blue flamingos

Cease (to move on)

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Slash, PG

Year/Length: 2008/ ~4688 words

Pairing: Sora/Teyla pre-slash

Spoilers: set during season 3

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Sora's second trip to Atlantis is nothing at all like her first

Series: companion to Noble Form

Author's Notes: For [info]14valentines Day 2: Hunger

Beta: by [info]domtheknight

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.


When Sora was a child, it was normal for the Genii children to play with whoever came through the ring, accompanying their parents on trading missions. The Athosians always came for their first visit of the year in the second month, and the children always played hide and seek together.

She remembers running through the woods, looking for somewhere to hide, and when she looked round, she realized she wasn't sure where she was. She couldn't hear any of the other children, or anything familiar.

She couldn't hear the village, and she knew her father would be angry if he found out. 'Always stay where you can hear us,' he used to say. 'Always stay close enough to run back.'

Nothing looked familiar, and she couldn't remember which path she'd taken through the woods.

"Is anyone there?" she called. No-one answered. "They're probably hiding," she told herself. "They're probably right by me."

It was starting to go dark, and nothing looked like it usually did. Sora picked a path and started walking.

It had been dark for a long time when Sora heard something move in the trees. She thought, Wraith, in a moment of terror, then realized the footsteps were too light for it to be Wraith. "Hello?" she called.

Nothing moved for a moment, then a small figure came round one of the bushes. "Sora. What are you doing out here?" Teyla demanded, and caught her hand to walk her home.


Sora wakes up to strange light and a soft bed. It takes her a long time to realize that she's not in her tiny room on Galasta, and then even longer to remember that she's on Atlantis. She can't tell the time here; she hasn't spent enough time in the city to learn the patterns of the light, or the routines of the Atlanteans' day. The light is clear, though, and the shadows short, so she thinks it must be the middle of the day. The bed she's in has a curtain drawn round it, but she can hear noise on the other side, voices, and people moving about.

She's just wondering how to get someone's attention when the curtain is pulled back, and Dr Beckett puts his head inside.

"Ah, Sora love, you're awake." He looks down at the computer in his hand, but Sora's distracted from him by the men she can see through the gap in the curtain. Two of them, in the uniforms that all the soldiers on Atlantis wear, both of them standing sideways so they can watch her and the rest of the room. She knew they were there before she was put to sleep, but they were further away, on the door to the infirmary; she feels too weak to lift her hand, but maybe Major Sheppard trusts her even less now she is well again.

Maybe Dr Beckett trusts her less, though he seemed to trust her more than any of the others when Teyla first brought her here.

"How are you feeling?" he asks her, looking up from his computer.

"Thirsty," she says, her voice sounding strange.

"Aye, that's not a surprise," Dr Beckett says. "I'll get you some water. Not too much though." She smiles at him, and he blinks, then smiles back. Surprised, she thinks. "Well, I'm pleased to say the operation went very well. You should make a full recovery, given time."

"Thank you," Sora says sincerely, and Dr Beckett's smile this time is a little more confident, a little less surprised.


When she wakens again, Teyla is sitting by her bedside, looking at one of the computers that many of the people on Atlantis carry. She looks up when Sora moves, and smiles. "You're awake," she says warmly. "How are you feeling?"

Sora considers for a moment. "Better," she says. "Thank you." She feels stronger, strong enough to reach towards Teyla. She half-raises her hand, meaning to do so, before she remembers that Teyla likely won't accept the gesture.

Teyla is still looking at her, steady-eyed and smiling slightly. "Would you like some water?" she asks.

Sora nods, and lets her fingers brush Teyla's when she hands over the cup. It feels like the first time she's touched anyone with real affection since she came through the stargate with Commander Kolya.


Dr Beckett explains that she has to remain in the infirmary for several days, and doesn't mention the guard outside, which is never gone. She begins to be able to tell how long she has slept by the different faces standing at the entry to the infirmary – after Teyla's visit, the curtains remain open and the guards are moved further away from her bed. Sora thinks to thank Teyla, but finds there's no way to bring it up, when no-one mentions their presence.

The infirmary is full of cupboards and shelves and boxes of things that she doesn't recognize, but beyond that it's beautiful, nothing like the room they kept her in after their attempt to take the city two years ago. She wonders idly if this room was intended for some other purpose – it seems odd that the Ancestors would create such beauty in this place and yet keep their own living quarters so barren. Unless the rooms that the Atlanteans use are different from the one in which she was held.

