Word Count: 3200
Warnings/Spoilers: Takes place between "Lifeline" and "Reunion".
Summary: Teyla is thrown in jail when she accidentally violates a local custom, and Ronon breaks her out, whether she wants him to or not.
The whitewashed buildings of the Matawnee prison complex sprawled beneath a pitiless noonday sun. In the courtyard, beneath a mostly ceremonial awning that did little to ease the heat, a bored official tapped his pen while listening to his visitor tersely explain the situation, then nodded to a guard.
Ronon was ushered from the brilliant courtyard into a cool corridor that seemed, for an instant, as dark as night. He stumbled, briefly blind, and his hand went automatically to the butt of his gun, an ingrained reaction that he couldn't shake even after two years with the Lanteans. Habits that had saved his life for seven years were hard to lose.
As his eyes adjusted, he found himself in a long hallway, lit by narrow windows at the tops of the walls (which also admitted cooling air) and the occasional gas lamp. The Matawnee guard, a woman with close-cropped hair and skin so dark it had a blueish tinge, unlocked a door at the end of the hall and gestured Ronon to precede her.
He hadn't been to Matawnim before, but a jail was a jail, whatever the world. Narrow doors with iron bars lined a corridor just wide enough to avoid being grabbed by the prisoners. Glancing into the cells, Ronon saw a handful of prisoners sprawled and sleeping atop their cots; the heat of the day wasn't a good time for activity, especially if there was nothing to do and nowhere to go.
Only one was awake, and she pressed herself against the bars as he drew nearer. A quick glance assured him that she wasn't hurt, beyond a split lip and a bruise darkening her forehead. He'd given her much worse at an average sparring match. Her hair was limp and plastered to her forehead. Athos, he'd heard, had been a cool world.
"Ronon," she sighed.
He folded his arms and grinned at her.
The look of relief melted into one of annoyance. "I assume that you have come to get me out," she said darkly.
"Eventually," Ronon said, and his grin widened. "Just gonna enjoy this for a little while first."
The look she gave him could have melted lead.
"So ... let me get this straight," Ronon said, and the grin was now so wide it almost hurt. "You insulted the Governor's daughter, for starters."
"I remarked upon her beauty, as a casual pleasantry," Teyla said between her teeth. "I did not know that among the Matawnee, compliments that do not come from one's close family and friends are a grave sin of pride."
"... insulted his daughter," Ronon continued, "which isn't illegal, just rude, but kinda put 'em in a bad mood." He paused, savoring the moment; it wasn't likely to come again anytime soon. "And then you defiled their sacred fountain --"
"I was following the lead of those around me, the Governor and his cabinet. I had no way of knowing that anyone outside their religion is considered --"
"-- made the Governor think you thought he was a lousy host --"
"-- because no one had informed me that the guest at the head of the table is supposed to pass the first bite of their meal to their host in thanks for his hospitality -- Ronon, if you tell John and Rodney of this --"
"-- and, to finish off a perfect day --" Ancestors' knuckles, he wanted a picture of her face right now. "-- told the Governor you were planning to kill him."
"I did not know," Teyla said in a strained voice, which usually came just before she very politely beat the crap out of someone or something, "that the province is in a state of heightened security because of recent threats against the Governor's family. I certainly did not know that 'good fortune' is a local euphemism for death."
Ronon leaned against the wall. Oh yeah. This was completely, totally worth it. "But here you are."
Teyla banged her head against the bars. Noticing the shape and position of the bruise, Ronon decided she hadn't acquired it from the guards.
"Please. I am begging you, Ronon, one friend to another. Please do not tell John and Rodney. I will never live it down." Her eyes went wide. "Are they coming? Do they know?"
He let her twist in the wind for a minute or two before taking pity on her. "Nah. They're busy running the city 'till Earth sends a replacement. Didn't want to bother 'em." Also, he did have some tact, regardless of what people said about him.
