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Title: In Memory
Author: esteefee
Category: Gen, Team
Words: 1,249
Summary: Pegasus makes for some different traditions. Some aren't even unpleasant.
A/N: trying this again!

In Memory

by esteefee

Rodney had to admit he felt faintly ridiculous, and so though he knelt with the rest of the team on the ceremonial pillows their hosts had so kindly provided, he was the last to dip his head. He saw Ronon bend first, his dreads parting on either side of his neck, and then Teyla, her head dipping graciously—as with everything she did.

Sheppard gave a shifty glance right and left, but of course he hadn't been here before, while Teyla and Ronon both had with AR-14; finally, though, Sheppard bowed his head too, and Rodney was momentarily disturbed by the contradiction inherent in the nape of John's neck, the strength of tendon and muscle laid bare and vulnerable.

Then Teyla hissed sideways at Rodney and he hastily ducked his chin.

"I am Towali Ferges," the evening's speaker said, "hear my story, and remember. For in remembering, you make me eternal, and death cannot touch me."

"We will remember," the crowd murmured, Rodney hastily joining in.

"I was born to step through the rings, for my mother was a trader, and her sisters, and her father before her. They always returned home here to Vanthos, and here I was born in the time after the Second Great Culling. I have seen four hundred and eighty-one planets." He paused, and there was awe in his voice. "I have seen things of such wonder—a city that floated high as the clouds; a people that lived on rafts joined together on an ocean; villages that blossomed only at night by lantern-light, to be gone by daybreak.

"I brought them spices they had never tasted, baubles the like they'd never seen, and medicines that cured them; and I took away odd beasts with sweet-tasting meat, fruit so rich one bite was a feast, beautiful crafts made by strange-fingered hands..."

As Towali kept speaking, Rodney became conscious of the growing pull of the muscles along his neck, the heaviness of his head, the tension in his legs and back, and he thought he understood why the Otiani insisted on this particular custom, why they asked their guests to bow their heads and keep them bowed while they listened to the story. This wasn't a position he was accustomed to being in, nor any of his teammates, he suspected. He thought if he ever wanted to remember this moment, all he would have to do was bow his head and the memory would pop up again, a physical mnemonic cue. Quite brilliant, really.

And in Pegasus culture, where a whole planet could be wiped out by the Wraith, spreading memories of yourself like a virus through the Gate really would be the way to have some small measure of immortality.

"On a planet with three suns, I once saw them setting at once. I was alone, and the sky was painted in all colors I could imagine, a masterpiece of artistry changing moment by moment, heartbreaking in its beauty, for it only lasted as long as the suns tarried on the edge of the horizon. I couldn't breathe for watching the colors changing, charging the air with their richness, until they faded into darkness. Though I was alone, this was the finest moment, the most precious memory of my life. Remember this for me."

"We will remember," everyone said, Rodney too. He heard Sheppard's husky voice, Teyla's and Ronon's as well, and smiled to himself, wondering if he could locate the planet with the three suns.

Rodney's spine was aching, so he was glad to realize it must be over, but then Nimi, Teyla's friend and the one who had invited them back to trade, started singing something. For some reason it didn't get translated, and Rodney made a mental note to ask her later what it meant.

Most of the crowd joined in, and the song repeated twice more, and then everyone started shifting, and Rodney took it as a cue to finally raise his head.

It was strangely disorienting, and he met Sheppard's eyes, seeing a thoughtful look. Then Sheppard nodded, and Rodney found himself nodding back. Teyla went off to continue negotiations with Nimi, and Ronon came to stand beside them as Towali walked up and Rodney finally got a good look at him. He was tall and beefy with short, silver hair and an olive complexion.

"Thanks for the stories," Sheppard said.

"Thank you for listening. If you ever wish to tell us your stories, we would listen and pass them on. This is our way. I have many stories in my head, of hundreds of people from different planets."

"Yes, ah, about that floating city," Rodney said. "Do you happen to remember the ring address?" He started digging in his vest pockets. "I'm Dr. Rodney McKay, by the way. I make it a habit of studying such things."

"Of course I remember." Towali looked amused. "You may find it difficult to find the city, however. It does not stay close to the ring; and I'm afraid you will have to wait and see if they are willing to come down to greet you."

Sheppard bit the corner of his lip. Rodney waved a hand. "Well, of course. Yes. But, it would be nice to see it, anyway?"

"I'd rather see the planet with three suns," Ronon said suddenly.

"Yeah, me, too." John was grinning.

"All right, yes." Rodney rolled his eyes and handed Towali a pad and pen. "Kids today," he said to Towali, who just smiled at him and scratched at the pad of paper after giving the pen a long, admiring look. He took his sweet time, and after he was done, seemed reluctant to return the pen.

Sheppard was giving Rodney a significant eyebrow and nodding his head.

"Oh, fine," Rodney said under his breath, then much louder, "Would you like to keep the pen? I have lots more."

"If you're sure?" Towali was already slipping it into his patterned vest, so apparently Rodney was sure.

"Oh, yes. Think nothing of it."

Towali smiled and took Rodney by the shoulders, startling him. Towali then bowed deeply until their foreheads touched, and Rodney tilted his head just in time.

"I will remember our meeting, Dr. Rodney McKay," Towali said.

"Uh, me, too."

Towali patted his pocket with a wink and then sauntered away.

"He totally scammed me," Rodney mourned.

"Yep." John was grinning. "Still, a pretty good mission. Nobody got mad, nobody wanted us to wear green face-paint, and we didn't have to eat anything that looked like a slug."

"These are your criteria for a good mission?"

"We get some spices that'll taste great in thingloaf?"