She sleeps a lot; Dr Beckett explains that the needle in the back of her hand is keeping her from feeling pain after the surgery, and is also making her sleepy. So she sleeps a lot, and even when she's not asleep, she's sometimes not really awake either.

Just awake enough to know that someone's there, by her bed. She thinks she should be worried about it, because she knows when it's Teyla, and most of the time it isn't, but her head still feels fuzzy, and she can't really think. It doesn't matter – whoever it is doesn't move, just sits by her, and it feels familiar, like when she was ill as a child and her father would sit by the bed in case she needed him.

One of the soldiers, Corporal something, speaks to her sometimes. She wants to ask his name, but she isn't sure if this would be acceptable or not – no-one calls her guards by their names, only by their ranks (from which she's learned that Sheppard is now Colonel Sheppard, not Major Sheppard as he was). Instead, she calls him over one morning, not long after he and his partner have arrived. "Corporal?"

"Yes, ma'am?" he says, like he does to all the women who come in. Sora likes it – it feels like maybe they're accepting her, a little bit. She doesn't think about what will happen when she's well enough to leave, but sometimes she dreams it anyway.

"Do you know who comes to visit me?" she asks.

"I don't follow, ma'am," he says, frowning a little bit.

"There's someone who sits by my bed when I'm asleep," she says, and feels silly. Like a child, or a heroine in one of the Athosians' stories for children. "Do you know who it is?"

"I'm sorry, ma'am, I don't," Corporal Something says. Sora doesn't know how, but she knows he's not telling her the truth.


"So," a male voice says when Sora wakes up again. "Corporal Bennett says you've been wondering who I am."

Sora blinks, trying to wake up faster. She hates this about the drugs. She rubs at her eyes with the hand that doesn't have a needle in it and realizes it's still dark, it must be night-time. There's a light on by her bedside, and it shadows the face of the person sitting there, his head down.

"I know you're awake," he says.

Sora starts, because she knows that voice, the voice that kept her locked up in Atlantis for weeks before sending her to an empty planet. She knew already that he was still there from her guards talking on the radios – from Teyla – but the thought of him sitting by her bed, armed, while she's sleeping –

She pulls herself up, looking for the guards. They're still standing by the entrance to the infirmary, though she doesn't know whether that's a good thing or not. She wouldn't have defended anyone against her commanding officer.

"Why are you here?" she asks, impressed that her voice doesn't shake.

Sheppard looks up and smiles, his eyes still shadowed. "To talk to you," he says calmly.

"About what?" she asks.

Sheppard shrugs easily. He looks completely relaxed, but Sora recognizes that from the days after the siege, the way he'd slouch in the doorway to her room and say nothing. It doesn't make her feel safer. "Do you like Atlantis?" he asks, and Sora wishes, just for a second, that she'd never gone to Umnai, never gone looking for Teyla and let herself be talked into coming here. This is the man who killed sixty of her people, who shot Commander Kolya, and now he's asking her if she likes the city as though this is something he does every day. It's only the years of training that keep her breath from catching and her heart from speeding up. Never let them see that you're afraid.

"It's very beautiful," she says calmly. "It looks so much better now the sun shines."

She wishes she hadn't said it the moment the words are out of her mouth, but he tips his head back, chasing out the shadows in his eyes, and laughs, a little. "Yeah," he says, and looks at her.

Sora looks back, trying to look innocent and helpless, and it's not all that hard, because she is helpless right now, and she may have done some things she shouldn't, but she's innocent now of any ill will. She's had nearly two years on her own, since Teyla walked her through the gate and she decided there was no way she could go back to the Genii, that they would never accept her after a month as Atlantis' prisoner. It's been more than enough time to think, to wish that some things had happened differently.


"Sora?" Teyla asked when she sat down by Sora, outside Tagan's house. "Should you not have returned through the ring with the rest of your party?"

Teyla was sixteen, which made her an adult, not like Sora. Teyla was an adult, and Tagan's daughter, and spoken of as a future leader of the Athosians. She could offer Sora a place, sanctuary, if Sora asked, and Cowen would have to respect it. She would be safe on Athos, if she chose to be.

Safe, but exiled.

"Sora?" Teyla asked again. "Is there something you need?"

