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Of the Exiles

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Teyla awoke to the sound of wind.

She rolled over in the furs and blankets of her bed pile, stretching languidly. The winds of this new world whipped and tore at the flaps of her tent and it was glorious. For too long she'd been trapped in solid walls and a decorative window that didn't open. She never slept to the sound of the wind howling among the towers or the waves that crashed under Atlantis's balconies. The city was silent.

That silence was over.

This world, New Athos, was a gift from the Ancestors. It was the very least those Ancestors could do after abandoning them to the Wraith, after forcing them from their homes on Atlantis and the mainland, after leaving them to fend for themselves with nothing but the tools they could carry. An entire village was left empty and bereft on Lantea's mainland, tools and toys and memories that were thought to be lost forever but now...

Today there were plans to return to the abandoned city. They'd fly to the mainland and the village and finally have a chance to strip it bare. There were children who missed their toys, mothers who lost their veils, families who mourned their lives. The physical things could be found and returned.

Sunlight flickered in her tent, the wind sweeping away canvas and skins to bring her the dawn. She sat up, naked in her bed pile and yawned, stretched, awoke to the quick dapple of soft orange light all around her.

She didn't even start when her tent's main flap was untied and flung open.

“Jesus!” Sheppard shouted. The tent flap was released, hanging half-open in the wind.

Teyla laughed. “Good morning, John,” she called.

“Please put something on,” Sheppard muttered outside.

Teyla grinned as she pulled a dress from her satchel. She slipped it on over her bare skin and left her tent to greet the day.

“Not much better,” Sheppard grumbled.

Teyla gave him a glance that clearly showed how little she cared for his prudishness as she tied the dress's ties. It draped down her front and back in two halves that tied together along the sides. She'd kept it in a storage-tie, the ties loose so the dress could be slipped on easily. However that meant each tie had to be untied and retied to tighten the dress around her form and the wind was not helping to keep her covered while she worked.

“Where is Rodney?” Teyla asked.

Sheppard seemed to forget his discomfort and grinned. “He's still asleep. Wanna wake him up?”

“John,” Teyla warned.

“Teyla, he's sleeping in the barn,” Sheppard whined. “With furry pigs. He's snuggling one of them!”

Teyla rolled her eyes. She finished tying one side of her dress and started on the other. “Wake Ronon up first,” she said. “I am sure his tent is easy enough to find.”

Sheppard pouted and looked for the one collapsed tent in the settlement. He found it, a windblown wreckage of stakes, sticks, and canvas. He made his way over to the pile and lifted the canvas. “Hey, buddy you in there?” he asked.

Underneath the canvas there was another pile, this one of blankets. The pile shifted and then moved. Ronon crawled out like an animal leaving its den and glared at the wreckage.

“You're not good with tents,” Sheppard observed.

Ronon glared at him. “Prefer walls or nothing at all.” At least he slept with pants on. “What's up?”

“Rodney's sleeping in the barn again, I want to get a good look before he wakes up.”

Ronon yawned. “I'd sleep in the barn too if they let me.”

“There are pigs, Ronon. Pigs!”

“They're rursus,” Ronon corrected. “They make good pets. And stew. And pelts. And they're warm. I'd sleep with one.”

Sheppard pouted again. “You're no fun.”

Ronon stretched and made his way over to Teyla. He nodded at her as she got the last few ties on her dress. “Are pigs funny?” Ronon asked.

“I do not know,” Teyla said. “I believe they are the source of Lantean bacon. Why?”

Ronon shrugged. “Sheppard seems to think McKay sleeping in the rursus barn is funny.”

“It is juvenile,” Teyla allowed. “Normally only children and Wanderers sleep in a rursus pile.”

“Maybe that's it.” Ronon saw Sheppard heading into the barn. “We should go make sure he doesn't do anything stupid.”

“Agreed,” Teyla said.

The rursus barn was a three-sided affair, one wall essentially missing as it extended out into the rursus pen. The pen held fallen trees and scrub for scratching, a mud wallow to keep the rursus safe from insects, frayed rope for tugging games, and a large dusty area for running. The barn had an area fenced off for tool storage but the bulk was given over to the rursus. Straw and grasses were brought in for bedding and rooting around in. At the moment most of the rursus were still asleep, collected in a pile on and around a single blanket. That blanket wasn't being slept under, it was slept on, laid over the straw to 'keep the allergens down'.

Sheppard crouched nearby, looking at the blanket's several occupants and snickering to himself.

Teyla and Ronon exchanged an eyeroll and made their way over.

