By the Light of Full Moons by SusieQ
she looked back long enough, or stopped to catch a much needed breath, she was
as good as dead...
Her hunters were preternaturally fast!
The team had come here, never suspecting the rapacious phantasms that awaited. Curiosity, in all its flourish, would be their undoing one of these days; this day could be the one. The killers who walked on two legs as easily as they did on four, were shape-shifters of the highest order, and no one had had a clue save for McKay who knew his European and Native American folklore to the letter...
"No, I never saw any of those movies, nor read what were fancifully called novels. Albeit my appearance, I am not pubescent! I just know stuff. A rather extensive knowledge of the medieval chronicler Gervase of Tilbury's notations on lycanthropy, as well as those of the Greek writer Petronius."
These primeval woods and glens teemed with the obscure creatures Sheppard's team had inadvertently discovered once night had fallen with the planet's twin moons on the ascent.
"Not one, but *two*," McKay had lamented, casting fatalistic eyes up at the spectacular lunar bodies in question.
Through no fault of her own, she was separated from her team, her vigilant comrades, who always had her back, Teyla thought. Weaponless, she gasped and panted, struggling for breath, running blindly through the twilit forest which went on forever. At first the team had deemed the separation accidental and temporary. As events unfolded, however, it had become abundantly clear that the division had been cleverly orchestrated by these cunning hunters, these..., well, for want of a better vernacular, werewolves.
Teyla disregarded the brambly bracken which tore mercilessly at her body, marring the flawless skin of her face and arms; it was good the BDUs protected her legs or they would be as savaged as her exposed areas.
Mounting fear could be accrued to her hearing the lupine trackers chasing after her through this dense overgrowth. What was worse...the Wraith, or these shaggy razor sharp-toothed predators? Mentally, Teyla shuddered again and barked at herself to run faster. As agilely sure footed and lithe as she was, the Athosian rarely fell down while being pursued, yet, owing to her lack of sleep and proper nourishment, her energy waned. Coupled with her dearth of focus, shifting all over the place within herself, an unsteadiness she was unaccustomed to harassed her.
She heard her pursuers volubly communicating with each other in their arcana of animalistic grunts and growls as they chased her. The length of their claws and teeth pumped chills up and down her spine as she imagined the worst, feeling their oppressive nearness, knowing that they smelt her fear heavy in the verdure air. She sucked hard, her lungs on the verge of collapsing, as starved for air as they were. Her mind smothered her with images of her being torn to pieces.
Horrifically, in mid-stride, her ankle gave way under her and, buckling, she tumbled to the twig-laced, tinder-choked deciduous floor. The pack of snarling attackers, four of them, all males, bent on her destruction, aborted the chase but not their intent, seeing they held her at bay.
The robust alpha, a monstrously hulking jet-black furry beast, edged the nearest to Teyla while the others of his rangy company hung back in deference to their indisputable leader, though the pack stood in strength as one. The sleek leader bared his lethal teeth as did the others in varying degrees of showing their gleaming fangs and snapping. Their mouths bled foamed saliva. Their growls were terrifying. Teyla felt her heart miss a tattoo of beats, but she refused to lose her head entirely. Upon the ground, she sagely inched away from them, locking fierce eyes on each 'lupus sapien' that was scaring the life out of her.
Poised and balefully-primed to strike, the pitiless, broad-chested leader watched the succulent victim withdraw, creeping herself away from him only to back herself into the waiting paws of his dark auburn fellow traveler who had stealthily worked his way behind Teyla.
The scream tore from her as though it had been literally ripped from her throat. It was then that the secretive night, with its darkened starry sky; the hollow wind in the trees of these moons-dappled woods; the frantic beating of her faint, laboring heart; the ferocious sounds these rabid come-to-life nightmares made, ceased to be.
Ronon boomed, like a man possessed. One moment he'd had her six, then the next,
she had vanished like a puff of smoke. Being hard on himself, he judged her
disappearance was on him. He had never experienced anything the like of this
before. Seething now, he loathed the silence of non-response; it brought him
nothing but hair-trigger indignation.
"Teyla!" John clamored, hamstrung. He glared at Rodney as helplessly as the scientist stared at him. Helplessness was a bad feeling, one John wished he could shoot down with impunity every chance he got.
