Disclaimers: Not mine.

Spoilers: First episode of Atlantis. Episode insert. Rating: PGish.

Notes: Completely cliche. Bite me. Is... uh, A.j.'s fault, I think. Title swiped from Something for Kate's 'Letter to the Editor'.

From the Man in the Corner

by Ana Lyssie Cotton

Colonel Sumner wasn't a superstitious man, although a little nod here and there to the things his men believed in earned their trust. So he'd tossed salt over his shoulder, never walked under ladders, and tried not to let black cats cross his path. There were probably other things he did unconsciously, but he wasn't the type to really sit down and analyze himself.

It was more in his nature to soldier on and not worry one way or the other.

Except now, he'd seen something he never thought he would.

One glance had been enough, and then he couldn't bring himself to even meet her eyes. Some part of him knew that was wrong, that he should be taking part in the diplomatic side of things. But I'm just a soldier, he could protest to Weir. If there was ever any need to.

Sheppard seemed to have things well in hand, and that might actually bode well for the man becoming someone he could trust. Someone who would follow orders and execute command decisions with little prompting.

A rebellious element wouldn't do much to keep them safe out here.

Pegasus galaxy.

Those scientists were fucking insane, but he had to admit to his own sense of wonder as he'd wondered through the walkways and rooms of the mythical city of Atlantis. His mother used to tell him stories about things like the library at Alexandria, Homer and Troy and the fall of Rome. Atlantis was just one more thing to connect with her on.

And now it had all gone to hell in a handbasket.

He'd felt like it would from the moment he stepped into the cold and sterile gateroom of the city. And then it had spread.

Some might have said he was simply paranoid, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But Sumner was a realist. And he'd seen too much combat to ever believe that things went smoothly like clockwork. You didn't make full Colonel without being disappointed in your expectations. And you didn't lose the people you love the most without letting yourself get that much more cynical.

The thought was unavoidable as they waited in the cell for what their captors would do.

She should not be here.

By all rights, she shouldn't look as she did, she shouldn't look like--but it was simply illusion, and the expectation that translated her image in his mind's eye.

"Colonel Sumner."

The voice is different, slightly deeper. There's more confidence in Teyla's stance, when he allows himself to notice it.

But he looks at his hands, carefully set just so on his knees. "Yes?"

"This was not your fault."

Compassion from the woman whose people he has endangered. It surprises him enough to look up at her. A mistake, since those dark golden eyes remind him too much of things he thought he'd forgotten. "It is and it isn't."

"Yes."

He thinks she's done, he thinks she'll move away. So he doesn't have to talk to her, so he doesn't have to remember the proud tilt of her head and the defiant way she faced the wraiths earlier, challenging them to take her instead of the man of her people.

But she's not finished.

"Why do you not look at me?"

Impertinent question, and he can not explain. Not to her, not to anyone. So he makes himself meet her eyes, forces his mind to catalogue her changing expressions and the fact that the lips are too full, the skin slightly less creamy, the dusky undertone that much more gold than peach. It's almost enough. "I--" He can't lie, he thinks. Not when they're going to die. It would seem a travesty to his own sense of honor.

And he can't tell her.

Something flickers in her gaze and then she looks away, moves to sit down next to him. Close enough he can smell the exhaustion and leaves and dirt and sweat and her. Far enough that they don't touch. He's glad of that.

"I'm sorry."

The words startle him. What does SHE have to be sorry for? "Why?"

"Whomever I remind you of, you must... you must have loved her very much."

Perceptive little alien.

"That's really..." He can't, for the life of him, remember why it's none of her business. After all if it is none of her business then he shouldn't be seeing his dead wife every time he looks at her. And it's not her fault. He keeps telling himself that, but it doesn't seem to be helping.

She shifted slightly, then seemed to settle in a meditative stance.

And for a while, they simply sat, neither looking at the other. It was almost relaxing. Colonel Sumner knew it wouldn't last. In fact, he was quite certain that the wraiths would be back to take someone else away for torture, questioning, lunch... whatever they did with these people.

There really wasn't anything to do but wait.

And pray that they never found the city.

Colonel Sumner suddenly wondered if he'd ever been superstitious enough.

-finis-