blue flamingos

Single Step

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Gen, PG

Year/Length: 2007/ words

Pairing: None

Spoilers: Post-series but no spoilers

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

Summary: Moving forward in uncertain times

Author's Notes: Prompt: 30: "It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between" - Diane Ackerman.

Beta: by [info]domtheknight

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

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Teyla believes, for the first two months, that every day is the day they will return. It is not the first time they have gone back to Earth, and every time they have come back to Atlantis, to Pegasus. She is sure this time will be no different.

After a while, she becomes glad that the village on Ne'Athos, as they have taken to calling the world, is out of sight of the gate – the ring, she corrects herself. It is quite bad enough that she keeps looking towards it, without being able to see the symbols, unlit and silent. Bad enough that she has to stop herself from asking the runners if anyone came through the ring, as though they would not have come to tell her.

She has a hut in the village, like everyone else; it has been hers since the Ancient ship was found, and they were all asked to leave. She has been keeping some of her things there, since they decided to remain on Ne'Athos the third time the expedition was recalled and then redeployed, but it does not yet feel like home.

It has only been two months, she tells herself each morning. Atlantis did not feel like home for many months.

She does not remind herself that this should have been her home all along, that she was only allowed to return as leader because Halling was gracious about stepping down.

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Three months after they shut down the city and walked through the gate, Ronon finds her by the fire in the evening. He sits quietly beside her for a long time, and Teyla is not surprised when he says, "I'm leaving in the morning."

It is not the longest that the expedition has been gone – the fourth time they left, they were gone for over six months, and she had begun to suspect they would not return (she learned, the second time they were called back, that Earth's leaders are fickle). Not the longest time, and yet, Teyla thinks that Ronon's leaving is only the confirmation of something she began to suspect before they left the city, that this will be the longest departure yet.

In the morning, before the sun has fully risen, she stands with Ronon by the open gate and touches her forehead to his. "The right moment to begin a journey," she says, the sky turning gray above them.

"Yeah," Ronon agrees. Teyla does not need to ask what he is thinking of: they have worked and fought together for over six years now, and she knows her team-mates as well as anyone she grew up with.

When they separate, she catches Ronon's eye. "I do not expect this to be the last time we meet, Ronon Dex," she tells him, using the same voice she does on the children, when they are not doing as they should. "I expect you to visit at least once a month."

"More often, if I can," Ronon says. "You understand – it's not that I don't want to stay with you..."

The third time the expedition left, she and Ronon were still arguing about leaving Ne'Athos when John stepped through the ring and asked if they'd missed him. Ronon had insisted, as he did the first time, that they could do more good traveling through the ring than they could on Ne'Athos.

Teyla was still trying to find a way to say that she could not abandon her people when she had already done so by choosing the Lanteans over them.

"I understand," she tells Ronon now, because she always has. "Safe journey."

"You too," Ronon says with a grin, and walks through the gate.

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Six months since the expedition left, and Teyla has not been through the gate since before Ronon's departure. Halling arranged trading parties, with responsibility for different worlds, and she has not chosen to interfere in this, or many of his other arrangements.

It is no hardship to remain on Ne'Athos, to avoid the people she met with John and Rodney and Ronon, the way they, like her, sometimes look behind her for people who are not there.

When a trading party returns with news, the runner beats them back to the village, and she is standing outside her hut to meet them when they arrive. "You have news?" she asks.

Exenne nods, her hand pressed to her stomach as she catches her breath. "On Deran, they say the Wraith are coming. That they have learnt of Ne'Athos, and are coming to cull us."

Teyla remembers Deran, a trading contact from before she joined Atlantis, with sensors and scanners that Rodney would touch reverently, when they visited. If they say the Wraith are coming to Ne'Athos, they have only one option.

Halling is at her side when she turns to look for him, and nods before she can speak.

"I will pass the word," he says, and moves away.

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Teyla packs her things up – one pack, such as she left Atlantis with, the remainder of her things still in boxes in the city, waiting for their return – and thinks. They will leave Ne'Athos with the morning light, going through the ring to an uninhabited world, then another, making it difficult for the darts to follow them. After that, they will have to find somewhere new to live.

Adan has returned to Deran with Exenne, to gather more details of the Wraith's arrival, but it will not be safe to return to Ne'Athos for some years, she knows. She wonders briefly if they might not return to Athos itself, before she reminds herself that they are moving forwards, and returning to the site of the last culling they suffered will do no-one any good.

