SPOILERS: Set between 2.08 - 'Conversion' and 2.09 - 'Aurora'
Amends And Promises
There was something irredeemably savage about the way Ronan fought Teyla, something frighteningly primal and instinctive in their blows and blocks.
John was well aware that the marines considered his own skill against Teyla good. Of the handful of men who'd taken up her offer of stave-fighting lessons in the early days of the expedition, he was the only one who'd persisted to this point. The others were summarily laid out by her more often than their egos could take.
John had trained to the point where he could hold her off. And that was about as much as he could manage. He wasn't good enough to lay her out, but he was good enough to hold his own; for the moment, that was all he asked.
However, the whirling fury of Ronan Dex was something new; a force that even Teyla found hard to counter.
Oh, she met Ronan's blows, jab for jab, hit for hit, her staves whirling and dancing in her hands as she danced in and out of the taller fighter's reach, but he had the reach and weight of her and the edge brought on by a reliance on these skills to keep him living.
Still, she fought back, refusing to back down in the face of a larger, heavier opponent.
John watched her move, and quietly allowed himself to reflect that she was one of the most beautiful things he'd ever seen. Whether still or in motion, she held his gaze - held the gazes of more than a few men in Atlantis, in fact - especially those of the more recent arrivals from Earth. From what John heard, there'd been some covert interest in her, some subtle moves.
Ronan wasn't being particularly covert about his fondness for Teyla's company.
The big man saw an opening and dove for it. Her staff slammed down on his wrist, and John winced at the noise it made. No bones broken, but she wasn't pulling her blows. In moments, she had Ronan disarmed and kneeling before her, her staves angled at his throat so the slightest bit of pressure would crush his windpipe.
In spite of himself, John grinned. That was Teyla; no half-heartedness, nothing held back.
"You should not risk all to gain advantage," she chided as she let him go.
The big man just grunted as he accepted her hand up. "Life is risk, Teyla."
"Perhaps. But that does not mean it cannot be controlled."
"You can't control everything."
"I do not need to control everything," she answered, amused. "I control myself and that is enough."
The other man paused and arched one eyebrow, wickedly. "Do you ever lose control?"
She was amused but cool as she returned his gaze. "When necessary," she said. "Instincts can be important, too."
John decided it was time to intervene.
He stepped forward, shifting his bag on his shoulder, both noise and movement turning their heads. It was disturbing that they turned to him in unison, faces tilted at mirror angles as they looked at him, although their reactions were very different.
Ronan seemed both amused and wary of the interruption. Teyla regarded him with something that wasn't quite relief.
"Sorry to intrude," he said casually, addressing Teyla rather than Ronan. "I thought we were going to spar."
"You were late."
"Elizabeth called me in for a quick chat. And I'm here now."
A hint of exasperation entered her voice, the faintest tremor of irritation. "And so I will spar with you now." She stepped back from Ronan. "Thank you, Ronan."
"The evening meal," she affirmed.
He picked up his guns and bent to lean his head against Teyla's in an Athosian-style genuflection that looked almost like a kiss. Then he gave John one long, measuring glance before striding out of the gym in his long-legged lope.
John waited until he was sure the other man was out of earshot. "Evening meal?"
"He expressed a desire to share the evening repast with me," Teyla said, walking across the room to her satchel, where she removed a waterskin and drank. In spite of the technology available to her from the Atlantis expedition, she persisted in using some of the objects of her people. John suspected that the things she wouldn't give up had some personal meaning to her. It was Teyla's way of clinging to the culture of her people.
Like fighting with staves.
"So, this is a date?" She dropped the waterskin back among her things, and the look she turned upon him made him hold up his hands in protest. "Just asking."
"If you wish to know what is happening between Ronan and I, Colonel, then you should ask directly."
John grimaced. He'd hoped to be a little subtler. "All right, then," he said. "What is happening between you and Ronan?"
"That is none of your business," came the response.
"I think it is," he said firmly, ignoring the startled look on her face. A moment later, he continued, carefully professional. "As your commanding officer - and his - I need to know if there's anything happening between you."
Her eyes narrowed. "I do not see how this is relevant to your leadership."
"It's relevant because you have to work together," John said, irrationally angry. "If you're personally involved then that could affect your professional interaction."
There was a delicate rigidity to her stance that indicated he'd struck a nerve. "You believe that either Ronan or I might endanger you and Rodney because we are 'personally involved' as you say?"
"So you are involved?"
"I didn't say that." She clenched her teeth around the words. "If you can believe that we might put our team-mates at risk..."
