"He is a fine warrior," Amaya says when Teyla takes her medicine over to the mainland, and she is certainly not looking at Doctor Beckett. "You make a lovely couple."
"Yes, he is." Teyla takes a deep breath and tries to remember how this woman helped teach her to read; how she patched up her grazed knees, and answered the questions her father could not. "But Ronon and I are just friends."
Amaya just smiles. She does not know how many times Teyla has heard the same sentiments, seen the same looks exchanged, closed her ears to the same whispers. She cannot know that on days like this, when the sky is clear and a honeysuckle breeze brushes over her skin, the lure of tent and fire and family captures Teyla; that the high-pitched laughter on the wind makes something ache inside her that she does not have time to feel in Atlantis.
In Atlantis, everyone is alone.
* * * *
Colonel Sheppard - John, she can hear him say - is still a mystery to her. He is a far-off continent, a mysterious land where pits and traps and fearsome beasts might await the unwary traveller, as closed to casual tourists as Doctor McKay is flung wide open at all borders.
And yet they speak the same language, one she can never quite grasp.
She does not think it is an Earth thing.
Once, she felt invitation in the press of his body against hers, the static of lip on lip, the imprint of fingers on her skin. Under the scent of need, leaf-mould smouldered in the baking sun and monsoon threatened. Far away, something roared that was not the Atlantis sea.
It is the only time her courage has failed her in years.
* * * *
It will not fail her this time.
In the jumper, while Doctor Beckett complains about the take-off and Paxman says he can fly the blasted thing himself next time, she smiles at Ronon.
He grins, misunderstanding, and she dips her head to gather her thoughts. It would be a good moment. If she is to stay in Atlantis, or even if she does not, she cannot be alone forever. Ronon is strong, but she has no fear of him; they have more similarities than differences, like Sheppard and McKay.
Maybe it is an Earth thing after all. Or a Pegasus thing.
In her backpack she has fresh canalas, spiced bread and a bottle of Amaya's best pomegranate wine. She can almost see the juice glisten on Ronon's broad fingers, taste the cinnamon on his lips, and her mouth curves as wide as his.
"What?" he says, and it's now or never.
Do you have plans for this evening? She will ask him in a moment, and her voice, despite all current evidence to the contrary, will not tremble. She will be nonchalant; she might as well be asking him the time.
Something flashes in his hand then, something small. Yet not so small, when she leans forward to see and he opens his palm. It is a stone, worn smooth by ancient seas, a streak of white in the rock striping in perfect harmony with the indentations of some long dead creature's spine, a wave across its back.
"A fossil," she says, reaching out, but Ronon does not notice. Instead, his finger traces the curl of the wave, the bend of the spine, so gently that she does not dare to touch. "It is beautiful, Ronon."
"I thought Sheppard might like it," Ronon says, and his finger is still tracing thoughtfully. When he looks up, his eyes are bright, his face younger than it has seemed in many months, and his glance almost shy. "You think he will?"
Teyla glances at her backpack and sighs, but there is nothing to be done about it now.
"I think he would be a fool not to want it," she says carefully, leaning back against the wall of the jumper. "And Colonel Sheppard is not a fool."
Ronon just nods, and folds the stone back into his palm, but the smile fighting to escape his lips could power the city for a week.
She should have known, really, that only Ronon could truly consider braving that dangerous land, the only continent more lost than Atlantis. There is a rightness to it, a certain inevitability in her mind, though that may simply be her pride speaking.
Perhaps Rodney and Elizabeth will join her for dinner tonight instead.
At least it will give Ronon his chance, if he dares to take it.