Falling Apart - Chapter 3
Author's Note: If Rodney seems a bit out of character in this chaper, it's because he's feeling unusually okay, as I said below in the fic. He does come across as almost disturbingly reasonable, but I think that that makes sense under the circumstances. Lots of thinly veiled anti-Dex sentiment in this chapter as I sort of had a field day... Any Ronon fans - you probably want to turn back now! Of course, if you're still here after the first couple chapters, then I guess you can probably stand it. Seriously though, I don't want to offend anyone. Everyone has their own opinions, and their likes and dislikes. I don't like Dex, but that's just me and my own opinion. Which is why I issued the warning in the first chapter, because I know I don't like it when I read bad things about characters I like, so - sorry! And you have been warned.
Anyone who's still with me - read on... :)
It was dark in the infirmary, the lights dimmed. Which wasn't terribly surprising as it was after 1:00 AM, and most of the inhabitants of Atlantis who weren't in bed were staying away from the patients who needed their sleep.
Rodney walked into the area just outside of the infirmary which had long ago been designated the Waiting Room. He went straight for the infirmary doorway, and peeked in, trying to catch a glimpse of Sheppard. Between the lack of lights and the fact that John had curtains completely surrounding his bed, he didn't have much success. He toyed with the idea of sneaking in (the infirmary was off-limits tonight by order of the Chief Medical Officer), but saw that Beckett's office door was open and in full view of Rodney's intended destination. He decided to hold that thought.
He turned back towards the reasonably-comfortable chairs... to see Teyla sitting in one of them, smiling up at him.
"Rodney," she greeted.
"Teyla, hello," warm and awkward at the same time, if that was possible. "Sorry, I uh, didn't see you when I came in."
"So I noticed," she said smoothly. Rodney blinked at her in slight surprise, then saw the teasing quirk to her mouth, and gave her a grin. She took one hand from around her drawn up knees to pat the chair next to her own invitingly.
He didn't need to be asked twice, and settled in for the rest of the night.
"I had to finish up some work, which is why I was, you know, not here earlier," he explained, not quite meeting Teyla's eye. The truth was that he had needed a slight break from all the people, and had just wanted to be alone for a few hours so he could break down and do some mind-occupying research, planning to come back when there were fewer people to stare at him.
"I understand," Teyla answered. And, turning to look at her, Rodney thought she really did understand. Not just his cover story, but the real reason he had left. Teyla seemed to understand a lot of things, and Rodney liked that. That way, he didn't have to actually say them, which was much more comfortable.
They'd seen a lot of eachother over the last few days, when Sheppard's life had been in danger. After their talk on the balcony, it had been understood that both of the Colonel's best friends should stick together, and they had done that. It had helped Rodney immeasurably, and he hoped he'd helped Teyla as well... Though he hadn't really known anything to say. And honestly, he hadn't felt very hopeful. But still, he had learned that everyone needed friends, if only just to be there for them, and Teyla was no exception to that universal rule.
He felt much closer to Teyla now than he had a mere week ago. Not that he hadn't liked her before, or trusted her - of course he had. She was his friend and a member of his team. But he felt that she knew him better now, and he'd learned more about her as well. It always took Rodney a long time to really get to know people, and frankly Teyla was such an amazing person that it had always intimidated him a little. The past few days had finally helped him to get past that.
Right now, Rodney was in one of his best moods. He felt almost... peaceful. Which never happened. But Sheppard was getting better, it was the middle of the night, he had no immediately panicking projects, and no one was here but Teyla - possibly the one person in the entire Pegasus Galaxy whom he knew wasn't mad at him at the moment. The fact that he hadn't really slept more than a few hours in the last week might have also been a factor in his somewhat euphoric mood.
He felt good. Which was really, really unusual, especially recently. Conversation would be nice, he thought.
"So, you been here the whole time?" Rodney asked, breaking the silence. When Teyla nodded, he went on, "Did you get any dinner?"
