Summary: John was left to die in the desert, but not by everyone.
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Word Count: 1671
Rating/Contents: PG, alternate ending, episode tag (5x19: Vegas)
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A/N: This may have been inspired by "Spanish Pipedream" by John Prine. Who can say? Also, with this story, I pass 900000 words at the Archive of Our Own! \o\\o//o/
"Do not move him."
"He doesn't have any broken bones."
"You do not know that."
"We have to go if we're taking him."
"Then let's go. We'll just have to risk it."
There are people talking above John's head, people touching him, but he doesn't have it in him to fight, no capacity to keep them away. He doesn't remember if he wants to keep them away or not; he just wants to be out of the sun.
Everything goes away for a while.
When he wakes up, he's not in the sun anymore, which is a definite improvement. He still feels like shit, sore and tired, but he's somewhere indoors, dark and quiet, surrounded by the moist, cool air of a swamp cooler.
He coughs, and a man comes to his side. He's wearing leather, long dreadlocks, and he towers over John's bed. "He's up," the man says gruffly.
A woman walks over, placing the back of her small, cool hand on his forehead. "I am Teyla," she says. "You are safe here."
He looks around. "I'm not in Kansas anymore."
"It would be so much stranger if you were," she tells him.
"Can't argue with that," he says. He looks up at the man questioningly.
"Ronon," the man says.
"Ronin?" John repeats. "Like a samurai?"
"Ronon, with an O," he says, looking a little displeased, like people make that mistake a lot. "Like my mother named me."
"Got it," John says. "Where am I, exactly? I was kinda hoping for a hospital, to be perfectly honest."
"We have a doctor," Teyla tells him. "You will be fine."
John has a sudden realization. "Did you just kidnap me?" he asks.
"We saved you," Ronon says. "We can leave you back there if you want."
"What Ronon means," Teyla says, eying him, "is that whenever you're healed, we'll be glad to take you back to the city, if that is what you want."
The door opens, and a guy sticks his head in. "Dinner's ready," he says. He looks at John, grinning. "Sleeping Beauty's up. I'll tell Halling."
"Thank you, Aiden," Teyla says, and he ducks back out again. "I will get you something to eat," she tells John.
"Thanks," he says, and Teyla smiles at him, taking her leave. John sits up very carefully; he hurts like hell pretty much everywhere.
"Careful," Ronon says, putting a hand on his arm to help him.
"Can you tell me where I am?" John asked. "I'm not an 'undisclosed location', am I? If you're more of those government guys-"
"We're the opposite of the government guys," Ronon tells him, pulling up a chair and sitting next to the bed.
"What's that supposed to mean?" John asks.
"We're the people the government doesn't like very much," he says. "Pretty sure we don't own any of this land, but if you asked Halling, he'd probably say that you can't own land to start with."
John gives him a look. "What would you say about it?"
He shrugs. "If nobody comes to kick you out, it might as well be yours."
"Who's we?" John asks.
"There's about thirty of us," Ronon says. "The kind of people you'd probably expect to be living off the grid in the desert."
"Is this a commune or a cult?" John asks suspiciously.
"Is there really a difference?" Ronon says, amused.
"They don't let you leave a cult," John clarifies.
"Like I said," he says, "we'll take you back to wherever you want if you want to go." He frowns. "Unless it's farther than Tonopah. You can get your own ride past that."
"There are a lot of people in Vegas who are looking for me," John says carefully. "I don't mean they want to get drinks and chat."
Ronon huffs a laugh. "Join the club."
"So I've been kidnapped by some weird outlaw tribe in the middle of the desert," John says.
"Weird outlaw tribe," Ronon says. "I like that."
There's a knock on the door, and Ronon walks over, opening it. It's an older guy, dressed up in hippie clothes; he looks calm, like he doesn't know another way to be but calm, like that's his whole deal. He puts his hands together and bows to John, and Ronon gives John a look over the guy's shoulder, a sort of I-told-you-so expression.
What in the fuck has John gotten himself into?
It's a few days before John feels up to walking around. The place is pretty nice for a cult in the middle of nowhere. It's mostly adults, a few older kids, a crazy mixture of people who don't seem to make any sense together, except in that hippie free love way- not that John actually witnesses any free love, which he can't decide if he's disappointed by.