Rodney left her with twelve devices that she can program with the address of the world they go to next – "just in case," he said. "So we can find you when we come home," John added, but Teyla thought he didn't seem as confident of this as he wished to – and she will bury one where the Wraith will not think to look, but John will.

Or Ronon, she thinks. She does not know where Ronon is, only that he appears once every month with stories. He is not due for another two weeks, and she can only hope that the Wraith will be gone again by then. She will send a party out to look for him anyway, once they have found a new world on which to make their home.

Teyla folds her Atlantis jacket in the top of her pack and does not allow her fingers to linger on the expedition patch on the shoulder.

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It is Halling who suggests that they might seek assistance from the Genii, when they have been in their temporary home for three weeks, sending parties through the gate every morning, only to watch them return before evening, shaking their heads at another world found unsuitable.

Teyla has not heard from Ronon since before they left Ne'Athos, and she agrees to accompany the delegation on the trip.

"Teyla Emmagan," Ladon Radim says, when they are allowed into his rooms. He looks as relaxed as always, and Teyla finds it hard to believe that he has kept control of the Genii for so long. "I had heard that you had returned to the Athosians."

"You heard correctly," Teyla tells him. She would not be surprised to learn that he knows Atlantis is empty, but she will not say it. The gate in Atlantis is locked to prevent any but the Earth gate dialing in, a procedure put in place the first time it was left empty.

"I am pleased to see you and your people survived the culling on your world." Ladon smiles.

"Thank you," Teyla says, smiling back. She has never trusted Ladon when he smiles.

"I think you're not here just to exchange pleasantries, though," Ladon says.

"You are correct. We have abandoned our world to the Wraith, and are left without homes. The Genii have always been great friends of the Athosians."

"And you seek to impose on our hospitable natures in your time of need?" Ladon asks.

"It is as you say," Teyla agrees. "Until we find a new home of our own. We would offer what we could in return."

"I'm sure." Ladon stands and leans on his desk. He is, Teyla notices, smiling again. "I wish we could accommodate you, but it's impossible."

"I see," Teyla says, somehow not surprised. She has long suspected that Ladon was only so courteous to the Athosians because they were, even if it was never said, under the protection of Atlantis. "May I inquire as to why not?"

"You may inquire," Ladon says. "But the business of the Genii is not something I can share outside of my trusted advisors. I'm sure you understand."

Teyla thinks of John and Elizabeth, sitting together at the head of the conference table and telling the heads of department, her and Ronon and Major Lorne, that they would be going back to Earth, the frustrated expression on John's face as he tried to explain why when he obviously hadn't been trusted with the information, until Rodney pushed too hard and John threw his data tablet onto the table in front of him and snapped, "I don't know, Rodney! OK? They don't tell us these things. Stop asking."

"I understand," she says, and fears it is clear that this is a lie as much as it is the truth.

Ladon offers them a midday meal, but she declines on behalf of her party, not wanting to stay long enough to risk finding out what the Genii are planning. She suspects it will not end well.

When they step back through the ring, Adan is waiting and, with wonderful timing, announces that they believe they have found a new home for the Athosians.

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Nen'Athos is cooler than Ne'Athos, but Jinto, who has taken a strong interest in the weather as he has grown up, says that he thinks it is winter, and will be warmer in the summer months. Teyla thinks fondly of the always temperate climate of Atlantis as she pulls on her thick, brown winter coat, and finds she cannot remember what the air there felt like.

It has been eight months, almost to the day.

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Ronon comes through the gate one day just past the eight months, with a healing scar down his right cheek. "Knife fight," he says sheepishly, when Teyla looks at him enquiringly, and she decides not to ask further.

She shows him round the new settlement, which is almost complete, and he nods approval. "We are talking of building extra huts, for visitors. If the Athosians are to build our trading links, we should be able to offer visitors appropriate accommodation." On Atlantis, when they settled on their new world, quarters were set aside for visitors, though they were rarely used. They sometimes had visitors from Earth, who always appreciated the gesture. "We could set one room aside for you."

Ronon is quiet for a long moment. "Yeah. I'd like that."

He drinks too much that evening, and leans against Teyla as they sit by the fire, watching some of the young people dance. "The knife fight was with Lucius," he confesses eventually. Teyla catches herself before she chokes in surprise that Ronon could be bested by him.

"He does seem to turn up frequently," she says instead.

"Like a bad penny," Ronon agrees. An Earth expression, she knows, though John never managed to explain what a bad penny was, or why one would turn up so frequently. She cannot remember ever hearing Ronon use the phrase.