"Yes," she smiled, "Dr. Beckett had someone bring me something."
"Good." Another pause, then, "What about Ronon?"
"He left some time ago," Teyla said, her face again taking on the sort-of-neutral expression that Rodney had noticed her employ whenever she spoke about the runner since their excursion to Belkan. Granted, there had been a little more anger in it before... It wasn't the sort of face Rodney would have wanted Teyla to direct at him. "I... thanked him for his help in saving Colonel Sheppard," she said slowly.
"Yeah..." said Rodney. He supposed he should really be a little more enthusiastic, but he didn't like even stunners pointed at his friends, really, and Dex always seemed to enjoy shooting a bit too much... It made Rodney nervous. Besides, he still couldn't help but think that it should be Ford, and he just didn't find Ronon Dex all that... likable. But Sheppard liked him, so there must be something in him, and it wasn't his decision anyway. "He, um... It was a good thing he was there when he was," Rodney said guardedly.
"Yes," said Teyla, matching his tone.
Rodney glanced at her, thought for a second, looked away, and came to a conclusion. "Look, ah... I don't mean to be prying or anything, and if this is inappropriate of me to ask, then obviously, you - you don't have to answer..." He could feel Teyla's gaze on him, but didn't look up. "It occurred to me afterwards that I was sort of - really selfish out on the balcony a few days ago, and -" He raised his eyes and saw encouragement, which equally embarrassed him, and gave him the nerve to go on. "What I mean is, you obviously came out there for a reason in the first place, and... and if you want to talk about anything... Ronon, o-or the mission, or - anything..." he floundered.
He turned to watch as she leaned back and took a deep breath. She seemed to consider something, observing her teammate out of the corner of her eye. Then she sort of shrugged, and said, "Ronon and I... did not get along too well on Belkan. It has been weighing on my mind."
"I'm sorry," Rodney said, more honestly than he usually managed. "What happened? Was it the trade negotiations, or...?"
"That... was the start of it," Teyla admitted. "In order to obtain a better bargain, I was attempting to convince the Belkans that they were asking too much in trade. This way, when I was finally 'forced' to agree to their terms, they would not push for a better deal," she explained. "It has worked well before."
"Right, that makes sense," Rodney agreed.
"Yes. But Ronon took my bluff for truth, and decided that he should... step in to rescue me from my own ineptitude." She raised her eyebrows in a slightly rueful expression. "He made them agree to the deal I did not really want, and there will be consequences later."
Rodney made a sympathetic face and blinked. "Yeah, he doesn't strike me as the negotiating type."
"No," Teyla smiled despite herself.
"You said that was what started it?" Rodney asked curiously, sensing that there was much more to this. "What happened then?"
Teyla looked hesitant. "I am not sure I should tell you..."
"You must not tell anyone else," she clarified quickly.
"Well, does Colonel Sheppard know?" Rodney had to ask, unconsciously lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper.
"No. No, he is the one person I certainly cannot tell," Teyla told him, shaking her head.
"Okay. Well... I promise I won't tell if you don't want me to. If you can trust me with that," he added a little uncertainly. This was reminding him of the few times he and Jeannie had gotten in trouble together and had been forced to share a confidence. It had always made him feel sort of... special. But he wasn't going to ask for anyone's trust again, not after what had happened that last time...
"It is not a matter of trust," Teyla assured her friend with a smile.
"You don't have to," Rodney hastened to point out to her, wanting to warn her before she made a mistake, but torn because he really did want to redeem himself somehow, to help someone. "Only, if it'll make you feel better -"
"I think I would like to," Teyla decided, and immediately launched into her story. "You have heard that a few hundred of Ronon's people survived?" Rodney nodded. "One of these was named Kell. Ronon informed me that this man was his trainer, and that he was like family." She paused, then continued, "The day we were to leave, he heard this Kell was on Belkan, and asked me to arrange a meeting for him." The anger was surfacing again in her eyes now, and Rodney wondered what the end of the story would be that could make Teyla look like that. "I did so, and when Kell came out to see us - Ronon killed him."
