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Hot Springs and Cotton Candy

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Elizabeth cracked open an eye as a shadow appeared across her body. She leaned up on one elbow when she saw Teyla move to sit down on the pier beside them. Kate smiled as Teyla as she sat up as well.

Teyla smiled in greeting and both Elizabeth's and Kate smiles grew in return. Teyla spoke to Kate. "You managed to make her leave her office without violence?"

"Hey!" Elizabeth looked offended as Kate smirked.

"I didn’t have to break out the threats actually."

"I do happen to appreciate the odd day off."

"You mean John and Rodney are driving you crazy again." Kate lay back down again as she made no effort to contain a laugh.

"They were bickering rather loudly after the meeting this morning." Teyla looked amused as well.

"All right, that may have had something to do with it."

"That and the paperwork." Teyla and Kate exchanged another knowing look.

"Remind me again why I'm friends with both of you?" Elizabeth said as she closed her eyes again, softening it with a small smile.

"Because life would be boring otherwise." Kate retorted.

"I like my life boring. Though in this case it feels like waiting for the other shoe to drop." Elizabeth complained. The mood quietened slightly, at least until Teyla spoke again.

"Since we are all enjoying this day, Halling told me of a place on the mainland. Laura referred to it as a hot spring when I mentioned it to her."

Elizabeth and Kate's eyes opened and they leaned to look at Teyla. She looked rather pleased with herself.

"When were you planning on telling us this?" Kate was sitting up, looking eager.

Teyla smiled. "I merely thought it was something we could all appreciate together."

"It has been a while since I've been to a hot spring." Elizabeth sighed.

Kate looked at her. "You mean you've taken time off in the past to relax? Color me shocked." She teased.

Elizabeth ignored her. "Celebrations after a successful negotiation in Reykjavik." She turned back to Teyla. "It's a capital city known for it's hot springs." She sighed. "It was lovely."

Elizabeth noticed the smug impressions on the other women's faces. "You both planned this."

Kate laughed out loud and Teyla smiled. "Sometimes you need the right incentives to relax properly."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes and sighed. "Lead the way."

--

"So it's the Pegasus equivalent of a spa day?" John looked rather amused as he flew them across to the mainland.

"I suppose you could call it that." Kate wasn't rising to the bait he was obviously trying to lay.

"You could always join us, John. I'm sure the relaxation would do wonders for you." Teyla wasn't above teasing him back though and neither Kate nor Elizabeth tried to hide their grins.

John looked to Elizabeth. "Are you going to let her get away with that?"

"Away with what? The relaxation would be good for you. Plus, you wouldn’t have to listen to Rodney for a few hours." Elizabeth's grin widened slightly.

"No, I would just have to listen to him going on about my spa day for the next year."

All three women laughed.

"This is the thanks I get for volunteering to take you across to the mainland?"

"I'm sure Carson would have taken us across had you not volunteered." Teyla did her best calm expression but ruined it when she smiled again a minute later.

John muttered and turned back to the read out. "Fine, fine. Just see if I come back for you."

Laughter filled the cabin once more.

--

They stopped briefly to say hello and catch up with the group of Athosians milling about the settlement, then they made their way through to the edge of the woods. It was a lovely clear day for a walk through the woods, not too hot and sticky, but not too cold that they felt the need to rush either. The trees they were walking through were not too dense and the path was worn enough that they could admire the change in scenery without tripping up too much.

They walked for a while, pausing for breath before they started up a steep slope.

"You know it's just as well we brought the supplies." Elizabeth took a long swig of water out her bottle after she complained. .

"I'm always telling you that you need to get more exercise." Kate had no sympathy and Teyla bit her lip to avoid answering.

Elizabeth didn’t bother retorting back, just rolled her eyes as she replaced the bottle in her backpack and they started off again. They reverted back to comfortable silence as they climbed, too focused on putting their feet in the right places and making sure they didn’t slip. It wasn't too long a hike, though Kate did voice her happiness that it was over.

"It is not much longer," Teyla said as they reached the summit. "It is all downhill from here."

They stopped at the summit and looked down over the small valley. The hill down to the bottom wasn't as steep as the one they had just climbed up and the trees thinned out about halfway down, letting them see straight down the grassy hillside. They could see the pools on the valley floor, too far away at the moment to tell if the water was steaming, and the short trees and bushes that surrounded them, perfect for getting a little privacy despite the pools being overlooked by the hills on three sides.

"You didn’t say there was this much walking!" Kate groaned when they saw how far they needed to travel to get to the pools.

