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Ronon finds John on the south pier but it's John who asks, "You all right?"

"Yeah," Ronon says. "Why?"

John looks at him. "Because he was your friend, too. He dug a transponder out of your back. Twice."

Ronon lets his gaze wander over the surface of the water. "You get to a point with loss, where it...loses its impact."

John rocks back on his heels. "Hm, yeah. Bullshit."

Ronon lifts an eyebrow.

"Bullshit, Ronon. If it lost its impact you wouldn't bother helping us to try and keep the people in the cities we visit alive when crappy things happen. You sure as hell wouldn't have put a knife to your throat to keep Teyla and I from danger."

Ronon scowls at the ocean, which is deceptively, annoyingly calm. "The two are not the same."

John tilts his hip to lean up against the guardrail and waits.

Ronon takes his time before saying, "Valuing life is not the same as--"

John waits some more.

Ronon holds the rail more tightly and doesn't finish the sentence.

"You all right?" John asks again, the words softer this time, but every bit as expectant.

Ronon hunches over the railing. "All right. Yes. Fine."

In John's experience, those are synonyms for "okay". Just "okay". And John has seen Ronon be okay with arrows sticking out of his flesh, old wounds cut and torn straight open, a tracker that marked him as bait for seven years ticking along under his skin. "Okay" means nothing more than "alive" with Ronon.

Ronon breaks the silence without prompt, which startles John enough that a tremor runs through him. It is so slight that were anyone but Ronon standing next to him, it would go unnoticed. Ronon notices, but he does not say anything, not about that. "I just-- I always-- There is always--"

"More to be said?" John asks. He is not unaware of the irony inherent in the question being asked between the two of them.

Ronon nods his head.

John doesn't know that he should ask, but he doesn't think he can let the words just build up inside Ronon until not even violence will unleash them. "What would you say?"

Ronon doesn't even have to think, or maybe he has been thinking. Either way, his, "Thank you," is immediate.

John says, "You had told him." And even if Ronon hadn't, Carson would have known.

"Not enough," Ronon says. "There was never going to be a time when it was enough."

John says, "He kne-- We know. Ronon. We know."

Ronon shakes his head. "No. Not really."

"Okay," John says, "not really. But as much as we can. We know."

Ronon closes his eyes. He feels the touch of John's hand, wrapped next to his over the rail, pressing into his.

Ronon whispers, "I love you."

John knows that, too, but he understands that there are times when a person has to say it, has to hear it said. "Me too."

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile