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Fic: The Truth about Alliances (Emmagan/Sheppard, Keller/McKay implied, PG)

Title: The Truth about Alliances
Author: vipersweb
Pairing: John/Teyla, Rodney/Keller (implied)
Rating: PG
Recipient: tielan
Spoilers: Through aired episodes of season 5
Summary: Teyla always knew she should have explained the way alliances worked in Pegasus before someone else did. Too bad she doesn't have that option anymore.
Author's Note: tielan asked for John/Teyla, Teyla-and-team, Teyla being awesome, some action and adventure. I hope I've managed at least some of that. Happy Holidays!

*

It started out like any other mission. Rodney had found a reference in the Ancient database to a planet connected with ZPM production and insisted on AR-1 visiting it. For whatever reason, but likely the dream of presenting the IOA with their very own ZPM manufacturing center, Mr. Woolsey had yet to learn that just because the database said one thing, did not meant it actually existed. Elizabeth, and even Colonel Carter, had learned fairly quickly to gain as much information about the planet Rodney - or any of the other science teams - insisted absolutely vital to Atlantis and her survival before agreeing to commit a team to explore it. And despite leading Atlantis for over a year, Mr. Woolsey had not learned this lesson yet, something Teyla thought that all of them - barring Rodney - wished he had.

The quest for ZPMs and the ability to manufacture them had always existed for the expedition. And frankly, Teyla would not mind if they had an extra one or two lying around. ZPMs meant Atlantis remained safe and could defend herself against whoever attacked the City. While others in Pegasus might complain about the arrogance of the 'Lanteans and their inability to even pretend to understand Pegasus cultures, almost everyone agreed that Atlantis provided the best answer to the Wraith. No matter how much some might abhor it, the future of the Pegasus Galaxy lay with the expedition members. Not that any of them would cease their own fight against the Wraith - oh never that. Just... the 'Lanteans had the best tools and the most resources for coordinating the war against the Wraith.

Despite the usefulness of ZPMs, finding them had proven elusive. Rodney and Dr. Zelenka had not yet discovered a means of producing new ones or recharging old ones. They and their teams scoured the Ancient database looking for any and all references to ZPMs. This had often led the Atlantis exploration teams on what seemed like wild-trevanil chases - except that they never returned with even that tasty animal as proof of their hunt.

"The IOA wants ZPMs, not just for Atlantis, but also for Earth and the X-303s. Woolsey told me it's one of the big things they keep pushing him for," John had confided in her a few weeks ago as he walked her back to her quarters after a team night, something he had suddenly started doing in the past few months. "I think he's feeling the pressure of being in charge of Atlantis. And since he's not exactly toed the company line since arriving, finding ZPMs or how to make them would help him back on Earth."

"Would the IOA truly replace him? So soon after Colonel Carter?" Teyla had asked.

John had grimaced. "Politics. I don't really know... and none of my usual contacts can tell me either." He had not said anything more but in the following weeks, Teyla had observed how Mr. Woolsey had appeared more stressed than before. Similarly, both John and Major Lorne had started to look more concerned. It therefore had not truly surprised her when Mr. Woolsey had leapt upon Rodney's suggestion.

"And you're sure that the database actually said ZPM production?" Mr. Woolsey asked.

"Yes, yes. I wouldn't suggest it otherwise," Rodney insisted.

"What else does it say about the planet?" John interjected. "Ronon, Teyla, do you know anything about it?"

"Like they would know," Rodney stated. Teyla raised an eyebrow at him. "I mean, not that they wouldn't know, but Sheppard. Do you realize what this could mean? ZedPM production."

John sighed. "It's not that I don't care about ZPM production, McKay. I'm more concerned about what potential dangers might be on the planet."

"We'll be safe," Rodney insisted.

"Right," John drawled. "Safe. Because all the other planets we've visited due to ZPMs have been safe."

"They have been!"

"What about that planet two years ago? The one you insisted was safe?" Ronon rumbled, surprising Mr. Woolsey by speaking more than one word. "The one with the rimpols guarding it?"

Teyla hid a smile as Rodney sputtered and protested. She would not forget that particular planet anytime soon. Not only had they all ended in the infirmary afterwards with various broken limbs and lacerations gotten as they tried to flee from the rimpols, but Teyla and Ronon had to sit through hours of sentences that started out with "Dinosaurs. This fucking galaxy has fucking dinosaurs!" and ended with "Why didn't you tell me that you guys have dinosaurs?" Neither Teyla nor Ronon had any idea what a dinosaur actually was, but that had been cleared up at the next movie night, when Dr. Zelenka had insisted they watch Jurassic Park, much to the disgust of Rodney. "Very funny, Radek," he had muttered, scowling. He hadn't left though because Ronon had refused to let him. He had claimed he stayed because he didn't want "Conan to beat me up if I did, because no one could afford for me to lose my precious brain cells." Everyone had just smiled at his complaint.

Teyla had looked over at John, wondering if he too had a problem with watching the movie. John had just grinned. "Dinosaurs," he had said, shaking his head with a huge grin on his face. "I loved dinos when I was a kid. It's every kids dream to see real, actual dinos." Clearly, he had no problem with the film, despite their recent adventures.