Honestly, he doesn't know these people well enough for free love.
They call themselves the Athosians, and there's generalized laughter when John asks where it came from. "It came to Halling in a dream," Ford says, shaking his head. Even with as little as John knows about him, it seems perfectly in character.
John doesn't know how long they've been there, how long they'll stay; they just sort of are, and it seems to be like they'll be until they aren't. They've moved around, changing camps more than once. John doesn't rightly know why, not all of it. At least some of it seems to include BLM getting wind of having what amounts to squatters on their land, but some of it doesn't. There are bad things that he doesn't understand, but they all smile on, like they're perfectly happy, like the good in this world makes up for the bad.
Most of the time John thinks it's bizarre. The rest of the time he thinks it's comforting.
That's the bizarre part.
He spends a lot of his time with Ronon, because Ronon seems to get how he feels, in a way that the others don't. Some of them have lived this way their entire lives, born into this or dropping out of society as soon as they could leave home. Ronon's not like that; Ronon is here because he's tired, because he doesn't want to run anymore, because he just likes it.
John sees a lot of himself in Ronon. That isn't a sexual reference. Not at first, anyway.
He's there for three weeks before he decides the time has come. He doesn't have anything with him, nothing but his ruined suit and shirt, but he gathers them anyway, tying some twine around them like he's a hobo or something.
"You have decided to leave us," Teyla says, watching him 'pack'.
"Everybody thinks I'm dead," John says, looking down at his clothes so he doesn't have to face her. "I have to go back. It's kinda important."
"You can return to that city and truly be dead," Teyla tells him, "or you can remain here and know what it is to live."
John turns, giving her a searching look. "Are you sure you guys aren't a cult?"
She smiles her enigmatic smile. "We are a family."
"That's what Manson's followers said," John points out, picking up his stuff. "They moved out here too."
"Their home was not nearly this nice," Teyla says.
He frowns. "I never know if you're being a smartass or not," he tells her.
She shrugs. "You will never know-"
"-if I don't stick around and find out?" he finishes.
"No," she says. "You will never know."
John shakes his head. He stares at his clothes for a long moment, and then he puts them back down on the bed. "I'm still leaving when I want."
"I would expect nothing less," Teyla says, nodding. He looks for signs of glee or disappointment in her eyes, but he finds none; he kind of knew he wouldn't. "Jinto and I are going on a hike, if you wanted to come. I think we can find better shoes for you."
"Why the hell not," John says. He's going to have to learn to make his own fun, anyway.
It's three months before the black suits come for him again.
"You're supposed to be dead," Woolsey says, and he sounds almost disappointed.
"No such luck," John says. Wex goes running by, and John reaches out and ruffles his hair. "Hey, slow down before you trip and die."
Woolsey frowns. "You need to come with us."
"Nope," John says.
"I don't think you understand," Woolsey says. "You need to come with us."
"I don't think you understand," John says. "Fuck you."
"You have information that needs to be contained," he explains. "You can't be allowed to-"
"Last night I sat up and watched two guys eat seeds until they tripped balls," John says, cutting him off. "Even if I wanted to tell anybody what happened- and reliving whatever that was doesn't exactly sound like my idea of a good time- it wouldn't exactly be a strange story around here."
Woolsey is still working up his next argument when Teyla comes to stand beside John, lacing her fingers into his. Suddenly Ronon is standing next to him too; he puts his arm around John's waist proprietarily, looking daggers at Woolsey.
"Can I help you?" Ronon says.
"Mister Dex," Woolsey says, like Ronon's supposed to be afraid of him, like he knows that Ronon's, y'know, basically a wanted man.
"Is he bothering you?" he asks John.
"I'll be fine," John says. "He was just going."
"We will see you off," Teyla says firmly.
Woolsey looks unhappy; he looks warily at the three of them. "I'll be consulting with my superiors," he says.
"You go and do that," John says. "You can tell them I say fuck them too."
Woolsey shakes his head, but he does leave; they'll be back, and John doesn't know whether or not he'll have to go. He'll have this until then, a little bit of space, a little bit of peace.
And maybe just a little bit of free love.
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