A/N: This is something I thought about while I was writting Chapter 4 of 'Life arfter the SGC'. I debated whether to put it there but decided to write a separate story so I could really get into it. The beginning will seem to be mostly about Vala, put bear with me, it'll turn into Teyla and John soon. For those that life Vala, I'll continue that thread in Chap. 5 of LaS. I get into why Teyla stayed at the SGC because when I think about it, I find that they never really gave a satisfactory answer, so I wrote my own.
Disclaimer: Neither the characters nor the basic premise belongs to me; I'm just playing with them for my own amusement and those of others, making no money whatsoever out of it.
Chapter 1: Conversation by the Fire
"I hope he feels about her the way she feels about him," Teyla Emmagan said jolting Colonel John Sheppard from his contemplation of the fire they were sitting around.
"Who do you mean?" He asked as he shifted to follow her glance to where Dr. Daniel Jackson and Vala Mal Doran were sitting a few yards further down. They were sitting side by side around their own fire; Jackson had his legs bent and his elbows resting on his knees while Vala had both his arms around his right arm and her legs were straight out from her but turned into Jackson's body – in other words, she was pretty much cuddle into the archeologist, her favorite position it seemed.
They both seemed to be listening to whatever it was that Halling was telling them. Well, while John was pretty sure that Jackson was paying close attention to Halling what Vala was doing was anyone's guess. Though it was a save bet that whatever was being said was going in one ear and out the other, what actually went on in her mind was a mystery – not only because she was a woman, Elizabeth was a woman, and John understood,(ok, somewhat) her thought process, nor was it because she was an alien, because Ronon was an alien and John understood his thought process better than Elizabeth's and not even because she was a woman and an alien because Teyla was both and John understood her better than the other two (most of the time). No, Vala's mind was a mystery because she was unique individual, as beautiful as she was perplexing. The only one to have inkling on how her mind worked appeared to be Jackson; and what that said about his mind John didn't even want to speculate.
"Jackson?" He asked just to be clear. At her nod, he shrugged. "I don't see why you would worry. They seemed to be attached at the hip most of the time."
Teyla had been living among the Atlantis so long, that she had no problem understanding most of their idioms. "That does not mean anything, John. Besides, have you not noticed that it is always she that is initiating the contact? Always she that looks for him?"
The look on his face made it obvious that he had not noticed it. He shrugged again and said, "Ok, so he doesn't initiate contact, some people are more demonstrative than others. And a lot of people from Earth, especially from the US, are not really comfortable with PDA's." At her blank look, he clarified, "public displays of affection. And he may not initiate them but he never rebuffs or stops her."
"No," Teyla shook her head. "But there is a difference between accepting and initiating."
"Maybe," John had to agree.
"And while he may not stop her, I have rarely seen him actually reciprocating."
"Like I said, some people are just not that demonstrative. And, I don't think he would let her get away with half the stuff she does if he didn't feel anything towards her." He argued.
"Oh, I am not saying he does not feel something for her. I am sure he does. I just hope it is as much as what she feels for him."
He turned to look at her and with yet another shrug said, "It's always difficult to tell these things, but I don't think you have anything to worry." He then paused and asked, "Why are you worried about this all of the sudden?"
It was Teyla's turn to shrugged, "I just would not want to see her hurt."
John snorted and said, "Jackson is not the kind of man who would hurt a woman."
"Not intentionally, no." Teyla agreed. "But without intending it? Anyone is capable of that."
He studied her more closely and said slowly in realization, "You're really worried about this. Why?"
"She is my friend," Teyla said simply.
"I didn't know you two had gotten that close. I thought you said she was hard to get to know."
"She is," Teyla agreed. "It is just recently that we have gotten to know each other better."
John nodded; he had noticed that the two women had gotten closer in the last few weeks. They've gotten along fine since the moment that Vala arrived with Jackson about six months ago; it had probably had something to do with the fact that they were two of the three aliens that resided permanently in Atlantis and the only women.