The silence reverberated with their angst-laced echoes until Rodney finally said, "What are the chances of our finding her in the dark?" He didn't mention it, but it struck him as suspiciously odd how quickly the darkness had fallen and it wasn't just the darkness in and of itself. There was a disquieting, all-encompassing, 'you're not getting out of this intact' quality about it. McKay shook it off as best he could, trying very hard not to think about their not getting out of this alive.
Short-tempered, Ronon fixed him with an obstinant look, glaring, clutching his energy weapon, the prized particle magnum, with greater tenacity. "We're not stopping till we find her! C'mon!" The bristly tracker forged on.
Taking the cue, John nodded, moving to follow his lead, equally determined. "There's no choice in this!"
Rodney, recognizing them for what they were, nodded, following right behind the two alphas in their own right.
"...I hope you like it." His tone held promise. "Don't look now." Smiling at her sideways, and taking his time about producing her surprise from behind his back, John settled the glossy pelt upon Teyla's shoulders. "For chilly nights like this when we come out here."
The 'here' was one of Atlantis' observation platforms they liked in common.
Beaming, she returned his smile generously. "Why, John, it's beautiful." Although, when she had it in place the way she wanted it to hang, the pelt wriggled into another position it obviously preferred.
Snidely, John remarked, "Guess not all the life is entirely out of it, yet..." But before he could do anything about the fur's holdover of viability...
Teyla involuntarily jerked, awaking; her mind reeled with its first quaking thought. She was alive, giving her body a quick once-over. Relief was immediate and sweet, no gaping gashes, no gouged nor ripped flesh...just the welts and scratches attributable to her mad scramble to save her life through the woods.
"How?" she muttered to herself since she saw no one in the immediate vicinity. The glow of the tranquilly-burning fire sparked all manner of conjecture on her part and that was intermingled with her utter amazement over still being alive. Her head felt heavy; her vision wasn't what it normally was. The strong aroma of meaty food simmering hit her like a rock and her mouth watered. Gingerly, she rose, not wholly trusting her sore legs, desirous of investigating what smelled so tempting. While inspecting the contents of the wide-mouthed bubbling stewing pot, the soft, reserved voice startled her.
"It was made for you, so help yourself. We have already eaten."
Teyla's wide eyes flew to the owner of that soothing, magnetic voice seamlessly blended with velvet. His virility stunned her. He was a good six feet tall, broad shouldered with a chest to match; his skin's color was a close match to hers with a bit more goldenness to it. He wore no shirt and his pants were cutoffs at the knee; his quads were chiseled brawn. Just as she prepared to ask who he was and how she got here, three other men, sinewy specimens as well, joined him. Though there were no visible scars on any of these robust men, their upper arms, she then noticed, bore striking markings of intricate design close to their shoulders. The newcomers smiled toothily and a smidgen sheepishly at her.
"Who are you?" Teyla rapidly demanded, sensing something oddly familiar about them all, although her rational mind was incapable of wholly accepting.
"It is good to see your color has somewhat returned. Please, eat what has been prepared for you to ensure its complete return," the obliging stranger encouraged.
"Answer me first," Teyla rebuffed, wary of his balmy way.
"I am called Caloj, of the Mox clan, the dominant bloodline in these territories."
"We all are," the man, whose coal-black hair was the longest, spoke up. "I am Samick."
Teyla noted his saucy bearing, training a steady eye on him.
"I am Lute," the square-jawed, shyest one gently announced.
"And I am Anxy," the deep blue-eyed man regally asserted, drawing nearer to the fire and the sustenance it kept warm. Conjunctively, the quad-band yipped while Anxy flourished with his hand. "Eat what we prepared especially for you and as you do, we will speak." He grinned happily, showing his teeth.
Caloj validated by saying, "As leader of this pack, I give you my word...uh." His smile wolfish, he angled off from the curious outsider, his attitude expansively considerate.
