NOTES: Allisnow and I have been playing 'fic-tennis' over on our LiveJournals. I post a fic, she posts one back using a theme I introduce in my story, then I write one that uses a theme she has in her story, back and forth. This is story #3 and was prompted by her fic 'Proposition' and the mention of ass-kicking in it.

Apt Pupil

In the beginning, it was his persistence that impressed Teyla.

Others were initially interested in this hand-to-hand fighting method, but as the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months, they ceased to come to the training sessions she held. Even her defeat and capture of the Wraith that Major Sheppard later named 'Steve' revived only a slight interest in her fighting abilities.

Yet Major Sheppard continued to arrive for training and lessons with an easy smile on his face and a willingness to 'have his ass kicked' as Lieutenant Ford put it.

Teyla was becoming accustomed to the peculiarities of language as the Atlanteans used it. At no time did she ever kick Major Sheppard's posterior, although she occasionally whacked him across it when he was not paying attention for some reason or another.

All things considered, the Major was a remarkable man. Teyla knew few men of Athos who would continue such exercises, when repeatedly faced with an opponent of superior skill - certainly few men of Atlantis were willing to be repeatedly outmatched.

Only Major Sheppard persisted.

"Why do you continue these lessons?"

They were resting their shoulders against the wall between one training session and the next, facing each other across the length of the low bench by the windows of the gym. The breeze off the sea poured over them with the cool scent of salt, and they drank from their water bottles in silence. Well, mostly silence.

Opposite her, Major Sheppard arched a brow, "You don't want to keep teaching me?"

A hint of pique lurked beneath the mild tones of his voice and Teyla shook her head.

"I am happy to continue these lessons," she said. "But I am…puzzled that you continue when others have given up."

He shrugged. "Just stubborn." A shadow of bitterness crossed his face, darkening the features outlined by the afternoon sun. "Any of my former commanding officers would tell you that."

Teyla met hazel eyes that seemed too old for how young he sometimes seemed, and didn't ask further. It was neither the time nor the place to inquire of his past. He would not welcome it. "Stubborn has taken you so far this afternoon," she said after a moment's pause. "Will it take you through to the end?"

Her words worked as she'd hoped. His eyes narrowed and he pushed himself off the wall, reaching for his staves in acceptance of her challenge. "Try me."

And, indeed, he showed himself an apt pupil for the remainder of that session, performing the moves and strikes she had taught him with fluid grace - first alone, then against her.

As she blocked the jarring strength of his blows - still far too slow for proper attack, but with decided potential - Teyla felt the first stirrings of possibility rise within her. In Major Sheppard, had she found an opponent who might present her with a challenge as few others had?

Only his persistence over time would tell.

By the end of the session, when they bowed to each other - in the manner he claimed was customary on Earth, a mirrored obeisance - Teyla was more than pleased with his progress and said as much, adding, "I hope you will continue this training, Major."

He tucked his staves away, smiling, rather more to himself than to her before he looked up. Eyes that lay somewhere between green and brown laughed at her with a gleam that was both respectful and indulgent. "As long as you keep offering it, Teyla."

When Teyla looked back on the years that changed her life, she remembered that afternoon as the first time she truly comprehended the determination and persistence of John Sheppard - which he called stubbornness and which she couldn't help but admire.

It was, in the end, his persistence that won her heart.

- fin -