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My Soul to Keep

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John wandered into the main Science lab, hands stuffed casually into his pockets. He looked around, the low hum of the scientists working there a familiar sound. There was something missing from the noise, though, and it took John a second to place it. He couldn't hear Rodney's voice, and that was highly unusual. Even though it was nearing sunset- and dinner, as well -Rodney could usually be found here, talking loudly and rapidly about whatever one of his underlings had done, or perhaps arguing with Zelenka. Occasionally, he'd let Syresh take control, and the tenor/basso rumble of Rodney's augmented voice would add an almost exotic flair to the soundtrack of the lab. John made his way over to where Zelenka sat typing on a laptop, making sure to get the Czech's attention before taking the seat next to him.

“Have you seen Rodney?” John asked with little preamble. “I've been looking all over for him, but I haven't been able to find him, and he's not answering his radio. You wouldn't happen to know where he'd be, would you?”

Before Radek could answer, however, John's radio activated and Rodney's voice issued from it, the tenor-basso reverb signaling that Syresh was in control at the moment.

"Colonel Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon. Would you three join Carson, Rodney, and I at the small bay by the West Pier? We would be very grateful."

John tapped at his earpiece, motioning to Radek that he could return to his work as he got to his feet. “Syresh. What're you doing out near the West Pier?” he asked as he left the labs and headed towards the nearest transporter.

“You'll see when you get here, Sheppard. Oh, and bring a candle or something like that."

Rodney had obviously taken control, though he sounded a little distracted at the moment. A candle? That was an odd request, but John swung by his quarters and picked up a candle that had been left in his quarters by Teyla.

When he got to where Rodney had asked to meet, he found that Ronon and Teyla had gotten there before him. John felt sheepish carrying a candle, but he felt better once he saw that even Ronon had a candle with him. Rodney was kneeling next to the edge of the sheltered bay, dressed entirely in brown. John had never seen him in the outfit, and commented upon it once he drew near.

“Nice clothes, Rodney,” he said, smiling slightly. “I didn't know you had any other clothes besides blue shirts and khaki pants.”

“Ha ha, Sheppard,” Rodney replied, not even deigning to turn his head to look at John. “We invited you here for a reason, not a fashion show.”

He got to his feet, absently brushing himself off as he did so. There was a small statue of a bird with the head of a man situated next to a candle that was lit; the candle was stuck down to the floor with a small pile of wax drippings. Rodney turned around, and then sighed softly. “I'm sure you're wondering why you were called here.”

“Kinda,” Ronon said, shrugging a bit.

“Well, it's like this. Every year around this time, if and when we have time, Syresh and I come here to do a sort of memorial ceremony for those who've died. We decided to ask you to come join us this year because, well, it just felt right. Syresh's words, not mine. Anyways, it won't take long, so if you have something important to do, you probably won't be late,” Rodney continued on, his hands moving through the air in front of him while he talked; it looked almost as if he were conducting an orchestra or a band.

“What do we have to do?” Carson asked, looking intrigued.

Not much. Just light your candle and think of those who we have lost,” Syresh said after Rodney briefly dipped his head and closed his eyes. “I will recite a traditional Tok'ra burial ceremony, but you don't have to join in. I doubt any of you know the right words, anyways.” A crooked smile accompanied her words.

Carson nodded, and then frowned slightly. “Wait a minute. I don't have any matches,” he said, a sheepish note in his voice.

“Here, Carson,” Teyla took out her Athosian fire-starter from her pocket, and Carson quickly held up his candle. Ronon and John repeated his actions, and Teyla lit all of their candles quickly and efficiently. Once all the candles were lit, Syresh began speaking softly, the foreign words echoing off the curved walls of the bay.

A'rehk traé'ahk ta'kek.Tak mal a'rik ti'ak.” Her voice lowered until it was a soft whisper, and John could barely make out the next phrase. Tel'met ori'en'te shree, tel'ma Terev. Syresh fell silent, head bowed as she and Rodney contemplated those who had been lost. John shifted slightly, a warm drop of wax landing on his hand. He quietly tried to rub it off against his pants, biting back a soft curse as he did so.

Those who have died, we remember here today. Let us speak their names to the wind, for if their names are spoken, then they have not truly left us," Syresh said, raising her head. "I speak for those who have gone before their time and have left us to mourn. Go to the place of rest, and leave all troubles behind. Burden yourself no more with the trappings of mortal life and fly through the skies with wings of light.

Once she had finished talking, Syresh blew out the candle that she held, and then bowed her head briefly. When it rose again, it was clear that Rodney was in control once more.

“Thanks for coming,” he said softly, giving his friends a slightly embarrassed smile. “It means a lot to both of us. Usually, the Tok'ra are so paranoid about being found that they can't take time to do the full rituals. Luckily, since we don't have to worry about hiding out in some underground base here, Syresh and I have been able to do this nearly every year.”

“We are honored to have shared this with you, Rodney,” Teyla said, the wind picking up briefly and making the flame of her candle quaver. “Is there anything else we need to do?”

“Nope,” Rodney replied, shaking his head. “You can blow out your candles if you want to. I'm sure they've probably dripped on you by now.”

“Doesn't matter,” Ronon said, blowing out his candle as he spoke. “It doesn't hurt that much.”

“Right.” John shook his head, and then extinguished his candle. “Hey, Rodney?”

“Hmm? Oh, you can go ahead and go; I won't be long,” Rodney said, crouching down next to the small statuette and blowing out the candle next to it. He pulled the candle out of its wax pile and then dipped the once-lit end momentarily in the ocean before pocketing the candle.

“What's that statue-thingy for?” John continued as the others left. Rodney paused in his work and then carefully picked up the small statue.

“It's a representation of a ba.”

“Which would be?”

“Basically, the conscious part of the soul, according to Ancient Egyptian lore,” Rodney said, gently putting the statue into a cloth bag that he pulled out of a pocket. “It belonged to Terev, Syresh's mate. He and his host were killed by Ra, way before General O'Neill and Daniel Jackson killed him.”

“Oh. Um, sorry,” John said, rubbing at the back of his neck. “So, you've been doing this for five years?”

“Longer. Remember, Syresh and I have been blended for about eight years,” Rodney told him, putting the bag into a pocket. “Anyways, I'm going to get dressed and then head to dinner. I think they're serving meatloaf tonight.”

“Yeah, with real beef, I heard.” John laughed. “It's been a while since we've had that, y'know.”

“Yeah, well, the nearest Costco was another galaxy away before we brought the entire city to Earth and back. I guess the kitchen wanted to stock up on Earth-style food before we came back to Pegasus.” Rodney shook his head. “It's a wonder they didn't requisition a herd of cows.”

“The noise would've been atrocious. Besides, do you think they would've survived the trip back?”

“Probably not. Let's get going before the Marines eat everything.”

John had to laugh as Rodney quickened his pace, shaking his head fondly as he followed his friend. They'd lost quite a few of good people over the years, but somehow, they'd managed to accomplish so much in the time they'd been in Pegasus. It almost made the losses worth it.

Almost.