"I am Teyla," she replied slowly, the piquing of her curiosity rising to greater heights. The thought of them going to the trouble of feeding her, encouraged greater agitation. Fatten her up over time so she'd be tastier? Looking around swiftly, she noticed that there was something more than a little familiar about the setting. "This is where--"
"Eat." Lute handed her an earthen bowl, chock full of fatty yet wonderfully smelling meat, and its complementary ladle.
One bite and the succulence of the gamey flesh, the dish's singular component, enthralled her, but she was a long way off from feeling content. "Where you--"
"We cornered you here for a reason." he chipped in, casting a chary eye at Caloj who nodded, giving permission. "We've been watching you ever since you came. There are few we choose."
The tiny hairs on the back of Teyla's neck rose and the beating of her heart accelerated. Ronon, which was not a surprise, could be counted upon for his instincts. He'd mentioned several times that they were being watched. Preparing to speak, Caloj's instantaneous transformation forced incoherent words from her and she dropped her bowl, backing away from the cryptic band of runic natives. "Y-you--you are phantoms!" Sickening dread, seizing her, caused everything concrete and plausible to spiral out of control. "Y-you're not possible. We thought we had imagined--" Overcome, she cut herself off. All-possessing fear bowled her over, terminating further movement. "We did not come here to harm you," Teyla rasped, fighting for breath, battling to dominate her fear.
"And harming you is unthinkable, Teyla," Caloj assured her once he assumed human form again. A gust of wind rippled against her face as transfixion seeped through her. "Yours is the scent of kindred and being one with us. You are of terra, of wind and sky, as independent as we. As untamed. Forever protective of what is yours."
On the cusp of his words ending, his brethren assumed the forms they had been when pursuing her. Caloj retrieved her dropped bowl, filled it with more food, giving it and the ladle back to her. "Eat," he reiterated. "It will strengthen you, enable you to accept what you know to be true now." Her hosts saw how reluctant their spellbound guest was to welcome their hospitality. Moving in closer to Teyla, Caloj carefully, firmly reassured her. "Trust us."
Looking distant, she gradually complied, taking several slow sips of the thick consomme after having consumed a sizeable piece of meat; the hearty juice slid from it, saturating her face. She had never tasted anything this tantalizing and despite her reluctance, she had to admit that the meal was delicious - rich, flavorful and inductive, having a calming effect. She devoured more.
"It gladdens us you like it."
Samick, Lute, and Anxy woofed, yelped and yowled, then began roughhousing with one another like the spirited pups they were.
Looking on as the feral creatures tested the other, Teyla considered. "How?" she asked, her entire face an inquiry. "I have heard of legends, some from among my own people, some from our allies, but I never imagined that mortals such as yourselves truly exist."
"Who are your people?" Caloj inquired, sounding patient as though time was on his side.
"I am Athosian." A pride rooted in humility enveloped her.
Caloj sensed it and bowed slightly from his waist. "The ancestors endowed special gifts to certain ones among my people. We, the Mox, as well as the Uluetles, the Luptes and the Twee share this world and many secrets. We embrace our ability, guard our home with it against any who seek to destroy what we have here..."
She jumped to her assumption, an easy one; it was the assumption an entire galaxy recoiled from. "Wraith!"
"The Life-leeches," Caloj supportively corrected. "Ravagers." Boring into Teyla's eyes with his own, he said, "They are no match for those of us who are phasers. We warred against them when they first came, haunting us, attacking from the sky."
"In their Hive ships," Teyla softly said, the imagery making her face contort. "And the smaller ships they use to cull... Darts."
Caloj nodded, but his face showed no signs of familiarity with the words. "We move too fast for them to capture us. Those of us who lack the ability dwell in caverns deep within our mountains, which afford safety. The 'leeches never come to our home anymore; they know better. All that awaits them here is death. All circle users get the same reception; we wish nothing, only to be left alone, to ourselves. We phasers are the protectors of our people. It is up to us to dissuade intruders. There are few who are exceptions, Teyla. You are one who is and you are welcome for as long as you choose to stay." His voice hitched, becoming more subdued with a gentleness that seemed as old as time. "I would wish you stay among us...learn our paths, our connection with our home. I would show you..."