John measured his words, only too aware that he was talking about more than Ronan and Teyla here. "Teyla, sometimes our feelings surprise us. We can't always control when we care about other people." He knew that feeling only too well; the knowledge that he'd used up his fuel on the burn and had nowhere to go but down. And even with a 'chute, hitting the ground hurt. "I need to know if there's anything more between the two of you."
"So you know whether to trust us?" Her response was scathing, and he grimaced.
"Look, I've trusted you since day one, Teyla. All I'm asking is that you give me a little honesty in return."
It was a low card to play and he knew it. From the look in her eyes, she knew he knew it, too. But she answered.
"We are not."
He nodded, feeling the tightness in his chest ease. "Good." At her sharp glance, he qualified. "That's one less thing for me to worry about."
Her smile was thin and formal. "I would not wish to cause you extra worry, Colonel."
His own smile back was forced. "Glad to hear it." He pulled the staves from his bag and indicated the empty floor. "Shall we?"
Teyla took her place opposite him with a slight tilt of the head - the faintest hint of irony in the gesture that should have been one of respect.
They circled each other, staves up and ready, eyes watching each other, waiting for that first move. He spun his right staff through the air once, enjoying the sound of the wood through air, then moved in, leading the attack with his left staff and following it up with the right.
She beat him off easily enough, holding his blows away and returning attacks of her own. John pushed, experimentally, testing her limits and his own. After the confrontation with Teyla, he felt as though he had something to work off, a delicate frustration with a situation that he'd seen coming a long time ago - and done his best to deny.
When she met every blow he struck, he increased the intensity, pushing her limits. This wasn't a display of ego - not yet. Right now, John wanted a partner, not a victory. But he wanted to go hard and fierce, holding nothing back, and there were only a handful of times when he'd let loose all the things that he couldn't allow to escape while he was on duty.
In Teyla's presence, John Sheppard was always on duty - all the more because he didn't trust himself not to forget what he could forget with almost every other woman in Atlantis.
Two women challenged his solitude. Elizabeth Weir and Teyla Emmagen. Both trusted, both beautiful in their own ways, both with the clinging authority of their roles, both untouchable as far as John Sheppard was concerned.
In a city where he was the man responsible for their safety, he didn't dare care about any person more than another.
Elizabeth was safe to flirt with; she knew the rules of the game, and John knew perfectly well she was still getting over the break-up with the guy she'd left behind on Earth. He didn't know what had been said or done, he only knew that she returned to Atlantis with the kind of intensity he'd seen in men and women who had nothing left behind them: only what future they'd carve out for themselves.
Somewhere on Earth, there was a man with whom John wanted to share a few words and a knuckle sandwich.
He liked Elizabeth. She was practical. Ballsy in a non-military way. Stubborn as McKay. If it wasn't for their positions in the command structure of Atlantis... But they were civilian authority and military leader; there was no room for romance between them: not with the Atlantis expedition riding on their shoulders and so much at stake. A friend was best in that situation.
Teyla was even more out-of-bounds than Elizabeth. He'd heard the conversations among the marines when they didn't know he was in the showers. He'd listened to the explicit speculation about his teammate, squashed the whispers wherever he could, and tried to ignore his own imagination's occasional ponderings.
He liked Teyla. She was tough, sexy, almost always competent and composed, and determined. She was also an 'alien' woman with a touch of Wraith DNA and a preternatural ability to beat the shit out of him in staves. Bates might call him a masochist, but John actually enjoyed that aspect of their interaction.
Flirting with Teyla was out of the question. He could be friends with Elizabeth, and throw out the occasional teasing comment; it was something they both understood from Earth - as were the jurisdictional requirements between them.
Teyla wasn't from Earth.
Dodge, block, turn, duck. John felt the sweat forming on his brow, on his body. He gritted his teeth and watched her every move, blocked her every strike, and retaliated hard and fast.
It was one way of releasing the tension he had regarding his situation with Teyla.
He'd seen Teyla with her own people; the friendships she held with them, easy and without the careful correctness she brought to their interaction. She'd called Ford by name - an allowance that John had gained from her only a handful of times; she regarded McKay with tolerant amusement and John with calm formality; and now Ronan had shown an interest and she seemed to like his heavy-handed advances.
John was becoming annoyed by Teyla's treatment of other men compared with how she treated him.
And he'd never really noticed it until he'd kissed her.
Maybe she just wasn't interested. That was an ego-bruising thought if he'd ever had one. It wasn't as though he expected her to fall all over him, but a little admiration would be nice.
But she'd responded to the kiss, if only for a moment, before she pushed away and regarded him with a gaze as wary any she reserved for an enemy. There was something there: some fragment of possibility, of attraction.
John huffed out a breath as he defended against her attack and nearly sprained his wrist as he blocked one of her blows and didn't have the right angle for enough leverage. His muscles strained, screaming at him before he backed away, sliding her staves off his own and moving back a couple paces.
