When Teyla remembered that first day, beyond the fear and anger of the culling, she recalled the attitudes of those who had walked through the Ancestor's ring. They had held their weapons at the ready, reluctant to trust, but that was to be expected from newcomers on a world they had never visited. The difficulty lay in how many of them had also looked on her world, her people, and herself as something less. The notable exception had been Major John Sheppard, who had stepped forward from the rest to make the effort to understand rather than simply dismiss.
Major Sheppard had trusted her to lead him away from the others, had followed her to the place she had played as a child. He had been interested in seeing where the survivors had hid from the Wraith during an earlier great culling on Athos, the world her people would have to abandon later that day. After she had filled a torch, he had offered to light it, but she had taken the opportunity to prove her people were no primitives. The matchlight her father had gifted her with on her fifteenth year had outshone the small flame device the major had held, and she could not resist a prideful, "We mastered fire long ago," as she lit the torch with ease.
The major's voice had held nothing but pleased surprise, as he tucked away what he had later called his 'lighter' and simply said, "Guess so!" They had spent the remainder of their short time in the caves examining the pictures that told the story of the Wraith that the strangers had claimed no knowledge of, in addition to finding the necklace she had once lost.
Even after she and her people had been rescued from the hive ship and offered shelter in the city of the Ancestors, the impression remained that they were not considered as equals by most of the newcomers. It had finally led to her people moving to the mainland to resume their lives as they always had after the Wraith departed. Despite their meager possessions, they were happy once more, for they had learned after many generations of destruction and recovery that family and friends were the most precious of all. They could replace or rebuild anything else, make or plant or do without.
That first year on Atlantis, Teyla had watched the newcomers as they came to learn the same lessons, loss and grief, recovery and renewal. They too had come through the ring with limited possessions, although she had viewed their world through their 'movies' and discovered it to be filled with luxuries beyond compare. The scientists and soldiers that had walked through the ring to Atlantis had been allowed to claim few possessions for their own, yet she had often seen kindness behind an attitude of superiority, a willingness to share from most. She had witnessed their courage in the face of ancient darkness and unforeseen dangers, that they would place themselves in harm's way to save others.
Those glimpses had nurtured her decision to remain behind on Major Sheppard's team, for the good of not just her own people but also the other worlds beyond the ring. Her faith had been upheld when the Lanteans had learned to work with and accept her people, as well as others her team met on distant worlds. Although her people had once more needed to prove themselves, when help arrived through the ring during the long battle with the Wraith, the Athosians had fought alongside and their losses had been mourned by all in the city, strangers no more.
All the while, she and her team had learned from each other, grown closer each day in affection and respect. Despite the consequences of her necklace alerting the Wraith, leading to the death of the Keeper and the waking of the Wraith, she was glad she had offered stout tea to strangers that cool morning. Given an opportunity to turn back time, she would not choose to miss the opportunity of learning what she had of sweet, lost-but-not-forgotten Aiden, to find the gentle, frustrated kindness behind Rodney's thorns, to support the courage and dedication that burned inside John, to teach them all new ways to see. Even their newest team member, Ronon, was making his way into her heart, and she was glad because friends were always a treasure.
She reminded herself of that as she watched the three men squabble like little boys as they set up camp. Resolved not to take on the role of mother, she finished her own assigned chores and settled on a log to relax, trying hard not to smile when John crept up behind Rodney and stuffed dried leaves down the back of Rodney's shirt.
Rodney made certain that the countryside was well aware of his opinion of the trick. "Sheppard! You bastard!" He flailed about trying to remove the itchy leaves and almost tipped into the stack of wood he had been arranging. "I asked for tinder for the fire, not me! If I end up with hives from this…I'll…I'll…."
"Okay, okay. Settle down, Rodney. Let me help." John tugged the bottom of Rodney's shirt out, and leaves sifted to the ground. He brushed the remnants from Rodney's BDUs while Rodney fanned the neck of his shirt and continued to sprinkle more. "There. Better?"
"It'd be better if you acted more mature than an eight-year-old!" Rodney grumbled as Ronon shook his head and dropped another armful of wood next to the rest. "I'm never going to get this built and I'm hungry."
"Want more leaves?" John asked with a glint in his eye, his hands slowing as the last of the mess was cleared away. "For the fire, of course."
"Never mind, I'll manage. I just need…." Rodney turned and snapped his fingers, and then pointed to the pocket John usually kept his lighter in. "Come on, Naoh. Hand it over."