By the end of the movie, she had realized why John and Rodney had thought the rimpols resembled dinosaurs. Rimpols did not actually live on very many planets in Pegasus. Everyone knew to avoid the ones on which they did live, because of how dangerous the creatures were. Still, enough people were foolhardy enough to visit one of the planets every few years, keeping the stories about the rimpol alive. It was just unfortunate for AR-1 that no one had visited the planet they went to in generations, so none of the Athosians could warn them to avoid it.

She returned her attention to Rodney as he continued "One planet. One planet where we mistranslated something. But this... this could completely solve our power problems," Rodney wheedled.

Mr. Woolsey took back control of the meeting. "If Ronon and Teyla don't know anything about the planet and Dr. McKay is correct about the ZPM production, I don't see why you can't visit it."

"Great," Rodney said, bouncing in excitement. "I can't wait to tell Radek. This is going to be great."

__

"Everybody has their gear, right?" John asked the next morning as they prepared to head out. He handed Teyla an extra sidearm, additional rounds for the P-90 and extra C4. Apparently, John did not plan to rely on the Rodney's assurances on the information in the database. She could not blame him, given their past experiences with attempting to track down and find ZPMs.

"I don't know why you're so nervous, Sheppard," Rodney complained.

"Better to be safe than sorry, Rodney." The scientist chose to ignore John's comment. Teyla watched as Ronon shrugged his shoulders, loosening them up, his hand on his blaster in preparation of going through the wormhole. John, she noted, had that tight look on his face, the one that told her he did not have a good feeling about their mission. Truthfully, she too felt nervous. None of their trips that revolved around ZPMs had a happy outcome. She didn't know why Rodney would think otherwise. But then, like Mr. Woolsey, Rodney seemed blinded by the idea that they might find the answer to ZPM production, and with it, the answer to many of their power and defense problems.

For the first time in a long while, Teyla felt skittish entering the wormhole. She only hoped that the misgivings most of the team felt did not prove true.

-

MTR-572 did not, at first glance, appear any more dangerous than any other planet in the Pegasus Galaxy. In many ways it reminded Teyla of Athos, and she breathed in the aromas of her childhood, a smiling tilting at her lips. The krithis trees were in bloom, their scent perfuming the air around the Ring. Ronon continued to look alert, his eyes scanning the surrounding area.

"McKay, getting anything?" John asked tersely.

"Give me a minute. This can take time, even if I am a genius," Rodney muttered.

John exchanged a look with Teyla, full of tolerance and just a bit of worry. She could understand.

"This way," Rodney suddenly announced, pointing toward the west. "Energy readings... looks Ancient!" he crowed while heading out. Ronon took a few long strides to overtake him, keeping Rodney behind him. John and Teyla followed a short distance behind the other two.

"Your people know anything about this planet?" John asked her quietly.

"I did not have a chance to ask before we left. I do not remember any warnings from my childhood though," she told him. She shrugged. "We can only hope that Rodney's quest does not end as so many of the others have. Jennifer did ask that we try not to run into any danger."

"Well, that's helpful."

"Yes, is it not?" Teyla grinned. John just shook his head in amusement. Up ahead, Ronon suddenly halted, Rodney almost walking into him.

"What? Why did you stop?" he demanded.

"Something's not right." John and Teyla hurried to catch up with the other two.

"Ronon?" John asked.

"Too quiet. Something's wrong."

"Look, the energy signature is straight ahead. We can't stop here!"

"McKay," John warned. He got a glare and a humph in response, but Rodney stilled.

"Ronon?" Teyla asked softly. She stretched her own senses, but did not feel anything. Frustrating, but at least it meant whatever Ronon sensed, it wasn't the Wraith.

He shook his head, dreadlocks swinging gently with the motion, blaster in hand. John, she noted, had unclipped his P-90 and scanned the surrounding trees, before reaching into his tac vest and pulling out the life sign detector he normally carried. The slight shake of his head told them that he did not have anything on the LSD. Even Rodney seemed more alert, trading his scanner for a nine millimeter. And yet, nothing really stood out as a threat. Leaves rustled and insects buzzed happily in the air. No bird song or animal noises though. Perhaps their own tramping through the undergrowth had scared them away, but Teyla did not think that Ronon would call for a halt for that. His seven years as a Runner had given him an uncanny sense of when danger loomed.

John waited for a sign. Eventually, Ronon shrugged; whatever he had sensed had either moved on, or, as Teyla suspected, he had decided that continuing to remain here did not serve any purpose. They all moved forward, caution making them move slowly and carefully as Rodney again directed Ronon towards the energy signal.

Despite their care, despite Ronon's almost extrasensory ability at knowing when someone followed them, the ambush still took them all by surprise.

"Sheppard!" Ronon managed to get out before falling to a stunner. It warned John enough to aim his P-90 towards the direction of the stunner. He sprayed the woods with a few short bursts before being felled by a stunner as well. Rodney, meanwhile, had dropped to the ground as soon as Ronon had fallen, scanner on the ground, nine millimeter pointing wildly around him. "Fuck! Ronon? Sheppard?" he called out. Teyla had moved to cover Ronon as soon as he fell, search for whoever had attacked them, but unable to see them. Within moments of stunning John, they stunned Rodney. Soon, she too felt the odd electrical charge that signaled the work of a stunner. She grimaced, wondering who had attacked them as she slumped into unconsciousness.

