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As John rejoined their group on the porch outside the inn, Teyla cast a suspicious glance at him. “Is everything all right?” she asked him, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah. Fine.”

Ronan grunted. “So, you up for a run?” he asked them.

Teyla glanced at the crème colored dress that just came past her knees. She looked up sorrowfully at them. “Normally, I would not mind exercise, even in a skirt, but I have no desire to offend our hosts by soiling their handiwork.”

Ronan didn’t seem too upset about it. He shifted his attention to John. “What about you, Sheppard?”

He gritted his teeth. “Maybe later. I didn’t sleep a lot last night, with the storm, you know.”

Teyla could see through his excuse, and she half expected Ronan to say something. But the Satedan just shrugged. “Your decision.” And then he took off on a run, leaving John and Teyla on the porch.

John ran a hand through his hair, and she was about to call him out when he suddenly suggested, “How about a walk?”

She smiled. “That would be nice.”

They took the path that led back to the Stargate and continued walking past it, making their way along the outside edges of the tracts of land that some of the men and children were harvesting. A light breeze blew the scent of espo beans their way, and she inhaled deeply.

“It’s a shame these people never learned how to make coffee,” John mentioned nonchalantly.

“Yet another bad habit that you could teach the people of this galaxy,” Teyla mocked.

It made him smile as he looked at the ground, watching the path. “I’m telling you, it’s a tragedy that Pegasus has nothing like football. And since we’re supposed to share knowledge, I feel it’s my responsibility to teach people about football.”

“A game where heavily armored players attempt to tackle each other while carrying a ball, made from a skinned animal, from one end of a field to another?” She cast a disapproving look at him. “I think they will manage to survive without knowledge of that particular game.”

He scoffed playfully. “You never know. Maybe they’ll make their own version of it. And name it after me.”

Teyla appeased him with a snort, which she tried to cover by clearing her throat.

The conversation quieted after that. They made a few remarks about the crops and the locale as they continued walking. Teyla was still mulling over her suspicions from earlier, and was waiting for the right time to bring it up, when John interrupted her thoughts. “Something on your mind, Teyla?” he asked as he plucked a long stalk of wheat from its sheath on the ground and began chewing on it.

She shook her head slightly. “Nothing of importance.”

“But, you are thinking about something?” he pried.

Teyla smiled and crossed her arms. “Something,” she repeated in a soft tone.

John nodded and seemed content with her another for five seconds, and then he started again. “So you gonna tell me what is it, or do I have to play twenty questions?”

She laughed. “No. To both.”

The path reached a stream about ten feet wide, with stones strategically placed to allow people to pass over. Instead of continuing, Teyla sat down on the green grass of the riverbank, allowing her eyes to close as the palliative sounds of rushing water soothed her and her mind began to wander. Perhaps she had jumped to a conclusion too quickly. She considered herself a perceptive person, but maybe –

“I kissed Elizabeth.”

Teyla thought she had imagined him saying that, but as he sat down next to her and drew his knees up, he slumped and looked at her. “Is that what you were thinking about?” he asked, almost embarrassed.

“I had my suspicions,” she slowly admitted, and he hung his head with a sigh. “Do you wish you hadn’t done so?”

“No,” he replied immediately, bringing his eyes back up to look at her. “And that’s what makes it worse. I didn’t kiss her just under pretense of being married. I kissed her because I wanted to.”

Teyla slowly nodded. “Do you care for Elizabeth?”

“Of course I do!” he replied immediately, and then added, “Just like any other member of the Expedition.”

“But Elizabeth isn’t just ‘any other member of the Expedition’. Is she?”

John groaned. “No,” he quietly admitted. “Elizabeth has believed in me since day one, when my superiors wouldn’t even have wasted a spare moment to think about me. And yeah, at first we butted heads, but things have worked out. We make a great team. I have more respect for her than … well, almost anybody else I’ve ever met.” His hazel eyes met Teyla’s again, and he sighed in hesitation. “But I can’t help the way I feel.”

“And being forced to act as if you’re married certainly doesn’t allow you to inhibit those feelings,” Teyla realized aloud. “So you feel that you’re allowed to be close while you’re here, because you know it goes back to the way it was when we return to Atlantis.”

“Business as usual,” he confirmed. He ran a hand through his hair again and chuckled cynically. “This is so screwed up.”