But while they've always gotten along, it hasn't been until lately that they've really started to spend most of their off-time together. And frankly, John wasn't really sure how to feel about it. Sure, he was happy that she had more friends than just the team and that she'd integrated so well to Atlantis society but at the same time he couldn't help but be a bit jealous that he wasn't the only person she spent most of her off-time with.
Besides, other than the fact that the two were women and came from planets other than Earth, the two were as different as day from night. He really couldn't see how or why they got along as well as they did. And as much as he liked Vala, he did not want her to be too much of an influence on Teyla. He lo . . . liked Teyla just the way she was and didn't want to see her change any more than she had already.
"That's good, Teyla. It's good to have friends," John said. "But everyone in a relationship runs the risk of getting hurt, you know that. It's a risk we all run."
"I know," Teyla agreed. "But some run a greater risk because they risk more – they have more to lose and a greater chance of getting hurt."
John was quite for a moment and then asked, "You think Vala has more to lose than Jackson? That she's more likely to be hurt?" He couldn't help the disbelieving tone of his voice; if anyone had asked him who had more to lose or was more likely to be hurt in that relationship, his first answer would have been Jackson.
"Why does that surprise you?" Teyla asked with a small frown.
"Because," he started to answer and then realized that he wasn't sure what to say. "Well, let's just say that given her history . . ."
Teyla's frown grew before she sighed and said, "She has not had an easy life, John, and she might have done things she is not particularly proud of, but that doe snot mean she is a bad person."
"No, of course not," agreed John. "I never said she was; in fact, I think she's great. I really like her. But it's just hard to believe that she's the more vulnerable of the two, that's all." He said with a shrug. "She always seems so confident and sure of herself."
Teyla nodded. "And she usually is, but she is also a very sensitive person underneath. And the situation," she added with a wave of her hand, "does make her more vulnerable than Dr. Jackson."
"The situation?" John asked. "What do you mean?"
It was Teyla turn to shrug as she answered. "Just that she left everything she knew behind to come here just to be with him. She left everything familiar to follow him into the unknown because she loves him."
"But he left everything he knew behind too. This is just as unknown for him as it is for her."
"Not really," Teyla shook her head in denial. "This maybe another galaxy but the expedition is from Earth. We follow his customs and his rules. All the people in charge are not only from his country but also from the command in which he has worked for the last ten plus years. No," she decided with another shake of her head. "This is really not that unknown for him. Even if it was, this is what he is always dreamed of – his dream job."
"Ok," John conceded since he couldn't very well dispute it. "You're right. But still, I don't think Vala left that much behind. She's been with the SGC for the past two years and is pretty familiar with Earth and its customs, so this is not really new. And really what has she's given up? What did she have before coming to the SGC? A life spent on the run; always having to be a step ahead of everyone. What kind of a life what that? It mustn't have been a good one because she did give it up."
"Whether it was good or not, it was her life. And she went to the SGC to help stop the Ori and Adria."
"But she stayed when that was done."
"Yes, because she had fallen in love with him by then." Teyla paused and then continued. "You are right it was not that great a life, she knows that. She also knows that being here is not bad at all. I am not arguing that it is. I am just saying that I hope he loves her as much as I know she loves him. If he does not, she is going to be really hurt. She would not just lose him but the new life she has been making for herself."
"Why?" John asked, once again completely surprised. "I mean I know she'd be hurt if they don't work out; I'm sure both of them would be. But whether they do work out or not, doesn't have anything to do with Vala's place with us. She's a part of the SGC -regardless of her relationship with Jackson. She's proven she's a great asset and a loyal person; she's here because of that and not because of him. She's also made friends, both here and on Earth. Her life here, among us, does not depend on whether she's with Jackson or not."
"Maybe not," Teyla conceded. "But do you really think she would stay around if things do not work out between them?"
John thought about it and then answered. "Maybe not here in Pegasus. But she could go back to Earth; I'm sure they'd love to have her back in the mountain. And if she didn't want that, I'm sure Sam and General O'Neill would find something else for her. I know they both really like and respect her."