Teyla let out a long sigh. "Thank you. The Matawnee have assigned me a lawyer, so if you would have the guard call her and kindly explain the misunderstanding, we can be on our way."
"Little problem with that."
"I tried telling 'em. They don't believe me."
"But you did explain --" Her eyes narrowed. "What did you tell them?"
"Just that you didn't understand their customs, and all."
"That's all." She drilled him with a glare that would have done justice to McKay on a bad day.
"That's all, I swear." He made the Satedan "truth, only truth" sign -- two fingers over his heart -- before realizing that she probably wouldn't know what it meant. However, she seemed to get the idea -- she relaxed and leaned her head against the bars again.
"They didn't take me all that seriously," Ronon added.
Teyla observed him for a moment: his dreadlocks (where most of the Matawnee wore their tight dark curls cropped close to their heads), his casual clothing and jewelry, in contrast to the sober, unadorned black and white suits of the Matawnee.
"I cannot imagine why," she said, finally.
Ah, yes. This was why he loved Teyla.
"Ready to roll?" he asked her, flipping his gun to stun and pointing it down the hallway at the guard still cautiously observing him.
"Ah," she said, "actually ..."
Moments later, they were fleeing across a startling green lawn composed of some low-lying, prickly plant while sirens wailed over the prison complex.
"As I was saying earlier," Teyla gasped, pounding along at his side, "the Matawnee have a reputation for being very fair in their courts. I had already consulted with my appointed attorney -- oh --" She nearly tripped over a lawn ornament of some kind. "In short, I do not mean to sound ungrateful, but I do not believe this is necessary. I was doing quite well."
"Yeah," Ronon said, loping easily, breathe in, breathe out, easy rhythm, "that's why you were so unhappy to see me when I showed up, I guess."
Without breaking stride, she punched him in the arm.
"Yeah," he said, and stunned two guards in quick succession before they could draw their weapons. The two of them scaled the head-high wall surrounding the prison complex before he continued, "Great way to make your point."
"I ask this only out of idle curiosity," Teyla said dryly, leaping over an ornamental fishpond with Ronon a stride behind her. "But did you have a younger sister on Sateda, by any chance?"
He hadn't thought of Valereen in years. Many years. "No," he said truthfully. Valereen had been born two minutes sooner.
"Oh," Teyla said, and they ran in silence, down narrow streets where old men sweeping sidewalks cursed them, and startled women with baskets of fruit scrambled out of their path.
"Got any idea what they might send after us?" Ronon asked. He shouldn't have been short of breath, no farther than they'd run, but the heat was beginning to sap his strength; he could feel sweat patches spreading on his shirt, and Teyla looked wilted. "Dogs? Machines?"
"They have a sort of large lizard." She was also breathing hard, pausing between sentences. "It can track by smell. It is very quick. The Governor breeds them. He showed me his kennels."
"No problem, then." Ronon grinned and patted his gun. Teyla rolled her eyes.
The square whitewashed houses fell behind them; they ran now through irrigated fields, blocks of green and gold cut out of the desert. At the first of the salt-crusted irrigation ditches, Teyla dropped to her knees and plunged her hands into the scummy water.
Ronon hurdled it in a single leap and paused, resting, hands in his knees. "I wouldn't drink that, unless you want to spend the next three days in the bathroom."
Teyla snorted. "I have been in cities before." She splashed water over her head, matting her hair in dark swatches. "We are in the wrong here, you know," she added, running wet hands across her sweat-slick neck.
"You didn't know their laws."
"And the court would have determined that."
"You got a lot of confidence in --" Ronon broke off, looking across the patchwork of fields back towards the city. "You hear that?" The high, warbling sound came again, shivering the still, hot air.
"That would be the lizards. They scream when they hunt." Teyla rose to her feet, a hint of stiffness in the normally graceful movements. "Ronon, I did not intend you to --"
"Talk while we move." Ronon turned his head, squinting against the glare. "Gate's about two miles that way." Without looking to see if she was coming, he stretched out into a ground-eating jog.
