Epilogue:

Teyla paused in the door of the balcony, hesitating briefly before stepping past the threshold and interrupting John's solitary introspection. She hated to disturb him, but they were going to Lear's home planet tomorrow, and she felt she needed to speak with him privately before they were to spend several days together on the mission. They hadn't yet spoken since John returned to duty two days ago, and she felt the tension between them still smoldering in every awkward, passing encounter.

It was a tension she wished to soothe, now, so she stepped quietly to his side and placed her own hands on the rail as he was doing. John took a deep breath of salty, nighttime air and turned, seeming almost surprised when he discovered her as the intruder. She felt him stiffen slightly so she hastily asked a meaningless question, "So we are to meet the rest of Ehman's colony tomorrow?"

John nodded sharply, then sighed, "Yeah. Elizabeth's finally arranged it. I can't figure out why Lear is going along with this at all, but he's promised to behave."

Teyla was thoughtful, " Elizabeth told me Ehman is terrified of us. She thinks he's actually trying to save face by allowing us to visit and begin trade negotiations."

"Ah. Act generous and hope the other guy thinks it's because you're stronger than him, rather than because you're afraid of him. I'll take it I guess. That and a lot of extra ordinance. A lot."

Teyla nodded with a smile. "We will all be on guard, this time. It is wise, though, that you are leaving Ronon behind."

"He's got issues," John agreed with mock seriousness and a playful look that melted quickly into pained self-deprecation. "He's not the only one," John added softly, looking away again to gaze at the starlight reflecting on the rippling water of the ocean below.

"John…" Teyla began, wondering how she was going to finish that sentence, but John suddenly whipped his head towards her and interrupted urgently.

"Look, Teyla. I'm sorry. I know you're ticked at me, but you have to understand: I couldn't just let you die. Not when I could do something about it." The hard look in his eyes suddenly reminded her of another time he'd looked that way at her, that time as she sat on an infirmary cot after John had flown Jamus' people, and Teyla herself, out of the disintegrating asteroid.

"He tried to save his people -- and he succeeded, through you."

"That's not the reason I did it."

"I know."

"I know, John. I understand. I really do." The love of John Sheppard was a powerful and frightening thing. So powerful, it would risk even death itself to protect those that fell within its desperate grasp. And in turn, so powerful as to blind itself to the harm its fierce protection might wreak. She understood both sides of the coin.

John looked at her suspiciously, "You do?"

"Yes. I understand. But you were still wrong. My life is not any more valuable than any other life in this universe…"

"It is to me," John whispered.

"But it is not to me! You must understand that." John just glowered, a stubborn set to his jaw and Teyla chewed her lip a moment, considering the best way to make her point.

"Why did you order Elizabeth to ignore Kolya's demands when he captured and tortured you to get to Ladon?"

"…What?!" Teyla hated the look of remembered pain that flashed in John's eyes at her question, but she pressed on.

"Why did you not just convince Elizabeth to make the trade and save yourself?"

"I fail to see the point, here Teyla…" John was gearing up to avoid the question and Teyla narrowed her eyes, equally stubborn.

"Why, John!" she snapped.

"Because if we had given in to Kolya that time, he would have done it again and again. None of us would have ever been safe again if word had gotten out we bargain for hostages. And as much as I despise Ladon, he is still the leader of the Genii and was under Atlantis' protection. I couldn't let Kolya use me to make his way into that position." John was shouting the answer in a breathless rush, as if to get it out as quickly as possible.

"So, you hold some things more important than your own life."

"Of course I do! You're alive right now because I do!"

"Then why do you deny me the same honor? Why do you not respect that I also hold some things more important than my own life! When you chose to take the lives of not one, but hundreds of other people in return for mine, you insulted my honor John Sheppard!"

John was truly taken aback. He stared in deep thought for a long moment. "I…never thought of it that way," he said quietly.

"How would you have felt if Elizabeth had countermanded your order and traded your life for Ladon's – if she had given in to Kolya?"

"I would have been pretty damn pissed," he admitted, and Teyla saw understanding in his eyes at last.

"I'm not saying I'm not grateful for my life John…" Teyla's voice was also soft.

"You're just saying – 'Don't do it again you big stupid lug.'" John finished. He looked at her for a long time. "Thank you," he said at last.

She tilted her head at him, "For what?" she asked with a puzzled smile.

"For…being my friend, I guess." He suddenly looked quite embarrassed, as if only just realizing that he'd revealed more in the past 10 minutes than he'd revealed in the 3 years she'd known him, and he turned to lean against the railing again.

"You're welcome," she answered, patting him lightly on the arm and seeing him tilt his head in acknowledgement. She took one last long, admiring look at the ocean, then quietly slipped off the balcony, leaving John alone with his thoughts again. But she was certain there would be no awkward tension tomorrow when they traveled together to Lear's planet.

And she was – almost – certain that in the future, if the situation ever came up again, that he might realize he loved her enough to let her go.