"You are not paying attention, Colonel," she chided, dark eyes a-glitter.
He wasn't. John bared his teeth in a tight, feral challenge. "Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Teyla."
This time he attacked and she defended, warding off his assault with limbs that only trembled slightly from weariness.
And that was an advantage to be used.
Slowly, he let go of thought, concentrating on the movements and motions of the fight, the patterns of attack and defence, until the rest of the universe - Atlantis, the Wraith, McKay's suspiciously subdued behaviour in the last month, and the cold memory of the recent Wraith retrovirus as it took over his body and mind - were nothing more than distant memories.
The universe contracted down around them; nothing existed but the floor, each other, their staves, and the air they breathed. They were one in purpose, in drive, in passion; and the marines might speculate about sex with Teyla, but there were moments when John wondered if sleeping with her could provide anything near the exhilaration of fighting against her like this.
He enjoyed these moments, elemental and primal, as instinctive as flying.
It felt good.
It felt particularly good when they fought each other to a standstill, John ached from blows she'd landed, but when she agreed to the terms of truce and lowered her weapons, he saw the way the stick in her left hand momentarily trembled.
"If you hadn't been playing with Dex before, you'd have beaten me easily," he offered.
Teyla's eyes turned hard as gunmetal. "Is that a reprimand?"
He narrowed his eyes. "Only if you think you need one."
There was an instant when she was perfectly still, shoulders back, pose arrested. Then she answered him. "You underestimate your skill at staves, Colonel. And mistake my friendship with Ronan."
John noticed that the other man was mentioned by name, while he was still a rank. Even her assurance that nothing was happening between them couldn't quite keep the sharpness from his voice. "It's been a year, you know, and you're still kicking my ass. I can't have gotten that much better."
Her mouth quirked but there was little amusement in it. "As I said, you underestimate yourself." She began to turn away, dismissing him.
"Oh, come on, Teyla," he said, stepping to the side so he kept in her peripheral vision. "You know that the only times I've beaten you were when you were worn out with the nightmares about the hiveships and when the retrovirus tried to turn me into one of the bugs."
She glanced back, arching a brow. "And those are not enough for you?"
"Very funny," he retorted as she continued to turn away. A moment later he asked, "Aren't we going to do the touch-heads genuflecting thing?"
The look she gave him was wary. As wary as the one she'd given him when the bug infection got him a few weeks back. "You have never expressed such a wish before."
She was right. He hadn't. "So I'm changing a few things," he said. "Preconceptions I have."
Teyla continued to regard him warily, even once he held out his hands to her. Finally, she came to stand close enough to touch and allowed him to take her shoulders and do the genuflection thing.
But the walk out of the gym was pregnant with more than either of them was comfortable saying.
The kiss he'd forced on her had changed things. At least for John. Attraction to Teyla was fine, but they were teammates and friends. He hadn't been willing to take it beyond that - at least, not until the bug-induced kiss.
She'd shut him down pretty fast, afterwards, and he'd been relieved at the exit provided. They were okay; life was okay, nothing to worry about.
But a line had been crossed and something had been broken.
Now John wasn't sure he could go back to the way things had been - so comfortably easy between them. He watched the way she interacted with the others on the base and felt as though his actions had set a wall between them. Where they'd been easy friends before, now they were friends in a distant, untouchable way.
And John didn't like it.
He didn't like the distance.
He didn't like the awareness of her he could no longer ignore.
He didn't like feeling as though she didn't want anything to do with him - at least not that way.
And he didn't like the impression he was getting that if his interest was out of bounds, Ronan's interest was perfectly acceptable.
"Ronan," Colonel Sheppard asked pointedly as the taller man arrived at their resting place. "Glad you decided to join the rest of the class."
Surprised at his tone of voice, Teyla glanced up at the Colonel from her perch on a mossy rock. He had been terse for most of the morning, as though his thoughts were elsewhere.
As he flung himself down beside Teyla, Ronan shrugged. "Saw something I wanted to check out."
"Might have been a spaceport."
Colonel Sheppard's eyes narrowed. "Might have been?"
"Hard to tell," Ronan said as he hauled out a water bottle from his pack and took a long drink. "Didn't go close and the light's not good." He indicated the forest canopy above them.
"What did it look like?"
Even Rodney glanced up at the Colonel's short tone. Ronan looked mildly surprised, but answered. "Landing pads, buildings, tower. The usual. The forest has grown up over it, though."
The forest was the reason they were walking to the ruins that had been pinpointed as Ancient design. It was thought to be another Ancient outpost in the Pegasus system and the prospect had turned into a fight as to whose team would get to check it out.