__

They woke up in a cell. Such an occurrence did not surprise Teyla. Or John, Ronon, or Rodney. Such had happened more than once in the past, and, Teyla had to admit, would likely happen in the future. AR-1 did seem to get captured more often than not on their missions. And really, this was in line with every other ZPM-hunting mission on which they had gone. Their... hosts had at least placed them in the same cell.

Her eyes took a moment to adjust in the darkness. Some natural light streamed in from a few crack in the boarded up windows. Torchlight flickered alongside the outside walls of their cell. She had enough to see by. The cell resembled every other cell in which they had found themselves in the past, if not on the dingier side. Straw pallets on the floor, a bucket for waste, the walls slightly damp to the touch. She wrinkled her nose in distaste. Not the best of accommodations, but they had had worse.

Rodney was laid out on a pallet, still unconscious, as near as she could tell. Both Ronon and John had woken from being stunned. They sat with their backs to the wall, their eyes focused on the entrance of their cell.

"Teyla?" John asked quietly. "You okay?"

"A bit stiff, but otherwise fine," she reassured him. She saw his sharp nod. A quick glance at Ronon confirmed he was also alright, though he looked angry at getting blind-sided.

"No one's been by," John continued, knowing she would want that information.

"Argh..." Rodney interrupted. Teyla reflexively glanced over at their fourth member. "What happened?" Sitting up, he blinked at their surroundings before his shoulders slumped. "Great. We got captured... again."

"Told you we shouldn't have come," Ronon muttered.

"It's not my fault! Don't blame me!" Rodney protested. "The database said nothing about crazy crack ninjas."

"McKay, Ronon," John reprimanded. It was enough. Teyla hid her smile, even though the light was truly too dim for the others to see it. Usually, it was she that scolded the others like the recalcitrant children they often resembled.

Teyla took the time to examine what - if anything - she had been left with. Not surprisingly, most of her weapons had disappeared. She did have the extra C4, but her extra guns had been taken, along with her P-90.

"I have some C4, John," she offered. She heard the scratch of material against the floor as he shifted to face her.

"Yeah, me too. Ronon managed to keep a couple of his knives, so we're not completely without weapons."

"Oh no! No, no, no, no!" Rodney protested quickly. "You're not blowing us out of here with the C4. It's too dangerous!"

"Relax, McKay! No one's going to blow anything up," John assured him. Ronon grunted.

"Not yet, at least," Ronon added. He stood up. "At least we're not bound."

Truly a blessing, Teyla reflected. Of course, the fact that neither Ronon or John had informed them of the plan to escape told Teyla that they did not yet have one. That worried her more than she wanted to admit.

"So?" Rodney asked impatiently.

"What?" John asked in confusion.

"What's our escape plan?"

"Don't have one," John replied.

"Oh, great. Just great. How the hell are we supposed to get out of here?"

"Patience, McKay!" John barked. "We'll figure it out."

Just then, Teyla heard the scrapping of a key to a lock and the squeak of a door opening. "John," she warned. They all stood, all in line, ready for whatever would come. A light grew brighter as foot steps neared their cell, until at last the owners of the feet appeared before them.

Three men stood in front of the cell; two were clearly acting as guards, dressed in a rough sort of uniform. Not, Teyla was happy to note, that of the Genii, but definitely more professional than they normally saw. The third man had the look of a bureaucrat and wore a fancier sort of uniform than the guards.

"Hi there," John greeted them, fake smile plastered on his face. Teyla bit her lip to keep from laughing. Or hitting him for his facetious manner.

"Who speaks for you?" the one in charge asked.

Teyla stepped forward before John could say anything. "I do." Of them all, she alone had the diplomatic skills that could get them out of here without bloodshed or explosions.

"Come with us," the man ordered as a guard opened the cell door.

"Teyla, wait!" John said, grabbing her arm. "Be careful. Please."

She smiled, bringing his head down towards her's in the manner of her people. "I will be fine, John." She knew he only worried because he had such a strong sense of responsibility and did not - would not - ask any of them to do what he could not. He had served as speaker in the past, but this time Teyla suspected they needed someone who understood Pegasus, understood the intricacies that underlay the actions that so often confused the 'Lanteans.

He smiled weakly in response. He looked as if he wanted to say something else, but he surprisingly held his tongue, content to rely on her and her abilities, despite how much he might hate it. She had noted that he had done that more and more lately. John had always respected her and, in fact, had relied on her diplomatic abilities in the past, but he was also always reluctant to place her - or anyone else, she had to admit - in danger. He would consider a situation like this as placing her in danger. And yet, ever since Kanaan had moved to live on New Athos permanently, John had slowly stopped treating her as if she were delicate and not the leader of her people long before he met her. She did not know what had brought that change of heart, but she would not complain. Similarly, her other teammates seemed content to let her go, trusting that she would somehow get them released from here.