"Quest for Fire? Talk about your obscure references, McKay." John glanced sideways at Teyla. "That's one movie I'd be surprised to find on the servers. It's about prehistoric men searching for fire. I watched it a couple of times for an anthropology class, even wrote a report on it." He shrugged and turned back to Rodney with a laugh. "Okay, are you Gaw or Amoukar?" Patting his pocket while he waited for Rodney to stop sputtering, John frowned and shook his head. "Damn, I keep forgetting I lost it on Olesia. We were lucky we still had our clothes and boots when we jumped through the gate."
"And my gun." Ronon grinned and waved the item mentioned. "Should have gone back."
Rodney shook his head. "No, the MALP made it clear the Wraith didn't leave anything useful behind. The jumper was in a billion tiny pieces."
"Yeah. Besides, I think one of them probably had it with them when they ran through to the beta site. It's long gone." John's frown was fleeting, but Teyla didn't miss the soft pat of Rodney's hand on John's arm, before John walked away under the pretense of needing more wood. She too remembered the day John had shared the story of his lighter with the team, how it was rare and carried a symbol of his people's efforts to travel beyond their bounds of their world, not knowing of the Ancestors' rings. He had smiled as he explained that the odd craft had landed on their world's only moon while he was but a babe in arms, and that he had wished as a boy to be one of those few explorers, an 'astronaut,' and he had ended up traveling farther than he had ever dreamed.
Rodney looked in Teyla's direction and she sighed and tugged her matchlight from an inner pocket of the Athosian boots she preferred wearing on overnight missions. She held it out to Rodney with a regal nod. "Yes, Rodney. You may borrow mine."
Rodney's eyes lit up and he hurried over to take it carefully from her hand. He turned it over, inspecting it as he would any other piece of alien technology, and then frowned in puzzlement as he looked down at her. "Why do you still have yours if Sheppard lost his? Is this a new one?"
"No, I was not carrying it that day. I must admit I would be saddened to lose it, as it reminds me of my father," Teyla replied. "I was with him when he traded for it, and he surprised me when I later received it from him on what you call a 'birthday.' I came close to losing it the day I was culled. It was fortunate that we found our possessions near the cell we were being held in and were able to retrieve them that day."
Rodney looked down at the small rectangle sitting in his hand, a finger's width and height and as long as Teyla's palm, pearl grey with an embossed symbol at one end. He stroked the smooth metal and then jumped when Ronon leaned over his shoulder and asked, "Nice. Hulton's work?"
"Yes, it is." Teyla smiled up at him. "You know something of the guild?"
He nodded. "Tough to find one now. Heard they were culled."
Teyla's heart fell a little at the thought of losing yet another of the galaxy's treasures. She could only hope that some of the artisans had escaped and that the skilled work would continue on a new world.
"I…" Rodney looked between the two and offered, "I could try to make more. I've seen you use this before and the principles are relatively simple, I mean piezoelectricity is a pretty much a given considering the Ancients' use of crystal technology. What I'd really like to look at is what they used to focus and extend the spark. Ronon doesn't trust me with his gun, but I promise I won't break your…uh…matchlight. I know it's important to you. I have a few ideas…."
Teyla reached out, folded Rodney's fingers around the matchlight, and smiled up at him. "Yes, Rodney." When his delighted grin broke free, she teased gently, "Perhaps then John will notice he already has your attention and no longer needs to employ dried leaves and extra desserts."
Rodney's eyes widened. "Really? You think he…" The light in his eyes faded after a few moments and the side of his mouth drooped into dismay. "Uh…you can't say…he…oh god, please don't tell me that it's…that I…that it's easy to see...." He ducked his head and turned away, then turned back again. "Teyla?"
Taking pity on the flustered man, Teyla tried to soothe his anxiety. "I do not believe that anyone else sees beyond friendship, Rodney. I have heard of the rules governing John's position. Do not fear that I would betray either of you. I believe the same could be said of Ronon." She smiled and nodded at the man who then clapped a large, heavy hand on Rodney's shoulder.
"Stays in the team, McKay. Now if you wanted to share those desserts, I wouldn't say no." Ronon laughed when Rodney sputtered and then he loped off toward the stream to fill their canteens.
"Fine." Rodney raised his chin and then stomped back to the fire muttering, "Sooner I get the fire going, sooner I can eat, and if that barbarian thinks he can blackmail dessert out of me, he's got…."
Teyla just smiled and remained seated, waiting for her team, her friends, to finish their chores. They refused to let her cook, so they only had themselves to blame for any delay. She would give them a few more minutes before she would bring out her bantos rods and suggest an incentive to work faster.
She was hungry too.