Sora shook her head, and held out her hand for Teyla to pull her up. "No. I wasn't feeling well, I lost track of time. I need to go to the ring, to go home."

"Let me walk you," Teyla said.


"You know, I didn't want to let you into the city," Sheppard says idly. "Teyla talked me into it."

"Teyla is a good friend," Sora says. She knows this is true. Of everything, she most regrets that she fought with Teyla, and is most grateful, more grateful than she could ever have imagined, that Teyla came after her on Umnai. She prefers not to think of what will happen when she is well.

"Yes. She is." Sheppard looks at her, his eyes hard, and Sora wants to confess, even though she doesn't know what she would be confessing to. It's only a moment though, then Sheppard taps the side of her bed and stands up. "All right. Get some more sleep. Beckett won't be happy if he finds out I've been keeping you up."

Sora watches him stop and speak low to the guards, then raise a hand to his ear and say something else. She watches him nod goodbye to both guards, and listens to their muttered response, and then she closes her eyes.

It takes her a lot longer to fall asleep.


"All right," Teyla says finally, covering her mouth as she yawns. Sora knows it is well past the time Teyla would normally have retired, but Teyla is too polite to cut her off and walk away. "We are going to visit a new planet in the morning, and I fear I will need all the rest I can get." She smiles, and Sora smiles back even before she knows what she's smiling about. She's always loved Teyla's smile. "Dr McKay does not wish to join this mission, and I suspect he and Colonel Sheppard will be most trying."

Sora remembers them, just, when they first came to the Genii home-world, how they snapped at each other, pushing like little boys, and she didn't think them friends at all. It was different during the storm, listening to Sheppard yelling on the radio, and watching him, after she woke up but before they noticed, the way he touched Dr McKay like he'd been frightened. She imagines they would be most trying indeed, without something to occupy them.

"Which world are you visiting?" she asks, and Teyla pauses, half-way risen, to frown at her.

"What is the matter, Sora? Are you in pain?"

"No." She says it automatically, though she still aches where Dr Beckett cut her, then thinks she should have said yes. "I'm sorry, you're tired."

Teyla sits down again, this time on the edge of her bed. She's been doing it more and more, letting her hand rest against Sora's thigh, or sometimes holding onto Sora's hand when she thinks Sora is asleep. "I am, but you should tell me, first, why you are so eager for me to stay."

"I missed you," Sora says, and it comes out more quietly than she meant it to. She didn't mean to say it at all.

Teyla takes her hand and squeezes it, the way she used to when they were younger, playing in the fields on Athos, or in the trees on the Genii home-world. "I have missed you. We were great friends."

Sora nods.

"But that is not all. I can fetch Dr Beckett, if you do not wish to tell me."

"No!" Sora says, tightening her grip on Teyla's hand. She feels like a child, like she did when she got lost and Teyla found her, and it's hard to remember that she's been living by herself for two years, looking after herself for two years, when she just wants Teyla to stay with her. "I have bad dreams," she says softly. She doesn't dream at all, here, but she can't tell Teyla that she's frightened that Colonel Sheppard is going to hurt her, that she doesn't understand what else he can want. Teyla, she feels, will not believe her, and she isn't ready to lose Teyla again.

"You are safe here," Teyla says, stroking her hair back. It's not long enough to fall in her eyes, but the gesture feels nice. "No-one will hurt you."

Sora doesn't believe her, but Teyla stays until she falls asleep, and that's enough to make her feel safe.


At first, she wonders if Teyla has said something, though she finds it hard to believe that Teyla would. She doesn't think Teyla even realized why she was afraid.

It doesn't matter, though. There is no-one at her bedside other than Teyla for more than a week, not until the day Dr Beckett removes the needle from her hand and says that she will soon be well enough to be up and about.

Corporal Bennett gives her a quick grin when Dr Beckett says this, and Sora smiles back. He seems nice, sometimes comes in to speak with her when his replacement arrives, and Sora thinks he must not have been on Atlantis when the Genii attacked; those who were still look at her with caution.

She wakes up to the dim light of the infirmary in the evening and the familiar sensation of someone sitting by her bed. For a few seconds, she keeps her eyes closed, feigning sleep, but in the end, she knows she has nothing with which to defend herself, and she is sure that Sheppard knew when she awoke.

When she turns her head to look at him, he is leaning forward, his elbows on his knees and his hands loose and open. It's hard to see in the poor light, but she thinks he might not be wearing his gun.