"Just like that," she says. "I hope he looks worse than you."

"Yeah," Ronon says, sounding deeply satisfied. "Much worse."

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Jinto comes to her as the spring begins. "I wondered," he says, diffident as he has been since he grew into a young adult, "if you could take three of the children I've been training in bantos fighting. They are getting too good for me."

"I am sure that is not true," Teyla says. Jinto, for all that he prefers to be studying the weather, has long excelled as a fighter. "But I would be happy to train them further. Thank you for asking me."

She tells John about this when she writes to him that evening. She cannot recall exactly when or why she started the letters, only that she now has a box full of them by the side of her bed, in Athosian for Elizabeth, who was mostly fluent when they left, in English for John and Rodney and in Czech for Radek, because she must practice or lose her fluency. She does not need to practice the complex Satedan alphabet, because Ronon still visits often. She tells John of his visits instead: I believe Ronon has taken work with a group of Genii who are making new plans for the destruction of the Wraith. He has promised he will be careful, but it is still a relief to see him walk through the gate... Ronon brought beautiful necklaces for the girl children today. I did not ask how he came upon them, but I have warned the children not to wear them if we have visitors... Ronon joined us for the Galana festival last night. We made treats for the children, with something very like the chocolate you brought from Earth, which they enjoyed a great deal.

She makes sure to always stop before she writes 'do you remember...', because, if she ever gives them the letters, she knows John will be uncomfortable with that.

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"I think it is time the Athosians began to rebuild our diplomatic links with other worlds," Teyla tells Halling over tea, before dawn exactly one year after she left Atlantis.

"Diplomatic links?" Halling asks.

"Yes." Teyla likes the word; Elizabeth used it often, once the connection with Earth was established again and every journey through the gate was not in search of trading partners to help them survive. "We were building strong relationships with other worlds before the Wraith were re-awakened. It is time that we returned to this task."

"The Wraith are still a menace on the galaxy," Halling says. "Are you sure this is the time to be trying to build these things, rather than concentrating on eliminating the Wraith?"

Teyla doesn't point out that they are in fact doing nothing to eliminate the Wraith. She has no desire to be like the Genii, sacrificing her people in the fight against the Wraith, and she is painfully aware after six years on Atlantis how ill equipped they are for the fight.

"This is the best time," she tells Halling firmly. "When we are *all* united against the Wraith."

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Many of the people they had built more than trading relationships with are gone, culled by the Wraith or moved on. Teyla tells herself that this is the only reason she agrees to join the group going through the gate: they are visiting worlds that had strong links with Atlantis, and she is best placed to begin negotiations. In her heart, she knows this is not completely true.

This is the longest the expedition has been gone, and she awakens sometimes from dreams of them returning and not being able to find the tracking device she left on Ne'Athos. She knows that if they are back, they will be going through the gate again, that John and Rodney will be looking for her and Ronon. They will never find her if she never leaves Nen'Athos.

Exenne asks to join the party going through the ring, and Teyla agrees: Exenne is just of age but she has been part of a trading party for many years and has proved herself capable, polite and calm. Wex, still Jinto's best friend after all these years, also asks, and Teyla hesitates for a long time before agreeing. She cannot help thinking of Aiden, reminded of him by Wex's youth and enthusiasm. She promises herself that she will not allow him to meet Aiden's fate.

She is tempted to wait for Ronon's next visit and ask him to join them, but she suspects the answer will be negative. She still does not know what he is doing when he is away, only that it is satisfying to him, and does not appear, from what he says, likely to kill him. In the end, she asks Rathel, to balance the party between men and women, older and younger, and chooses their first world to visit.

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"You have been here before?" Exenne asks as the four of them walk from the gate to the village. Teyla is sure that they are being watched, but no-one has come out to meet them and they are already on the edge of the village.

"Many years ago," Teyla says. She knows John visited several times, when he could, but she does not know when he was last here, or if anyone will remember her. She hopes the fact that no-one has tried to stop them means someone does.

"It is a very warm world," Exenne says, fanning herself with her hand. Nen'Athos is still deep in winter, but Enden appears to still be in the middle of its summer.

"It is," Teyla agrees. "But I believe you will like it here."

"Why'd we come here first?" Wex asks, walking behind her, next to Rathel.

