1. “Beads?” he says doubtfully, rolling them around in his cupped hand as though they might inexplicably become something else.
“Blue beads,” his sister Rissa helpfully points out. “Twelve blue beads.” She looks at him expectantly. Apparently that’s supposed to mean something to him.
“So?” he asks eventually, earning himself a disappointed sigh.
“For your hair.” She reaches over and tugs at it, just hard enough to make Ronon scowl at her. “You’ll be joining the Specialist Corps soon. Time to get your cords started.”
“Oh, right,” Ronon says, feeling young and stupid, and doesn’t flinch when she reaches for his hair a second time.
2. “You’re pretty serious about this Melena, aren’t you.” Tyre sounds amused, but Ronon doesn’t notice, too busy not thinking about Melena’s eyes, her smile, the curl of her hair.
“Yes,” he sighs, oblivious to the ribbing that follows. Which means he also misses the look in Tyre’s eye that means he’s plotting something. So the broken leg during sparring practice comes as a surprise.
“I hate you,” he tells Tyre afterwards, once he’s in the hospital, leg in a cast, drugged up to his eyeballs to keep the world from splintering into white every time he tries to shift position.
“Didn’t expect you to pull right like that,” Tyre shrugs, unapologetic. “But cheer up—you’ll be as good as new in a month or two.”
“I still hate you,” Ronon says, wishing he’d inherited his mother’s ability to destroy people with a single disapproving look.
“Am I interrupting something?” a not-familiar-enough voice asks, and Ronon is torn between the desire to smother himself in the bed clothes out of embarrassment and to prove what a child he still is by sticking out his tongue at Tyre. He does neither.
“Not at all, Doctor,” Tyre says. “I was just leaving.”
“Um ... hi,” Ronon manages to get out once the two of them are alone.
“Hi,” Melena replies and smiles like the sun.
3. “What’s this, and why is it on my bed?” Ronon shakes a handful of stiffened blue cloth at Rissa, feeling about ten years younger than his actual age.
“I have no idea,” she says. “Let me see?” Ronon drops the thing into her outstretched hand, although he’s strongly tempted to take it outside and shoot it, just in case. “Maybe it’s something to wrap around your hair?” she finally guesses. “Although you’d think there’d be a note to explain.”
“Yeah, you would,” Ronon agrees. “Can I go kill it now?”
“You don’t even want to try it on?” She unfurls the strip of fabric and begins advancing on Ronon, who promptly retreats.
“No.” He backs into the wall and begins sidling to the left.
“Oh good, you found it.” The impending brother-sister brawl comes to a crashing halt as they both turn to look at their younger brother, who’s posing in the doorway. (Definitely posing: he’s all set to charge into the world of historical re-enactments and propagandistic theater and anything else that will get him a willing or captive audience.)
“Found what, exactly?” Ronon demands, because Rel is wearing his ‘aren’t I clever and aren’t you going to hate it’ face. He spent most of his boyhood exhibiting it particularly for Ronon’s benefit, so there’s no possibility of a misunderstanding.
“The headpiece for your kattin costume, of course. The rest of it’s in your closet, although it might be too big. I forgot how short you—” The rest is lost as Ronon demonstrates just how short he isn’t, and incidentally, just how short Rel still is, and it looks like Rel possibly forgot to take strength into account, too.
Ronon doesn’t let him up off the floor until Rissa, laughing, examines his closet and promises that there’s nothing there that shouldn’t be, and not even the faintest hint of blue. But first he puts the headpiece on Rel’s head, and makes sure to get some hair in the knots, just to make it extra painful and difficult to get off again.
4. “You know, there’s a chance we could help you,” Sheppard says, and Ronon doesn’t believe him, doesn’t believe him about the doctor, or believe the doctor about the tracker being removable, continues not believing until they bring him to Atlantis—Atlantis, that has its stories told even on Sateda, where they tell no one’s stories but their own—and then he begins to hope, a little. Before the Wraith caught him, he had no need for hope; after, he had no reason to, however much he pretended, to keep himself alive and mostly sane. Now, though....
Around him is a city like something out of the few paintings his sister managed to do for herself, rather than the Department of Propaganda, and the people walking through it, walking beside him, step with easy confidence even his brother’s best performance couldn’t match. It’s enough to make him finally accept that this all is real, that his endless waking nightmare is over, and now he can go home.