Colonel Sheppard claimed the right as the senior city military officer. As they were gearing up, he admitted to Teyla that if he didn't, they'd listen to Rodney complain for the next week.
Of course, to reach the ruins, they had to walk through several miles of dense forest by foot. Even an Atlantis 'jumper couldn't make it through the heavy undergrowth.
She listened as Colonel Sheppard continued to grill Ronan about what he'd seen. Ronan answered in his usual easy tones, but there were undercurrents to their interaction that concerned her more than she allowed to show.
Teyla was fond of her teammates - all of them. She and Aiden had been good friends before he was infected with the Wraith enzyme and would not give up the power. Dr. McKay might not think much of her people's technology but he was more than willing to explain anything to her - perhaps using rather more words and self-aggrandizement than necessary, but that was his personality - and would 'dumb it down' far enough for her to understand. And she understood Ronan's feelings of isolation and difference; in a city full of personnel from Earth, they were two who did not belong and were similar in that distinction.
And then there was John Sheppard.
Her relationship with him had grown over the last year, beginning with professional trust and moving towards personal trust. She suspected that his initial response to her had been because he considered her a good-looking young woman as much as a potential ally for his people. As time went on, she had moved from 'trusted team-mate' to 'trusted friend' in his estimation: both titles of which she was proud.
What he had brought up between them while under the influence of the retrovirus was something that Teyla had not been ready to face.
He was an attractive man; Teyla was not immune to that, but there was no need to dwell on it, no need to take it beyond friends. He was content to admire, she was content to admire, they both wished to retain the status quo. It was easier that way.
It was more difficult after the kiss. While he had not intended such an action, he had acted it out, and now the door had been forced, she could not find a way to shut it. If yesterday's questions about Ronan were any indication, Colonel Shep-- John could not find a way to shut that door in his mind, either.
John seemed to be struggling in balancing the personal and professional aspects of his interaction with Ronan, especially after coming to the conclusion that his newest team-member was interested in Teyla.
Teyla was not so sure. Ronan had made some comments that seemed to indicate that he was interested. However, Teyla retained the impression that he was merely seeking commonality at this stage. Teasing aside, she felt that Ronan was not interested in her, just in someone who resonated with his own experience in this place full of strange and different people.
She put away her drink bottle, absently listening as Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay argued about the possible technological finds available in an Ancient ship hangar.
Something flickered on the edge of her senses, the faintest of forebodings, and she stood and walked several paces away, leaving her teammates behind the better to listen.
Even as she held up one hand to silence him, she felt the buzzing begin in her head. Wraith ships had just come through the Stargate.
"The Wraith are here."
Colonel Sheppard swore. "You're sure?"
"Yes." She didn't elaborate. "Through the Stargate." It had come upon her too fast and too strong to be ships coming down through space.
McKay froze. "What? Here? Why? It's a deserted planet, why would they come--"
"McKay," Sheppard warned. He glanced up at the fragments of sky visible between the leaves of the tree canopy. Teyla could see the calculation in his eyes. They were too far to make it back to the ship before the Wraith darts arrived, and the woods would be no protection if the Wraith detected them.
"Okay," he said, "change of plan. We're going to head over to the spaceport Ronan saw. Let's hope his eyes weren't deceiving him and that it has shielding."
"Ronan, lead the way."
"But what about the ruins?"
"We can check out the ruins after the Wraith are gone," said Colonel Sheppard, indicating the direction in which Ronan had started off. "Now move, McKay!"
Teyla fell into rearguard position as Colonel Sheppard hurried Dr. McKay along, explaining things in a low undertone.
"We won't get back to the 'jumper in time, but the spaceport might have shielding - if we can make it there!"
"I was just asking..."
"Don't ask, Rodney. Just run."
They'd only gone a few hundred yards when they heard the whine of a Wraith dart to the right.
There was little hope of outrunning the dart, but if they could reach the relative shelter of the buildings...
The proximity of the Wraith dart prickled down her spine. It was close and coming back for them. Teyla caught up with Colonel Sheppard and Rodney, one hand on each of their vests, as she hauled them aside, out of the way of the dematerialising beam. Ronan was too far ahead for her to do anything more than cry his name.
His senses were nearly as good as hers when it came to the Wraith. As the shimmering beam of light swept past them, missing Rodney's foot by mere inches, Ronan dived to the other side and rolled out of the way. He was on his feet again in moments, coming towards them and hauling Teyla up with one strong yank.
Ronan glanced up at the sky as she reached out to help Colonel Sheppard up. "Why are they here? There's no-one else on the planet."
"They're hunting us," said Colonel Sheppard.