__

The three men brought her to a brightly lit hall. Teyla did not recognize any of the people, but that did not mean anything, not really. Richly colored tapestries hung from the walls, depicting various scenes of everyday life in Pegasus. Such could be bought at the markets but not cheaply. It certainly implied a level of wealth to their hosts. At the head of the hall, a group of five men and women sat at a long table. In front of that table, stood another chair, covered with an embroidered seat cushion. One of the men indicated she should sit and Teyla gracefully did so. Her guards slipped to the sides of the hall and the third man took his seat at the table before her.

"We have heard of the men and women who travel through the Ring from the City of the Ancestors. What do the 'Lanteans want with Trevali?" one of the women asked.

Teyla had never heard of Trevali. Presumably, it was the name of the planet. While she was surprised that they had guessed AR-1 was from Atlantis, she also knew that in the last six years, the people of Pegasus had come to recognize the weapons used and the uniforms worn by the expedition members. Even without the arm patches declaring allegiance to Atlantis, it did not astonish her that their captors recognized from where they had come. "We did not mean to trespass. Our apologies if we have," she began. "We are explorers and seek allies through our travels. We came here seeking knowledge of the Ancestors."

"Explorers? We have heard the 'Lanteans called many things, but explorers? Rarely."

"Be that as it may, we do seek to harm anyone."

"You are not 'Lantean. What is your name?" a second person asked. Teyla turned to look him in the eye, even as she wondered how he could tell. But then, for all that she had adopted the outward appearance of the 'Lantean uniform, she wore an Athosian-spun shirt. Still, it concerned her that they could recognize that she was native to Pegasus, given her company. But then, she wondered, how many other teams from Atlantis included one of the few remaining Satedans? Given the amount of trouble in which AR-1 typically found themselves, she knew that many in Pegasus had heard of them and could identify them. So yes. Maybe not fully surprising that they knew she was not fully 'Lantean.

"Teyla Emmagen of Athos and Atlantis." She would not deny her connection to the City. She had linked her future to the expedition's years ago and while she might have, on occasion, resented it, more often than not, she took pride in doing so.

"Ah. The leader of the Athosians."

"As you say." Despite living on Atlantis full time, her people still considered her their leader. Halling, Fion, Seriya, and Marik sat as councilors, ruling in her absence. She tried to visit New Athos at least once a week, usually bringing Torren with her so that not only could Kanaan spend time with his son but also their child could know his people. Last time she had visited, Kanaan had pulled her aside and informed her that he intended to marry Marthe, a distant cousin of Teyla's. It was a courtesy only, as she and he had only entered into a short-term union, designed to provide a child for Athos and cement the ties between Teyla's Athosians and their distant kin. Kanaan's family came from a group of Athosians who had opted to move to a different planet a few generations ago. Every generation, a small number from each group entered into agreements like the one Teyla and Kanaan had.

It was trite, but life was incredibly precious in Pegasus. People did not expect to live long, the Wraith made sure of that. Even when the Wraith hibernated, enough stayed awake and fed on the population of Pegasus that each generation feared and knew the Wraith and the destruction they could bring at a mere moment's notice.

"Hmm...," her questioner commented. Teyla wondered what exactly the Trevali wanted to know. "Why did you come here this day? We have very few visitors, though we often travel to other worlds."

"As I said before. We seek knowledge left by the Ancestors. We had reason to believe that such could be found here," she replied calmly.

"Perhaps. Why should we allow you access to our home?" another man interjected.

"We did not mean to offend by traveling here. If you want us gone, merely release us and we will depart and won't return. But I do not understand why you persist in believing we wish you harm," she commented with some concern. Teyla did not understand why they seemed so concerned. For all that the expedition had... offended some of the population of Pegasus, they had only ever responded with force when they themselves were first attacked. And yes, they had woken the Wraith, but they had not run from that and fought as much as any against them.

"How dare you!"

"Peace, Kervil!" another commanded. "She speaks truth." She turned towards Teyla and inclined her head. "I am Rethi. To my right is Troub, Edas, and Marji. To my left, Linn and Kervil. We are the ruling council of Trevali. Excuse my colleague. We have heard many tales of the travelers who came from far away to live in the City of the Ancestors. Not all have been... positive. You might understand our... concern."

"I cannot speak to the tales you might have heard, Councilor Rethi. I can only speak the truth that is in my heart." She had been wise to insist on representing AR-1 and not letting John do so. He would not understand how to handle this. For all Kervil's hostility, Teyla suspected she could negotiate with the other council members for access to what they had originally come here seeking.

"Well spoken, Teyla Emmagen," Troub complimented. "You are of Pegasus, have known the 'Lanteans the longest of any of us. Tell us, if you will, Leader of the Athosians, why do ally with them?"

Teyla sighed before allowing a small smile to cross her lips. "Your question is a complicated one, but I will answer it to the best of my abilities." She paused to gather her thoughts. "The 'Lanteans are a good people. They do not knowingly place others in danger and try to help those they can. I believe they are our best hope at defeating the Wraith forever." Short, simple, but truth.