"What was that you were saying about exercise?" Elizabeth teased.

Kate swiped at her with a hand and Elizabeth laughed as Teyla looked amused at the pair of them.

"It will all be worth it, I assure you." Teyla said before any more teasing could break out.

"Have you been here before?" Elizabeth asked.

Teyla nodded. "Once. Anika brought me here shortly after it was discovered."

They admired the view for another moment, catching their breath again before Kate spoke, "Right, we're losing time here," and starting making her way down the hill.

Teyla and Elizabeth exchanged an amused look.

"Is she going down the right path?" Elizabeth asked.

Teyla nodded. "But I am not sure how stable it is after the recent rains."

Elizabeth gave free rein to her eye roll and shouted after Kate.

Kate turned at her name and pulled a face when she slid in the mud a little. "Okay, slow and steady wins the day."

They set off, Kate walking a little more timidly this time, only slipping a little here and there as the ground softened under their feet.

They stopped at the edge of the tree line, Elizabeth and Kate grabbing onto either side of a tree trunk as they took a sip of water, the air muggier than it had been on the other side of the hill.

"This reminds me of going exploring with my brothers when I was young." Kate said and Teyla nodded.

"We did much the same."

"Though it usually ended with me in tears because they left me behind." Kate smiled wryly before she took another sip of water.

"I'm sure we could leave you behind it if would enhance the experience for you." Teyla smiled as she said it and Elizabeth snorted into her water bottle. Kate tried to look dignified and started marching down the slope again.

Elizabeth and Teyla smiled and hurried to catch up, still careful of their footing on what was now grass beneath their feet. They managed to get to the edge of the spring without much more incident. The ground was softer around the edge of the spring but there was a rocky cropping, flat enough to sit on, that they could all fit onto.

The air was noticeably warmer than it had been on the walk down and Elizabeth kneeled down, dropping her bag onto the smooth stone beside her. She dipped a finger, then a hand into the water and the others couldn't help but smile as she shut her eyes and moaned softly.

They didn't say anything though, as they dropped their own bags beside Elizabeth's and started removing their clothing. They carefully slipped into the pool, staying at the edge, not a sound aside from the ripples of the water as they moved.

"I don’t think she can properly relax until she takes out her earpiece, do you?" Kate turned to Teyla.

"No, I don't think she can." Teyla looked just as serious as Kate and almost as one, they turned to face Elizabeth.

Elizabeth looked surprised at them but reluctantly took her earpiece out and laid it on her bundle of clothes.

Kate looked appraisingly at her. "You forgot you had it in again didn't you?"

"You know this is lovely and warm. Feels divine." Elizabeth leaned back in the water slightly, ignoring the question altogether. Kate snorted at her.

"Fine then. It is lovely. How deep can we go?" She directed this last bit to Teyla and Elizabeth leaned forward again to listen carefully.

"The spring is not very deep so we can go as far across as we like. There is a suitable ledge for sitting down on over by that bush." Teyla pointed across to the other side of the spring where a larger bush provided a little shade at the moment.

"Sounds like a plan." Kate said and they swam slowly over to the ledge.

They relaxed, spending a couple of minutes in comfortable silence as they let the warm water work its magic. Kate sighed. "This is definitely worth the walk."

Teyla and Elizabeth both smiled and laughed at her expression of bliss.

"Hey, I wasn't the only one who hated the walk." She skimmed a hand over the surface of the water and splashed Elizabeth.

That signalled the end of the silence as Elizabeth let out an undignified squeal and sent back a splash of her own.

Teyla laughed and sunk a little deeper into the water, up to her neck and sighed. They calmed down and followed suit. Another minute's silence then,

"So have you heard about the new botanist?" Kate asked and Elizabeth sunk deeper into the water.

Teyla looked intrigued, glancing at Elizabeth then smirking at Kate. "No, I have not."

Kate grinned. "Well, he's definitely interested in Elizabeth,"

"He is not," Elizabeth spoke up.

"I saw the look he gave you when you gave the welcome to Atlantis speech. I also saw you check him out at lunch last week." Kate looked pointedly at Elizabeth.

Elizabeth ignored her and looked at Teyla. "You know, Laura was telling me you were glowing the last time you came back from the mainland." She smiled lightly at the expression Kate shot her for changing the topic.

Teyla paused before answering. "I may have been."

Kate splashed her. "You never told me."

"You have been too busy to talk lately." Teyla managed to both deflect and rebuke Kate at once.

