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-Chapter 3-

Teyla awoke feeling rested, and as she had hoped, she had been spared of any more nightmares. She had dreamed a lot, but all had been pleasant dreams.

Wanting to stretch out her arms above her head, she grimaced as her arms were half raised above her, groaning as her ribs throbbed painfully. She'd forgotten about that minor inconvenience… Along with the reminder of her injuries, the memories of their cause returned as well. That dimmed her good mood faster than anything else could have.

Pulling the blanket away, she pulled up her knees against her chest, inspecting her ankle. It was swollen, but no more painful than it had been yesterday.

Her stomach growled loudly, clearly stating its displeasure. Teyla glanced around her, checking to see if there was any food within reach.

It turned out there was. A whole tray filled with fruit, several drinks and bread stood on her nightstand, the drinks still cooled, and the bread was warm, seemingly having just been pulled out of the oven. It smelled delicious.

Helping herself to a glass of orange juice, she wondered who had made the effort to come here early in the morning to bring her breakfast.

"Hey!"

Startled, Teyla turned to the entrance of the infirmary, meeting the eyes of Dr. McKay, who seemed to be insulted.

"You're not supposed to start without us, y'know…" he pointed out. "We couldn't very well bring everything at once, so we went back to get the other half," Rodney said, pointing over his shoulder revealing Colonel Sheppard and Ronon walking behind him, both carrying two more trays of food.

Frowning apologetically, Teyla bit her lip. "Oops. I apologize Rodney; I did not remember our breakfast appointment until now."

"Don't mind him Teyla," Sheppard told her. "It's not like he wouldn't have started without us if it was the other way around."

Ronon chuckled, pulling up a chair for Sheppard with his foot as he hopped on the bed, expertly balancing his tray with one hand. Making himself comfortable, they sat opposite from each other again, the same way they had yesterday while Rodney and Sheppard sat on either side of her.

"Oh ha-ha... Very funny Sheppard," Rodney responded, glaring at the Colonel.

They all settled into comfortable silence as they ate, the four teammates sharing a quiet, relaxing meal together.

((()))

Dr. Weir had yet to arrive in the briefing room when the team arrived. As Teyla settled into her seat next to Ronon and across from Sheppard, she felt stirrings of unease in her stomach. The closer the time to the debriefing came, the more nervous she got. She was starting to regret breakfast, for her stomach was churning uncomfortably. Even the peaceful night's rest she'd gotten hadn't helped her, for now she would have to stir up all those memories again.

"Sorry I'm late," Elizabeth apologized briskly as she entered the room. The doors quietly shut behind her as she smiled at them all and settled into her place at the head of the table. "Carson was called to the infirmary at the last minute, so he'll give a separate debrief later. Now then, who wants to start?"

Everyone looked at Teyla. She shook her head silently. She needed more time.

John quickly cleared his throat, drawing everyone's attention to him. "Er – when we got to Hoff, everything was a mess. The Wraith did a very sufficient job cleaning house. There were life signs around, but as far as we can tell they were all Wraith. I don't think anyone could have possibly survived that destruction."

"Here's a question," Rodney interrupted. "Why did the Wraith stay on Hoff if everyone was dead?"

Weir arched her eyebrow in silent agreement.

Sheppard sighed. "I said there was no way everyone on the planet could have survived. But the Hoffans were all fired up about spreading their drug all around the galaxy, so there's little doubt that emissaries were on other planets at the time. It explains some of the – uh – newer corpses we found."

Teyla swallowed at the memory. She could have been one of those bodies. . . Her hand unconsciously lifted to her chest, where her shirt covered the feeding wound. It hurt to touch it, even throbbing with pain still when she pulled her hand away.

Elizabeth was talking again when Teyla tuned back into the debrief. ". . .please save the theorizing and arguing for later." She shot a quick look in Teyla's direction. "I think we should move on to Teyla's part."

Gulping, Teyla nodded slowly. She twined her fingers in her lap, so tightly her knuckles turned white. "We spread out to cover more ground," she said softly. She kept her gaze focused on the table, afraid to meet the others' eyes. "Dr. McKay and I met up again just outside the city, and we decided to extend our search into the woods a little ways."