Teyla chose Enden because she was sure that Keras and the rest of the Elders would be amenable to her propositions, though she is not at all sure what Enden will be able to offer them, other than the possibility of refuge from the Wraith if it once again becomes necessary. She does not want their first trip to be marred by failure. "The people here are friendly and kind," she says, instead. "We can never have too many such allies."

As she speaks, they round a bend in the path and come into the village proper. It is very much as Teyla remembers it, with the dwellings still in the trees, and an open space acting as a central meeting area. The only difference is in the number of people there, moving in the open rather than hiding in the trees. A group is already moving towards them, so she stops and waits.

"They are so young," Exenne says quietly.

"Yes," Teyla agrees. "But they are growing older every day."

The group part as they draw close enough to speak and a familiar figure steps forwards. "Teyla Emmagan," he says.

"Keras," Teyla says. "It is a great pleasure to see you again."

Keras steps close to her and ducks his forehead. Surprised, Teyla returns the gesture, touching their foreheads in the Athosian gesture of greeting.

"You did not expect that?" Keras asks, smiling. Teyla shakes her head. "John said it was traditional amongst your people. I had hoped to have a chance to greet you again one day."

"As had I," Teyla assures him. Although still the oldest amongst a gradually aging population, Keras appears not to be troubled by the continuing authority given to him, the same slightly solemn young man she remembers from their first visit. "May I present the rest of my party, from Athos: Exenne Linden, Wex Vedder and Rathel Erame."

"It is our pleasure to welcome you to Enden," Keras says, inclining his head to each of them in turn. "Perhaps you would enjoy a tour of our village while I speak with Teyla."

Teyla nods her agreement to the rest of her party, who are quickly swept away by others from the greeting party. Keras turns slightly and waits for her to step up next to him before walking slowly round the edge of the village. "You have returned to the Athosian village?" Keras asks. "I was not aware that you wished to leave Atlantis."

"It was not entirely by choice," Teyla tells him ruefully. "The people from Earth have been told to return."

"I'm saddened to hear that," Keras says. "Though it is a relief to hear that John has been absent for... that he is unable to visit for this reason."

"Indeed," Teyla says, masking her surprise. Obviously John has been a more familiar visitor than she was aware; she imagines he and Keras would have had much to bind them as leaders. "I am glad I have had a chance to return here."

"As am I," Keras says with a smile.

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'I am thankful you saw fit to involve me in negotiations on Atlantis,' Teyla writes to Elizabeth one evening. 'I believe we may be on our way to creating a Pegasus-wide alliance, though I am not sure at the moment exactly what purpose it will serve, beyond continuing the fight against the Wraith. I am hopeful that we will be able to follow other, more positive purposes. Keras and I are beginning work on – I suppose you would call it a museum, or an archive – of the people of Pegasus. They still have much space on Enden, and the protection their shield offers against the Wraith makes it a sensible place for such a thing to be set. When you return, we will take you to visit.'

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Teyla is bent over a table selling novels in various languages, including Satedan, on Al'Tamera when she catches movement in the corner of her eye. At first, she thinks it is Exenne, who has taken to constantly wearing the red scarf Craos gave her on their last visit to Enden, but the red is the wrong shade.

She replaces the book with a brief smile for the trader and turns to look for the color again, catching sight of it immediately. The girl is moving away from her, but the crowds are not thick, and even from behind, she could not fail to recognize her.

She moves quickly through the people, although the girl does not seem to be aware of her, drawing closer as they move towards the edge of the fair. It is only when they are out of the crowds that she raises her voice. "Sora."

Sora jumps, and stops, and Teyla moves cautiously towards her. It has been many years since Elizabeth left Sora on an abandoned planet; she knew then that Sora would have no trouble finding the Genii again, but she has long suspected that Sora did not return to them.

She turns as Teyla draws within arm's reach of her. "Teyla Emmagan. I am surprised to see you here."

"As am I," Teyla says, smiling warmly. It is hard to forget, even after their fight, that Sora was her friend for a long time before they were divided by Atlantis. "It is a most pleasant surprise."

After a moment, Sora smiles back, guarded but not as wary as Teyla would have expected. She looks older than she should, her face lined with care, and Teyla wonders where she went. "For me also," Sora says, and bends to touch her forehead to Teyla's. "I have accommodation in the village. We could catch up."

"I would like that very much," Teyla says, and follows her down the path leading from the fairground to the village.

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Sora returns from the bar with two cups of tea and a plate of sweet biscuits. "I had heard the Athosians were becoming something of a force within the galaxy," she says, picking up the conversation that entering the inn broke off. "Though not in alliance with the Genii."

