I really wish I could blame this one on someone else... but apparently my own comments are doing it now. Beware of a semi-spoiler, expanding on a character we learn of during S4's "Missing". His personality is probably radically different from portrayed, but we're not given a lot to go on with the dialogue, so I'm winging it.
Elizabeth looked up from the report she had been reading while walking back to her quarters, surprised to see a small group of Athosians standing before her, led by none other than Halling.
Seeing that he had her attention, the tall man continued. "Is it true you've discovered land on this world?"
"Yes," she glanced around nervously as the Athosians began to ring around her, "it is."
"Then my people wish to take our leave to explore it," Halling continued.
"You would?" She took a closer look at the people surrounding her. Some had downcast expressions, while others looked determined and oddly relieved. A guilty feeling began to gnaw in her gut. "Do you want to explore or... just leave the city?"
Halling had the grace to look embarrassed, but answered honestly. "Both. We are no longer welcome here."
"I know we have our differences as of late, but I can assure you that's not--" Elizabeth started, but was halted when Halling held up a hand.
"It is not just recent events."
Elizabeth cocked her head, watching as the Athosians all exchanged meaningful glances. "What do you mean?"
Halling paused, as if trying to figure out how to put it delicately, before finally deciding just speak plainly.
Not too long after coming to the city, Halling had found need to seek out John Sheppard. True, the man had saved him and many of his people from the Wraith, and reunited Halling with his son. However the prospect of Teyla routinely going on these "missions" with Sheppard was disconcerting and he felt it only fair to seek him out so they could discuss it.
"I promise you, Halling, Teyla is in good hands."
"I do not doubt your ability or willingness to look after her, Major." Halling slowed his pace, realizing that his naturally longer stride had the other man jogging to keep up. The corridor they were travelling was darker lit than most in Atlantis, almost as if it was not meant for everyday travel. "This is all very new to us, and Teyla is our leader."
Sheppard pursed his lips thoughtfully. "You're afraid of her splitting her focus?"
"She," Halling paused, his steps slowing to a halt as he tried to phrase it appropriately, "takes her duties seriously. I do not want her to become burdened by taking too many."
Sheppard nodded in understanding. "I think I hear what you're saying."
Halling smiled gratefully. He was finding it harder to communicate with these newcomers than their usual trading partners. They had a different way of thinking than those native to the Pegasus Galaxy. It was not hard to see why Teyla was so fascinated by them.
Sheppard casually rested a shoulder against the wall, seemingly grateful for the break as well. "I'll keep an eye on her; make sure she doesn't stretch herself too thin."
Halling nodded his approval. "That is all I ask."
"Now that that's settled," Sheppard pushed off the wall, not noticing that the panel he had been leaning against push in slightly, "back to finding that shortcut to the mess."
Unfortunately that was when the floor dropped out from under Halling, and he found the major's shortcut -- too bad that it was via the Ancient's version of a laundry chute.
It was also unfortunate that when the expedition had decided to set up the mess where they had, they had moved the strange object that was supposed to catch the linens when they fell. Fortunately, Dr. McKay had been there to break his fall; otherwise Halling might have done more than just sprain his ankle.
"Oops," Sheppard said, waving sheepishly at the squished scientist and dazed Athosian.
"Halling, that was an accident." Elizabeth tried explaining again about how they were all still trying to adjust to living in a city built by the Ancients, and that the technology was still so far beyond all of them, but was interrupted mid-explanation by another Athosian, whose name could have been Kanan.
"It is not always accidental."
"Hey! That cookie was mine!" McKay cried as his Athosian counterpart walked away, munching on the last dessert of the evening.
"He who hesitates," Kanan called out around a mouthful of cookie. He had learned the Earth phrase from Teyla. She had been picking up many colloquialisms while spending time with her new teammates. Something that Kanan was not jealous about, not one bit.