"Oh. Well, then." Rodney headed for his pack, bumping into Ronon on the way, who gave him a friendly shove. "What? Why am I always the Weeble in this scenario?"

"Kid toy," John said to Ronon when he frowned. "They wobble but they don't fall down."

"You fall down lots," Ronon said as Teyla joined them at the doorway carrying a bulging sack. She shoved it at Ronon with an arch look. "In fact, that's my first memory of you." He made a toppling motion with his free hand.

"Ronon," Teyla said in her warning voice, but John was already laughing his horrible, horrible laugh, and Rodney couldn't help smiling too, because he had at least three people who would remember him, and remember him well.

"Oh, yes, good times," Rodney said, and they all headed back to the Gate.


A/Ns: This story is one part inspired from something sheafrotherdon told me about Ojibwe traditions; the other part is from the Greek traditional mourning hymn which states you will be remembered: Αιώνια είναι η μνήμη. "Eternal be your memory." It is sung three times at the wake, three times at the funeral service and three times at the internment by everyone present. I thought, wouldn't it be a twist if someone told you you would be remembered before you died.

2: Yeah, Towali is kinda the double rainbow guy.


( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 27th, 2011 03:54 am (UTC)
This was kinda sweet, and I really liked it - and the way that Rodney had to be 'encouraged' to hand over the pen. *g*
Jul. 27th, 2011 04:00 am (UTC)
thanks! poor Rodney, it was probably his trusty favorite. :)
Jul. 27th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
I really liked this. Being subjected to something that he thinks is odd, then comes away with a greater appreciation... Really interesting concept, brilliantly written.
Jul. 27th, 2011 08:59 am (UTC)
aw, thanks squidgie! <3
Jul. 27th, 2011 05:20 am (UTC)
Oh, this is lovely. I particularly enjoyed the details of Towali's memories -- floating cities! triple sunsets! -- and Rodney's realization of what it means to be remembered.
Jul. 27th, 2011 08:59 am (UTC)
who could forget him? *smishes* thank you my sweet!
Jul. 27th, 2011 09:35 am (UTC)
Oh, this is a lovely thing to wake up to. Thanks so much for sharing!
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
thank you for reading!
Jul. 27th, 2011 01:45 pm (UTC)
I love the tradition and it was especially entertaining from Rodney's POV. You have the way he thinks and acts down pat! The stories were amazing, with lots of neat details and I loved Rodney wanting addresses. Totally loved the teaminess at the end.
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:03 pm (UTC)
thank you so! that means a lot coming from one of my fave writers. :)
Jul. 27th, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)
How lovely and so descriptive...I could feel Rodney's pain. This is not unlike my memories of listening to my grandfathers tell stories of their childhood and early years. I like how Rodney was annoyed at first, then realized the gift he was getting.

Your visions of the floating city and the triple suns are intriguing. What adventures the team would have if the floating city decided to greet them!

Very nice!!!
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC)
oh, what an awesome memory, thanks, stella.

and I think that would be Rodney's reaction...he thinks pretty much everything is a waste of his time if it's not something of his choosing...until he's evaluated, you know?
Jul. 28th, 2011 02:16 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this. I love possibly glimpses into Pegasus culture, and this was a gorgeous one.
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
oh, thank you! I wonder about all the ways the daily threat of culling has twisted Pegasus culture.
Jul. 28th, 2011 07:24 am (UTC)
A gorgeous glimpse of the wonders of the Pegasus galaxy!
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
thank you!
Jul. 28th, 2011 08:46 pm (UTC)
Lovely, thanks.
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
thanks, Ada!
Jul. 29th, 2011 04:19 am (UTC)
Such a lovely start, with a perfect segue into the team being their silly, wonderful selves.
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
\TEAM/ I love them so.
Jul. 29th, 2011 11:12 am (UTC)
Such a gorgeous story. What a lovely surprise after four days without LJ. :)
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
I have to say LJ's woes have really distressed me!
Jul. 30th, 2011 10:18 am (UTC)
Oh, what a sweet, wonderful and heartwarming story! :)

Thank you! :)
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
thank you, saphira! you are so lovely and supportive.
Jul. 30th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
This is so so so so beautiful. My god. I love Rodney's observations on the nape of John's neck (and all the rest of his team) and I love the stories and that they form immortality in this galaxy where life can be so short. And I love that Towali taking the pen, and writing down gate addresses for Rodney! So lovely.
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:07 pm (UTC)
thanks, me co-mo! you picked my faves too. :)) and that Rodney is always *learning*, no matter what he is doing.
Jul. 31st, 2011 05:38 am (UTC)
Yep." John was grinning. "Still, a pretty good mission. Nobody got mad, nobody wanted us to wear green face-paint, and we didn't have to eat anything that looked like a slug."

I love this so much. You have no idea.

Aug. 6th, 2011 11:08 pm (UTC)
heh. so totally John I think. :) thank you, DragonLady!
Jul. 31st, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC)
The was just the most lovely thing. And Rodney being who he is kept it real which some how made it even more touching.

I love how you sneak the absolute beauty of this idea to us, kind of sideways, via Rodney's mild irritation at yet another wierd alien custom that he tolerates until it slowly creeps up on him just what is happening with this simple ritual, and how powerful it actualy is.

And the lovely dialogue between them all, so delicioulsy teamy, so absolutely them.

I am stunned sometimes (and kind of ashamed of my own efforts) when someone writes something so perfect.
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
thank you, scarlett! I like being a little sneaky. :))) I was so touched by this note.
(no subject) - scarlettandblue - Aug. 7th, 2011 01:01 am (UTC) - Expand
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( 39 comments — Leave a comment )

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