"I am truly honored," she humbly accepted, her mind abuzz with many more questions she wasn't sure she had a right to ask. She sensed he was offering more than mere camaraderie. There was a look that bespoke intimacy aglow in Caloj's piercing eyes, an ongoing loneliness. "But, I'm not alo..." She broke off, then continued, "That is, I'm with--"
Nodding, Caloj's demeanor was such that it invited her to express what was on her mind, but before Teyla sensed that she had permission, he abruptly charged, "Hush!"
Lute, Anxy, and Samick halted their unruly free-for-all, clearly on the alert. Their growls and snarls were no longer larkish.
"W-what is it?" Teyla whispered.
The last words Caloj spoke as a human were, "Invaders are near." He moved on all fours toward his wolfen brothers whose stances signaled that they were primed for attack.
Before Teyla could tell them that she wasn't alone, that in all likelihood, the 'invaders' were John, Ronon, and Rodney, the discharged blast from an energy weapon burst upon the pack, dispersing it, or so it appeared.
"Ronon!" Teyla cried, her eyes combing the immediate area, visually picking everything in range apart. She listened intently for her teammates.
The protectors were nowhere to be seen, as though she had imagined their very existence.
"Teyla!" John shouted at the top of his lungs, his voice a beacon.
She heard them nearer now and answered, "Here, John, I'm here!"
Ronon burst into view first followed by John with Rodney closely on his heels, with a downtrodden look etched in his face. The three of them radiated vibes of how relieved they were seeing her alive and relatively unharmed, rushing as one upon her.
"You all right?" Ronon demanded, scowling, as though punishing her for making him sick with worry wasn't a bad idea.
"One minute you were with us, the next, you vanished," John drove home. If it were just he alone with her now, she'd be in his arms, he crushing the life out of her for gladness.
"They tricked us, then led us on a wild goose chase," Rodney kibbitzed. Then in irritation he said, "Our eyes weren't playing tricks on us, were they? Those guys really did--didn't they? Change, I mean."
Teyla nodded. "They are real..."
"Real what?" Ronon gruffly insinuated.
There was a sound of snuffling and the four wolves returned, crouching, snarling, baring their teeth, set to attack at a moment's notice. They would have if it hadn't been for Teyla's supplicatory intercession, but not before Ronon got off another shot. He thought he'd hit one of them, who happened to be Samick, but he'd missed by a figurative mile. The 'wolvan' was far too fast to be tagged, let alone grazed by even a little.
Ronon, swearing by his eyes that he had hit the beast, stood stone still. Seemingly, out of thin air, Samick reappeared, a heartbeat away from going for the Satedan to rip out his jugular.
Like lightning, Teyla struck, interposing herself between Ronon and Samick. "No! Please, stop!" she beseeched.
"Teyla," John roughly muttered to her. He had his weapon trained on Samick who pawed the ground. "Get out of there!"
Teyla watched her slim fingers shake as she held up her hands. "All of you--listen to me! We are on the same side." Her eyes delivered glancing blows to all present, men and beasts, bravely interceding. "Fighting, hurting and killing each other isn't helping. You know I'm right! We are friends!" Her look of desperation penetrated skin and pelts alike. Her eyes pleaded with John first. "Destroying one another isn't the answer. We must talk...not lash out!" She wrung her hands, her plea more desperate. "For me?" Caloj came under her scrutiny first, then the other members of the pack. "You accept me. These men are my friends and yours as well. Just as you promised not to harm me, they won't harm you. I and they give you our word."
Again, she targeted John with ardent eyes of entreaty. "Lower your weapon..." She then used her ocular persuaders on Rodney and Ronon. "Please."
Sweat had beaded on John's and Rodney's foreheads. Ronon gave a soft laugh of disbelief, which Teyla took to mean he had no intention of dropping his show of force a degree. Teyla edged closer to the pack, glanced at Caloj sideways and intimated that he should lead the way.
In that instant, the 'wolvan' was man again, his chest heaving, his powerful arms flexing, shifting his weight from foot to foot with his eyes caressing Teyla's face, which was beginning to lose most of its tension. He stood a bit straighter, waiting. The other 'wolven' followed their leader's lead.
Caloj smiled, and for the first time actually looked charming in his handsomeness.
