Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate Atlantis or its original characters and I am making no money off of this.

Author's Note: This story is the sequel to Where Once Was Gold but can be read alone. It's a bit of an homage to one of my favorite films, The Last of the Mohicans. Any constructive criticism is more than welcomed!

You can also read this story with music and pictures at my site: http / nowislight. angelfire. com / NowIsLight. html without the spaces, of course.

I. Prologue: Teasing Out Dreams

She stepped away from me and she moved through the faire
And so fondly I watched her move here and move there
And she went away from me with one star awake
As the swans in the evening moved over the lake.

The sea breathed in long exhales like the distant sleeping sighs of a lover. The breeze that fluttered the drawn curtains carried the cool, tingling gusts of sea-scent as reminders of his island life, so different from his field-filled youth. He rolled onto his side, squeezing his eyes shut, yet unable to stop the waltz of memories in his heart. The dead danced before him in smiling whirlwinds, reaching out their hands then recoiling just when he considered grasping them.

The back of his neck and collarbone flushed with heat and sweat as he shoved off the sheets, sitting up to be better caressed by the cooling night breeze. The sea breath gave him small, welcome shivers. He cast his eyes over the straight edges that made up his room, studying the shadows cast by moonlight. He rested a hand on the cool metal of the nightstand. Try as he might, he could not bring himself to think of this place as home; especially not when he felt the sickening twists of solitude coil inside.

A part of him knew his child-like fear to stem from the isolation of night, yet another part snickered of something much darker as Melena's laugh echoed in his chest. He had dreamt of her again. He had dreamt that he was freely talking and laughing as he once did, then watching her die. One moment he'd been holding her warm hand and the next her hand had been charred and shriveled in his own.

"Melena," he sighed out her name as he rubbed his face before sitting up. Though his thoughts of her had increased since his forced return to Sateda, it had been about a week and a half since he'd dreamt of her. He breathed deep and tried to logically hunt down the trigger for the dream. Teyla's eyes filled his mind and he furrowed his brow, willing them away as he tried to focus. But they were replaced by her smile and the way the breeze teased stray strands of her hair.

He gritted his teeth at his uncooperative mind and rose, pushing back a curtain to gaze out at the shimmering field of water below. The near-full moon cast undulating shadows on the ocean's swaying surface. For a moment he lost himself in the shifting furrows and ridges of the sea, his eyes relaxing as the peace of sleep renewed its call on his body. He rested his temple against the windowsill, blinking languidly in the hoary light. A small shiver crept up his bared spine as a gust greeted him.

A woman's lyrical, lamenting voice wove into his conscious thought as he realized what the trigger for his dream of Melena had been. He smiled a little with relief that Teyla had not been the culprit this time. She was easier to ignore when she wasn't teasing out dreams in him.

Unbidden, the sensation of Teyla's hand resting in his made his fingers curl, as if around hers. He straightened as he realized what he was doing and let his hand rest against the windowsill. It wasn't Teyla this time. Not Teyla. Why am I thinking about Teyla?

It was Beckett - he'd been playing music as he worked on charts that afternoon. Ronon had stopped by to ask Carson if he wanted to go grab a meal with him. But the doctor had been pleasantly humming along with a tune, quietly singing words now and then. Ronon had paused in the doorway, the lilt of the song weaving into him. The lyrics had stolen his mind for the heartbeats that he listened and he was not returned to himself until Beckett sighed and shifted some papers and pressed a button on the CD player. The song repeated.

My young love said to me, "My mother won't mind
And my father won't slight you for your lack of kind."
And she stepped away from me and this she did say,
"It will not be long love, 'til our wedding day."

She stepped away from me and she moved through the faire
And so fondly I watched her move here and move there.
And she went away from me with one star awake
As the swans in the evening moved over the lake.

The people were saying that no two were ere wed
But that one has a sorrow that never was said.
And I smiled as she passed with her goods and her gear
And that was the last that I saw of my dear.

I dreamt it last night that my dead love came in
So softly she entered that her feet made no din
She put her arms 'round me and this she did say,
"It will not be long love, 'til our wedding day."

The final verse had haunted him and he didn't realize he was staring at nothing until Carson happened to reach for another pen and caught sight of Ronon out of the corner of his eye, starting and shouting "Good gracious!" with a hand over his heart, the pen clattering to the floor. Ronon had smirked only to be admonished for sneaking up on people before Carson accompanied him for lunch.

I dreamt it last night that my dead love came in
So softly she entered that her feet made no din.

Why was it so easy to love a ghost? Because it is safe, a voice very much like Teyla's answered for him in his own mind. He traced his fingers down the vertical frame of the window as he leaned against it again. So what if it was safe? The Wraith had stripped everything from him – was he not allowed this one sheltered harbor for what was left of his heart? The peace that comes from knowing that you will never again be burned by love if you are content to cling ghosts. "Forever," he whispered as his fingers reached the bottom of the frame. He had promised Melena forever. So he wasn't taking the easy way out but rather fulfilling his promise to her.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood up when he thought of his dream and of Melena's charred hand in his. He wrapped his arms around his bare chest as he shivered again.

Familiar doubts flooded him. Maybe he wasn't being loyal to Melena. Maybe he was just a coward, too afraid of his own heart to even ponder a possible future with another. Teyla had warmed his hand once, her eyes hopeful. And he'd pulled away. He still grieved for Melena, and he still felt the pain of the space she once filled in his heart, but it had been seven years. He knew the pain wouldn't lessen much more. His defense was weak: he was clinging to the skeleton of a promise he'd made in another life.

It was when he was alone at night, like this, that he could acknowledge that he was afraid of the way Teyla lingered in his mind, the way her laugh stirred a sleeping dragon within, the way her brief touch teased out its coils and fire. She made him smile. Not only when they shared amusement over the frivolities of McKay, but when he was alone and her memory warmed him. When there was no one to see the veils fall away and he was brave enough to remember how hard it had been to let go of her hand.

His smile was replaced with a sigh as he knew that, come morning, the cowardice would return and he would once more be too afraid to look Teyla in the eye even if he wanted to. He wielded the memory of Melena like a shield, guarding his heart's blood. Guarding the essence of what once made him free.

He glanced at the clock on the nightstand. Sheppard would expect him for their morning run in a few hours; best to try and get more sleep. With one last glance at the moon he tugged the curtain shut again and returned to his bed, pulling the sheets around his shoulders and nudging his forehead against the pillow to find a resting place. He hugged the extra cloth of the sheets to his chest as he momentarily sucked on the inside of his lower lip.

Fearful of another nightmare, he reminded himself that Melena was gone and that he had never held her charred hand in his. He started to wonder how well Teyla was sleeping but checked himself and chased away the ponderings by trying to remember what he'd eaten for dinner the previous night. By the time he'd remembered, his eyes had closed on their own and his legs felt too heavy to move. He shifted his waning focus to the sigh of the sea, reminding himself that he was someplace safe and that he was needed – that he was alive – and that he could fall back into his comforting armor in the morning.

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