DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis are the property of MGM, Showtime, Gekko etc. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Darandkerry, as always, for the kind offer to beta, for the advice and encouragement, but mostly for the friendship. Cheers, Tex-Ass!! Love ya. This is set sometime during late season two/early season three. No spoilers for anything.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
By Fewthistle


Atlantis was a lonely place. Even with the increase of personnel from Stargate Command, they occupied only a small portion of the vast city. There were extensive areas that they had yet to explore, whole sections of the once glorious home of the Ancients that lay still undisturbed, the last beings to pace their corridors now ten thousand years gone. Sometimes at night, Elizabeth could swear that she could hear the voices of the Ancients, hear the footfalls of troops heading towards the hanger bay, towards the Stargate, but she knew that it was only a trick of her mind and the sound of the wind slipping mournfully through the soaring buildings of the city.

She wasn't given to flights of fancy, but if she were, she would swear there were ghosts that lingered here.

She doubted that John or Rodney ever pondered the existence of those who had built this place, wondered what their lives had been like, felt the echoes of their resolve and their sadness at abandoning the city they had fought so long to preserve. Neither of them were much prone to contemplation of times past, at least not that long past. Rodney was far too interested in deciphering the massive amounts of data left behind by the prior residents of Atlantis and John, well, John was only interested in the past if it involved weapons and ships and things that went boom.

Only Teyla seemed to be as intrigued as Elizabeth with the people who had conceived this great floating city. The Athosians had long held the Ancients in reverence as the Ancestors of all those who dwelt in the Pegasus Galaxy and to now reside here in the home of those ancestors was still a point of wonder to the Athosian leader. Only Teyla would believe in Elizabeth's ghosts.

The past weeks had been relatively free of turmoil and perhaps the quiet had caused the lingering fragments of dreams to seem much more real than they would were they faced with the daily threat of destruction by the Wraith. Tonight, the distant sound of the waves against the metal and stone of the piers seemed particularly haunting, and Elizabeth wrapped her arms around her slender frame, gazing out of the window of her quarters at the faint lights of the city and the grey sky beyond.

Slipping on her jacket, Elizabeth silently exited her quarters, walking slowly through the empty corridors of the city. At this time of night, only those working gamma shift and security were about, and the snick of her rubber heels on the stone floors seemed unnaturally loud, each step a whisper she couldn't quite decipher. As she passed by the training room, she heard the faint thud of feet landing gracefully on the thick matting.

Standing in the open doorway, Elizabeth watched Teyla's movements, limbs supple and lithe, skin glowing with a faint sheen of perspiration as she turned and pivoted, hands and legs a whir of motion as she battled an invisible foe. Launching her body into the air, her leg flying up in a graceful arch, Teyla landed elegantly, her amber eyes focused directly, by instinct, on Elizabeth's face.

"Elizabeth?" Teyla asked, only a faint breathiness to her voice indicating her recent exertion. "Is anything wrong?"

Wrong. God, so many things were wrong. She and her expedition were an entire galaxy from home, living in a waterlogged, abandoned city, constantly under siege from an enemy that had brought to its knees one of the greatest civilizations to ever exist; an enemy that she and her people had unknowingly awoken too soon from a long slumber. They were short on manpower, short on resources, short on time.

They had, like Aladdin, wandered into a cave filled with unimaginable treasure, the wealth of knowledge of the Ancients, only to be faced with the knives and swords and daggers of other much more cunning, much more deadly thieves: the Wraith. She had lost men, lost battles, lost bits of her soul since she had stepped through that gate, and no answers to the mysteries of the universe would ever bring any of those back.

There was so much wrong, so much that late at night the litany of it resounded in her mind like echoing, repeating chants, the sonorous voices of monks seeking absolution from an unhearing god. But that wasn't what Teyla meant. At least Elizabeth didn't think it was.

"Just couldn't sleep," she murmured, not certain if the sympathetic, knowing look in Teyla's amber eyes was comforting or condemning, but fairly sure that, at this hour, she didn't care. "I thought I'd take a walk, clear my head. I didn't mean to disturb your workout."

"You have not," Teyla bent in one elegant motion and picked up a towel from the mat, patting her forehead, a slight smile tugging at full lips. "I, too, could not sleep. I hoped that my workout, as you call it, would tire my muscles and my mind. My muscles are indeed relaxed now, but I fear my mind is still not ready for sleep."

"I know that feeling," Elizabeth admitted, leaning against the doorframe as she unconsciously followed Teyla's movements, marveling as she had in the past at the feline grace of the Athosian leader.

A very beautiful, very dangerous cat, Elizabeth mused, no longer troubled by the passing sense of discomfort at her thoughts. So much had changed in the past few years. In the grander scale of things, this much more than cursory interest in another woman was barely a blip on her personal radar.

"I'm always amazed at how quiet it can be here. Sometimes the only sounds are the waves and the wind and I feel as if I am the only person in the city. I wonder what it was like when the city was crowded with people, when the Lanteans still lived here," Elizabeth murmured, moving a few steps into the room, the mats compressing under her feet like the spongy grass of her backyard half a universe away,

"I often wonder that as well. There are moments, particularly late at night, when I can feel their presence, sense their sadness, their frustration at having to abandon Atlantis." Teyla agreed, her voice holding a trace of the melancholy of which she spoke.

Elizabeth's head dropped forward as she tried to hide the sliver of a smile that touched her lips. She had known that Teyla would believe in her ghosts. She felt the weight of the younger woman's stare, glancing up from her contemplation of the fine lines on the back of her hand to meet knowing amber eyes.

"I was going to return to my quarters and make some tea. Would you care to join me, Elizabeth?"

A thousand reasons to say 'yes' rushed through Elizabeth's mind with the same longing wail of the wind through the slender spires of the city: reasons written in tawny eyes, on silken, tan skin, in myriad gestures and looks and words. Reasons that spoke of longing and loneliness, of desire and honest affection. Reasons she couldn't ignore and couldn't quite obey. Reasons tamped down by a fearful heart.

"I should try and get some sleep," Elizabeth answered slowly, each syllable seeming reluctant to leave her tongue, the vowels stretched and elongated out of shape. "Thank you for the offer, though. Perhaps you'll invite me again sometime?"

She might have imagined it, but Elizabeth could have sworn that a shadow of disappointment ghosted across Teyla's face, disappearing into the brilliance of an understanding smile.

"Not perhaps, Elizabeth. Definitely. Although, only if you promise me that you will say yes," Teyla teased, a hint of something in her voice suggesting that she was referring to more than an offer of tea.

"I promise. The next time you ask me, I will say yes." With a smile and a wave of her hand, Elizabeth turned, the snick of her shoes against the tiled floors of the empty halls not quite as lonely as before. And now she could make out clearly the whispered sound in each step.




The End

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