Teyla just nodded and John shook his head.
"You really shouldn't worry so . . ." He trailed off and then he said, "Wait a minute, here. You're not comparing yourself to Vala, are you?" His tone was disbelieving because he could not believe that such a thing would even crossed her mind, but there was something in her tone of voice that made him think maybe she did.
Teyla's silence was the only answer he needed. "Oh, come on, Teyla! You two are completely different!"
"Perhaps," she allowed. "But our situations are remarkably similar."
"No, they are not." John denied, empathically. "For one thing, you're from this galaxy. You didn't follow anyone to a new one."
Teyla inclined her head in acknowledgment but argued, "I may not have gone to another galaxy, but Atlantis and life in it are so different from Athos, that sometimes it feels like another galaxy."
John acknowledged the point with a small smile and a nod, but he wasn't giving up. "Ok, maybe that's true as far as it goes but you didn't come to Atlantis because you were in love with me, did you?" And it was only after he asked the question, did he realize how it sounded; but it was too late by then – he had already asked it.
"No, I did not." Teyla answered simply even as she contemplated how, despite all their advances and knowledge, blind the people of Earth were when it came to the impact they had on others. "I was not in love with you when we came to stay in Atlantis; that, however, does not change the fact that you were the main reason why I decided to have my people follow yours."
John just stared at her before being able to say, "Oh, come on, Teyla. You guys came over because your village was being overrun by the Wraith."
"That it true," she conceded and then went on. "It is also true that that was not the first time that the Wraith had come to Athos nor would it have been the last. We had survived cullings before and we would have done so again." She stated with absolute certainty.
John was shaking his head before she finished talking. "No like this. That wasn't just any other culling, Teyla. I had activated the transmitter and they were there to hunt me. They wouldn't have left anyone alive until they found me."
"But we did not know that at the time." Teyla argued. "All we knew was that the Wraiths were back; somewhat ahead of schedule but it was not completely unexpected."
John just stared at her for a while and asked, "If we hadn't been there, and the Wraith had come – what would you guys have done?"
"We would have tried to escape them, to the woods or to the Stargate if it was possible. But even if we had been able to leave Athos, we would have gone back and rebuilt as soon as it was possible; just as we have always done before." Teyla answered.
"Then why did you . . .?" John started to ask but trailed off.
"Why did we . . . why did I decide to stay?" Teyla finished for him and had to laugh at his face. "Relax, John, I was not in love with you then, either." She grew quite for a while and then with her face towards Atlantis said, "We stayed because . . . well, because it was the city of the Ancestors," and she said that with the same awe she'd used then and which had not been present for a while. "We did not think there would be a safer place for us."
"Wait, I thought you guys thought you were desecrating holy ground or something," John interrupted.
Teyla smiled and nodded, "Some of us did think that and the only reason most agreed with my decision to stay was because for the first time we saw that it was possible to fight the Wraith and win." She paused, turned to look at John in the eye and said in a serious voice, "You taught us that when you went back for Halling, me and the others and were able to bring us back alive."
"I also woke up the Wraith," John said in a heavy tone.
"You had no way of knowing that would be the result," Teyla said in a patient, kind tone. "You were only doing what you were trained to do – never leave anyone behind. And it was that attitude, more than even the Ancestors city, which convinced me you could stop the Wraith."
The way she said 'you' made him protest, "It's a team effort."
"Yes, it is." Teyla agreed. "However, if it had not been for you, we would not be here."
At his dumfounded look, she shook her head and continued, "As great a leader and as compassionate and kind a person as Elizabeth is, if she had been the only leader of Atlantis, we would have gone back to Athos as soon as it was safe." She paused and then added, "It was you, John. I knew I could trust you almost as soon as I met you and you proved me right. You were also the only one who really trusted me. If Colonel Sumner had survived, I would not have been offered a position in a team. And I would most certainly not have remained and be subject to the suspicion of men like Bates."