Ronon hadn't realized it; unconsciously, he had lowered his weapon while witnessing the startling transformation having taken place before his unwavering eyes. John was profoundly astounded and Rodney was pinching himself while under his breath he murmured, "This is not a movie...this is not a movie..."
Moving cautiously, John was the first to approach Teyla. He made sure his voice was low. "You were right all along."
"I was suspicious," she said warningly. To Caloj she introduced, "This is Colonel John Sheppard."
Haltingly, the husky leader and guardian put the question, "Are you Athosian as well?"
"Where are you from?"
"A place called Earth, which I'm kind of reminded of right now. Nice woods you have here." Easily, Sheppard looked about once again.
"Our home," Caloj emphasized.
"Like I said...nice." Off-handedly, John remarked, "Don't have a problem with Wraith, I take it."
Teyla shook her head, indicating that they didn't and Caloj's gloating spilled to his devotees.
"Why divide, then try to wipe us out? We paid a visit just to check on a few things we'd noticed back where we're temporarily from. Atlantis," John justified.
Caloj studied John, appraising.
"We're explorers, basically," he rounded out.
"Is this true, Teyla?" Caloj injected, giving his fellows contributory looks. A restive mood had begun permeating the natives.
She nodded and supplemented, "We visit different worlds hoping to establish good relations, especially with gaining allies to help us combat the Wraith until one day the galaxy is no longer plagued by them." Ronon kept up his steady barrage of cutting looks aimed expressly at Caloj, Lute, Anxy, and Samick, which Teyla couldn't help noticing, as though at any moment he wanted to finish them off. She tried catching his eye, but he avoided her weightier ones.
Rodney, shook off being silence itself after having taken everything in, vigilant about not making rash moves that might trigger, as his mindset was, 'a field day for werewolves, when they were fresh out of silver bullets...' "Yes, yes, we investigate all sorts of interesting things. We're knowledge hounds, and that's hounds in a good way. We also know when it's wiser to keep what we know to ourselves."
Caloj, liking the sound of that, said for Teyla's benefit mainly, "We will hold you to that." In that same breath, he stipulated, "Now, we must return to the people." To John, Rodney and Ronon, in particular, he didn't split hairs. "You must go--go at once!"
Compliantly, Teyla nodded. "Yes, of course. We understand."
"*They* must go," Caloj insisted, his cunning eyes indicating just who he meant. "I wish you to remain among us, Teyla," he stated candidly, looking to her for ready acceptance. "To remain with me to become one with the people...as my mate."
Ronon's face, Rodney's, and John's most of all went lurid. John, when he found his voice, boomed, "No--never gonna happen!" Ronon had his weapon trained on Caloj and the look on Ronon's face was murderous.
"This time, I don't miss," he vowed.
"Please," Teyla cried, placing herself squarely in the path of Ronon's aim yet again. "This can be settled without brutality." She appealed to John, whose jaw was clenched, and Ronon with a desperation that defied words. "Let me speak with him...alone."
Begrudgingly, her incredulous teammates agreed to let her go off with Caloj in the little clearing a McKay's stone's throw away. John had the hardest-boiled look on his face and Teyla held it, memorizing each multi-faceted nuance as he warned, "Nothing better happen to her...or else."
Of course, he wasn't altogether sure what form of retaliation the 'or else' would take.
She minced her way by Lute, Samick and Anyx; with her passing, the trio phased to their wolfen forms, much to Rodney's John's and Ronon's grumbly consternation.
When it was just Teyla and Caloj, Teyla spoke. "Again, you do me great honor, wishing me to be your mate, joining with your people."
"It is I who would be honored, Teyla." Softly, he promised, "The people will be yours as well. I sense greatness in you; with you at my side, we would inspire them to greater fulfillment."
Giving him a crooked little smile, Teyla replied, "And do you sense something else?" Instinctively, she anchored her hands upon her belly, weighting it. "Something wonderful?"
An expression of puzzled amazement settled on Caloj's broad face. He tried piecing out what she was driving at by studying the cast of her self-possessed face closely. "Wonderful?" he said wanly after several moments of careful contemplation that surrendered no clue of what she meant.
"Joyous...You see..." Teyla closed her eyes and breathed deeply and when she reopened them, she dotingly imparted, "I am pregnant."