Rodney nodded to confirm her words.

The weight of everyone's gazes on her was beginning to make her sweat. She could feel the slick wetness on the back of her neck, on her hands, beading along her forehead, just at her hairline. . . "I could feel the presence of a Wraith fairly close. After telling Dr. McKay to draw his weapon, we continued a little further into the trees."

The smile on Elizabeth's face was gentle and encouraging, but it didn't help Teyla feel any better, even when she added a soft, "Take your time, Teyla."

Nodding, Teyla licked her suddenly-dry lips. "The Wraith dropped onto me from above. He was weak, so I believe he thought catching me by surprise was the only way he could win. We fought for a while – I remember pulling out my knife, but it only made him madder." She tightened her muscles to restrain the shudder that desperately wanted to rip through her. She couldn't show weakness. She couldn't.

Ronon minutely shifted in his chair, swinging himself a little closer so his shoulder hovered less than two inches from hers. She could feel the strength radiating from him, and knew he meant it to help her. He understood what she'd been through, more than anyone else in the room – in Atlantis itself.

Lifting her head but not her eyes, Teyla continued. "The Wraith began to feed on me. It felt like forever, but it was only a few moments before Rodney opened fire on the creature. It distracted the Wraith long enough for me to get the upper hand and kill it." She felt everyone's gazes move from her to Sheppard as he smoothly picked up the rest of the debrief. Now that her part was done, she allowed herself to relax her muscles and shake a little.

One gaze, however, still lingered on her. She noticed it only when Ronon reached over and hesitantly squeezed her hands, still tightly clasped on her lap. With conscious effort she released her grip, and squeezed his hand back in thanks. He offered her a short, soft smile, then fully turned his attention to John.

She had never felt more grateful toward the Ancestors than she did when Elizabeth finally said, "You're dismissed" as she stood up, the others following suit.

Teyla was the first one through the doors.

((()))

Glancing at her watch, Teyla hurried to change into her clothes, while searching for her running shoes at the same time. Hopping from one foot the other, she managed to get her pants on, while she ducked down to look under the bed. Ah! There they were. She had lingered in the shower for too long, which was why she was in a hurry right now to make it to her appointment with Ronon on time. They had agreed to go for a run with each other, starting on one of the longer piers at the far end of the city.

They wouldn't come across anyone in the section, and it was a perfect location to go running, because there were so many halls, without having to go through doors or transporters.

Zipping up her vest, she grabbed a towel from her bed along with her water bottle.

As Teyla hurried her way to the transporter, she thought back over the last few days. Her ribs and ankle had both healed quickly, much to her relief, since she could start working out again. But she was still feeling slightly ill, her stomach was upset, and her head had been throbbing non-stop.

She had subtly asked Carson for a pain-killer, and he had not asked for an explanation, thinking that her ribs were bothering her.

The pills unfortunately, had not worked. Her head was still painful, even more so as days passed. She did not eat much, as she was constantly nauseous, and was afraid that she would simply vomit it all out again.

Having reached the transporter, she stepped inside, and pressed her finger on the right location, the doors closing at her request to be transported.

Ronon had noticed her lack of appetite, as the team ate together most of the time, and he was very perceptive when he wanted to be. She had told him the truth, that she simply did not feel well, and that it was probably just an effect of the near-feeding experience. He had let the subject rest for then, because it had only been two days. But nearly a week had passed today, and she was sure that he wouldn't let her off quite as easily this time.

The doors opened to show an empty hallway, Teyla stepped out quickly, moving toward the balcony at the end. It was a sunny day, with a cool breeze, so it would be pleasant to start the run at the beginning of the balcony, with the fresh air to settle her stomach.

Waving her hand over the door panel, she stepped out onto the balcony, glancing at her watch: she was just in time.

Ronon had been leaning against the balustrade, and stood back to turn around as he heard the doors opening. Greeting her with a smile, he stepped towards her. "Morning. Sleep well?" he asked sincerely, green eyes staring into hers.