The council continued to question her and Teyla did her best to explain what exactly the 'Lanteans sought, both with Atlantis and Pegasus. She suspected their questioning went beyond the Trevali's seemingly cautious nature, and thought that they might want to enter into an actual alliance with the 'Lanteans. Perhaps this mission would not end with yet another hash mark on the "Missions Team Sheppard get captured" poster that hung in one of the City's rec rooms.

At last, Rethi nodded. "You have assured us greatly, Teyla Emmagen. We will allow your friends to join us and we will see to what agreement we can come."

"Thank you, Councilors." She smiled in response, feeling a bit light hearted at Rethi's decision. Atlantis needed some positive news, and an alliance with the Trevali, especially if it did lead to discovering how to manufacture ZPMs could only mean good things for the future of Atlantis. Mr. Woolsey, at least, would be happy if their mission was a success.

"Come, Teyla Emmagen. We will take you to your team."

__

John came straight to Teyla as soon as the guards brought them to what looked like an ante room. It was, Teyla was pleased to note, a far nicer accommodation than their jail cell, almost as richly decorated as the hall. It seemed that with AR-1 no longer considered a threat, the Trevali were happy to display their hospitality to their guests.

"Teyla," John said, reaching for her before halting his action, his hands dropping to his side. Teyla took pity on him and pulled him into the Athosian greeting. He rested his forehead against hers, each breathing in the others scent. "You were gone a while," he said with concern.

"Yes. They had... concerns." She did not think she would ever tell him the extent of how suspicious the Trevali were. She smiled gently as John pulled back from her, the tips of his ears coloring a bit as he rubbed his wristband, something he usually only did when he was nervous. She wondered briefly at that, before Ronon grabbed her in a hug, exuberant as always, and Rodney told her he was glad she was alive and not dead.

"Councilor Rethi has agree to negotiate with us for access to the site you are interested in, Rodney," Teyla informed them.

"Hmph. At least this wasn't a complete waste," Rodney responded. "Though, if this is how they treat all their visitors, I'm not surprised no one knows them."

"I suspect they have their own allies, Rodney," Teyla replied. "They told me that they rarely have visitors, but that they do visit other planets."

___

After a period of rest - just long enough for Teyla to provide a brief summary of her interaction with the Council - the guards brought all of the team to meet with the Councilors. Rather than the imposing hall in which they had interrogated Teyla, they were met in a smaller, more informal room. After making introductions, Teyla watched as Troub and Edas skillfully interrogated Rodney as to why exactly he sought the site of the Ancestors. Ronon, she noted, seemed to get along quite well with Kervil, who, as she now found out, was in charge of the Trevali military and guards. This explained so much regarding his attitude earlier. Obviously, he was concerned about keeping his people safe, and even Teyla had to admit that allying with the 'Lanteans did not always bring peace. Rethi had chosen to speak with John, which just left the remaining councilors for Teyla to speak to.

Surprisingly, given how much the Trevali had wanted to know about the 'Lanteans, they quickly came to an agreement about access to the production facility. This confirmed for Teyla her belief that part of the reason behind questioning her for so long and so in depth was that they desired a true alliance with the 'Lanteans. And indeed, after the evening meal, Rethi had announced that they were willing to allow Rodney access.

"Teyla has convinced us that you are all doing your best to defeat the Wraith. If Dr. McKay is correct, and we can help provide information that could lead to their defeat, we would be quite foolish to forbid you access."

"Thank you, Councilor Rethi," John replied, bowing his head respectfully. "I hope we can continue to have a long and fruitful relationship." Teyla hid her wince and noted that Ronon had done the same. Rethi, for her part, exchanged a sharp glance with some of her co-councilors.

"Colonel Sheppard, you are not native to Pegasus. Truthfully, we would like the relationship you have just suggested. But, I don't think you're aware of what you have just offered. Speak with your Pegasus allies before offering us this." She smiled kindly at John's confusion. "It is late now; we will let you sleep and speak again in the morning." John nodded, frowning with confusion, as they all followed the guards to yet another suite of rooms, this time suitable for sleeping.

Teyla, however, suspected they would not be going to sleep anytime soon. Instead, she expected to have to explain just what Rethi had meant with her words.

__

Teyla knew that her failure to explain to the expedition members the complex set of rule and customs that governed alliances in Pegasus would come back to haunt her. She just hadn't realized it would take close to six years for it to happen.

In all fairness, it had not occurred to her that the 'Lanteans would not know the customs. It was inconceivable to her that they would not know. And once she discovered they did not have any understanding, she was too embarrassed to explain. Ronon had confronted her not long after he became a full time member of AR-1 and asked why the Athosians had not educated their allies. Teyla had shrugged and, rather uncomfortably, admitted to the misunderstanding.

"It was rather chaotic when we first met them. And we owed a debt to them. They came after us, rescued us from the Wraith, and gave us a new home." Ronon, she remembered, had nodded in understanding. The Wraith were powerful, more powerful than pretty much everyone else in Pegasus. Very few people were suicidal enough to go after people taken by the Wraith. That John had done so that first time, spoke more to his not understanding exactly what the Wraith were. That he continued to do so afterwards, spoke to his character and stubborn belief of not leaving anyone behind.

"So what, you just figured they knew?" he had asked.

