Solen had excused himself, and as soon as he was gone Ronon looked over the rim of his tankard at Teyla, with unexpectedly sober eyes, and said, " 'Friends—nothing more'?" He didn't ask it mockingly, which she was grateful for.
She was glad she had had no alcohol, herself. Though it might have made this easier. "Anything else is impossible."
"Why? Because we're on the same team?" He put the tankard down, and the sound seemed to thud into her bones. "I'm pretty sure Sheppard's not gonna mind, as long as it doesn't hurt us as a team, which I don't see it doing. And as long as we don't do anything where he has to see it. Or hear it."
Teyla bit her lip.
Ronon frowned. "Actually, I think he has a thing for McKay, himself, so really not going to mind us."
"That is not the issue." Teyla picked up his tankard and took a sip. Ale, cool and bitter, and she let it distract her for just a moment before she went back to the conversation he was trying to avoid by speculating about their teammates. "Whether or not it is true, it is irrelevant."
Ronon took his ale back, and drank again with the air of a man who knows he needs it. "So, not Sheppard or the team. Someone else?"
She sighed. "I am a leader of my people. Since my father was taken, and I accepted my full responsibilities, I have not had the freedom to choose lovers as I might otherwise do."
"That's just not—" Ronon bit off whatever he had intended to say—not quite drunk enough yet, perhaps, to risk offending her by insulting Athosian custom.
"I know." Teyla pulled the tankard from his grip and took another long drink. "I do know. And I am sorry. I hope I never gave you cause to believe I could give you anything else."
"Teyla, you've been…" he started harshly, then stopped, reclaimed his ale; his fingers brushed hers as he did, and sparks burned under her skin at the contact. When he spoke again, he sounded calmer. "No. I wanted, but you never actually said anything. I thought…"
She nodded. "I am truly sorry." She knew what he meant; she had felt it, too, the near-constant awareness of where he was relative to her if she could perceive him by any sense, the charged atmosphere when they sparred—it was a promise, body to body, one she wished she could keep.
"Yeah," Ronon said, and stared into his tankard.
Solen returned a few moments later. Teyla was not sure where he had been, or why, since it seemed like it had been a very long time. He and Ronon returned to exchanging stories of Sateda while she listened, and watched them both get more and more drunk, and hoped there would be no need for combat that night, or early the next morning.
"You want a drink?" Solen asked her at one point.
"She'd rather have mine," Ronon said, and both men burst out laughing.
"Oh, I bet," Solen said, still laughing.
Teyla gritted her teeth. Ronon looked over at her, then back to Solen, and said, "She told you we're not—"
"Involved," Teyla said, over whatever verb Ronon had been about to use. Involved was safe, was clean, was distant; it brought no vivid images of things she should not be thinking about.
"…'involved'," Ronon finished, giving her another look which she was fairly sure translated roughly to when did you turn back into a child?, and which she chose to ignore. "Are you arguing with her?" His voice was low and menacing, and he sounded for all the world as if he had never even considered the possibility himself.
Solen frowned. "No, but—"
"Friends," Ronon repeated. "Just. Friends." He drained the rest of his tankard, called for another, and said, "So how's Garan settling in on Manaria, of all places?" and they were off again, sharing stories of the living and the dead.
Teyla leaned against the wall for a moment, weak-kneed with gratitude and regret, then pushed off and went to get herself some water.
After they returned to Atlantis, after they heard the story of how Rodney had accidentally destroyed most of a solar system—Ronon looked oddly impressed—and offended most of the people he was closest to, Ronon said, "So, seems like it's going to be noisy this afternoon."
"Yes," Teyla said, and wondered what he was trying to say. Ronon did not do subtle.
"Sticks practice?" He grinned, the flash of teeth brilliant against dark skin and beard, and she felt herself smiling back almost against her will. "I'll give you another chance to try to get me back for the first time."
" 'Try'?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "How can I refuse, in that case?"
"Is now good for you?"
She thought about it. Given the circumstances, she would rather not spend time with most of the people she knew well here, since Rodney's disaster would likely be weighing them down for most of the day. "Yes."
It seemed even, at first; she had trained with other men his height and build before, and she knew how to keep that from being an unbeatable advantage. They were well-matched, and that knowledge flared in her and settled to a simmer, hot beneath her skin, as she watched him move and he watched her. The sunlight fell in rainbows through the stained-glass windows, shone bright off the sweat glimmering on their skin. They were breathless with exertion before too long; Teyla's hands and arms burned satisfactorily from blocking his strikes.
She lunged; he stepped back and spun and swung his stick at her legs, and she jumped over it because it was that or trip. For a second she wobbled, then she caught her balance, close enough to touch him without effort, and tried to plan her next move.
"Teyla," he said, and she hesitated, waiting for him to speak, and he had her pinned to the ground before she could finish scolding herself for getting distracted again, though it was only the second time and they had fought far more often than that. She still had both her sticks, but he was leaning onto her arms, holding them still.
It was more than a pin, actually; he had her pressed almost flat, holding her down as much with his weight and bulk as with actual skill. It was more effective than she would have liked. She could move her head, her shoulders, her core—nothing below the elbows or knees, which meant she could think of no way to get loose.