"Must be some kind of a trigger that we set of," McKay said as he picked himself up and began dusting himself. "Maybe some kind of a sensor that lets them know--"
Teyla took his shoulder and prodded him on towards the spaceport, "Speculate later," she suggested. "They will be back."
The dart whined past, barely visible overhead. Teyla twitched and saw the Colonel watching her.
"We'd better get back moving again," he said. "Ronan."
Ronan turned to look at Teyla, then nodded and set off again. Rodney grumbled a little, but with some prodding from Colonel Sheppard, he moved. Teyla indicated she would take rearguard again, and while the Colonel looked as though he wanted to argue, then nodded.
She was relieved that he was going to trust her instincts. The Wraith presence was a buzzing in her mind, heavy with the dread of years of cullings. She had no energy or time to argue with him right now.
They moved through the forest, listening for the dart that swooped past again and again.
Two more passes came dangerously close to them. The first time, they saw the beam coming towards them and scrambled to get out of its way. The second time, it was Ronan who hauled Colonel Sheppard out of the way of the beam path while Teyla dragged Dr. McKay aside.
"Not that I don't like you, Teyla," Rodney said when he picked himself up again. "But I don't suppose you could grip just a little more gently? My abilities lie in the brains department, not in brawn."
"I could leave you in the path of the beam," she told him as they moved out again.
"Well, yes. You could. But you wouldn't, would you?"
"McKay," Colonel Sheppard barked. "Move!"
"Moving! Moving! Geeze."
The passes were getting closer together - sweeping the area with unnerving accuracy.
"Do they know where we are?" Ronan asked as they dodged another one.
Rodney looked up. "How could they know that?"
"They don't have them."
"You sure?" They dodged another pass.
"Well, no, I'm not sure," Rodney snapped. "But we could always ask, you know, after they beam us up into the hiveship..."
As they discovered during the next pass, their concern shouldn't have been about being beamed up, as facing what was beamed down.
Colonel Sheppard had his gun up and was firing upon one of the Wraith even as they raised their stunner weapons. Ronan had his gun out and shot another in the chest, dodging around a tree. Teyla lifted her weapon up and got off a couple of rounds, but was forced behind a tree as a stunner blast rolled through the air where she'd been standing a moment before.
She heard more shots - stunner and guns, and ducked back around the tree.
Four Wraith were down. So was Rodney.
Colonel Sheppard swore as Ronan crouched over the scientist and checked him. "Close range hit. He's going to be out for a while."
"And they're still looking for us," muttered the Colonel as the dart screamed overhead.
Ronan glanced at her then back at Sheppard. "If you need, we can run interference."
John looked up at them. "No. We stick together."
Another dart screamed by, depositing more Wraith, and both Ronan and Teyla covered as the Colonel dragged McKay behind a tree.
"And if sticking together gets us killed?" Ronan snarled as he shot down another Wraith.
"Then we'll all die together!"
Teyla blinked as she gunned down the last Wraith. That was fatalistic, coming from Colonel Sheppard. "Colonel, separated, we have a better chance of all making it back. Rodney is injured and will not recover for some time. We need to be somewhere safe."
"Which is why we're headed to the spaceport."
Ronan frowned slightly. "Right now, we're not headed anywhere." He frowned as the dart screamed nearby. "And they know where we are."
Colonel Sheppard looked at her. "Teyla?"
"We will keep in radio contact," she said. "Get Rodney to safety."
There was a moment when he appeared to struggle with the decision, and then nodded. "Take care."
She felt the concern in his gaze like his hand on her shoulder. "You, too." Then she and Ronan jogged off into the forest.
What followed was a complicated game of tag-and-dodge, made edgy by the constant passes of the Wraith ship and their concern for Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay. The leaf cover made shooting at the dart difficult, but they did their best, splitting up and meeting back together again as they evaded the Wraith.
As she pulled another clip from her flak jacket, she reflected that at least she need not worry about Ronan's ability to handle himself. She need not even worry about him being taken; the Wraith could not feed off him, and even if they once again made him a runner, this time, he had somewhere to run to, people he could trust.
Here, she only had to watch out for herself.
And hope that John and Dr. McKay had reached the spaceport.
Her radio hissed. "Teyla? Ronan?"
She slammed the clip into the gun. "Here, Colonel."
"Teyla, you okay?"
"We are fine. Rodney?"
"Still out. We're in the spaceport - tell Ronan he was right." There was a slight echo to the sound of his voice. "Now get back here."
Ronan glanced over at her as he dropped to the ground. "Curfew called?"
Teyla laughed in spite of herself. "So it seems. He is concerned." She flipped the safety catch onto her gun and began heading back at a steady lope, Ronan easily keeping up with her.
The dart soared by again, the beam missing them by inches. At least no more Wraith were being materialised down; that was one thing about which they didn't have to worry.