Not that this would mean much – the guards are only a small distance away, and he must know that she is still not strong enough to hurt him.

"I didn't mean to wake you," he says softly.

"That's all right," Sora tells him. "Did you want something?"

He blinks, once, and she thinks she may have surprised him. It shouldn't make her feel good, but it does. "I'm not sure," he says finally. "Carson says you're nearly healed. He wants to release you."

"I know," Sora says, ignoring the unpleasant feeling in her stomach when he says it. Argus will have taken her things by now, in payment for missing rent. She didn't leave behind anything of great value, but it will mean finding somewhere new to stay, starting again. "Thank you for letting me come here, to be treated."

"Wasn't my idea," Sheppard says. He's still looking at her, almost frowning, like he's trying to see something. "Where are you going to go when you leave?"

"I have contacts on many worlds," Sora says. "I am sure I will easily find work." She isn't, not at all, especially now – even the sort of work she does is seasonal – but she won't tell anyone this. She will find something, again.

"You know, the Athosians are always happy to take in anyone who needs somewhere to stay," Sheppard offers.

Sora smiles and says nothing. She loves Teyla's people, truly she does, but their life is not one she could live. They do not even have access to the ring without getting help from the Atlanteans. She cannot imagine choosing to live in that kind of dependence, not when there are so many worlds they could have moved to after the Wraith attacked.

Sheppard just looks at her again, and this time she finds it easier not to flinch. He seems different this time, as though the part of him that would kill her for betraying Teyla's trust has gone away. "Go back to sleep," he says.


Corporal Bennett comes to visit her the next day, out of his uniform, and sits by her bedside for a long time, asking her about other worlds, and telling her stories about the few times he has been through the ring.

It feels so normal that Sora does not notice until he has left that the guards are no longer there.


She seems to receive a lot of visitors, suddenly. Teyla comes by often, and brings a tall man in leather clothes on one visit. "This is Ronon," she says. "He lived on Sateda, before the Wraith came."

Ronon nods. "I knew Cowen, a bit," he says, his voice a low rumble. "Glad he's gone."

"Me too," Sora says, and presses her hand to her mouth, guilty and daring, pleased when Teyla smiles.

Corporal Bennett comes back several times, and brings her cake on one visit. Sora wonders if he is flirting with her, and thinks of her father telling Sheppard she was betrothed, a familiar lie. She lets Bennett flirt, but takes care not to flirt back in any way, wary of accusation, and on his next visit, he brings another soldier, a woman whom he introduces as Lieutenant Cadman, who smiles a lot, and says things that make Bennett blush and which Sora does not understand.

She finds it hard to see why they are treating her in this way, when she would have expected suspicion and guards. She knows she has done nothing to suggest she cannot be trusted, but she has done nothing to show that she can be either, and there is surely only so much that Teyla's word can do.

The truth is, she has done more to make them trust her than they will ever be aware of, because all of it she did before she was brought here. Once she decided that she wouldn't go home, after she had her week of sitting on an abandoned planet, drawing ring addresses in the sand and telling the birds how unfair things were, she decided that she had nothing to lose, and went to the first major trading planet she could remember the address for, and got hired to deliver packages across the worlds.

It was boring, and repetitive, and people were hard to find, but she found she didn't mind it so much. Sometimes, she would go to a planet the Genii had traded with, or she'd see someone she used to know on a trading world, and after a few weeks, she cut her hair and changed her clothes, and few people recognized her.

When she started seeing pictures of Sheppard and McKay, she quietly took them down, and the others showing people in similar uniforms. No-one saw her do it, for which she was glad, because she had no way to explain why she was doing it, when by rights she should have been turning them in.

It didn't matter, then, but now she wonders if someone knows, if this is why the guards are gone.

When Sheppard comes back, she thinks about asking him. She's not sure she wants to hear the answer though, and then he speaks and she forgets the question. "I suppose you know the Genii have a new leader now," he says. "If you wanted to go back, we could arrange it. Make sure you'd be safe."

She shakes her head before she can think about it, and Sheppard nods like he understands. He left his world behind as well, so maybe he does. "I know you said you'd find work, but..." The frown comes back, the one that Sora's learned means he's thinking, or not sure about what he intends to say. "Teyla says we can trust you," he says finally. "And she's usually right about these things."

