Please see first chapter for disclaimer, rating, warnings, pairing, etc.
Talking in her sleep would have been eternal bliss compared to this.
Unable to prevent her reaction, Teyla went completely stiff with apprehension in Ronon's unconscious embrace. At any moment he was going to wake up and find them -- find her like this. Then all their newly found civility and friendship would be over, over before it had barely started.
Just her luck.
Homey sounds from the kitchen, soon followed by delectable scents, informed her the owner of the house was up, and undoubtedly working on breakfast for all of them. She and Ronon wouldn't be bothered, however; because no matter how vulgar the Genii could be while drunk, they appreciated married couples' privacy.
Also just her luck.
Experimentally, Teyla gripped the uneven edge of the mattress with her left hand and carefully pulled, trying to shift her weight away from Ronon. His arm immediately tightened around her, holding her gently but inexorably against him. She tried twice more; both attempts yielded the same result. Resigning herself to the situation, she let go and tucked her hand under her cheek, lying quiescently in the circle of her husband's arm once she'd settled her head a little more comfortably on her pillow. She knew eventually, whether in only a few more minutes or an hour, Ronon would wake; then the comfortable life of civil routine to which she'd grown accustomed would end. She blinked hard to clear the blurriness suddenly clouding her vision.
Though maybe, the thought crept into her mind, maybe she could somewhat lessen the coming embarrassment if she feigned sleep. . . Forcing her body to relax from her toes up, she focused on her breathing, blowing out fewer and slower breaths. So deeply did she concentrate, she scarcely realized when she drifted into a kind of waking doze, soon lost in a hazy dreamscape populated by images of wistful, unarticulated longings. When Ronon's hand eventually moved from her waist, his callused palm smoothing gently across her midriff and catching slightly on her homespun gown, it at first seemed merely another part of her internal imaginings. Unfamiliar but totally delicious sensations tingled through her, making her want to snuggle even closer to him. Not until his fingers began tracing slow, feather-light circles around the elbow of her left arm did Teyla start to rouse from her lethargy. When he sighed softly, his breath ruffling the hair at the crown of her head, she came fully awake again. Her heart began to race, her breath to hitch unsteadily -- and not just from the shock of returning so abruptly to the real, waking world.
"Teyla." Ronon's voice, barely louder than a whisper and rough with sleep, rumbled through his chest and vibrated against her back. How could she have not noticed before his voice changing and deepening over the course of the time she'd known him? Overwhelmed by a sudden unaccountable sense of loss, she clenched her eyes shut a little more: still pretending to be asleep, while expecting at any moment for him to pull away from her and swiftly leave the bed.
But, to her surprise, he didn't. For a long moment he lay completely still as his fingers left off tracing around her elbow. Then, very slowly, he brushed them up her arm to her shoulder, there to tangle in her long curls and delicately rub one of them between thumb and forefinger. She felt herself unexpectedly relaxing again, the small, repetitive motion oddly soothing. A lump sprang to her throat as tears prickled at the backs of her eyelids. She kept them tightly closed, holding the droplets at bay. She felt loved: not like with her mother and father, or even with Charin, but in a different, deeply profound and heartfelt way. This, she realized, simultaneously frightened and exhilarated, this was what marriage -- a real marriage, not just one of convenience -- should be: two hearts loving each other more than anything and anyone else, and completely at ease each with the other. Teyla suddenly found herself wondering what it would be like to turn toward Ronon, and return his caresses. . . Warmth prickled across her palms at the thought.
Memories swept through her, smothering the impulse under a wave of confusion. They'd agreed to be best friends, and nothing more: mostly, she saw now with belated clarity, because she had so fiercely rejected the very idea of anything else. It wasn't so much a question of when Ronon had started feeling this way toward her, but more: when had she started feeling this way toward him? At what point had friendship changed to love? And if she were to act as she admitted she yearned to do, would he believe her change of heart to be genuine? Or would he despise himself -- and her -- for going back on their given word? Additional uncertainty stabbed through her. What if this wasn't really love at all, but only the physical consequences of their maturing bodies and forced proximity?
She had no answers, only more questions.
Unable to bear the painful tangle of conflicting thoughts and feelings, Teyla shifted slightly, as though waking. Ronon's fingers paused, withdrawing from her hair as she felt him quickly and surreptitiously roll a quarter turn onto his back. Faking obliviousness, she stretched languorously, using the motion to shift onto her stomach. She wrapped her arms around her pillow, secretly wishing all the time she could wrap them around him. Turning her head towards him, she slowly blinked open her eyes. "Ronon." Her voice sounded huskier than normal, even to her own ears. "Good morning." Oh, Ancestors! Could he hear her uncertainty?
Ronon, both hands now innocently behind his head, smiled at her; but the expression in his green eyes when they met hers seemed oddly far away. "Good morning, Teyla. Did you sleep well?"
"Yes." She paused to clear her throat, fighting down an insane urge to close the foot or so of distance between them. "You?"