"He's concerned about you."
Ronan's words startled her, but she kept her pace, listening for the dart, stretching her senses for the hum and buzz of the ship and its pilot in her mind. "He has concern for all his team."
"Yeah, but specifically about you. I've noticed."
Did he have to sound so smug about it?
She put on her most censorious tone. "This is neither the time nor the place to discuss such things."
"Why not?" They ran right, ducking and weaving through the foliage as the dart screamed back overhead. "Priorities become important when you're on the run."
Teyla leapt a fallen tree, slightly envious as Ronan cleared it with barely a hitch. "You presume that this is a priority."
"Isn't it?" His dreadlocks swung as he glanced at her. "Do you like him?"
"That is not a question you have a right to ask."
He grinned, like a mischievous child. "Maybe not. I can still ask." The dart was coming back, and seeing where it's path led, they split, separating around the tree as they made their way back towards the point where they'd left Colonel Sheppard and Rodney. "You can still answer."
"Not now," she snapped, squinting through the filtered light of the forest. Was that the shape and form of buildings through the trees?
It was. Five minutes later, they were inside what must have been an Ancient outpost, complete with two ships that lit up when John ran his hand over the consoles.
"Only two," Ronan said as the hatch closed up.
"Two more than we presently have - now strap in."
They flew out of there like the 'bat outta hell' that Aiden had referred to more than once, bringing down the Wraith dart on the plain before the Stargate before flying back through to Atlantis.
Back in Atlantis, they hovered around, waiting for the verdict on Rodney.
Dr. Weir refused to let Colonel Sheppard go back to pick up the other 'jumpers. He was all set to argue her down when Dr. Beckett took one look at them and decided that they should be put through their post-gate inspection.
Not even Colonel Sheppard's protests got him out of that one, and the glance he shot Teyla was exasperated.
When she turned to follow the medical technician assigned to her, she glimpsed Ronan's smirk before she headed over to the cubicle assigned her.
It was nothing more than a quick check-up. The woman salved a couple of scrapes, picked splinters out of her arm, and spoke easily of the gossip in the base while Teyla listened and laughed at the escapades of the others in the city.
And when she jumped off the bed and went out to see if Rodney's state had changed, Ronan fell into step beside her. "You never answered my question."
Do you like him?
He seemed more amused than dismayed by her evasion, and Teyla glared at him as they passed into the room where their teammate lay sprawled over one of the beds. "I said it was not..." She trailed off when she spotted John propping one wall of the room. "How is he?"
John shrugged. "He'll survive. They make 'em tough on Earth." He looked from Teyla to Ronan to Teyla. "You headed off to the showers?"
"I am," Teyla said, uncomfortably aware that he was looking at her and Ronan, and that Ronan was watching them both. "If you will excuse me, I will return later to see Dr. McKay."
The formality made things easier for her in the face of John's watchfulness. Ronan did not.
She turned. "Ronan."
"You didn't answer the question."
She looked from his amused expression to John's carefully neutral one from beside Rodney's bed, and knew that her skin flushed as she looked back at Ronan.
It would be possible to lie. To lie to him and therefore to Colonel Sheppard. She could deflect his question yet again and wait for the next time it came up - and it would come up. Ronan had learned persistence as the Wraith had taught him hatred.
So she answered him, even and calm. She wouldn't forget his pushing and he would regret it the next time it came to fighting.
"The answer is yes." And with that, Teyla turned on her heel and strode off, leaving both men behind her.
The answer is yes.
John tried not to think about what the question had been.
It was difficult, particularly since it appeared that several of the nursing staff had overheard the exchange, seen Teyla leave the room with a flush on her cheeks, and seen Ronan leave the room with a smug smile on his face a little while later.
Neither of John's teammates were at dinner.
His imagination happily painted pictures that his mind didn't want to entertain and he stared out, off the terrace where he sat at a table alone.
Sometimes our feelings surprise us.
He knew how that went. It wasn't the feelings that were wrong, it was how a man acted on them. He wouldn't have acted on them in any case. Teyla was a teammate and friend, someone who trusted him. John didn't want to lose that.
"Do you mind if I sit here?" Elizabeth indicated the seat opposite him, and he gestured at it with one hand.
"Be my guest." At least with Elizabeth he could be reasonably sure that she wasn't going to talk gossip.
She set down her tray, seated herself, and promptly proved him right. "Major Lorne and his team returned with both 'jumpers," she said. "He said the damage to the spaceport was...impressive."
John half-smiled. "Those drones do an impressive job."
"He and his team also collected up a few bits and pieces that were lying around the place before they left."
There was a question in her statement and John answered it. "Yeah, well, we were kind of busy at the time. No chance to look around." He looked at her. "Anything interesting?"
