One Is a Lonely Number
He had a reputation as a man of action. Now though, looking down at the blood pooling beneath his right leg, at the jagged teeth marks in his flesh, Ronon Dex wondered whether that was necessarily a good thing. He’d reacted instinctively, just as he had when he’d asked to be left here, on this planet, alone, with no weapons save a knife.
He’d been glad of the solitude at first. It was time away from a city he’d begun to find overcrowded after the death of Tyre, the man he’d once considered almost a brother. Sheppard had acquiesced, flying him here on the jumper and promising not to return for him for two days. Days that Ronon would use to get his head on straight and get out of what Sheppard called his funk.
Surprisingly, being alone had started to wear thin by the end of the first day and when the creature had appeared at his campsite around suppertime, Ronon had been somewhat comforted by feeling he wasn’t the only soul alive on the planet.
The creature was about the size of a large Kelnik, the animals Satedans used for hunting. It looked half-starved, its fur a dull brown, its head large for its body. It almost looked like it was smiling as it tentatively moved towards his campfire. It stopped a few feet away and dropped into a crouch, saliva dripping freely from its wide mouth as it scented the roasted meat Ronon had cooking on a skewer over the flames.
“You hungry, buddy?” Ronon asked. He leaned forward and pulled a piece of meat from the skewer then tossed it across the campfire, where it landed directly in front of the animal’s paws. The creature picked up the meat between its teeth but instead of wolfing it down, as Ronon expected, it climbed to its feet, turned, and loped away.
Ronon shrugged, almost sorry to have lost his fireside companion. Standing, he moved the rest of the meat out of the fire then headed off into the bushes at his back then nature’s business taken care of, he wandered back to the campsite, pulling up short at the sight before him.
The animal was back, and this time it was showing no hesitancy in approaching the fire. It already had its jaws clamped around the meat-filled skewer and was pulling it free.
“Hey! Get out of there!” Ronon yelled, moving forward at a run. The creature turned and dropped its prize to bare its teeth menacingly then before Ronon could even begin to reach for the knife at his belt, it attacked, barreling in low and latching onto his leg ferociously.
Ronon let out a startled yelp and back-pedaled, lifting his trapped leg and shaking his foot in an effort to free it from the tenacious creature. But, much like a Kelnik with a discarded bone, the animal simply tightened its grip on his leg and Ronon fell backwards, hands scrabbling frantically for his knife. A high pitched series of yips sounded somewhere to Ronon’s left and suddenly the creature released him, snarling a farewell as it raced back to the fireside and picked up its lost prize. With a parting growl, it raced away into the darkness.
Ronon rolled to his side then managed to sit up. His leg throbbed fiercely and he could feel the warmth of blood trailing freely down his calf to pool in his boot. He pushed himself to his feet then warily tested his weight on his injured leg. It held so he limped across to the fire and fell into a stumbling sit, pulling his pack to his side. Luckily he’d at least had the foresight to bring a first aid kit and he took it out, along with several bottles of water. Rolling up his pants leg, he grimaced at the gashes etched into his flesh. Some of them were deep enough to probably need stitching once he got back to Atlantis. For now the best he could do was irrigate them with water, douse them with antiseptic, and bandage them. Minutes, and a few Satedan curses later, the job was done. He gave momentary thought to trying to get some sleep but he wasn’t sure if the creature would come back scavenging for more food, so he propped his back against a scrubby tree and forced himself to stay alert. When morning came after what seemed an almost endless night, bringing a cool, clear sunrise, he was still awake.
He’d castigated himself during the night for ignoring the lesson his grandfather had taught him - that you never gave a scavenging creature food, no matter how harmless it might seem. Not for the first time since he’d ended up in Atlantis, he wondered if maybe he’d become soft, too complacent. He’d realized that the yipping sounds he’d heard were probably the animal’s young and that the food she’d first taken so willingly was probably for them.
His leg was even more painful now, and when he rolled down the bandage to take a look, he could see it was already infected, not surprising considering the animal probably mostly lived on scavenged kills. He thought about making his way to the river he knew was about a half day’s walk away but Sheppard was expecting to find him here, at the campsite, and finally he decided to obey one of his grandfather’s most firmly stressed rules. ‘Don’t wander off. Stay where you can be found.’ That decided, he set about cleaning the wounds again then forced himself to eat an energy bar.
The rest of the day passed in a daze. His fever climbed and he used some of his water to wet his face and head, glad he’d refilled his bottles when he’d passed the river the day before. Solitude now crowded in on him as much as his friends’ well-intended company had on Atlantis and he found himself constantly scanning the sky, hoping that Sheppard might return early.
By the time dusk was beginning to settle around him, he began to feel chilled despite his still high fever, and he forced himself to get up and gather more firewood. If Sheppard didn’t arrive soon, he’d rebuild his fire and huddle next to it for warmth, and hope that his previous night’s visitor didn’t return.
A sudden flash of light caught his attention and he looked up as the jumper zoomed above him, giving a slow side to side roll on its flypast. Ronon bent his head and swallowed down the relief that almost overwhelmed him, sending a silent thank you to his grandfather for all those lessons finally learned.