"Yield?" he asked, grinning again, which made her all the more determined not to.
Unfortunately, there was no way she had ever been taught to break free. If she could move her arms or legs, she might be able to get some leverage; if she could get one of her sticks in motion, the sting of that might distract him enough to…
That was an idea. It was not honorable combat, exactly, but Ronon fought like a soldier instead of a recruit, and he had never hesitated to use tricks on her.
She shifted her weight, mapping their bodies against each other again, studying this time not for escape but for arousal. Her arms and legs were as useless for this as they would be for flipping him, but if she could move down just a little bit they would be hip to hip, and although it had been over a year since she had—done this, done anything like this—she could still remember how, could remember ways to move even without using her limbs that had made men's brains all but leave their heads entirely.
Ronon had given her, probably entirely by chance, just enough freedom to move to where she needed to be. He was still smiling when he asked, "Well? You're not getting free that way—yield, Teyla, c'mon," and then she rolled her hips, pressing up against him, and the smile faded into shock as she did it again, as she fell back flat under him and then shifted again and arched, rubbing her breasts against his chest. She could tell that didn't work quite as well as it could, not through the leather of her practice top, and she wished for something thin and cloth like the Marines wore, but even this wasn't utterly hopeless. She tried the hip-roll again, and the press of his legs against hers relaxed a little from battle-ready to simply there, letting her get one thigh between his as she—squirmed, think of it as that, she was trying to get out of a pin here.
"Teyla?" he asked, voice even lower than usual, and she shivered in spite of herself, not able to smile at him to pretend she meant this. He relaxed his hold a little more, and she got her other leg loose and wrapped it over both of his, pulling him down towards her, rising towards him, grinding against him in a motion she couldn't deny was sexual any more than she could deny she was enjoying it far more than she should.
He made a helpless sound somewhere in the back of his throat and skimmed one hand up her arm to her shoulder, tracing towards her throat, thumb sweeping fire over her collarbone, and she couldn't even breathe as—yes—she had the space to move, now, and she twisted, hard and sharp and sudden, and tipped him over onto his back, bringing one of her sticks to lie across his throat and pressing ever-so-lightly down. "Yield?" she asked in turn, unable to hide her breathlessness.
"You…" His mouth worked for a moment as if he couldn't think of anything enough to call her, and Teyla tried to regain some sense of composure and not think about the fact that she was staring at his mouth, not want to bend forward and taste it, not crave it over every inch of her skin. "So, it was all a trick?" he asked finally.
"I," she said, and stopped. She also wasn't thinking about how he'd looked at her just before she flipped him, or the way she felt almost burned everywhere she touched him (flames in her blood, lightning under her skin) in a way that made her never want to let a breath of air between them, or that sitting across his hips she could feel how hard she'd made him with this trick and she was aching and empty and she wanted—
She hadn't thought to hold his arms down with anything other than her knees. He got one hand up to her thigh, bare where the strips of her skirt had fallen aside, and scraped the backs of his nails along her skin. She realized she was rocking helplessly down against him just as he sat up—her hands were lax on the stick at his throat, and she didn't even think to press down to stop him—and twisted, knocking her onto the mat and landing on top of her, her own stick across her throat.
"Don't—" she gasped, tensing, completely trapped and it had never bothered her when she was fighting, hadn't bothered her just moments ago, but now it felt utterly wrong. And Ronon let go, as instinctively as she'd protested, which would have gotten him killed if this had been real combat, which was utterly foolish and completely unlike him, and she realized that neither one of them really remembered they were supposed to be sparring anymore.
Someone cleared their throat. "Look, if the two of you could go not have sex somewhere else? Sorry to interrupt, but I have the room booked, and in about a minute you're going to have a lot more of an audience than just me."
Teyla turned her head, somewhere between sick and numb with the shock and the shame of the whole situation. Ronon pushed up and rolled away from her, and she bit her lip hard to keep from making any sound at the loss of him.
Lieutenant Cadman looked as if she was trying not to smile. "Like I said, sorry to interrupt."
And it could have been worse, Teyla reflected. It could have been Colonel Sheppard, whom she had to see every day; or Dr. McKay, whom she had to see every day and who seemed to have no concept of appropriate social interaction; or Elizabeth Weir, who did not even have this in her own isolation of rank.
"Not a problem," Ronon said harshly, moving towards the door; in anyone else, Teyla might have thought of it as fleeing towards the door.
She had to swallow before she could speak. "Ronon."
He stopped, but did not turn.
"Thank you for the…the practice."
The sound he made might, possibly, have been a laugh. "You too." Then he did leave.
"So," Lieutenant Cadman said.
Teyla closed her eyes. "Please. Do not."
The doors opened again. Several Marines whose names, if Teyla ever knew them, she had completely forgotten came in.
"I hope you have a pleasant day, lieutenant," Teyla said. She had learned from Elizabeth that this worked as a dismissal to the people of Earth, polite but unmistakeable, and Lieutenant Cadman nodded automatically.
Or it could have been worse than any of the people who might have come in, because it could have been nobody.