Teyla nodded, fiddling with the corner of her towel. "I slept fine, thank you." She hadn't been sleeping well for days.

He narrowed his eyes at her but chose not to pursue the subject. "Ready to go?"

"Yes."

The breeze was welcome as they jogged along the pier. It didn't take long for the sweat to start forming on Teyla's skin, and she found she had to push herself a little more than usual to keep up with Ronon's longer stride.

She'd wrapped her ankle before leaving her quarters, just in case it needed the extra support. It was doing just fine, but the wound on her chest was starting to burn again. Scowling, she pushed the pain out of her mind as she focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

Her head throbbed with each impact her feet made on the ground. She'd swallowed a couple of pills with the dribble of breakfast she'd eaten, but apparently they hadn't had time to kick in yet. In fact, she thought they were making her a little nauseous. . .

"You're quiet today."

Teyla abruptly jerked herself back to the present at Ronon's words. "You are calling me quiet?" she replied with as much levity as she could.

Ronon grinned briefly. "Good point. But usually you have something to say. Is your ankle bothering you?"

"No. My ankle is fine. I wrapped it just in case, but I am sure it is fully healed. Dr. Beckett told me it was fine to go back to my normal routine." Teyla carefully kept her focus straight ahead.

"Is it—" He hesitated, then shyly motioned to his chest with his hand.

Teyla grinned at his obvious embarrassment. Ronon was always such a gentleman with her. "It hurts a little, but it is nothing unbearable. I am merely a little – out of shape from my time off. We should keep going if I wish to get back into shape."

The expression on Ronon's face shouted his doubt, but they kept going. Once they were back in the air-conditioned halls of the city, Teyla found it a little harder to keep going. The fresh air outside had helped her breathe better, calmed her stomach, lessened her headache, and made her think clearer, but now that she was back inside again all her problems rushed back to her.

I am being a child, she told herself. I am better than this. There is no pain. . . Allowing the thought to trail off, she pushed herself to step it up a little more to keep up with Ronon since she'd been falling a little behind again.

Every few seconds her running partner glanced over at her, his forehead wrinkled. His mouth was set in the way that spelled eventual trouble, and she could see the concern that darkened his green eyes. He was holding his left arm strangely, and she realized abruptly that he was doing it so he would be ready to catch her if she tripped or fell.

Turning her gaze up to meet his, she narrowed her eyes at him and allowed her face to convey what she felt. He rolled his eyes and sighed but grudgingly turned his attention away from her.

Eventually the rhythm of their pounding feet and the quiet emptiness of the halls began to lull her into a kind of waking doze. She was only halfway aware of Ronon at her side; she just kept pace with him as they ran in a straight line through the halls.

She nearly fell backwards when Ronon grabbed her shoulder and pulled her to him. "Where're you going?" he asked shrewdly.

Teyla realized that he'd pulled her around the corner, away from one of the damaged areas of the city. "I – was not paying attention." She forced a laugh. "Daydreaming, I suppose."

Ronon planted both hands on her shoulders, hunched his shoulders so he was closer to her height, and narrowed his eyes dangerously at her. "What's the matter with you?" he asked. "I know it's more than that. You don't eat hardly anything any more, you always move carefully like you're in pain, and you have this glaze over your eyes, like you're not entirely with us. Have you seen Carson?"

She nodded. She had – she just hadn't told him all the details.

"What did he say?"

"It is aftereffects of the feeding process and stress, and the symptoms will fade with time." Okay, so she made that one up on her own. But it made sense. . .

Ronon shook his head. "He'd better be right," the Satedan muttered. "I'm done running for the day." He said it in a tone that strongly suggested she should be, too.

Teyla didn't have enough energy left to argue. "I think I would like a shower." She subtly backed away from him, making him have to drop his hands. Her shoulders were warm, as if he'd left handprints on her skin even through her shirt.

"I'll see you at dinner," Ronon simply said. Again, his tone left no room for argument.

She winced the moment he had his back turned, having had to hold it back so he wouldn't see. The lights were making her head hurt even worse, and she didn't need her teammate digging even deeper than he already was. Ronon really was too observant for his own good.

-To Be Continued-


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