5. It gets to be something of a routine: a box of drellas—‘balloons’, Sheppard calls them, a sound which does suit their shape—doesn’t appear outside Ronon’s door after every visit by the Daedalus, but almost. Instead of using them all up in a single night, as he did the first time, Ronon parcels them out in dribs and drabs, saving them for ‘lessons’ with Sheppard.
Who is neither brilliant nor hopeless, although he professes to be the latter.
“The first time I saw someone do this, it scared me silly,” he says, tying a knot off with hard-worn skill. “My mom couldn’t get me to say anything for the rest of the evening, not until we got home and I was safe in my bed, under the covers.” Ronon tries to imagine a young Sheppard speechless, but can’t come up with anything likely to frighten him that much. Not if the boy held any beginnings of the man.
“They exploded?” he finally hazards, twisting two drellas into what will be the base of a nearly-scale model of Atlantis. Maybe they can sneak it into Elizabeth’s office somehow....
“What?” Sheppard looks up from the intricate, twisting chain he’s forming out of the handful of drellas allotted him. He squints at Ronon a little, as if checking on his continued sanity. “Oh, you’re talking about the balloons. No, I hardly even saw them—was too busy trying to make sure the clown didn’t notice me and decide I’d make a good lunch.”
This isn’t the first time someone—mostly Sheppard—has mentioned ‘clowns’, but Ronon’s yet to pry a useful definition out of anyone. He doesn’t ask now, having long ago learned that it just isn’t worth it with Sheppard.
“My uncle showed me,” he says instead, after a long silence broken only by the squeak of the drellas rubbing against themselves and each other. “Started teaching me before I could say the word properly, even. I think he suspected we’d have shortages later, and wanted to do it while he had the chance.” It still hurts a little to think about his family, but it’s the brief, sharp sting of a needle, not the aching gut-wound of grief he’d carried for months after finding out that Sateda was dead.
After an even longer pause, Sheppard says, “My uncle taught me how to make paper airplanes.” They spend the rest of the evening in silence, except for when a knot fails and the balloon deflates with a shrieking sigh.
(They do manage to sneak the model of Atlantis onto Elizabeth’s desk, and Sheppard’s creation, which he calls ‘dee-en-ay’, into Beckett’s office.)
+1. Ronon waits to visit Lorne until he knows Sheppard’s ‘training’ with Teyla and so won’t walk in on the conversation. “Can you get me paper?” he asks, not bothering with pleasantries because he knows Lorne is always busy and it seems best not to take up more of his time than needed.
“Depends on what you want it for,” Lorne says after a moment. “And how much. If it’s just a couple sheets for a letter or something—”
“It’s for paper airplanes, for Sheppard. As a gift.” It’ll be three years, soon, since Sheppard said ‘there’s a chance we can help you,’ and gave Ronon two gifts he probably hadn’t even realized were gifts: Atlantis—which is hope—and himself. “I’m willing to pay,” he adds when Lorne’s expression remains blank, although he doesn’t add that he’s not sure how.
“For paper airplanes, as a gift,” Lorne repeats slowly, like he’s trying to figure out the answer to a riddle. “Oh—I know just the thing. But it’ll have to wait for the next supply run. Is that okay?”
“That’s fine,” Ronon says, relieved but not wanting to show it. “What will I owe you?”
“Just make me look good the next time we spar in front of the Marines,” Lorne jokes, and Ronon will never cease to be surprised by the easy generosity of these people.
A month later, there’s a box of drellas outside Ronon’s door, and several packets of thick, brightly-patterned paper on Ronon’s bed, because Lorne is both more and less subtle than Sheppard. There’s writing on the back of each sheet, and a grid with numbers, and each packet is bound together at the top in some way—none of which is anything like what Ronon had in mind, but Lorne knows Sheppard in different ways than he does, and also Earth culture, so Ronon just accepts what’s been given him (again) and passes it all along to Sheppard the next day at dinner.
“Paper airplane calendars?” Sheppard exclaims when he takes a look at them. “These are—how did you get them?” He sorts through them almost reverently. “Some of these designs are insane.” Which is, Ronon’s pretty sure, a good thing.
He shrugs, not sure whether or not to make Lorne’s part in it known—though Sheppard guesses a minute later.
“Thanks,” he adds as he gets up to dispose of his dishes. “Though since it’s not my birthday or anything, I kind of feel like I should give you something in return.” As if he hasn’t already given Ronon more than can ever be counted or repaid.
“Show me how to make a couple of them?” Ronon offers, because he is kind of curious to see what exactly prompted so much enthusiasm.
“Sounds fair,” Sheppard says, and it isn’t, but that’s okay.