“Indeed,” Teyla quietly agreed.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The Council had been more than happy to accept Elizabeth’s offer of a radar system to help warn them against further storms. There had been more than one member sitting who had dark circles under their eyes, where there had been none yesterday. The sudden and unpredictable weather had rattled enough people that there wasn’t even a debate raised as to the intentions of the Lanteans, which sometimes seemed to be a common thread with off world negotiations.

The meeting ran through lunch but concluded early, and everyone left with the exception of Tharon and Elizabeth.

“That was short,” Elizabeth remarked once the doors shut behind the last council member.

“Well, there are a number of preparations that need attention for tonight,” Tharon replied, slightly distracted by a paper in front of her.

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. “What’s happening tonight?”

Tharon looked up and bit her lip in embarrassment. “I’m sorry, I thought you knew about the dance tonight.”

She gaped for a minute, then shut her mouth and shook her head. “No, I had no idea.”

“Oh. My apologies again. We have a gathering the first full moon after the spring harvest. It’s been a tradition for a few generations. Mostly, it provides an opportunity for the people to take a break from daily life and socialize together, and of course, dance,” she replied with a chuckle. “Having you here will make this an especially delightful event.”

Elizabeth nodded. “I will make sure that the rest of the team knows, and they will be happy to attend.” The image of Ronan dancing almost made her laugh, but she held it in as she asked, “Are there any specific customs that we should be aware of, in light of the dance?”

Tharon shook her head. “Nothing particular. Most of the dances are done in groups, and rather easy to watch and learn. One custom, however, in keeping with our culture? The males must be asked to dance, and if they’re married they can only dance with their wife. The bachelors don’t have a choice in the matter.”

“There is a similar tradition on Earth, called a ‘Sadie Hawkins’ dance. The women would do the asking, instead of the men.”

Tharon tilted her head in thought. “Sometimes I wonder how our culture came to be this way. It seems that many, if not most, of the other worlds we trade with are like yours. The men have a higher standing.”

“Much has changed on Earth, just in this last century, in regards to women’s rights,” Elizabeth explained. “But even so, it’s still hard to erase years of gender discrimination.”

The Fa’torian nodded, then brought her eyes up and met Elizabeth’s with a look of determination and contemplation. “I wonder just how hard.”

As the two women left the room, Elizabeth wondered about Tharon. For a culture that had greeted the team with such disdain towards the men, she was surprised to find that their leader was so open-minded. In public, she kept up appearances and held herself in higher regard than the men; in private or with the team, she treated her husband as an equal, almost showing deference to him on more than one occasion. She seemed very curious about how men and women had achieved equal status on other worlds, including Earth.

And from her last comment, Elizabeth got the feeling that Tharon wanted things to change.

But the thought went to the back of her mind as John and Teyla walked into the lobby. They noticed her and walked up to her. Teyla was smiling, but there was a look on John’s face that she couldn’t name.

Not being able to read people’s faces was getting annoying. And given the kiss she had gotten from him in the morning, this worried her even more. She wasn’t planning on bringing it up, but she hoped the next few minutes wouldn’t be startlingly uncomfortable.

Elizabeth nodded at them in greeting, then clasped her hands together in front of her. “So Tharon just told me that there is a celebration happening tonight.”

A look of understanding came over Teyla’s face. “That would explain the lights that are being installed in the square.”

“They kinda look like Chinese lanterns,” John added. “What’s the celebration for?”

“It’s a dance, actually,” Elizabeth clarified, and John’s face reddened. She couldn’t help but laugh. “Don’t worry, John. From what Tharon has told me, the only way you’ll be dancing tonight is if I ask you.”

The news didn’t have its desired effect of calming him. If anything, John’s face became more flushed. She really could’ve kicked herself. Here she was, worried about him making the situation tense, and she did it herself.

Way to go, Elizabeth.

She and Teyla both stared at him, seriously worried, although Teyla didn’t seem as anxious. He finally cracked a smile, and she held in a sigh of relief. “I don’t think showing my two left feet is the way to start a relationship with these people. I’m liable to trip and fall and hurt someone. And knowing my luck, it’ll be that lady who met us the first day.” He scoffed. “Then we’ll never get out of here alive.”

Elizabeth relaxed. “Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll be fine. And just to be on the safe side,” she promised conspiratorially, “we’ll keep the dancing to a minimum.” She extended her hand towards him, and he accepted it.

“Deal.”


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