"Well enough. It was surprisingly quiet. You had me expecting someone to charge in waving guns at us in the middle of the night."
Teyla forced a chuckle. "Did I? Perhaps I was more thorough than was needful in trying to prepare you for how -- uninhibited the Genii can be, in comparison to Athosians or Satedans. Actually, the later it becomes, the more likely it is that everyone will be too drunk to try much of anything -- um -- derogatory to their honor or ours."
"By daybreak, maybe," he quickly countered, his eyes briefly going darkly intense. "I noticed more than a few souls with derogatory intentions lurking around pretty late."
Surprising herself, she said softly and sincerely, "Always before, I have been here with my father. I am very glad you were with me this time to -- to discourage them."
"My pleasure." Ronon adjusted his head on his hands, apparently dismissing the subject. "Well -- do you think it's time to get up? Or do we get to stay in bed and play lazy for a day, while our hosts all sleep it off?"
Teyla nearly stopped breathing, even though she knew he didn't mean the words the way they sounded. Or, at least, she was fairly certain he hadn't meant them that way: had he? "Ah--" Feeling lost and confused again, she sat up briskly, adjusted her gown, and swung her legs over the edge of the bed, at the same time nodding toward the sun-bright window to deflect his attention from her. "It is definitely time to get up. The Genii also have a reputation for how quickly they recover after their celebrations. Chief Cowan will be expecting us for trade negotiations right after breakfast. Which," she added as she stood, "you should be smelling." She reached for her clothes, lying folded on the room's single simply made table, and escaped behind the curtain strung across one corner of the small room to dress and regain her composure.
All through the day, though, whenever she looked at Ronon, his question echoed in the back of her mind, making her repeatedly struggle to suppress the desire for them to have done just that.
Teyla really, really, really did not want to spend another night on Genii. That deep desire motivated her to wrap up trade negotiations with Chief Cowan in an amazingly short time. As she and Ronon took their leave of the Genii leader, his shrewd little eyes jumped sharply from one to the other of them. "You are a worthy successor to your father, Teyla," he said. "Marriage suits you very well. I look forward to seeing you and your husband at our Harvest Festival." After nodding at them, he turned and briskly walked away.
Ronon adjusted the carrying straps of the several large sacks of supplies he'd slung over his shoulders. "'Harvest Festival?'" he repeated.
"Yes," she replied, keeping her tone bland but flicking tiny warning glances at their similarly-loaded escorts. "It is a time of tremendously joyful celebration for the Genii. We are greatly honored to be invited personally by Chief Cowan to attend."
"I look forward to it," he said, his tone studiously delighted. But for just an instant as he glanced down at her, just before he courteously motioned for her to precede him, mischief seemed to sparkle in his eyes.
The husky Genii farmers who bore the rest of the negotiated-for commodities didn't accompany them through the Ring to Athos, but pitched their loads with practiced care through the shimmering blue surface. Before she mounted the steps of the platform, Teyla inclined her head to each of them in turn and said, "The Genii are true friends of Athos. We will not forget how you aided us, and will do the same for you if ever you have need."
The oldest of the men touched the brim of his straw hat in respect. "Journey safely," he said, then turned and led his companions back toward the village. She watched them go for a long moment, feeling strangely hesitant about returning home. Keenly aware of Ronon watching her, she stifled a sigh and joined him on the platform. As she stopped alongside him, it seemed as if she should say something, but her tongue seemed stuck to the roof of her mouth. Everything that came to mind seemed either totally, insipidly banal, or dangerously close to revealing her inner turmoil. Finally, with a tiny tip of her head, she preceded him into the active Ring.
And so they returned home, silence wrapping itself around them like a too-heavy blanket.
The silence continued beyond Teyla and Ronon's return to their village on Athos, winding suffocating coils into nearly every moment they were together. Not even when she and Ronon hated each other had they talked so little. Day after day they spent attending to their separate duties within the village, night after night in the solitude of their separate pallets.
And night after wretched night Teyla listened to the sound of Ronon's breathing, her mind full of memories of waking in his arms that morning on Genii, her body aching to be cradled in them again and feeling his gentle touch. When her exhausted body did eventually lapse into sleep, her dreams continued to torment her with visions of what-if, and might-have-been.
Finally, nearly three weeks after their trip to Genii, Teyla could take it no longer. In the middle of yet another silent evening meal, she allowed her spoon to clatter into her half-empty soup bowl and glared across the table at Ronon. "Say something!"
Stopping just short of dipping his empty spoon into his bowl, he raised his head and blinked at her, the expression on his face compounded of equal parts surprise and confusion. She bitterly imagined he would have looked just as startled if the table had suddenly spoken to him. He swallowed hastily and said, "What?"