"What!" Rodney displayed utter, wide-eyed shock.
"I was - surprised myself," Teyla said darkly.
"Well - why did he do that?" Rodney all-but squeaked.
"Apparently Kell had caused the deaths of thousands of Satedans in order to protect himself during the last culling of their world," she said, glaring. "Ronon considered it a matter of personal revenge."
"Well, okay, but he had no right to use you like that," Rodney said angrily. God, no wonder the man was always alone if he used all his friends to murder people! "He shouldn't have brought you into it at all."
"Yes, I was... very angry that I had been used as a tool to kill a man. I told him then..." She sighed. "I told him I understood why he had killed him. But I do not." She shook her head. "I could never do such a thing. He was unprepared..."
Rodney shook his head and blinked. "I see why you can't tell Sheppard."
"So, did Ronon apologise?"
"No," Teyla said with another glare.
There was a short pause as they both considered the chances of Ronon actually apologising this long after the fact.
"I hope I haven't offended him!" Rodney suddenly added, his eyes going wide again.
This brought a laugh out of Teyla. "Yes, so do I!"
"No, seriously, I mean, I knew he was trigger-happy, but this is above and beyond. I cut in front of him in line at lunch one day..." he went on, partly genuinely nervous, and partly trying to get another laugh from his companion.
"I am glad I told you, Rodney," Teyla told him with another pretty smile.
"Oh. Good," Rodney smiled back, genuinely glad he'd helped someone for once. "So, is that why you came out on the balcony after the mission? I sort of thought -" He faltered, but then decided to push on while he was still in the mood. He hadn't messed up so far. "I mean, I thought perhaps you were... upset about, uh, Ellia."
Rodney had been disturbed himself by her metamorphosis; he would have been more disturbed, except that he'd tried hard not to think of her on any personal level before. She was a Wraith after all - you knew it couldn't end well.
But Teyla, Rodney knew, had definitely viewed her as a person, as she did everyone. And he was sort of afraid that she had seen something of herself in the girl. And watching her as he asked, he was sure he'd been right.
Teyla's face had fallen, and her eyebrows had come together to form a troubled frown. "You are correct," she answered in a weary voice. "She wished so much to escape what she was, and though we tried to help her, in the end our efforts were all in vain, and worse."
She took a deep, slightly shaking breath, and continued. "I felt that she was similar to me," she told Rodney earnestly. "I too have a connection to the Wraith that I would rather disown, but at least I have been able to use it to assist others. I hoped - I did not want her to have to give in to her true nature. I felt I had a duty to help her to be a good person despite what she was."
She looked at Rodney with dark eyes and shook her head. "And in the end, I could not. And we nearly lost Colonel Sheppard as well."
"I know..." Rodney said, his eyes wandering to the doorway again. He pulled his thoughts back to Ellia. "Really, I guess, she was proof that you can be a good person no matter who or what you are." He cocked his head to one side, unaware of Teyla's intense gaze turned towards him. "I mean, even though she was a Wraith, she tried to be something more than an evil killing machine. And she was. But, I mean, you can't fight physics, and I think that who she was was eventually overcome by what she was, physically. But that doesn't make who she was any less good or important."
He thought about Sheppard, and what his friend had almost turned into. All that was John Sheppard would have been gone, leaving only an animalistic body which had once belonged to a human being, a person, a friend. "What she became wasn't her fault, and if her altered biology buried her soul, that doesn't mean it was never there. It's the choices you make that make you good or bad, and if your actions are beyond your control, it's not your fault."
Teyla listened as Rodney waxed unexpectedly eloquent on the subjects of physicality versus spirituality, and free will. Her lips parted and her eyes widened as she understood what he was saying, and his words put her mind at rest. She was herself, and the Colonel was himself, and no biology could destroy who they were, even if it might take their choices from them.