"Who is the father of your offspring?"
"The bravest of men," Teyla said proudly. "The man I have loved since first laying eyes on him."
Ruefully, Caloj sniffed the air and owned up to what he was forced to admit. "I envy this man."
Teyla smiled to herself; the man in question weighed heavily on her mind, ruling her heart. She spoke from it. "He is all that I have ever wanted. A more caring, honest, self-sacrificing man has never lived." A forlorn look momentarily crossed her face as though she shared much of Caloj's regret. She embraced the stark reality of her pregnancy and the person who truly was responsible for her condition. Yet freely, lovingly, she constructed the alternate universe, her fanciful fiction, where John was lover, husband, father...everything. "He is-"
Her response was immediate, complaisant, tenacious--"Yes, JOHN."
Tersely, Caloj cut in, "He is this man."
Breathing out, her sigh bordering on corroborative, Teyla confirmed with her settled look and, unmistakably, she saw Caloj covet what she had led him to believe about her team's dauntless leader. Over her shoulder, she glanced in the direction where they waited for her.
"Are you all right?" John's voice boomed again, sounding closer.
"I'm fine." She addressed Caloj. "He's also very decisive and hates to be kept waiting." Succinctly, she finished, "We'll be leaving now."
"Yes," Caloj capitulated, girding himself to face his brethren, the strangers and the man who possessed the woman he wanted for himself. "You are all free to go." Before he transformed, he told her in finality, "But, if you should ever need my help, Teyla, for anything, you must return and seek me out. You, alone. This is my pledge to you I make this day."
"Thank you, Caloj," she murmured, going to him and he looked surprised. Taking him by his broad shoulders, the rich color uniquely their own, Teyla gently indicated that they should touch foreheads. The bewitched shape-shifter did readily and after moving his brow away from Teyla's Caloj became wolfen once again. Teyla studied the creature thoughtfully; his eyes were riveted to hers as though they were communing on some higher level. Then, without warning, Caloj howled and the keening sound broke Teyla out of her trance. The call signaled Samick, Lute and Anxy and they came running.
John, Rodney and Ronon, unable to keep up with the 'wolven,' appeared moments after the pack had disappeared into the woods.
Sounding deliberate, Teyla said, "We may go."
Cocking an eyebrow, John remarked, "You too? Or do you plan on becoming part of the pack as the leader's bride?"
"Sheppard," Ronon fairly gnarred, glaring.
"Easy, big fella," John countered. Since when was levity such an anathema following a really bad time to lighten the mood?
"Yes, well, maybe you got a big kick out of shadow dancing with werewolves, but, frankly, the quicker we go, the better," Rodney vented up-front, motioning that he was all too ready to lead the way back to the 'Jumper. Getting caught up in his feet, he saved himself from falling to the ground once his back impacted the trunk of a tree he hadn't noticed in his immediate area. He gaped at them all, and stated the obvious. "I meant to do that."
Standing over him, Teyla smiled, offered her hand and Rodney without another word took it to help himself up. "Rodney is right," she said. "It would be best if we leave this world at once before the good graces extended are withdrawn due to any perceived lingering on our part." Teyla saw understanding in Johnís perceptive eyes as he nodded that they should get going.
Not too far a distance from Ronon and Rodney, who had assumed taking the lead with Rodney having a clear edge over Ronon, John said softly to Teyla, "You know I was only kidding about becoming that bride, right?"
"Of course, John," she answered innocently, her ebon, expressive eyes as round as the orbs of lunar light acting as beacons high above their heads. Playfully, she summated, "There was such honesty in his offer though, much fealty, greatly heartfelt..."
"H-huh?" The shock in his voice betrayed his disbelief. "You weren't? Seriously thinking of--I mean...you...would...have ac...cepted?"
Before she sauntered on past him through the thick foliage, hefting her weapon which Ronon had mindfully had the presence of mind to retrieve, she replied, "John..." The long sigh she exhaled froze his mystified facial expression in place.
"Teyla?" he pitched, dragging out the syllables, looking like the perfect candidate for having missed something.
She kept walking, dwelling on just how she was going to break the news to him about the baby growing inside of her that she wished was theirs.