"Oh, Bates came around in the end," John protested but a look from Teyla had him quieted down. The truth was Bates had never really come around; he distrusted Teyla until the day he went back to Earth after the Wraith attack.
"John, I may not have come to Atlantis, nor decided to stay here because I was in love with you. But just like Vala with Daniel, I decided to stay and follow you because I believed you were our best hope against the Wraith. I stayed in Atlantis, even when my people left for the mainland, because something in you made me believe we could win."
"And now?" John couldn't help but ask when she stopped. If she was drawing parallels between herself and their relationship and Vala and her relationship with Jackson, then . . .
"Now," she began, "I have lived in Atlantis for over four years and as much as I have tried to keep in touch with my people, Halling is more their leader than I by now. And, as much as I love them, I no longer feel I quite belong with them anymore."
She said it simply but with an ache in her tone that had John responding, "Teyla, I'm sorry."
"There is nothing for you to be sorry about. It is not your fault, nor is it Halling's. It is no one's fault. I knew what the consequences could be and as much as I sometimes miss my people and the simplicity of living with them, I do not regret the choices I have made. I would, in fact, make them again because I believe in what we are doing."
"You say you don't feel you quite belong with your people any longer," John said after a few moments of silence. "Do you feel you belong in Atlantis?" He asked when what he wanted to ask was whether she felt she belonged with him.
She took a few moments to think before answering, "I like living in Atlantis. I like my life there. I have friends I care for and work I find rewarding. But," she added when John started to smile. "Do I feel I belong there? I feel I belong with the team and with Elizabeth and Carson. If the team were to end, however, I am not sure what my place in Atlantis would be."
"You mean more to Atlantis than just your place in team, Teyla! You know that." John argued.
"Maybe," she conceded. "Maybe I do bring more to the city than what I contribute to the team. But I don't think that would be enough to keep me in Atlantis if the team no longer existed." She paused to take a big breath and decided that the time had come to put her cards on the table as it were. They have had this not quite relationship for years and though recently it had moved forward, it had done so without any conversation. Everything between them was unsaid and Teyla was quite suddenly tired of the silence and all the assumptions and if she had to be the one to break the silence then so be it. "John, I feel I belong with the team because the team has become my family. I stayed originally because I wanted to fight the Wraith, but I would not have stayed if I hadn't developed the relationships I did with Rodney, Elizabeth, Ronon, Carson . . . and you."
She paused again and shook her head, frustrated at not being able to express herself properly. She closed her eyes to concentrate and when she opened them, she turned and looked in the eye. "The team became my family but you became my best friend and confidant; my touchstone with reality. I may not have come to Atlantis or stayed because I was in love with you. But I have not left because I am and I would not want to stay in Atlantis if you were not there."
She stopped for a few minutes and when he didn't say anything, she went on, "So, you see, I know exactly what Vala faces."
"What?" John was finally able to get something out; her unexpected declaration had left him speechless but that last declaration loosen his tongue. He couldn't let her believe that. "What do you mean you know what she faces? You know how I feel about you. You know I would never hurt you."
"Yes, like Daniel you would never hurt a woman purposefully," she agreed.
When she didn't say anything else, John looked at her intently and added insistently, "And you know how I feel about you."
She turned from her study of the night and looking deep into his eyes asked, "Do I, really?" And seeing his disbelief, she added, "Just how would I when you've never said one thing about it?"
She almost smiled at his surprised expression and the fact that for once he was speechless but instead, she turned her head and without giving him a chance to say anything said, "If you excuse me, I need to talk to Halling about . . . something." She got up and left a stunned Colonel behind.
John wasn't sure how it had happened, when one minute they were talking about Jackson and Vala and then they were talking about them, something they had avoided doing for years now. He thought they were in the same page, and now . . . He shook his head as he resumed his study of the fire, his thoughts a jumble and all over the place. In the midst of all the confusion, one thought emerged: 'And I thought I understood her!'