Elizabeth laughed. "She said she couldn't get anything else out of you though."

"So you are ganging up on me?" Teyla stumbled over the phrase slightly.

Kate nodded seriously before ruining the effect with a grin. "If you want to put it that way."

Elizabeth opened her eyes and they both looked expectantly at Teyla.

Teyla sighed. "There is nothing to tell yet."

"Yet?"

"Yet. Be assured I will tell you all when there is." Kate and Elizabeth both grinned. "Did I tell you all about the feast the Elonians threw for us on our last visit?"

"Smooth, Teyla, smooth." Elizabeth said and Kate burst out laughing. Teyla looked entirely innocent.

"Well you told me about dessert anyway. Why don’t you make Kate jealous?"

Kate raised an eyebrow.

"It was remarkably sweet, yet light."

Kate waited a minute then said incredulously, "That's all you're going to tell me?"

Teyla smiled and closed her eyes.

"She's doing this on purpose." Kat looked at Elizabeth, who nodded.

"I don’t think she likes being ganged up on." She grinned wryly at Kate.

Kate sighed. "It's not my fault I'm living vicariously through the three of you at the minute."

Elizabeth cut off a laugh. "So that's what you are doing?"

Kate splashed her again and they burst into laughter. It died down slowly, and silence settled again as they leaned back to enjoy the water fully.

--

Kate sighed. "I hate to admit it, but I think I'm almost too hot." The sun had started to emerge from the behind their bush and now they weren't in the shade, the temperature increased.

Elizabeth nodded. "We should head back soon."

Teyla agreed. "Although I wonder how much of that is you worrying about Atlantis?" She smiled knowingly.

Kate groaned again. "You had to go and mention that didn’t you?"

Teyla shrugged slightly. "She was going to bring it up at some point."

Kate sighed. "True."

"I am here you know." Elizabeth looked like she was barely resisting the temptation to splash them both again. Teyla smiled as they adjusted themselves so they were in more shade.

"You said you had been to a place like this on Earth?"

Elizabeth nodded, shooting her a smile at the change in topic. "In Iceland."

"Were you there on vacation?" Kate snorted and Teyla smiled. "What work took you there?" Teyla amended the question.

Elizabeth shifted her hair off her neck as her loose bun came tumbling down. She stretched as she redid it. "There was a new discovery of oil in the Arctic and several countries were claiming it. Iceland was chosen to hold the treaty negotiations so I spent a two days unwinding at a spa just outside of Reykjavik after they were over."

Kate whistled softly. "How long were the negotiations?"

Elizabeth closed her eyes as she remembered. "Five days in total. There was a setback in day three just when I thought things were finally settled."

Teyla was frowning. "It must have been contentious if it took you that long to negotiate."

At Elizabeth's bemused look she carried on. "I have seen you negotiate in Pegasus and," she paused to consider her words.

Elizabeth spared her. "It wasn't quite as urgent as things here can get."

All three exchanged a wry smile at that.

Elizabeth blew out a heavy breath and looked at her hands, wrinkled from the water. "I'm definitely too hot."

"And hungry." Kate added.

"Time to get out, I suppose." Elizabeth frowned.

Kate laughed. "I'm going to remind you of this moment every time you object to taking some time off in the future."

Elizabeth splashed Kate again and Kate laughed as they set off on the short swim back to their bags.

They sat on their towels on the rocky ledge, legs dangling in the water as they let the still warm sun dry them. They didn't say much as they drank some of their water and ate some of the sandwiches they had brought.

"How did you find this anyway?" Kate asked Teyla once they were finished and had started drying themselves off with their towels.

"One of the hunting parties was searching for a new flower, and came across this."

"A flower?" Kate looked bemused.

"It is very sweet and has proved to be an excellent addition to many dishes. Of course the fact that it is so unusual helps as well."

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow.

"It is pink and I believe it looks like the cotton candy I have seen in your films."

"I take it the botanists haven’t heard about this yet?" Kate gave a sly look across at Elizabeth as she said it.

Elizabeth ignored her. "It sounds remarkable."

"I believe we could collect a sample for you to take back." Teyla grinned and Elizabeth groaned.

"I don’t know why I ever tell either of you anything."

Kate and Teyla both grinned.

They finished getting dressed, teasing temporarily set aside.

--

They were just as quiet as they carefully made their way back up the hill, only speaking occasionally as they made sure not to slip. The atmosphere was relaxed though and off-key humming could occasionally be heard.