He and McKay were the only two people in the commissary, as those on the late shift had already left for the night. This was also not the first time Kanan and Rodney had battled over late-night leftovers. Kanan had developed a taste for the Earthling's bitter brew they called coffee, and last night McKay had grabbed the last pot the moment he saw the Athosian enter the mess. This was just revenge, pure and sweet.
Kanan licked the last of the crumbs from his fingers and paused in front of the linen closet that the expedition had hijacked as a pantry. Whoever was on duty last must have left it open. It called to him, practically begging for him to relieve it from some of the weight burdening its shelves. Such an opportunity was a blessing, especially since one had to have the blood of the Ancestors to open the door to begin with. It was a sign.
He stepped forward, listening to its siren call and willing to give himself completely over to it. He was reaching for the nearest can of the sweet Earth fruit known as peaches when the world was plunged into darkness. He turned around to find that the door had been closed. With a panicked yelp he banged his hand on the door, calling out to the only person who would be able to hear him. "Dr. McKay!"
He was answered by a deep, malice-filled chuckle. "Steal my cookie, will you?"
"Oh, what was that? You want to stay and commune with the food until breakfast? I will certainly let you do that."
"I apologize," Kanan gave the door a swift kick, hoping against hope that maybe it would heed his panic and grant him freedom.
"Too late, dessert thief!"
"Would you like it back?"
Kanan paused to realize what he had just said. "Oh."
"Enjoy your sweets, piggo!"
"McKay?" He could see nothing in the darkness. After several more moments of silence he tried again. "Dr. McKay?"
Obviously, Elizabeth was going to need to have a talk with Rodney about his ATA gene power trips. This was hardly the first complaint either. "I'm sorry, I had no idea--"
But she was interrupted by another complaint.
The flight from Athos had been a truly terrifying one. The Wraith were always a constant threat looming in the background, but this culling was different the moment the Strangers had opened fire on the Darts screaming over head. Bamford had been astounded to see the strange looking weapons bring down the mighty craft. He had been even more surprised when the Stranger Teyla had taken to the caves had herded everyone through the Ancestral Ring into the mythical city Bamford could only imagine in his dreams.
And then Atlantis rose before his very eyes. For a moment, it was as if he could feel the Ancestors with him, and this was their way of telling him that the nightmare that plagued their galaxy would soon be coming to an end. He watched water cascade off of the giant color-stained windows, the ocean beyond sparkling like the gems the Menarians would sometimes bring to trade.
Then Bamford realized something as he looked at the Sea of the Ancestors--
--he had been on his way to the outhouses when the Wraith had come.
Teyla's Stranger was busy speaking with a regal looking woman, so he turned to one of the other Strangers and communicated his request. Bamford was led out one of the doors lining the room and placed at the end of what appeared to be a line.
He resisted the urge to cross his legs, as that was an action unbecoming of an Athosian warrior such as himself, and peered down the long dark hallway as far as the eye could see. All that met his eyes were both Strangers and Athosians alike, all in a similar state of impatient desperation.
He tried not to whimper as the endless line inched its way along at an agonizingly slow pace.
Sadly, that was just the first day on Atlantis.
Elizabeth pursed her lips together as several other Athosians murmured in agreement with Bamford. Why had no one come to her with this problem? It was her job to make sure that these sort of grievances didn't start piling up into a bigger problem.
A small, hesitant voice belonging to the Athosian named Marta spoke up. "There was also this time last week. We had moved our weekly meditation session..."
Despite all of the hardships experienced and adjustments that came with city life, there was a certain peace on Atlantis that the Athosians had never experienced on Athos. Being in this city brought them closer to the Ancestors in many ways. It was said that late at night, when all was quiet, one could almost hear their soothing whispers just beyond the soft crashing of the waves. In some ways Atlantis also drove the Ancestors further away, Marta mused sadly as she gazed at the candlelit faces around her.
The Wraith were still a specter in the back of everyone's mind. They represented the fear of the unknown, the evil that was just beyond their understanding. Such uneasiness was only compounded by creatures such as the Darkness that had swamped the city only weeks before. She took a deep, cleansing breath and tried to banish the disturbing images from her mind.
