Disclaimer: I do not own Atlantis

A/N: This is dedicated to Rodlox AKA Keenir, who asked for either Miko/Ronon or background on Hoffan culture. I attempted to fit both into the story, though the Miko/Ronon is more friendship/pre-relationship than actually ship. Hope you enjoy.


"Alright, everyone, the rules are as follows." Major Evan Lorne glared sternly at the small group gathered near the Stargate on P5X-753. "No civilian goes anywhere without at least one soldier. Do not insult the locals. Do not touch your weapon unless specifically told to by me or one of my men. If a local asks you to do anything, don't until I clear it, or you may end up married to an alien named Philaka."

At the quiet chatter of laughter, Lorne raised an eyebrow. "Don't laugh, it happed to Dr. Parrish, once. He was just lucky the girl's father allowed the divorce."

The laughter stopped abruptly, which made the soldiers grin. Even Ronon, coming along as a favor to Sergeant Hall, whom he had accidentally put into the infirmary the day before, smiled slightly.

Lorne looked over the group once more. "Alright, let's head out."

00000

The group walked down the wide dirt path towards the main city on P5X-753, called by the natives 'Lurja' It was market day and the streets were crowded with wooden sale-booths and energetic shoppers. Ronon noticed that Dr. Miko Kusanagi, a rather small woman, was looking overwhelmed by the crowds, and moved to shadow her. Somewhat intimidated by the tall Satedan, most of the people moved out of their way. Miko gave him a shy smile, and Ronon decided that this scientist would definitely need looking after. Lurja was a safe place: after all, several military teams had already checked it out before letting the non-combatants step foot there. Still, a small woman like Miko might be ripe prey for some of the unsavory characters that plagued the city.

After a few minutes, Major Lorne dispersed the group, letting them each go their own way. The whole idea for the outing to the planet, after all, was to give the civilians experience in an off-world setting, getting to know the cultures of the Pegasus galaxy. This was hard to do in a large, well-armed group; the people of the city would be too wary to deal with them. So the smaller groups wandered off to peruse the sale-booths.

Somehow, Ronon ended up alone with Miko after they were separated from Lieutenants Cohen and Lionel, who were protecting Dr. Brown, one of the botanist. He silently followed Miko as she absently perused the Lurjan wares. After a silence, Miko gathered the courage to speak to the tall warrior. "Have…have you been here before, Mr. Dex?"

"Ronon. And yes, I've been here a few times." He chose not to mention that the last time he had walked the streets of Lurja, his wife, Melena, had been at his side.

"It is a lovely place," Miko commented, "but it is very crowded."

Before Ronon could reply, one of the ware-sellers called out to them from the booth they walked next to. "Ah, such a charming couple! Surely, sir, you would like to buy your pretty woman a necklace or wristlet, to complement her beauty."

Miko stopped in shock, two pink circles appearing on her cheeks from embarrassment. Ronon glared slightly at the man, but reluctantly realized that this was where he was supposed to encourage the scientist to interact with the locals. He nudged her slightly on the shoulder. When she looked up at him, he raised an eyebrow and nodded towards the sale-booth.

She took a deep breath, reciting the Fibonacci sequence in her head to try and calm her nerves. Miko, while not really shy, had always been introverted and found it hard to go outside her comfort zone, which included haggling with ware-sellers. The looming presence of Ronon at her side, though, gave her surprising strength of will.

The ware-seller smiled as she stepped towards his booth. "Ah, my dear, I see you are a pale beauty. A necklace of milrith," he indicated a dark red stone hung on a silver-like chain, "would complement your complexion very well indeed."

Miko smiled politely at the ware-seller as he continued his spiel, her eyes browsing the jewelry in front of her. She had never been one for ornamentation, preferring to spend her money on books and star charts. None of the earrings or necklaces stood out to her as anything special, and she justified her lack of interest in them by telling herself that she likely could not afford anything. All she had to trade were a few trinkets from Earth.

She was about to make her excuses to the ware-seller and leave, when a soft light caught the corner of her eye. Frowning, Miko moved closer to the end of the booth where one pendant lay in a pile of what seemed to be cheap necklaces. Reaching out, she lifted it from the mess in order to take a closer look. Her breath caught. The pendant was only glass, but inside she could see what looked like a flame, flickering red, yellow, and white. Miko did not remember the last time she saw something so beautiful.

Ronon watched with interest at the captivated scientist. She did not take her eyes from the pendant, not even hearing the objections of the ware-seller, who was trying to get her to look at the more expensive jewelry and not the plain, glass pendant. Indeed, to Ronon's eyes and those of the ware-seller, the necklace only held simple glass. But Ronon had seen the look that now appeared in Miko's eyes, and he knew exactly what she was holding.

The Satedan touched Miko's shoulder, firmly yet gently, and she snapped out of her daze. Embarrassed, she quickly put the pendant down, but hesitated to remove her fingers. In a spur of the moment action, Ronon looked at the ware-seller. "How much?" he asked, ignoring the surprised look on Miko's face.

The ware-seller, seeing how much the woman valued the necklace, named a high price.

Ronon started to give the man his patented glare of death, but he fortunately remembered what Teyla had said he would do to him if she heard he had bullied another trade. "That's too high. I'll give you a Keirvan knife; it's got a good grip and doesn't break easily."

After a few moments of haggling, the ware-seller happily accepted the knife and three of the Wraith wrist-bones Ronon had kept from his time as a Runner. Taking the glass pendant, he walked away, Miko hurrying to keep up.

When they were a few feet away, Ronon handed the pendant to Miko with a gruff, "Here."

Miko accepted it with near reverence. She looked up at the warrior. "I thank you, Mr. Dex. I do not understand, though. Why did you buy this for me?"