Teyla had nodded. "By the time we realized they did not know or have any understanding, we could not exactly... step away from our own commitment to them. And now, most of my people are convinced they are the best hope we have to defeat the Wraith."

Surprisingly, Ronon had just shrugged in acceptance of her explanation. Even now, nearly four years after that conversation, Teyla still believed the truth of her words to him. The 'Lanteans would figure out how to defeat the Wraith. And it was her steadfast belief in this, that had, time and time again, convinced the Athosians not to break their alliance, even with the expedition members not following any of the traditional means of cementing it.

"Teyla, what did she mean?" John asked. She winced at his voice. He was not happy. Rodney, for once, was not demanding answers, but then, he had gotten what they had come here for.

"It is complicated," Teyla began.

"Well, uncomplicate it for me!" John demanded, his eyes narrowing in anger. Yes, John was most definitely not happy.

Teyla sighed. How to explain the underpinnings of Pegasus culture to those, who despite living here for the last six years, had never seemed to understand that Pegasus was different from Earth. She looked at Ronon, wondering if he had any ideas. He just stared at her, arms crossed, long legs stretched in front of him. She wrinkled her nose as she realized he was leaving her to explain it all.

So she did. She explained how alliances worked in Pegasus, from the simple to the more extravagant. She told John and Rodney how most long-term agreements were cemented through the adoption of a few people by each of the allying parties - or marriage.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

As she had when Ronon had asked four years ago, Teyla shrugged, not meeting John's eyes. "I did not realize you were not... aware of all this for a great many months. And then..." she trailed off. How to explain that with realization came embarrassment? That John had asked her to join his team only for her knowledge and not because it was the first step to cementing a long-term alliance - and this realization had forced her to reassess her interactions with the expedition. She looked at John helplessly, her eyes trying to convey it all as she did not have the words necessary to really explain.

"Wait, is that why we have so many problems?" Rodney suddenly asked.

John turned towards Rodney with a startled look. "What do you mean?"

"Well, you know... with the Genii and everyone else."

Ronon finally took pity on Teyla. "Yep."

"Isn't that kind of important for us to know?" John asked tensely.

"Nope. Most people are willing to overlook it because you have Teyla. The relationship you have with the Athosians is enough for most people to enter into the basic alliances you've got. But... it's also enough for them to hold back. Everyone figured that you weren't interested in anything long term, since you didn't do anything with the Athosians - they're the ones with closest ties to you." Ronon shrugged. "Everyone knows you're not from here, even if you're the ones doing the most damage to the Wraith. Until recently, no one had proof that any of you considered Atlantis anything more than a temporary home."

Rodney's brow furrowed. "Wait... what?"

"Three years ago, when you came back for Atlantis. And... your rescue of the Athosians kidnaped by Michael. The destruction of the Replicators. That alien race we found on New Lantea - the ones you sent to a new home instead of just downloading the information." Ronon ticked off each of the points with a finger.

John and Rodney looked stunned - and they might well have been. Maybe Teyla should have told them all of this years ago. She did not really know.

"What Ronon does not say is that you also confuse everyone," Teyla finally said, breaking the silence that had fallen. "You freely offer humanitarian and military aid to those you consider allies, but yet you do not enter into long- or short-term child arrangements. With the exception of myself, Ronon and a few of my people, you do not allow anyone else to live and work on Atlantis."

Slumping further into his chair, John just looked as if they had just turned everything he knew upside down. In a way they had; Teyla actually feared his reaction, another reason she had kept quiet for so long. Cowardly, perhaps, but she had been content with the relationship she had with the expedition members. She had hoped - oh how she had hoped - that John would see her as someone other than a teammate, but he had never made a move. And after the Ancestors had reclaimed Atlantis for a short period of time and the 'Lanteans had returned to their home, she had agreed to the arrangement with Kanaan. The House of Emmagen needed a child. She loved and adored her son and had been thrilled when John accepted his role as godfather. It meant he was a part of her life, and - incidentally - cemented further the alliance with the Athosians. Not as strong as if someone from Atlantis had agreed to a short-term arrangement, but enough to quell any voices of discontent.

But now these revelations... she did not know where the future would take them.

"I have to... have to..." John finally stuttered, before just shaking his head and retreating to one of the bedrooms. Rodney hesitated a moment before heading to a second one, leaving Ronon and Teyla together.

"You knew they would find out someday," he finally said.

"I know," she replied. She smiled weakly. "I did not think it would be so hard. Or maybe I did and that is why I tried so hard to ignore it, content to believe that the gestures they made sufficed."

"It will be alright. Sheppard just needs time. You're too important to him." He placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, squeezing in support.

Teyla smiled weakly. She did not know if he was right - but she hoped so.

__

"Were you ever going to tell me?" Teyla's head jerked up in surprise at John's harshly asked question.

"I do not know," she said truthfully. "I have always know you came from somewhere... different than Pegasus. When I first met you though... I had no idea you did not have the same or similar customs that we did. By the time I discovered just how different our... homes were..." she paused, gave a rueful shrug. "My people were already content with what we had. And the expedition seemed intent on remaining isolated - not wanting to further relations beyond the minimal, with all we met."

