A/N: So, I finally figured out where to go with this bit and managed to carve out the time to actually type it out. Yay. Chapter 13 is now fixed, too, because...wow, did I lose my grip on my tenses in that last bit. If there's any more present tense that shouldn't be there, could somebody maybe tell me? This story isn't beta'd, as most of mine aren't, so anybody pointing out things like that gets a cookie.
Also, I just wanted to say, I was visiting home (Vancouver) a little while back and who do I see at Granvile Island but Joe Flanigan? Pretty cool, huh?
Xander wandered through the camp, trying to get a feel for the people as much as mapping the layout of the place. What the people were, was wary. Not precisely hostile but not exactly welcoming, either. And who could blame them, really? If anyone better armed and hostile did come through the Stargate one day, there wasn’t a whole lot they could do to stop it. Except ensure that any scouting parties disappeared without reporting back.
He was okay with wary, though; an open welcome would have made him suspicious. Humans or not, To Serve Man was still a cookbook and not the friendly kind. So Xander was doing what he did best, next to fixing things, and that was wandering through the ‘streets’ looking clueless and harmless. Who would ever have thought that playing bait for the Slayer all those years would turn out to have been good practice for first contact situations?
Of course, he had two disadvantages that he hadn’t had when he’d been playing bait for Buffy. The first being a glaring lack of…well, Buffy, or any other Slayer, to take out anyone who managed to sneak up on him. The other was, of course, his missing left eye and the resulting blind spot. He could mostly compensate for it, but not always. This turned out to be one of those times.
He’d just turned a corner, smiling amiably at the people watching his wanderings with suspicion, and the next thing he knew he was flat on his back with what looked like some kind of cross between a big cat, a dog, and – well, maybe a Komodo dragon, a big lizard anyway. It was as big as one of the wild cat species, with the general build of a dog, but scales instead of fur.
“Good demon,” he tried. “Nice…doggy?”
As far as demon-looking creatures went, this one was kind of cute. It was a lot cuter than Hellhounds, anyway. Part of that, of course, was the fact that it didn’t seem interested in biting his face off; just holding him down. Its jaw hung open in what Xander could have sworn was cat-dog-lizard laughter, but it didn’t move and it was heavy enough that he couldn’t move it, as he found out when he tried to shift either himself or it. The thing didn’t even growl or anything, just stayed put, using its weight to pin him to the ground. Realizing that he wasn’t going anywhere, Xander relaxed and eyed the creature while he tried to think.
“Great,” he groused. “I move to a whole new galaxy, away from Hellmouths and Slayers and the contract on my head, and what happens? I’ll tell you what happens. I still get knocked on my ass and laughed at by things that are more reptile than mammal. You’re doing this just to embarrass me, aren’t you?”
“Perhaps he wishes to be your friend and this is merely his way of gaining your attention?” a light female voice asked.
“Do you really think so? Or, are you just being nice?” Xander asked the woman now standing just behind his new friend.
“A little of both, really,” she admitted with a small smile. “He has been following you for some time.”
“Has he been invisible?” Xander asked in genuine confusion. “I didn’t seem him. Sorry,” he apologized to the creature. “I don’t suppose you could—call him off, say?” he asked the woman.
“He is not mine to call off,” she said with a shrug. “He goes where he will and does as he pleases.”
More cat than dog then. “So...does it please him to have a name?”
“He most often answers to Falshon.”
With a name to work with, Xander turned to the weight on his chest and made eye contact with it – him. “Hi, Falshon. Nice to meet you. I’m Xander. I wasn’t ignoring you, I promise. I really didn’t see you. Could you let me up now?”
Falshon cocked its/his head and seemed to consider what he’d said for several moments. Finally, with a swipe of its tongue up the side of Xander’s face, it backed off and stood watching him as he gingerly picked himself up off the ground. There would be bruises where Falshon’s paws had rested but, otherwise everything was intact.
“Thanks,” he said to his new non-human friend before turning to get a better look at the woman who’d been so helpful. She was older than him by a good ten years and she had that maternal vibe that Joyce Summers had had. Xander immediately liked her. “So, have you been following me, too? Or is it just a coincidence that you happen to know so much about my new friend here?”
She smiled. “Coincidence. I saw Falshon following you and wondered about it. He doesn’t take such an instant interest in many of the traders who journey here. And even less often is the interest friendly. There is something different about you.”
“There are lots of things different about me,” Xander said with a wry smile. “I’m a different kinda guy.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “And all of you are different from others who’ve visited our people. Or so I hear. Is it true that you had never heard of the Wraith before meeting Halling, Jinto, and Wex?”
“Well, not exactly,” Xander hedged. “The word, yes, but…from what Halling and Teyla have told us…it doesn’t mean the same thing to us that it does to you. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to tell me more about them, would you? I’m,” he paused, “kind of a historian. Well, more of a record-keeper, really, but if it wouldn’t be asking too much, I’d love to hear anything you can tell me about them. Their history, when they first appeared, that kind of thing.”
“You’re a scholar?”
“I know I don’t look like it but…yeah. Kind of.”
She considered him for a moment, looking thoughtful. Her assessing gaze went over to Falshon, sitting patiently between the two of them, and then back to Xander. Eventually, she nodded.
“Have you eaten?”
“Um, yeah, with Teyla,” he said, semi-apologetically. Hospitality seemed to be linked with friendship here but there was no way he could eat any more. Still, if he wanted any information, it looked like he’d have accept something. “But I’d love another cup of tea.”