Teyla drew abreast of him. "Ronon, perhaps I should start over." She paused, running in silence for a moment, and then touched his shoulder; he turned to see her smiling at him. "Thank you for freeing me from the Matawnee."
"You're welcome," he said, surprised, and then got another surprise when she punched him without gentleness.
"Next time," she said between gulps of air, smiling sweetly, "I suggest that you take the legal option."
The irrigated fields ended at a complex of buildings, dazzling white in the sun. From the rising white towers, the containment ponds half-glimpsed through a fence made of crossed chains and wire, Ronon guessed it to be some sort of water treatment facility. There was no sign of anyone around; the buildings lay apparently deserted under the blazing noon. Beyond the towers, the salt ocean of Matawnim stretched out to a pale horizon.
The gate stood on a headland thrust out into the sea. From here, it was clearly visible on its headland, a small crisp ring against the sky. Ronon could also see the many tiny figures bustling around it, making it clear that the gate might as well be on the moon for all the good it would do them.
Ronon realized that Teyla was looking at him with a flat, emotionless stare. Somewhere not too far away, the warble of the hunting lizards rose from the fields.
"Okay, next time we do the lawyer thing, I guess."
"I never stole so much as a pita-fruit seed before I met you people," Teyla sighed.
They had found the small sailboat tied at a quay, a short dash along the shore from the water treatment plant. From the powerful reek hanging over its slightly sticky deck, it probably belonged to a fisherman; from the water oozing through its warped timbers, it belonged to a fisherman who was either poor, or dead, or very lazy. Between the lousy state of the boat, and the fact that it had been tied up at midday without a cloud in the sky, Ronon guessed the owner was passed out in a bar somewhere.
Teyla had no experience on boats whatsoever. Ronon, however, had sailed small vessels at his grandfather's lake-house when he was a boy, and though this boat's small sail was square and its rigging unfamiliar, he quickly found the basic principles coming back to him.
The primitive-looking bilge pump either did not work, or neither of them could figure out how to make it work, so Teyla bailed with a rusty bucket (and an occasional dirty look in her teammate's direction) while Ronon handled the tiller.
Their frustrated pursuers could just be seen onshore -- men and women armed with wide-muzzled rifles and holding the leashes of long, quick-moving animals that Ronon was glad he didn't have to see up close. He was expecting a few stray shots in their direction, but no one fired. Maybe these people were of the "think first, shoot later" school of thought, which would make them something of a rarity among people of the sort his team seemed to encounter.
Caught in a brisk, refreshingly cool breeze, they sailed away from the gate and around a little point of land that gave onto wilderness -- cliffs and scrubby forest interspersed with broad expanses of lifeless rock. This was an unforgiving country.
"Guess we can hide out here 'till night falls, then work our way over to the gate." Ronon glanced over at Teyla, then looked back at her. "You okay?"
"I do not feel well."
"Could be the boat. Some people have that problem."
"Thank you for telling me beforehand," she said between her teeth.
"Teyla, we're riding awfully low in the -- Teyla?"
"Give me a minute," she gasped, raising her head.
The weather had worsened with surprising speed, considering how still and cloudless the morning had been. Oceans were always fickle with their weather, Ronon figured. As the sun set in a blaze of red-painted clouds, a stiff wind capped the waves around them with white foam and set the little boat pitching.
Ronon's muscles bunched as he fought the tiller, and the boat fought back. He'd decided to start bringing them around towards the gate before they had the full cover of darkness, because if this wind really picked up, the best they'd be able to do was pull in somewhere and ride it out. He had no particular desire to spend any more time on a leaky boat with a seasick teammate than he absolutely had to.
"Teyla, you need to bail."
"I am trying! I -- oh dear --" She bent over the side again.
Ronon had a feeling that he was going to end up with a lot of bruises at their next sparring session.
It turned out that leaky boats and rough weather didn't mix very well. Luckily the shore was nearby, and it was a warm night.