"Is this why Ronon's been dropping hints to me?"

Teyla's brow furrowed in confusion. "Hints?"

John sighed, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "Ever since Kanaan left Atlantis. Ronon... he's... urged me to, um..." he broke off in embarrassment.

"Is that why... you've been acting as you have with me?" she asked in surprise. Suddenly, all the different ways in which John's behavior towards her had changed in the last few months started to make sense.

"Kinda," John finally confessed. "When we went to Michael's complex - the one that imploded on us?" She nodded in understanding. "I was out of it... for a while. Hallucinating. And said some... things... Ronon heard."

After six years, Teyla was well versed in interpreting what John meant, even when he gave her as little as that. Her heart leapt in excitement. "You mean..."

He nodded slightly. Teyla smiled widely. "But then, you were still missing, and then you had Torren and Kanaan. I didn't want to get in the way."

And now it made sense as to why John had not started his rather strange courtship of her - and that is what it had to be - until Kanaan had left Atlantis for New Athos. She had caught a few glimpses of... something on his face throughout her pregnancy, but had always dismissed it as fanciful. Now she realized that of course he would not act unless urged to. His team was his family, and he would not wish to disrupt it if she did not return the growing affection he had for her. She silently thanked Ronon for pushing John to act on his feeling. She vowed to find a suitable gift to thank him.

Placing a hand on his, she squeezed it gently in understanding. "We have much to learn of each other's cultures, John. I did not truly understand just how different Earth was from Pegasus until Ronon came back after Carson's funeral. Only then, after speaking with him, did I begin to understand. You have an entire planet, populated with more people than I can imagine, and nothing as dangerous as the Wraith. The rules and customs that bind us together in Pegasus exist for our protection against the Wraith."

John nodded, frowning a bit and staring at the hand Teyla had on him. "I don't know what we can do... Atlantis answers to the IOA and they're pretty against, um... relationships with... non-Earth people. And, uh... the kids thing? I don't think they would like that."

"No, I do not think they would," she agreed.

"What can we do then?" Rodney's voice asked from the door he leaned against, startling them. "Sorry, sorry," he apologized, flapping his hands at them. "I heard you talking."

"McKay!" John snapped; Teyla was sure he felt embarrassed at having the other man overhear his confession.

"Whatever, Sheppard. We all knew it," Rodney said in dismissal. "Everyone knows how protective you are of her."

John glowered by her side. He was about to say something else, but Ronon laughed from the doorway of the room he had disappeared into earlier. "What the hell? Is everyone eavesdropping?"

"Calm down, John. They are family," Teyla reminded him. It seemed to work.

"So? Now that we know, what can we do?" Rodney again asked, reclaiming his seat from earlier.

"Do we actually need to do anything?" John asked.

Teyla slowly shook her head. "For the most part, no. The people you've already met have grown used to the way you act. So it is not necessary. But, it would be... helpful if you did. Ronon mentioned the Genii earlier. Part of the reason Ladon has difficulty controlling some of his people is because while you provide some of the services that would come from a long-term assistance agreement, you ignore others."

"So if we let some of the Genii on Atlantis, that might change?" John asked reluctantly. "The IOA is not going to go for that. Not after all the trouble we've had with them."

"Maybe not now, but maybe..." Rodney started. He looked up. "Look, we all know that there are different groups of people on Atlantis. There are those that just come for a tour or two and then return back to Earth. There are those that consider everything on Atlantis as belonging to us, and that we need to protect it against everyone and everything. And then there are those that found a new home... a new purpose."

John seemed to understand what Rodney was hinting at. Then again, she had long known that John considered Atlantis home. After he had returned from that enforced six weeks back on Earth, he had confessed how much it had hurt to have to leave Atlantis and her and Ronon. Of course he would understand Rodney's characterization of the expedition members. "So if we..." he trailed off in thought. "Not right away, but over time... slowly. It would take years."

"So? It's not like I want to leave Atlantis. My new contract isn't up for another four years."

"And if Jennifer wanted to leave Atlantis?" John asked.

He shrugged in response. "She won't. She likes it here, more than she did on Earth."

"John?" Teyla asked. She understood - for the most part - the conversation between the two, but not all.

"Here's the deal," he announced, sitting forward in his chair. "You teach us what we need to know, and we start making sure some of it happens."

"You can do that?" Ronon asked skeptically. Teyla shared the same concerns. They were acting rather confident about their abilities to change the 'Lantean's interactions with Pegasus and her people.

Rodney and John exchanged a look of their own. Clearly the were hiding something - what, they evidently meant to keep to themselves. It frustrated Teyla, but... she also trusted the two of them to tell her what she needed to know when it became necessary. If they did not speak of it, then it was likely for her and Ronon's protection. "Not now. But as long as we start small, we can. The Trevali seem like they are more... advanced than a lot of the people we've met," John said.

"Yes, that is true," Teyla agreed. The fact the Trevali not only identified but even began to study the Ancient site did indicate a degree of advanced knowledge that most in Pegasus managed to gain. Usually the Wraith managed to destroy them before they could get to that level.

"How do we get them as allies? I mean, more than what we already have, not just the access to the Ancient site."