"Nothing yet." She tilted her head a little to the side, "Then again, Rodney's usually the person most anxious to get hold of anything and everything related to the Ancients."
Which was another reason that they hadn't come back with anything: John had been more worried about his team than about acquisition - other than the new ships, of course.
"Has Beckett said anything?"
She shook her head. "Not yet, but he says the stunners can be hard on an overtaxed body - and you know what Rodney was doing last night."
John grimaced. His teammate had been working on new power designs for the defence chair and had ignored John's prompting at nine and midnight to go to bed. This morning, John had walked into the labs, unsurprised to find the scientist slumped over his mousepad, with the cord leaving a wavy trail across Rodney's cheek.
"We need some kind of drug to use on the scientists when they get too enthusiastic about their discoveries," John said. "Knockout drops, or something to tone them down."
"Keep in mind that anything you suggest can and probably will be used against you," Elizabeth replied dryly. "The scientific contingent isn't the only one with a tendency to overwork." She studied him with green eyes that saw past his casual expression to the tension in his pose. "You're looking tired yourself."
"I'm fine," he said, aiming for an airy tone of voice.
She raised her eyebrows briefly, and then returned to her dinner. "I hear that things might be getting a little more serious between Teyla and Ronan."
John took the question as innocuous. He hadn't mentioned kissing Teyla to anyone, and he was pretty sure she wouldn't have mentioned it to anyone else. "I don't ask," he said shortly. "It's their business, not mine."
"Well, you might have to mention to them the rules regarding fraternisation in the expedition," Elizabeth said, her voice still even.
"They're not expedition personnel."
"Well, no, not exactly," Elizabeth allowed. "But they're still on your team. Atlantis is a lot more lenient than the SGC, John, but there would still be concerns."
He grimaced. Elizabeth could see his expression, but she had no way of knowing just how far down in his boots his stomach was. He'd rather be out fighting a hiveship full of Wraith than have to go over the frat regs of Atlantis with Teyla and Ronan.
"I'll think about it," was all he said.
"John, it's probably better to deal with it now," she pressed. "It's something that you'll have to touch upon sooner or later--"
"I said I'll think about it." Okay, so that was little more emphatic than he'd intended. Elizabeth was regarding him, questions all over her face. "Sorry." He began gathering his stuff together as he rose. "I'll talk to you about the ruins and the planet later."
And he left her sitting at the table, staring after him, an astonished expression on her face.
Teyla found him leaning on a balcony railing in the western city, staring out towards the setting sun.
"Dr. Weir was concerned about you."
John shrugged and flicked one of the pebbles he had lined up on the railing so it sailed off into the sea below. It was a habit he'd started when they went offworld - collecting pebbles in his pockets while he was waiting for McKay to run some tests or for Teyla to make contact with the locals. "I'm fine."
"You do not seem fine," she observed.
"Well, as we say on Earth, looks can be deceiving." John flicked another pebble off, noting how far out it soared compared with the previous pebble. "Why didn't Elizabeth come herself?"
"She did not send me," Teyla said. "I came out of my own accord."
"Then why did you come looking for me?" He could feel himself moving to where the ice was thin, felt the recklessness in him that he remembered from Afghanistan and the rescue, felt the tugging undertow of his personal regret dragging him along. John wouldn't get the answer he wanted, but he needed to know that. He needed to know that so he could deal with it; so he could move past it.
Regrets were useless. He had hesitated too long, and lost.
But he could still close the door behind him. At least then, he could move on.
If Teyla understood his meaning, didn't answer him either way. "I was concerned for you. You have been...troubled since your experience changing into the Iratus bug."
That was one way of putting it. "And you've noticed changes in me?" He supposed he could be glad she'd noticed at least, even if she was connecting his behaviour more broadly with his conversion of the previous month, rather than the specific incident that disturbed him.
"Small things," Teyla said. "Your temper is shorter, your patience less. Even Dr. McKay has noticed and he is not given to noticing these things." She hesitated.
"It is... nothing." She regarded the pebbles he'd paused in flicking off the railing. "I shall let Dr. Weir know that you merely wish time alone with your pebbles."
A smile touched his mouth as he looked down at his pebbles and she turned away. "Teyla?"
She turned back. "Colonel?"
John frowned. "I said you could call me by my name..."
Wind tugged at the floating strands of hair that always seemed to escape her ponytail. "Yes, John?"
The delicate emphasis on his name made him hesitate, but he figured he was in this far. "What did Ronan ask you before?"
A slow tide of pink infused her skin, visible even beneath the natural olive-gold of her colouring. "A question."
His throat had a lump in it the size of an egg. It made it hard to speak around, but his lips formed the words and he forced the words out. "What question?"