Rodney finished his discourse, and suddenly became aware of Teyla staring at him. He promptly shrank into himself, feeling very self-conscious and wishing he could disappear. But Teyla gave him her loveliest smile, and nodded. "Thank you, Rodney. That was very... helpful," she said sincerely, as if she couldn't find a word sufficiently expressive of her relief and gratitude.
"Oh, y-you're welcome," Rodney replied, turning a bit red, and trying to sink further into his chair. Then he shot a furtive look at Teyla, really somewhat pleased that he seemed to be doing things right for a change. "Anything else you want to tell me?"
Teyla cocked her head to the side, thinking. "No, but I may later," she decided.
"All right." His mind turned back to the Colonel, then he stopped and realised something. "You know, you never did explain what exactly the Colonel did that was so strange in the gym." He glanced over at Teyla, and was surprised to see that she was definitely and unmistakably blushing.
"That is something better left untold," she replied in a low but firm voice.
Rodney narrowed his eyes at her, trying to figure out what exactly would make her look like that. But he quickly turned away when she gave him a distinct "Drop it" glare. Even if it wasn't a case of respecting her privacy, it was always a bad plan to cross Teyla.
"So you want to bring some cards and maybe play poker here tomorrow?" Rodney ventured a few minutes later.
"I would like that," she answered, brightening up at the mention of John's favourite game.
"I'm glad he's going to be okay," Rodney added quietly, expressing both their thoughts.
"So am I," agreed Teyla.
"I guess... you were right," he said. "We will always make it if we stay together. I mean - it just seemed like we were all falling apart." A broken expression filled his eyes for a moment, then was banished back to the depths. "I know I was, and the Colonel was so..." He waved a hand around, trying to find a good word, then gave up. "It seemed like there was really nothing left."
"I know," Teyla agreed. She had felt it too, but she had enough experience to know these things did wear themselves out eventually, whereas it all seemed to be new to Rodney.
"I'm glad I was wrong," he said softly, then decided it couldn't hurt to go a little further. "I wanted to say... Thank you. For being there," Rodney told Teyla sincerely. He looked into the distance and shook his head, remembering the darkness. "I thought I'd go crazy..."
"You are welcome, Rodney. As I said," she smiled at him, "We will be the sane ones. Time and care will return Colonel Sheppard to us as he used to be."
Rodney smiled happily at the thought - and the fact that he believed it now. "Yes, I think you're right."
They sat a while longer in companionable silence, until Rodney noticed Teyla starting to nod off. He got up and grabbed a couple of blankets from a pile that someone had been intelligent enough to put out in the waiting room. Teyla opened her eyes in sleepy surprise as Rodney covered her with one of them. Then she just smiled her thanks, and snuggled down into it gratefully.
Rodney wrapped the other one around himself, intending to stay up a little longer and think. But the chair really was surprisingly comfortable, as was the blanket, and he'd thought or talked out everything really important for now. So it wasn't long after Teyla's head fell down to rest against his shoulder that his own eyes had closed as well in the first proper sleep he'd had in over a week.
Sheppard would be okay. Teyla, for one, was still his friend. He would have the strength now to carry on, helping the Colonel through his recovery, and hopefully earning back his trust and his friendship as well. He'd learned that he hadn't lost everything after all.
He'd found that though it's so hard not to fall apart on your own, if you have even one person to hold on to, together you can build back almost anything. He wouldn't forget that lesson.
Tomorrow would be a brighter day.
Author's Note: Okey-dokee, all finished now! I really hope those of you who read this enjoyed it. And anyone who has anything at all to say - please send a review! I'd really love to hear what any and all of you think, even if it's not to say it's great... Though, I have to say, I might love that more. ;) Yeah, yeah, flattery is my weakness... But as I was saying, I love every review I get, so do tell me what you thought!
Au revoir! I'll be back soon...