Ronon's facial expression didn't change, but he stared at Miko with an intense gaze that gave her chills. "Call me Ronon. And I bought it because it belongs to you." A smile, comforting yet somewhat sad, graced his face. "Besides, if its original owners were here, they would have given it to you for nothing."

"Truly? Why?" True curiosity shone on her face.

"Because it's a sulfhoffa." At Miko's questioning look, Ronon elaborated. "It is believed to contain a flame from the Sacred Fire of Hoff."

Miko gasped, and bowed her head. "Then I do not believe they would want me to have this. Not after what happened to them." She knew Ronon had been told about the fate of the Hoffans, she had overheard Colonel Sheppard telling him in the mess hall one day. Still, she did not know if, however, how the Satedan felt about the role the Atlantis expedition had played in the disaster.

Ronon did not answer at first, gathering his thoughts, before leading Miko towards one of the fountains that stood in the middle of the street. As it was a fairly chilly day, there were few people crowding the fountain, as they would in the hot summer. He looked at the calming spray of the fountain before speaking. "They would not care. There's a story behind the sulhoffa that would explain it better. If you want to hear it." Why was he suggesting this? He was not one to speak more than he had to, but here he was, offering to tell this tale. The tale that he had not heard or thought of since the days before the Wraith destroyed his life.

Miko, though, did not know this and nodded solemnly. "Yes, if you please. I wish to know more, if only in honor of the dead."

00000

Not able to escape his offer, Ronon nodded and began, reciting the words as they had been told to him:

"In the time when men lived full lives, a group of families settled onto a planet, which they called Hoff. While that people was known, even from the beginning, for its great science and technology, they were also a people who were proud of their heritage. Their greatest faith was placed in the Sacred Fire of Hoff. It was kept in the most sacred of chapels; and it was said that, as long as the Sacred Fire Burned, the Hoffan people would survive through the ages.

For many years, the Hoffans lived in wealth and prosperity. Then came the day of the Wraith. After a day and a night of terror and grief, the Wraith left, leaving a sad remnant behind. As the Hoffans gathered the remains of their lives, they found, to their grief and horror, that all but a single, small flame of the Sacred Fire still burned. They tried to rekindle the Sacred Fire, but no fuel could catch the flame. On the day the last flame died, there was greater mourning than on the day of the Wraith.

The crowds wailed, but a man walked to the front and addressed the people thus: "My fellows, why do you wail?"

"The Sacred Fire has perished! Hoff is destroyed!"

Another wail rose, but the man held his hands for silence. "The Sacred Fire burns no more in the chapel, but look." He raised aloft his hand and the Hoffans saw that he held a glass orb. Cries of joy and wonder spread as they saw, within the glass, the light of the Sacred Fire. "Mourn no longer, but rejoice! I have captured a Sacred Flame within glass. Even now, my fellow glass-blowers work to create more of these sulhoffani, so that the Sacred Fire might be carried by all Hoffans!"

And it was as he said. Rejuvenated in spirit, the Hoffans rebuilt their lives; each holding a flame of the Sacred Fire near their heart. Soon, they began visiting other worlds. To their surprise and delight, most peoples of the other worlds could not see the Sacred Fire, thinking the pendants to be only glass.

Those few who could see the Sacred Fire, though not of Hoffan lineage, were welcomed into the hearts of the Hoffan people. They believed that the Sacred Fire could only be seen by those whose souls belonged to Hoff, and thus they and their families were given all the rights belonging to Hoffans. And each new Hoffan, born or adopted, was given a sulhoffa. It is said that as long as the Sacred Fire lays near the heart of a Hoffan, then their people will never die nor be forgotten.

So speaks the ages."

00000

The story finished, Ronon blinked his eyes. He had fallen into the story as he recited, and had even forgotten about the woman who was now sitting on the edge of the fountain. Miko's eyes were wide with wonder, her hand clutching the pendant that encircled her slender neck. "That was a beautiful story, Ronon. I thank you for sharing it with me. It is an honor to carry on the tradition of the Hoffan people."

Ronon smiled at the determination in her voice. This woman scientist might be small, but he could see strength hidden in her. "They'd be happy to know the Sacred Fire lives on."

Miko noticed a sad look in his eyes. "Did you know the Hoffans?"

"A few of them. My…one of my closest friends was part-Hoffan." For a moment he was caught in the memory of the woman, but then he shook his head to clear his thoughts.

Before any more could be said, Lieutenant Cohen's voice came in over the crowd. "Hey guys, there you are!" Cohen, Lieutenant Lionel, and Dr. Brown came up to the two near the fountain. "You want to catch a snack? We found a great place down that way, serves something that could possibly bear a resemblance to a hamburger."

Ronon agreed and helped Miko to her feet. As Cohen, Lionel, and Dr. Brown began walking away, chatting about alien lettuce, the other two hung back slightly. Miko smiled at Ronon. "Thank you again. For the sulhoffa and for the story."

"You're welcome," he replied gruffly. He watched as Dr. Brown drew Miko into the conversation, his thoughts still on the small, dark-haired woman. She was interesting, that one: silent, but with a strong will and sense of honor.

Ronon thought of his Melena, who also had the Sacred Fire burning within her pendant and within her soul. He smiled as his eyes followed Miko. You would have liked her, Melena. A soft breeze brushed past him, and he smiled, before increasing his pace to catch up with the others before they could get too far ahead. After all, it was a crowded place. And if he walked closer to Miko than he normally would, well, she might need him. Anything could happen.


So I had been boing more for the Hoffans being famous glass-makers like the Venetians, but it ended up more like Feanor in Tolken's the Silmarillion. Oh well. Hope you liked it!