Elizabeth Weir watched her smartest, if most obnoxious, scientist walk towards her trailed by Peter Grogan, another of her best, and prayed for a miracle. From the expression on Rodney’s face, that’s what it was going to take to save this place. She could already feel the regret at having to abandon not just this amazing city but what was likely their only way home.
“Tell me some good news, Rodney,” she greeted him as soon as the door opened.
“I can’t do that,” he answered matter-of-factly.
It was, to be honest, the answer she’d expected, but she was still disappointed. “The shield has held back the ocean for centuries.”
“And probably would have kept going for years more, but our arrival changed that,” McKay answered regretfully. “Now it’s nothing more than a thin shell between the buildings and the water.”
“We stopped exploring,” she objected. "We sent Xander and Major Sheppard with Colonel Sumner." That should have stopped the power drain, saving the shields.
“The damage was already done,” McKay said. “Another section of the city on the far side,” he gestured in its direction, “was flooded an hour or so ago.”
Grogan jumped in on the Team Disaster bandwagon. “Even occupying this room is draining power.”
“We need to evacuate as soon as Colonel Sumner reports back that it’s safe,” McKay said urgently.
It was that urgency in his voice that finally convinced her that there was really no other option. Still, she couldn’t help but ask, “You’re saying we have to abandon the city?”
The shaking of the entire structure as another section of shield collapsed gave her a more final answer than any of her scientists. Dammit. All the potential knowledge of the Ancients and they were going to have to leave it to drown at the bottom of the sea. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go.
“The sooner we leave, the longer that shield holds,” McKay pointed out. And if they left while it was still intact and found another ZPM, they could still come back. As long as the embarkation room was still shielded. It didn’t need to be said but it was one of the reasons they needed to hear from Sumner ASAP.
*Somewhere on Athosia, not far from the camp*
Following Teyla through the woods had been worse than some of the training runs he’d had to do in Basic, John Sheppard thought as he tripped and nearly fell over yet another giant tree root. The woman could *move* and she didn’t even seem to be trying. It really wasn’t fair. And she still hadn’t told him where they were going, just that she had to show him something.
He was about to pester her again as to how much farther they had to go when she stopped near a cliff and studied its face for a moment. She lead the way off to the left and walked up to the side of the rock.
“Over here,” she said, stopping in front of an opening in the cliff. She pulled some plants away from the left side of the opening, looking for something. Studying it, John realized this entrance was man-made. Or, at least man-reinforced, with cut stone blocks shoring up the archway.
“I used to play here as a child,” Teyla began to explain as she pulled the torch she’d been looking for out of the overgrowth on the cliff wall and walked inside. John followed as she continued speaking. “I believe this is where the survivors hid from the Wraith during the last great attack.”
It got darker the farther in they went and John pulled out his lighter and offered to fire up the torch Teyla held. By the time he’d gotten a flame with his lighter, she was already using something similar, but way cooler. It made the fire stream around the torch’s end rather than just creating a flame.
“We mastered fire long ago,” Teyla said with amusement. What exactly she was amused about John couldn’t say but he suspected the joke was on him.
“Guess so,” he agreed, glumly putting his lighter away. He switched on his flashlight as she led the way farther down the passage and into the cave proper. There were drawings on the walls and he noticed something glinting in the dirt on the floor. He leaned down and picked it up, wiping off the dirt to find a necklace of leather with a shiny metal disk as the pendant.
He brought it over to her, holding it carefully in his outstretched palm, asking, “What’s this?”
Teyla turned and her eyes softened in recognition as she took it from him. “I lost this years ago. How did you…?”
“It was just lying right over there,” John said, taking it back and trying to find the ends. “It was reflecting off the light.”
Without thinking, he stretched out his arms and put the necklace on her. He wasn’t sure who was more surprised, her or him, that she let him. He did up the clasp and pull his hands away as one of hers reached up to touch the pendant. He was smiling as he turned away from her to play his flashlight beam over the walls.
“Someone’s been busy, huh?” he commented.
“The drawings in the caves are extensive,” she explained. “Many must date back thousands of years; or more.”
John found a panel that was bigger than the others with line drawings of spaceships hovering over buildings, rays of something shooting out of the ships and smaller, fighter-type, ships escorting the big ships. “Does this represent the destruction of your city?”
“This drawing far predates that,” she answered without offering any further explanation.
“So, what, someone knew what was gonna happen?”
“I believe it happens, again, and again,” she sighed. “The Wraith allow our kind to grow in numbers. And when that number reaches a certain point, they return; to…cull their human herd. Sometimes a few hundred years will pass before they awaken again. We've visited many, many worlds. I know of none untouched by the Wraith. The last great holocaust was five generations ago, but still, they return, in smaller numbers, to remind us of their power.”
“That’s a hell of a way to live,” John said quietly.
“We move our hunting camps around,” she explained. “We try to teach our children not to live in fear; but it is hard. Some of us can sense the Wraith coming. That gives us warning.” She turned to look at the patch of daylight spilling into the entrance hallway. “We should go. It will be dark soon.”
“Short day,” John commented as they emerged into the fading daylight.
“It is winter,” Teyla pointed out. “Days are longer in the summer.”
“Ah,” John said. “Of course.”
Yet another A/N: Anybody know which episode Teyla was having nightmares in? Or who she went to talk to about them?