A low moan reverberating from the walls caused her to snap her eyes back open. She caught the startled expressions on the others faces, which meant she had not been imagining it. She exhaled shakily, and the moaning thankfully stopped. In the front of the room, Halling looked as composed as ever, but Marta could see a trace of uncertainty in his eyes.
Before anyone could ask about the noise, the lights in the room brightened to almost daylight, before flickering out completely. They would have been plunged into complete darkness if not for the candles in the center of the room.
A cold fear seized Marta's heart as she remembered the dark beast that had swept through the hallways. It had made no noise, but if there was another, it could be angry the other had left.
The moaning started again, deep and echoing; although for some reason there was an almost familiar sound to it. The moan rose, reaching a crescendo, before it finally gave way to an actual word. "Kavanaaaaaaagh..."
Marta looked to Halling for guidance, and he motioned to everyone to remain seated as his sharp gaze flicked to the doorway.
The lights began to flicker in earnest, and Marta closed her eyes to block out the dizzying display.
"Give it baaaaaack--"
"What the hell are you two doing?"
"McKay!" The surprised yelp of Major Sheppard was instantly recognizable, as it was a common phrase heard in the city's corridors, usually spoken with more force and annoyance.
The light show ceased, and Marta opened her eyes to see that Halling was rubbing his temples in earnest. She thought she heard him muttering a prayer to the Ancestors for patience. The conversation over what she now recognized to be the city's intercom had hushed, but she could still make out the words clearly enough.
"We were just getting back at Kavanagh." That was Lieutenant Ford.
"Kavanagh moved his lab this morning. Complained that the air here was 'too stuffy'."
"Then who's in here?" Major Sheppard again.
"The Athosian candle thing--crap, here comes Teyla!"
"Run for it!"
Halling's voice had also grown louder, as if increasing his volume would grant him some sort of inner peace. "Pere lume tempo e teri..."
* * * * *
At this point Elizabeth had her head in her hands. "Halling, I am so, so sorry..."
"It is not just... our differences," he assured her somewhat awkwardly. "There is also the concern of Jinto..."
Elizabeth pursed her lips, remembering the young Athosian's antics. Had he and his friend Wex been twenty-odd years older, she might have mistaken them for Sheppard and McKay. The allure of a strange city with many winding corridors and areas labeled as "off limits" was far too tempting for the John-Sheppard-in-training. They had managed to keep him contained for a while--that was until he had managed to get a hold of Carson's ATA retrovirus.
From that point, the young Athosian had begun to wreak havoc on the city. Aside from Jinto releasing giant energy sucking clouds, there had also been the unmentionable Chair Room incident, the child-inappropriate recordings he had found in the hologram room, and of course the attempted joyriding of the Puddle Jumpers (on more than one occasion).
Before he could elaborate, Elizabeth held up a hand herself, signaling that she already knew exactly what his concern was. Oh, did she know.
"We are simple people," Halling summed up. "This city, it is far too complex--"
"We never needed permission to go to the bathroom on Athos," Kanan interjected annoyed.
"--and dangerous for us," Halling finished sourly, giving the younger Athosian an annoyed stare.
"We hate it here!" Someone from the back of the crowd cried.
Halling shot a glance over his shoulder, before turning back to face Elizabeth, who was shaking her head softly, one hand massaging her temple. "I honestly don't know what to say."
"Please, say we can go."
"Yes, yes, of course."
A hint of a sad smile lit Halling's face and he turned to leave.
The tall man stopped and turned back to face her again. Her entire posture radiated both compassion and remorse.
"I really am sorry."
"As am I."
With a sad smile, he bowed his head in what looked to be a variation on the traditional Athosian greeting. Elizabeth unconsciously echoed the motion, as did the rest of the people surrounding her. As they silently withdrew and she found herself alone in the hallway, she realized the gesture wasn't a variation at all -- it was a farewell.
Is it sad that these are getting progressively longer? (Or the fact that there's now three?)