"I am not sure that the Genii wish to ally with anyone now," Teyla says. She has long established the habit of care in what her speech gives away, but she finds it hard to maintain with Sora sitting before her, looking like the girl she knew, and nothing like the soldier who tried to kill her. "I was surprised that you never returned to them."

A shadow flickers over Sora's face and she ducks her head to sip her tea, speaking into the steam floating from the mug. "I was not welcome there, when I was freed. My father was gone, and I had failed and been captured. I saw no reason to return."

"I am sorry you felt that way," Teyla says. She wants to lay her hand over Sora's, but she is not sure the comfort will be accepted. "Do you live here now?"

"At the moment," Sora says with a brief smile. "Until the fair moves on, then there won't be anything for me here."

Teyla is not surprised to hear this. "You do not work on the fair?"

Sora shakes her head. "Too dull. But people will pay for a Genii soldier to do their dirty work. At least, until they find out she's a woman." She gestures with distaste to the long skirt she wears.

"I myself have found that to be true on occasion," Teyla says. "But I am certain those who pay do not regret it. I remember you had some skill with a knife."

Sora flushes, even after she catches Teyla's smile. "I regret that, now," she says quietly. "I should not have blamed you."

"It is in the past now," Teyla says, and when she lays her hand over Sora's, Sora turns her own hand to hold hers.

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Halling says nothing when Teyla and her party return to Nen'Athos with an additional person, though the look he gives her over soup that evening says much. He is the only person who knows the truth of what happened during the siege, but he remains quiet even when Teyla chooses a hut for Sora, and soon she is as much a part of Nen'Athos as everyone else there. She is not the first person they have taken in, particularly since the alliance began to grow.

Sora has been with them for three weeks, disappearing twice to take work, when Ronon comes for his monthly visit. He is greeted with the same enthusiasm the young boys always show, and Teyla carefully turns away from them until she is sure he has finished giving out presents of which she would be forced to disapprove.

Sitting close around the fire – it is summer now, but still cold after dark – Ronon says, "Lost a job I had last week."

"I am sorry to hear that," Teyla says, and waits for Ronon to say more.

"Yeah. They joined in the Athosian Alliance, said they didn't need me any more."

"I am –" Teyla cannot bring herself to say she is sorry about this, although she does not wish Ronon to lose his income. Fortunately, Ronon is smiling at her, so she smiles back. "You could come and work with us," she offers.

Ronon makes a face. "You're a peaceful alliance."

"Only against other worlds," Teyla corrects patiently. It is not the first time they have had this conversation. "We will fight the Wraith."

Whatever Ronon is planning to say to that is cut off when Sora flops down next to Teyla, pushing her hands into the folds of her scarf and frowning darkly at the fire. Just for a moment, Teyla feels as though she is sitting with two sulky teenagers, and is painfully reminded of John and Rodney when they have fallen out. It has been eighteen months.

"You were not successful on Trinia?" she asks Sora.

"They made me give back the payment they sent to secure my services," Sora says. "They said they never would have paid it had they known I was a girl." Her lip curls in disgust, but Teyla thinks she sees hurt below the anger.

"It is their loss," she says reassuringly. "And you are in time to meet my very good friend. Ronon Dex, this is Sora Rallidae, a very old friend."

Ronon leans forward to see Sora past Teyla, and Sora tilts her head up to look at him. Leaning back slightly so they can greet each other, Teyla has an excellent view of the way both faces light up with interest.

She is unsurprised when they announce, a week later, that they have decided to look for work together, combining Ronon's masculinity with Sora's links to the Athosian Alliance. She sends them on their way with a smile, and is grateful that Ronon is no longer working for the Genii.

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"He will come, won't he?" Exenne whispers in Teyla's ear, though her eyes do not stray from the gate platform. Teyla can feel her hand trembling where it rests on Teyla's arm.

"Of course he will," she says. "He would not be so silly as to change his mind."

"Because you would remove Enden from the Alliance?" Exenne asks.

"Because then he would not get to be joined with you," Teyla corrects. She squeezes Exenne's hand. "This has been many months in coming, you know he cares deeply for you."

Exenne smiles, her hand relaxing slightly. "Yes."

Craos is not late, but Teyla is still glad when the ring opens and Keras steps through. He inclines his head to Teyla, who mirrors the gesture, then steps aside to allow the rest of his party through the ring. The Athosians dress in bright colors for their celebrations, but the people of Enden appear to do the opposite: there are many faces Teyla recognizes from the months of Alliance- and archive-building they have undertaken on Enden, rendered unfamiliar by the lack of face paint and the dark clothes in which they are all dressed.