Something like anger crossed her expression, and she lifted her chin, "It was not regarding any relationship you believe he and I might be having."
"So you're not...seeing each other?"
Her eyes narrowed. "By 'seeing' you refer to your earlier concern about a sexual relationship between Ronan and I?"
John managed not to grimace. "Yeah."
"No," she said, clipped and calm. "We are not 'seeing' each other. Nor are we ever likely to."
That startled him. "Never?"
"Considering the rumours about the city," Teyla noted, her voice dry, "I doubt it. We are...private people. And the Atlantis gossip mill is...intimidating."
John could understand that. He'd been the focus of several rumours himself - some true, some not. The rumours usually only made the reality worse.
Although in this case, he supposed he could say the reality was better.
He flicked another pebble off the ledge. Teyla watched it fall, and then turned away, evidently deciding that their conversation was done.
He didn't move from his position, leaning against the railing. But he did turn his head to look her directly in the eye as he stepped out onto crystal-thin ice. "What would you do if I wanted more?"
This time the flush swept over her skin like a summer storm out on the coast. "I... That is not a fair question."
John wasn't so sure he wasn't flushing. "Just answer it."
"I would say that in the light of your concern about my friendship with Ronan, your intentions bear scrutiny."
"That's not an answer."
"It is not the answer you want."
She was right. That didn't make John any happier.
He waited for her to answer the question, knowing that she would. Teyla wouldn't leave a question unanswered, simply because it was uncomfortable. It was a matter of honesty and trust. And he needed to know: if only so he knew where he stood.
John liked knowing where he stood, even if turned out to be on thin ice with a pair of steel-toed boots. At least then he knew to tread carefully.
"I was...content...with where we were," she said at last. "Before the retrovirus."
"Before I kissed you." He made the words plain and bald, saw her look away. "And now?"
"Now, I wish it hadn't happened if this is how we are to be." Teyla's eyes met his again. "I thought it was behind us."
"It is." He flicked another pebble out to sea. "I just wanted to know what you'd do if I...if it happened again."
"Will it happen again?"
"Not like that."
"Then there is no need to address the matter." She turned away and began walking.
John went after her, caught her arm but let go when she swung around, wary. "I wasn't..." And he was very close to her; close enough to see the flecks of gold in her eyes and the smoothness of her skin. "Teyla..."
He shouldn't. Teyla had made it quite clear that the previous kiss was behind them.
Was it wrong that John didn't want to leave it there? That kiss - possessive and forced upon her - was the only sensual experience she had of him. And they were friends and content - maybe - but John wasn't going to leave her with the memory of that between them. Not if she let him make amends.
So John let his hand cradle her jaw, running his thumb across the smooth coffee of her cheek. He held her gaze as he bent down, moving slowly enough to give her time to reject him, to back away.
This time, she wasn't trying to push him away or fight him. This time, she knew to expect his mouth on hers, his hand resting against her throat.
This time she responded.
Soft and slow, lips moving tentatively across lips, sweet as honey and gentle as a caress.
He forgot the pebbles, the wind, Atlantis, and the frat regs. The only real thing in the universe - the only thing he could be sure of - was the touch of her skin and the warmth of her body.
This time when John lifted his mouth from hers, he felt pleasure rather than possession - saw pleasure rather than fear in her eyes. But even as he leaned down againg, his conversation with Elizabeth echoed in his head, and he paused with his forehead resting against hers. "Teyla..."
Thankfully, he didn't need to explain. Her expression said she understood only too well. "The reasons that you applied to a relationship between Ronan and I apply between us as well." No exceptions.
"And a whole lot of others." John grimaced. "Look, Teyla--"
"We are friends?"
He took a deep breath and fought the urge to lick his lips - fought the urge to lick her lips. "Yeah."
"Then that is enough for the moment." Teyla glanced at him, and for the first time since he'd met her, she seemed uncertain. "Is it enough?"
"For the moment. It'll do." Not as much as he wanted, but the only answer that worked for them both.
Her smile seemed a little careful. Already, she was putting distance between them, and John had the feeling that, come tomorrow, everything would be 'as usual' between them.
As she turned, he caught her arm. "Wait."
John kissed her again.
The last kiss had been for amends; this one was a promise.
And this time, when she pulled away from his kisses, her expression was amused - but also exasperated. "Good night, Colonel."
John watched until the doors closed behind her. Then he turned back to his pebbles, still smirking slightly.
Life was good.
- fin -
NOTES: I couldn't actually get them together at the end: the characters rebelled. So this is more of a 'missing scene' between 'Conversion' and 'Aurora' - a kind of explanation for how things are going to work between them with the denial and all.