Author's Note: I do not own any of Stargate Atlantis or said characters. I just enjoy playing with them. This story is going to be composed of nine core chapters (I'll have an intro as a chapter and maybe an epilogue) and hopefully will be finished before Christmas. It's set mid-to-late season three (before Sunday though). It's been in my head for three long years, and so I'm finally going for it! Hope you all enjoy.
Chapter 1: The Celebration of Nine Nights
When Teyla had that look in her eye, it always meant trouble. John knew it meant trouble, and usually when she had that look he tried to stay far, far away. But the base was on stand down for a couple of weeks in order to celebrate the Christmas season, and with all the down time, it was almost impossible for the team to avoid seeing one another.
Truly, Christmas on Atlantis was a spectacular sight! Rodney's team of scientists had gotten together (without him knowing it, of course) and had rigged what had to be thousands of strands of Christmas lights up through the tower. An away team of Marines had brought back a twenty foot pine-like tree and had managed to brace it majestically in the gate room. Some of the Christians on base had set up a nativity scene in the commissary, and Weir herself had hung about two hundred (albeit fairly small) stockings on clips around the control room. With so many people helping to decorate, Atlantis was turned overnight into a winter fairy land!
That's probably how the entire thing started; John had to explain Christmas to Teyla and Ronon. Atlantis had no time the last two years to celebrate the season, so this year Christmas was new for the Pegasus galaxy. John went into great descriptions of previous Christmases on Earth. From time to time, Rodney would butt in with comments of his own about different Christmas traditions, and when they were both done enlightening the natives of the Pegasus galaxy, Ronon and Teyla looked even more confused. John, therefore, brilliantly thought he'd solved the problem by asking Teyla and Ronon to share in his traditions.
The next day, Teyla had gone to the mainland to spend a day with her people, and when she returned, she had a mischievous glow about her. John immediately felt wary, though he didn't know why, and he tried to avoid her. But Teyla sought him out and eventually cornered John in the mess hall, as he was eating lunch with Weir (well, he was eating. Elizabeth was just nursing a coffee.).
"John, Elizabeth," said Teyla with a pleased grin. "I have some good news for you! I don't know where to begin, however..."
Elizabeth smiled and motioned for Teyla to sit. Teyla joined them at their table, and organized her thoughts; the mischievous smile creeping back into her eyes. "Among my people," Teyla began after a moment, "there is a winter celebration as well. It is the celebration of our successfully hiding from the Wraith; it is held for nine nights, according to the formula for hiding from the Wraith."
"There is a formula for hiding from the Wraith?" asked Elizabeth curiously.
Teyla nodded. "Normally, a people is to hide for nine days and nights; two nights before the Wraith arrive, three nights while the Wraith walk the planet, and four nights to make sure they are gone. During the Celebration of Nine Nights, great feasts are held and gifts are given to children. But best of all is the yearly story-telling. The most worthy and honorable person of my people is chosen to tell a continuing story of their choosing, their creation. Every night, they make up another part to the story and tell it. This symbolizes one of the oldest Athosians, a man who was so old he could do nothing to help with the hiding except keep everyone's spirits high by telling stories."
"Interesting," said John, his suspicion increasing. Something was up.
"Well," Teyla said with a smile. "Since Major Shepherd was so willing to include Ronon and I in his Christmas celebrations, I determined that he should have a part in mine as well. Halling and I have agreed that, with your permission Elizabeth, John will be our next storyteller!"
A smile broke out on Elizabeth's face as she observed the moment of panic on John's. "I think that is an excellent idea, Teyla," Elizabeth stated. "Not only would it improve our relationship with the main land, but it would be an excellent way to share culture!"
Teyla nodded enthusiastically. "Everyone who wants to come to the celebration is welcome, of course, and it is only held in the evenings, so the day is free for us to continue our work."
"Sounds wonderful!" exclaimed Elizabeth. "What do you think, John?"
John shrugged noncommittally. Suddenly, Weir's com-link beeped. "Dr. Weir, can I see you sometime this century?" a very put-out Rodney voice asked.
John looked at Elizabeth curiously as she cut Rodney off with a short reply. Elizabeth stood and gave a long sigh. "He thinks he's found another Ancient power device. He wants me to come and help him with translation."
John nodded and couldn't help notice how extremely weary Weir looked. They had been running ragged lately, but the past few days had been very relaxing, and with the base on stand down, surely she would get more time to rest. John decided not to comment and instead wished her a wry "have fun!"
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and started off towards Rodney's lab. John watched her go and chocked down the strange feeling that rose inside him. Ever since the replicator incident, John had had a feeling every time he was gone from Elizabeth. It was an unsettled, worried feeling, and he was not comfortable with it. He shrugged it off and turned back to Teyla and her story-telling offer.
"Why me?" he asked Teyla quietly. "Halling doesn't even like us, and I'm not really a good storyteller; I just take movies and retell them!"
Teyla smiled. "John, to the Athosian children you are the equivalent of... as Rodney would say, Batman. You are a hero to them! Besides, they love your stories. And the celebration is as much for the children as it is for the adults."
John frowned. "But I'll just mess everything up," he scowled. "All I can really do at my best is take events from real life and put them into a fairy-tale setting."
Teyla's grin grew broader. "In my experience, it is the stories that are true that make the best basis for tales. I'm sure you can come up with something to tell them; after three years in Atlantis, you'd better have some tales to tell!"
Elizabeth was on her third set of counting to ten, and it had only been ten minutes in Rodney's lab. The man was brilliant, Elizabeth had to give him that, but he was as annoying as a hornet's nest. He even buzzed like one; his scientific mumbo jumbo sounding like an endless droning. Normally, she would have been able to understand a little bit more, but she was so tired lately she could hardly focus. Not only that, but she had had a small run-in with a drenching rainstorm off-world a couple of weeks ago, and ever since then she hadn't felt quite right. She hadn't gotten a head cold or anything like that, but her lungs had felt like they turned into iron and were staying that way. She hadn't been able to take a deep breath since... well, she couldn't remember when.
She helped Rodney translate as much as she could, and when he had finally suggested they take a break she was only too happy to comply. But then her com went off again, and with a sigh, Elizabeth headed to the control room to put out the next fire. How she would have loved to get some rest!
Sheppard and Ronon circled each other, eyeing for the opportunity to place a hit. Sparring helped John clear his mind, and Ronon was always willing to oblige. After the third hit in less than five minutes, though, Ronon had had enough.
"What's wrong with you?" he asked John. "Usually, you aren't this bad."
John scowled. "I have a lot on my mind," he stated.
"Teyla wants me to be the head story-teller in her winter celebration thing. I'm not sure I want to do it, "John explained.
"Why not?" asked Ronon back.
"Well, I'm not sure I can come up with stories for each night. Besides, this is a big honor, according to Teyla. If I mess it up, then what?"
"What if you don't accept? It'd be throwing the honor back in their faces," Ronon stated.
John stopped short, suddenly understanding that there was no way out; he had to do this. Ronon grinned and flung out his pole, giving John a sound smack in the chest. John looked up at him, surprise mixing with chagrin, and gave Ronon a weak smile. "Thanks buddy," he stated sarcastically.
"No problem," Ronon replied.