He stands up, looking like he's going to leave, then stops. "I think she wants to trust you," he says quietly. "But I don't know if she does. You should know that we won't be so forgiving if anything else happens."

He turns sharply towards the door, and Sora says, "Wait!" feeling stupid like she did when she was being drugged, too slow. "I don't understand."

"If you tried anything," Sheppard says, the low, threatening tone returning. "We wouldn't send you to an abandoned planet, we'd send you through a space gate. I have a list."

"Why would I try anything?" Sora asks, utterly confused. "I'm leaving."

Sheppard shrugs, like he would never threaten to send her through a gate and into space. That hasn't been used as a punishment by any but the most backward of worlds in decades. "We could always use more guides," he says, not quite meeting her eyes. "If you couldn't find anything else."


She thinks of asking for Teyla's advice that evening, and for several days after, but she finds that the words are not there. Sheppard does not come back, and so Sora has no way to ask him if he meant only for her to work with them, or for her to live on Atlantis also. She is quite certain that she cannot do the latter, that she would not want to, though she is far from sure that it was part of Sheppard's offer anyway.

If she was undecided before, Dr McKay's glare when he comes to the infirmary complaining of a headache is enough to convince her that Sheppard's offer to her cannot include residence on Atlantis, not when there are still so many people who remember her from the Genii and do not trust her.

She wouldn't trust herself, either, in his place. She finds it hard to imagine why Sheppard has chosen to do so, and she is no closer to working this out when Dr Beckett announces that she is well enough to be released from the infirmary and calls Corporal Bennett on his radio to escort her to a room near the infirmary.

"Just temporary," Dr Beckett says firmly. "We can't have you running off to a planet that might not be safe and doing yourself damage."

"No, sir," Sora says, because it seems like the most appropriate thing to say, through her confusion, and Dr Beckett laughs.

"None of that," he says. "Go with Corporal Bennett now, let me have that bed back."

"Thank you," Sora says, risking a smile. She thinks that was meant as a joke, though she often finds it hard to tell with the Atlanteans. They are a strange people.


When Dr Beckett comes to check on her the next day, she asks about taking exercise, and gets a positive response, enough for her to ask Sergeant Anderson, who is often outside her door, for directions to the practice room Teyla has spoken of.

He shuffles his feet quickly, then says, "I can take you, ma'am."

Sora opens her mouth to say that she can find her way, then realizes that he is less making an offer and more telling her that she cannot go alone. It appears that Colonel Sheppard doesn't trust her so much after all, something which she finds oddly comforting; this is caution which she understands, not at all like his strange offer of work for them.


Teyla is careful during their fight, showing a shadow of every move she will make before she makes it, so that Sora is always able to block them. In turn, she makes few attacks of her own, and is careful to use none of the moves that she once used on Teyla in the corridors of Atlantis, hoping that Teyla will understand what she is saying through their absence.

When they are finished, they sit together in the window. Sora can barely keep her eyes from the sight, all that water stretching away for what seems like forever. She knows the Athosian settlement is out there somewhere, but it seems hard to imagine. She wonders, again, how Teyla can live here; she can barely remember how it felt to want this place, and even then, it seemed unimaginable that people would actually live here, that they would trade their underground bunker for a more beautiful bunker with only one way out.

"Colonel Sheppard has offered me work as a guide," she says into the calm silence that she has always found with Teyla.

"Yes?" Teyla says, not sounding surprised at all. Sora still sees it, just for a moment, on her face before her expression goes still. She wonders what lies under the stillness, and decides that perhaps she prefers not to know. "And what have you said to this?"

"Nothing," Sora says honestly. She is waiting for Sheppard to come to her, since Sergeant Andrews has just shown that she is unlikely to be able to go to him, but Sheppard seems disinclined to do so. "What would you say?"

"I would say –" Teyla hesitates, looking to the sea outside the window for a moment before drawing her eyes back to Sora. "I would say that I very much wish to be your friend once more, Sora, and that you would be well served by working with the people of this city."

Sora watches her, trying to find the hidden meaning in this sentence; she learned long ago that Teyla often says more than she seems to, allowing other people to take or ignore her underlying meaning.

"I would like that too," Sora says quietly, and lays her hand, very lightly, on Teyla's wrist, feeling the sweat cooling on her skin, the fine bones beneath.

A heartbeat later, Teyla turns her hand to take Sora's, and Sora knows that she was right. That she is right.

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