The rursus must have adopted Rodney as one of their own. It explained the three who were shoved against his back and the one against his belly. Rodney must not mind, either, given he was spooned up against that one along his front, his arm draped over it. It was awake, wiggling happily in the warmth and snuffling contentedly.

Rodney gave a loud halting snore. The rursus around him answered with loud snorts of their own and snuggled closer.

“The rursus may believe he is speaking to them,” Teyla observed. She also then observed John slap his hands over his mouth to hold in his own braying laughter. It only somewhat worked in that it didn't sound like laughter, it sounded like snorting. The rursus looked at him and started snuffling and snorting in response.

A human groan sounded from the pile. It faded into snuffling as Rodney held his snuggled rursus closer. The animal rumbled happily and prodded him in the face with its nose.

That finally woke Rodney. He sat up with his snuggled rursus nosing him repeatedly with its snout, snorting and grunting happily. He blinked at the animal, at the pile around him, then at his team watching him. “You're all weird,” he said.

Sheppard finally lost it and he fell over laughing. Ronon watched him, reached down, picked up a rursus, and put it on Sheppard's chest. The laughter went odd as Sheppard tried to get out from underneath a rursus that seemed to enjoy laying on him.

“I will be out with the rest of the village,” Teyla said. “The morning meal will be ready within an hour.” She and Ronon left.

“Maybe it'll be bacon,” Rodney said hopefully.

“Holy fuck, McKay,” Sheppard gasped before shoving the rursus off of him. The creatures weren't that big, not much larger than a medium dog, but they were much heavier and they could feel like dead weight when they wanted to. The rursus snorted its displeasure and wandered off into the pen.

“What?” Rodney asked.

Sheppard gestured wildly. Rodney looked around himself. He was sitting on a blanket over straw in a barn. Most of the rursus were waking up and heading out into the pen. A few stayed behind, laying next to him or on him or arguing over who got to sprawl in his lap and get scratched behind the ears. Rodney gave those ear-scratches freely, running his hands wistfully through their wiry fur. There was no possible way to mistake a rursus for a cat but it was still nice to touch something again, to pet and stroke and scratch and hold something fuzzy. Especially something fuzzy that appreciated it. “You think I could get Elizabeth to let me take one back to Atlantis?” he asked.

“You're naming it 'Hamhock' because that's what it is,” Sheppard warned.

Rodney huffed. The rursus in his lap looked up at him with big watery black eyes and wiggled its decidedly porcine snout. Rodney rubbed behind its large floppy ears and it rumbled.

Rodney sneezed. “Great,” he said. “C'mon guys, I need to get up.”

The rursus all looked up at him then went back to laying on him.

“Ugh,” Rodney groaned. “I mean it, it's morning, go play, I need my meds.”

“Meds?” Sheppard asked.

“Only one person here had the foresight to raid the Daedalus's supply of antihistamines before they left and it wasn't Carson,” Rodney said as he extracted himself from the rursus pile. He ignored various snorts and squeals of protest before they all gave up and let him go. Once free Rodney stretched then sniffed himself. He made a face. “And none of us brought a change of clothes.”

“Yeah well you're the only one who sleeps with the pigs,” Sheppard said, grinning.

“Have you seen Ronon's tent?” Rodney asked. He climbed the short fence to the tool area and rummaged around in his bag for a foil packet full of pills. He popped one and dry-swallowed it. “Anyway we're heading to Atlantis today, we can take time for showers and laundry. How long do you think until the Daedalus gets back?”

“It's been a week,” Sheppard said. “About three weeks there, three weeks back, getting everyone back on board shouldn't take too long.”

Rodney scoffed. “You've never pissed off General O'Neill before.”

“Hey, we saved his life.”

“Yeah, last time I did something for him I got exiled to Siberia,” Rodney said. “Mark my words, we will be here for a long time.”

Sheppard looked out over the settlement of New Athos. The tava fields stretched off to the west, he could see pest bats sitting on the scarecrow he'd set up to stop them. Tents in various stages of collapse all clustered around the fire pit and clearing that might eventually become a town square. Faint blue wisps rose up from the smoke house where strips and cuts of rursus meat hung to cure. Teyla and Elizabeth both wore dresses that did not conceal enough for his tastes as they talked and laughed and worked with the other women of the settlement. Carson was holding an infant, swaying back and forth as the baby cooed. Ronon led a group of men and boys in morning exercises, each of them wielding large sticks like staves.

And in the distance, on a hill overlooking the valley, stood the stargate.

He hoped the Daedalus returned soon. He couldn't wait to rebuild their city.