Exenne takes half a step forward when Craos steps through the gate then stops herself. "He's here," she whispers to Teyla.

"Did I not say he would be?" Teyla whispers back, and turns to lead Exenne to Halling, who is performing the ceremony.

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The children on Enden have never performed joining ceremonies, but both Craos and Exenne insisted that there should be a part of that world in the ceremony. To Teyla, sitting with the two of them and Halling while they made plans, it was an insight into a future she never expected, and she takes her place in the ceremony with joy in her heart.

They begin with the cleansing, borrowed from the Enden's sacrifice ritual and given new, hopeful meaning with the inclusion of brightly dyed feathers and sweet smelling herbs, unlike the bitter scent she remembers from Keras' cleansing. Exenne closes her eyes as the smoke is wafted round her head and Craos' by their chosen attendants, her smile peaceful.

The main part of the ceremony is taken from the Athosian rituals: Halling gives thanks to the Ancestors and asks for them to look kindly on Exenne and Craos and their union, then leads them to circle the fire three times, once each for love, fortune and honor in their future, Craos' eyes on the grass as he walks behind Exenne, who holds her head high.

The Athosian joining ceremony usually ends with the binding of the couple's hands, but Croas and Exenne were firm in their insistence that it was impractical to do so, when the bonds would remain until they wore away, a process that Teyla has seen take many days. Instead, they approach Halling each with a wreath in their hands, and kneel in front of their friends to unpick the wreaths and weave them together as one, raising it together as they stand, both of them smiling as Halling pronounces them joined to death.

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Teyla has never felt old before, but she begins to do so when she finally sits down, refusing an offer from Aries to dance, watching Craos and Exenne in each others' arms, and Ronon and Sora dancing at arms' length, very determinedly just friends.

"They seem very happy," Halling observes, joining her and handing over a cup of celebration wine.

Teyla sips the cool liquid gratefully. "I hope they will be so for a long time to come," she says, thinking of Halling's wife, who was taken by illness not long after Jinto was born. She finds it hard sometimes to remember that some deaths are the fault of neither the Wraith nor those who have betrayed them.

"As do I," Halling agrees, looking out at the dancing. Teyla follows his gaze and picks out Jinto in the shadows of the huts and, after a moment, Wex next to him, passing a bottle between the two of them, their heads close. "You have never wished for a similar happiness?" Halling asks.

Teyla takes a long drink of her wine instead of answering. She does not know how to explain that she cannot imagine a happiness as fulfilling as the work she was doing on Atlantis, the work she is doing now with the Athosian Alliance. She believes she has already given her heart away, but to so many people in so many pieces that she would not be able to get it back, and this is something that brings her joy, not sadness as she thinks others would expect.

"I am very happy with the people who share my life," she says finally, and Halling nods. They sit together in silence until a young woman from Enden asks him to dance.

Teyla sips her wine contentedly, watching her people celebrate Exenne's and Craos' union, their wreath hanging on the door to their hut. Exenne, she knows, has already taken branches from it to weave a smaller wreath to hang outside their hut on Enden. It is hard to believe that only last week, they were finding a new home for refugees from Tak after a culling, or that the Alliance has negotiated a food tax to be taken from each world within it to help Falos, where the crops failed due to flooding. In this moment, she finds only a sense of peace from the success of both endeavors, a sign of the budding success of the Athosian Alliance.

It has been, she thinks, two years since the Lanteans went back to Earth, or will be in a week or two, four times as long as they have ever been gone. She is sure that Ronon has given up believing in their return, though she would not be surprised to hear that he, like she, sometimes tries to dial Atlantis, just in case. She is never successful.

She has heard many of those in Nen'Athos saying, when they think she cannot hear, that the Lanteans will not return, that Teyla is theirs now, not shared with Atlantis. She says nothing to change these opinions.

In her heart, though, she holds a truth that she does not share with anyone.

One day, they will come back. The ring – the gate – will open and they will step through, or she will turn a corner on another world, and there they will be, as though they never left. Whatever Ronon believes and her people say, Teyla knows this, the way she knows that the Wraith will come, that her people trust in her leadership and that the Athosian Alliance will succeed.

One day, the Lanteans will return. She keeps this truth within her, a hope not unlike the one they are celebrating, and works to build a better place for them to return to.


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