At the top of the hill, they paused again for breath and to admire the view from this side of the hill. When they finally moved, Teyla lead them down a different path than the one they had used approaching the hill, heading away from the settlement. They carried along the path, heading down a slope, taking extra care as the light was starting to fade, turning everything dusky pinks and oranges.

They heard an animal howl in the distance and Kate and Elizabeth automatically stood still. Teyla listened for a moment to identify the animal.

"We are perfectly safe." She pronounced. Kate and Elizabeth relaxed after a minute and carried on walking. The ground slowly levelled out, making it easier to walk.

"I hate to sound like a whiny kid, but are we nearly there yet?" Kate asked after they had stopped again for more water.

Elizabeth snorted with laughter, and Kate shoved her a little. "You know what I mean."

Teyla looked bemused and Elizabeth explained. "It's a common question on long journeys, usually repeated every five minutes by small children."

Teyla nodded then smiled wryly at Kate. "We should not be much longer."

They weren't. They came across the plant, this particular bush about the same height as them. It was resplendent with light green leaves the size of their hands, and small pink blossoms that did indeed look just like a small handful of cotton candy.

Kate and Elizabeth were silent as they admired it.

"It's uncanny," Kate spoke.

Elizabeth nodded and Teyla reached forward and pinched off a blossom.

"It tastes sweet but I am unsure how far the resemblance goes."

She offered the bloom to Elizabeth, who, with a little trepidation, ate it. She looked thoughtful for a moment.

"It tastes as sweet as cotton candy but the texture is the main difference. It lasts longer in your mouth." Elizabeth looked back at the plant. "Taking back a sample seems like a good plan." She turned back around at the sniggers.

Teyla and Kate were smirking at her and Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "The botany department will be fascinated with it."

"Are you sure it's not one botanist in particular you're thinking of?" Kate said and Teyla smiled slyly with her.

Elizabeth sighed in resignation but didn't answer. She turned to face the bush again and bent down to uproot a small section, ignoring the new round of sniggers this caused.

Branch tucked securely in her bag, they set back up the path they had not long climbed down. The quiet mood of the climb down had vanished, replaced by laughter and teasing.

They slowed down slightly when the bushes started to thin out, just starting to make way for the taller tress. The ground was still soft and slippery and none of them were paying quite enough attention. Kate lost her footing first, landing on her side before she started to slide downhill, catching Elizabeth's ankle and sending her down and Teyla followed her in a domino effect.

It was a mad tumble of arms and legs as they slid down the hill, the wet grass giving way easily enough, the slope enough for them to gather a little speed. Luckily the trees weren't too thick and they managed to avoid them and some of the larger bushes, and any serious damage. They kept tumbling until the slope evened out and they lost speed, coming to a halt at the base of small shrub.

"Is everyone all right?" Elizabeth was the first to speak.

Teyla nodded after a moment, Kate following suit.

"That was certainly an interesting diversion." Teyla spoke once they had all checked they were all right. They were still lying heaped together and Elizabeth burst out laughing, Kate and Teyla only a second behind her.

They lay laughing for a minute, they laughter only dying out when the damp from the mud began to seep through their clothing.

Teyla was the first to rise, giving a hand to Elizabeth, then Kate.

They started slowly climbing back up the hill, silence this time as they focused on not falling again.

--

John looked at them as they piled back into the jumper. "I thought you were going for a nice relaxing spa day?" He looked at the grazes on their arms, the patches of mud on their clothes.

"I thought you weren't coming back for us?" Elizabeth retorted as she sat down in the seat beside him, Teyla and Kate sitting down in the row behind.

"Well, I thought, seeing as it was a quiet day," John shrugged.

"Is that a bruise?" Kate asked as she leaned forward. John shrugged again but didn’t say anything.

"I believe Ronan said he was going to provide some training." Teyla was doing her best innocent look again.

"So you wanted to escape." Kate smirked.

"Hey, you gonna let me drive this thing?"

Kate turned to Teyla. "Doesn’t he do this all the time arguing with Rodney?"

Teyla nodded. "Yes, he does."

John shot her a betrayed look and took a different tactic as laughter filled the cabin. "I have to say, I'm surprised you all managed to stay away as long. Especially you." He glanced at Elizabeth.

Kate and Teyla tried not to choke with laughter. "Didn't you have paperwork you were supposed to be doing?" Elizabeth smiled lightly instead.

"I have no idea what you're talking about." John looked ahead as he activated the controls but didn’t say anything else.

All three women snorted with laughter. They quietened down into comfortable silence though as the jumper rose off the ground and they headed back to Atlantis.