Later, when he’s learned hope again, and is sure enough of himself and his new home to risk disappointment, he goes back with Sheppard and his team, and gets another hug from a girl who’s not so little any more, and a warmer welcome than he could have imagined.
“So you found someplace you could stay?” their host asks him after the festivities have worn on a while and everyone else is deep in conversation or food.
“Yes,” Ronon says, wanting to explain more, explain why there and not here, but not yet having the words for it. “They’re good people,” is the best he can come up with, which isn’t fair to Atlantis or to his listener. But the other man only smiles and nods like he understands, so perhaps it is fair after all.
“That’s good,” he says, and “I’m glad,” and the two of them sit together for a long while, just listening to the sounds of people being happy.
(5b. And perhaps he does sort of maybe kind of hug a few people in Atlantis as circumstances seem to warrant it, and although they always seem sort of surprised, nobody ever seems upset by it, so he sort of maybe kind of keeps doing it. Sometimes.
(Sometimes they hug back.))