"How're you doing?"
"My hatred of you keeps me warm," Teyla said conversationally, forging through the waist-high, thorny shrubs that covered the shoreline here.
"As long as you're warm."
The moon came out as they crossed the fields, clouds blowing away to the east. Without needing signals or discussion, they hastened into the inky shadow of the water treatment plant, hiding them from observers.
The gate was well-lit, and bustled with activity. "This will be ... challenging," Teyla said slowly.
Ronon pointed at the tip of the headland, jutting out into the faintly luminous sea like the prow of a ship. "It's real well-protected on the land side. Not so much on the ocean side."
"Most of the Matawnee cannot swim." Teyla rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "There are gun emplacements along the coast, but they may not realize they have anything to fear from the sea that does not come in the form of --" she shuddered "-- ships."
"Except we haven't got a boat to get out there anymore."
She gave him a dirty look. "Because someone allowed it to sink."
"Because someone didn't bail."
They glared at each other.
"The winner will clean the floor in the gym for a week," Teyla said at last, and ran, fleet-footed, for the edge of the water.
Under the lip of the headland, with forty feet of cliff plunging below them to the ocean, two bedraggled, exhausted figures huddled, arguing in fierce whispers.
"I was clearly ahead when we made landfall."
"In your dreams maybe."
"It is only your fortune the moon chanced to go behind a cloud at that moment."
"Yeah, so it gave you a chance to lie about it."
"I do not lie, Ronon Dex."
"Oh, calling me a liar, then?"
There was the wet squodgy sound of someone being punched, not very hard, and another wet slapping sound of someone else pushing back.
A single rock bounced down the cliff and vanished into the sea.
Then there was silence for a moment.
"It would be unwise if we cause ourselves to fall from this cliff."
"We shall continue this discussion on Atlantis."
"Sounds good to me."
After another moment of silence, Ronon thrust his head up over the edge of the cliff. The gate was about twenty feet away, lit with floodlights and guarded by several alert men with rifles. He ducked back down.
"Okay, this might be tricky. We need a distraction. I'll go around the side there --"
"Who said it should be you?" Teyla countered. "I am smaller and faster."
"I broke you out and got us into this."
"I was the one who offended them in the first place."
After staring at each other for a moment, they threw a quick round of "fire, water, wood". Ronon's fire handily beat her wood.
"Very well. I will draw them off while -- what?"
Ronon glowered at her. "Loser isn't the distraction; loser dials the gate."
"We never decided that!"
They threw again. This time, his wood beat her water.
Now it was her turn to glare. "You always make the same throw twice in a row!"
He grinned. "Yeah, good way to win when I really want to. Get ready to dial."
"Atlantis! Lower the shield! We are coming in hot."
A moment later, a wet, filthy, muddy Teyla rolled through the gate into a crouching position. Ronon narrowly missed plowing into her from behind. The gate winked out of existence behind them, and they quietly picked themselves up.
No one in the gateroom said anything for a moment; finally Chuck said, "You, uh ... you need me to call a medical team?"
"No," Teyla said primly, wringing out a handful of her shirt's thorn-shredded tail. "We are quite well, thank you."
Above them, drawn by the gate activation, Sheppard appeared from the office that had been Elizabeth's. He stopped at the sight of them. "I thought you two were just going on a simple trading mission. What the hell happened?"
"It is a long story, in fact a needlessly long story, which I am sure I shall document for you at my earliest convenience." With that, Teyla marched out of the gateroom, leaving a wet trail behind.
Sheppard looked back at Ronon, who just raised a shoulder in a small shrug. "Typical mission, I guess," he said. "Nothing interesting," and squished out of the gateroom after Teyla.
Chuck looked at Sheppard; Sheppard looked back at him.
"Yeah," Chuck said finally. "It's usually like that, on this end. Better get used to it."
Notes: This story is now available as a podfic read by winkingstar and a podbook made by cybel from the mp3 recording. :)