Teyla smirked. "Perhaps a... scientific exchange would work."

John nodded in agreement. "Some of our scientists for theirs?"

"It's a start," Ronon agreed.

Teyla, while happy at their acceptance of all they had been told this night, was also shocked. She had trouble believing that any of this had happened. She stole a glance at John; he looked at her with unfathomable eyes. The room filled with a tension that had nothing to do with alliances or the Trevali and everything to do with John and Teyla and all that had been revealed. Ronon understood, or at least knew he had no place in the room, not anymore. He grabbed Rodney, ignoring his screeching at being manhandled and left John and Teyla to themselves.

"I wish you had told me," he told her, breaking the silence, his words cutting through the thick, emotion-rich atmosphere. Did he mean the different ways of cementing alliances? Or her feelings for him? She could not tell, his face in shadow - purposefully, she was sure. His body tense, shoulders hunched, even his hands sitting stiffly on his thighs. Her heart ached. She had never meant to hurt him, never meant to deceive him.

"I am sorry for not," she finally said, not really knowing what else to say.

"I know," he finally replied with a crooked smile. And maybe he did. Maybe he understood exactly why she had never told him the way alliances worked in Pegasus. Or why she had never told him of her attraction to him. "We'll work it out." He said it like a promise. Teyla smiled in response, trusting in his words.

__

"Colonel Sheppard," Mr. Woolsey greeted, as the Ring snapped shut behind the four. "I was starting to get worried," he continued, walking down the steps to the gate room proper.

"We met up with the natives of the planet," John explained.

"Oh?" he asked, voice filled with a mixture of curiosity and fear.

"Yeah. We worked out an agreement with them, thanks to Teyla. They'll let McKay and his scientists have access, as long as they share what they find."

"Is that really wise?" Mr. Woolsey asked, quietly.

"Mr. Woolsey, they allowed Rodney to examine the site before we came to a full agreement. Rodney thinks that even if it doesn't lead us to ZPMs, the information it does contain will be very useful," John replied carefully. Teyla could hear the restrained anger in his voice.

"Yes, yes. The site is even better than I though it would be. The Trevali actually seem halfway competent," Rodney hastened to interject, giving John to calm down while showing his support of the decision to Mr. Woolsey. In face of that, the man just jerked his head in acceptance.

"I'm sure your report will be fascinating," he finally said, allowing them to get to the infirmary for their post-mission checkup. Probably none too soon.

__

Weeks later, Teyla watched as John, obeying the instructions given to him by Rodney and the Trevali scientists, opened a previously hidden door in the Ancient's complex. With a wheezing groan, the door finally opened, air hissing as it escaped after who knew how long. Rodney looked as if he wanted to rush in; fortunately he waited until the sensors actually indicated the air was safe from any toxins or other harmful gases. John and Ronon, assisted by Kervil and one of his men, insisted on entering first. Only after they gave the all clear, were the scientists allowed in. They took the safety of their scientists seriously. Kervil had explained how when they first discovered the complex, they had not been as careful, and as a result, had lost a few of their top scientists. They had immediately instituted security protocols to ensure it would not happen again.

It was with some amusement that, minutes later, Teyla radioed for a medic for assistance. Rodney, it seemed, had fainted upon entering and discovering a fully charged ZPM. One which, according to John's comment over the radio, lay in the cradle in which it had been clearly manufactured. They had found it. Teyla laughed as all around her people exploded in exciting chatter. Even if the facility no longer worked, she knew Rodney, with the help of Dr. Zelenka and the Trevali would figure out how to either fix it, or build a brand new one.

"Rodney's refusing to leave," John said after emerging from the door and moving to stand next to her.

"Of course he is," Teyla responded. "We will likely need to send Jennifer in to get him."

"They don't need me for now. Want to get a bite to eat?"

Glancing around, she saw that he was right. She nodded her acceptance and followed him down the path that led to the small community that had built up around the complex: dormitories, a medic station, a few shops that sold basic goods, a command center, and a cafeteria. It made sense, allowing the scientists and support staff to live where they worked. Some of the scientists and support staff even brought their families to live with them.

"I was thinking," John began, after they had purchased their food and sat at one of the tables. It was early enough that very few people were actually in the cafeteria, so they had a large degree of privacy. "When we get back to Atlantis... the team's due some downtime. I know that Ronon wanted to go and visit that small community of Satedans he found. And Jennifer will probably drag Rodney out of his lab. I know you usually go to New Athos with Torren, to visit Kanaan. I was... hoping you wouldn't mind it if I... came along."

A brilliant smile lit Teyla's face. "Of course you may join me," she assured him.

"Oh... thanks." He ducked his head for a moment, before looking up again with a shy smile that Teyla had come to recognize as one he reserved for her. She hid her amusement as he launched into a discussion about their find, and how Rodney was likely to act now that his suggestion for a mission had actually proven fruitful.

A mission like any other, she reflected. And yet... it had proven to be so much more. She suspected that it would be this time, this alliance, that would prove the turning point not only against the Wraith, but bringing the 'Lanteans fully into Pegasus.

/fin
Tags: genre: het, pairing: emmagan/sheppard, pairing: keller/mckay
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