This probably won't get any longer. Maybe. (Who knows? I've given up trying to predict myself.) Also, I wrote it almost a month ago, so it's not taking up any NaNo time. Honest.
No one looks to the sky except to watch the clouds; no one hides except the lawbreakers, who are swiftly and emotionlessly hunted down by the lawkeepers of the place. Children play in an open lot, clambering up scaffolding that has no purpose except amusement, shrieking joyfully all the while; a few adults sit nearby, but they read or gossip together, and listen for nothing more than the cry of a child who has skinned his knee.
She looks over at Torren, who is strapped to John’s back, sound asleep, and thinks of letting him play in such a manner and place when he is older. It nearly terrifies her. And suddenly she feels like a dwarkin stuck in among a herd of cattin, the only one aware of danger.
There is none. She understands this, but in her bones she still feels the need to beware, and her knife—pressed into her hand by Ronon before he left with Teal’c to visit Chulak—seems scant protection. John looks naked without even his pistol. That is the way of this place: she understands this, but it makes her skittish, and angry that she should be so. The anger is better, she thinks.
They stop at a shop, where John orders them food, handing over a wad of the cloth money his people use. The man behind the counter makes some comment that causes John to laugh, but Teyla is too weary and bewildered to force the English words into anything coherent. Instead, she strokes the soft skin of Torren’s legs and tries not to get in anyone’s way, tries not to look as out of place as she feels. When a woman walking by says hello, Teyla smiles in return, but the expression is forced, and crumbles as soon as the woman has passed.
Finally, John is handed a white bag that rustles as he walks away: noisy, as is everything born on his world. The bitterness with which she thinks this shocks her, and she half-reaches for John’s hand before realizing that she does so. Instead, she touches Torren’s dimpled knee once and wordlessly follows John down yet another street and around a corner.
And finds herself standing a field, half a dozen steps away from a tree with a trunk nearly as wide as she is tall. The shadow it casts is marred by gaping holes of sunshine, scars such as come only with long-living. Deep in the shade, John has already begun unpacking the contents of the white bag, Torren still strapped to his back.
The houses surrounding the field muffle the sounds of the city, so that when she closes her eyes she might almost be home—Athos, New Athos, the mainland that had been home until the Ancestors had sent her people away like trespassing children, like fruit thieves discovered in a garden. (Atlantis sounds like the sea, which sounds like leaves in the wind, and like people laughing, despite the ever-present echo of death; Atlantis is not home. It is something else, a thing without a name or likeness.)
John hands her a sandwich identical to those served by the marines, although it seems less real, somehow. Dust instead of flour, perhaps. She’s had food prepared by strangers before, and she does not remember it being so flavorless. Dust and ashes, she thinks, putting the sandwich down, half-eaten, but that’s not right. Ashes are bitter.
“Not hungry?” John mumbles around the last of his ‘bee-el-tee’.
“No,” she says (lies), and wishes suddenly, fiercely, that Rodney were here to complain, to distract. To comfort. Rodney’s words are like the ocean’s waves, ceaseless and reassuring. Most of the time. He’d spent an entire day listing all the things that could go wrong during his visit to Jeannie; John had hit him (as if the two were kin, and children still) and told him to stop worrying, and he had. At the time Teyla had appreciated the brief near-silence, but now she wishes fervently that he were not so far away.