Teyla banged her fists on the tabletop and leaned forward. "Say something, Ronon! Anything!" All her pent up frustration exploded in a flood of words. "What is the matter with us? We do not even carry on simple conversations about the weather any longer! We do not talk about the business of the village, or, or, or any other concern. We say 'Good morning' and 'Good night' to each other, but otherwise we are always silent. It is depressing, and I wish it to stop immediately!" She ran out of breath. Watching the look on his face change to one of deep sadness, she suddenly wished she hadn't been so rash. It wasn't entirely his fault their home was so quiet. What had she done to remedy the situation?
Ronon looked down at his spoon for a long moment as if wondering why he was holding it. Very quietly, he laid it aside and then sighed. "I'm sorry." He raised his gaze to her face, his green eyes sad and solemn. "I admit I'm not much company right now. I -- I have a few -- things -- on my mind." He looked down, and it was obvious he was struggling to put those things aside. Looking up again, he smiled; but it was clearly forced, and the troubled expression lingered in his eyes. "I'm sorry. You were saying?"
As Teyla's hands relaxed from fists, she turned them to rest palms up on the table. "What is wrong? Perhaps I can help you with these -- things?"
Ronon shook his head. "Thank you for offering, but I'm afraid there isn't anything you can do," he said. "It's -- complicated."
Teyla's heart jumped straight up into her throat. All the guilty longings and dreams of the past several weeks flashed vividly through her mind. Afraid of how he might answer, she hesitantly asked, "Did something happen on Genii to -- to cause this?"
For a brief instant, surprise and confusion flitted across his face again. "No, it has nothing to do with the Genii. It's just a few things my mother told me the last time we were on Sateda."
Teyla felt a deep sadness, mingled with a different kind of guilt, flood through her as a multitude of small things, scarcely noticed and soon dismissed, clicked together. How had she not noticed the grave quiet settling over him since their last trip to Sateda? Her mind returned to the morning when he'd held her so close and stroked her hair, thinking her still asleep. She'd been so preoccupied with her own tumultuous feelings at the time, she hadn't recognized the aura of sadness, perhaps even of regret, emanating from him. Suddenly embarrassed, she said awkwardly, "I am sorry I questioned you about it. I will leave you -- and the matter -- alone."
A genuine smile spread over Ronon's face, even though it soon faded. "No, Teyla, it's okay. I'm sorry you've been affected by my moodiness." Picking up his spoon again, he traced patterns through his soup with its tip. "I've just got a few decisions to make, ones I need to make alone. Well, I guess just one decision, but it's really important and not just for me. It's important for my family." He lifted his eyes. "For me, for you, for us. For Mother. For Athos and Sateda. I have to be sure I make the right decision."
A gnawing, apprehensive ache started in her stomach. "But if it affects all of us. . ." She made herself stop. He'd said very clearly the decision was his to make; the least she could do to make up for her earlier outburst (and lack of sensitivity to the changes happening with him, her conscience added sharply) would be to trust him. "Whatever your decision, I will support you in it," she whispered.
Ronon reached across the table to grasp one of her hands. "I appreciate it, Teyla. I know you don't know what you might be agreeing to, and I appreciate your trust in me more than you know."
When, Teyla found herself wondering wildly, when had he gotten to be so grown up, so -- so mature? There'd always been a kind of goofy, boyish exuberance behind his eyes, no matter what he was doing. Now it was no longer there, she realized how much she'd taken it for granted, and she missed it sorely. But what could have brought about this unexpected change so quickly? He was only fifteen years old. . .
Desperately attempting to lighten the moment even though she felt like bursting into tears, Teyla twined her slender fingers with his and squeezed. "Just do not be so quiet all the time, okay?" she admonished with blatantly mock severity. "It makes me nervous."
Ronon chuckled softly. "I promise." He squeezed her fingers back, his warm hand larger around hers than she remembered. Was he growing again? She couldn't honestly say. She'd thought she'd been the observant one of them, but she'd missed so many things.
Their life together was suddenly too complicated! When had things between them gotten so twisted up and confusing? And, most importantly, were the Ancestors trying to punish her for something?
Although they passed the rest of the evening in deliberately lighthearted chitchat, Teyla took her musings to her sleeping pallet with her. As she again lay listening to Ronon's steady breathing, she found they made no more comfortable bedfellows than her previous repressed desires. Somehow, she had to find a way to come to terms with these things happening to her, to Ronon, that were impacting their relationship in such totally unanticipated ways. She would never be the kind of wife she saw around the village; but, she decided as tears welled into her eyes, perhaps she could start to act like one, at least a little. Not just as the leader of her people, but also as a wife, she would support Ronon's choices, just as he seemed unquestioningly to support hers.
Having come to that decision, she fell into the most restful sleep she'd had since coming home from Genii, completely unaware of how life for all that family Ronon had mentioned was about to get unimaginably worse.
-To Be Continued-
Thank you to all my reviewers: jewel of athos, TheWelcomeStranger, Alexiel974, Bunnylass, TubaPrincess, me, and QueenThayet12990! Thank you for all the lovely reviews!