SEASON: Third Season - somewhere after McKay and Mrs. Miller
MAJOR CHARACTERS: Teyla and McKay
DISCLAIMERS: The characters, Atlantis, etc, all belong to Sony, MGM, Gecko, Showtime, the Sci-Fi Channel. I own nothing.
WEIRD KID - by NotTasha
PART 1: PREPARATIONS
"It is so good to have you here, Teyla," Cahal said cheerfully as she crushed fresh herbs in her mortar. "It seems that you rarely visit anymore." Her voice remained pleasant, but Teyla felt the prick of disappointment in her tone.
With a sigh, Teyla responded, "I wish I were able to do so more often." And she smiled, somewhat sadly. "I have been rather busy as of late."
Norene, working beside her sister, clucked her tongue and chided, "Cahal, dear, it is not as if our Teyla need only walk from one tent to another. She lives in the home of the Ancestors and does great work. She keeps us safe from the Wraith." And the elder sister turned toward their former leader, her eyes shiny with pride. "It is an honor to have you here."
Teyla's smile remained, but it dipped a little, become sadder. "I will visit more often, I promise."
With a nod, Norene told her, "We understand. We truly do." She wiped her hands on her apron, and then reached out to clasp Teyla's hands. "It makes us happy to have you among us once again. It feels – like home – when you are here."
"I feel it as well," Teyla told them, squeezing Norene's hands. While Atlantis had become a new home to her, she felt a longing for the tents of the Athosians, away from all the technology and strange ways of the people from Earth. She missed the simple things that had once been part of her life.
The space was filled with familiar smells, foods she'd grown up with. She felt comfortable and peaceful here. She yearned for the ability to just sit in the quiet refuge of a tent, to prepare a simple meal over an earthen stove, to chatter with the women about the crops, the camp, and -- men.
Cahal was still young enough to be in love with nearly every young man who crossed her path. She'd prattle endlessly about one boy, and then another. Norene, older and widowed, had a more sophisticated taste – she deliberated her men carefully before committing to anything regarding them.
"Do you think the colonel likes triune root?" Cahal asked, hopefully.
Teyla responded with, "I do not know if he's ever tried it, but I am certain he will like it."
"He has pretty eyes," Cahal said dreamily, "And his hair…" She giggled into her hand. "How I would love to touch it -- so thick, so pretty. I just want to run my fingers through it, over and over again." She sighed luxuriously.
"Oh, Cahal," Norene returned with a chuckle. "I doubt he would sit still long enough for you to try it. He is a man of action, a hero amongst heroes." Her breast swelled with admiration. "I only hope our simple meal will please him."
"He will enjoy it," Teyla insisted. "Very much, I assure you." Her smile increased, imagining how the women would fuss over her friend. How would the colonel respond to both sisters fawning over him? The women deserved a little joy in their lives, and maybe the colonel could use the attention. It had been months since they'd come across a princess on their travels. Poor man.
Of course, the sisters could be a little 'oppressive' at times. She'd tried to explain the facts to Sheppard ahead of time, so that he'd be prepared for their ministrations. He seemed to understand.
Norene checked her bread as it baked. The heady smell filled the tent as she opened the simple oven and pulled out the pan with a cloth. "He will like my bread," she said confidently, testing the doneness with her finger and putting it back. "Any good man enjoys bread fresh from the oven."
"Especially Norene's," Cahal said, in a mocking tone. "Her bread was famous throughout all of Athos. Many a young man fell victim to her baking skills, back when she was young – so long ago."
"Quiet, Cahal," Norene chastised playfully. "I am not dead!" She snapped the cloth at her sister.
Cahal gasped at the sudden attack.
From somewhere under the table, came a guttural, "Ngggah!" as a boy banged a block of wood against the floor. "Gah!"
Biting her lip, Cahal leaned down to peer at the child. "Nash?" she questioned. "Are you all right?"
Teyla leaned beside her, looking in on the dark-haired child and his block of wood. He sat beneath the table, his gangly legs bent so that his knees nearly came to his ears. He sat in shadows where the big rectangular table met the wall. About five years old, the boy was skinny, with almond-shaped eyes, and a moon-face -- features that the Atlantians might have referred to as 'Asian', but the Athosians knew as 'Gallatin'.
He looked back at Teyla with eyes that seemed simple, yet too knowing. Something had stopped in that child, stifling him, changing him.
"Hello, Nash," Teyla said sweetly. "Would you like to come out and assist your aunties?" She'd only caught glimpses of the boy during her visit as the child stayed stashed in his hiding place. He was a new arrival, having arrived less than moon-turn earlier and was still shy around nearly everyone except his adopted aunties. "Would you like to come out, Nash?"
Nash narrowed his dark eyes at her and shook his head. His shock of black hair slapped back and forth and he went back to pounding at the reed-covered earth with his block. "Nah-uh!" he grunted.
"Maybe you should stop making that noise," Cahal suggested.
The boy looked unsure, clenching the bit of wood tightly. The mat beneath the table was getting pounded to a pulp. The child settled the block gently on the surface among his other wood pieces. He'd apparently built some sort of a structure out of them, but the pieces had fallen. Whether it was due to his violent movements or the force of gravity, Teyla couldn't tell.
"Good," Cahal praised. "Good boy, Nash."
The boy went back to stacking the bits of wood.
Teyla squatted down, smiling sweetly as she retrieved something from her vest pocket. Nash tensed, and at a crinkling sound, he lifted his head, his dark bangs falling into his eyes. He watched her intently as she brought the chocolate bar from her pocket.
The sweet smell reached him, and one arm shot out, grasping for it. "Want!" he cried. "Want it!" He scrambled toward Teyla.
Cahal shook her head, chiding, "Be nice, Nash."
From her place near the simple stove, Norene saying, "That is not proper, young man. How do we ask for something?"
Cahal put in quickly, "It is so close to suppertime, Norene. No sweets before supper."
Nash furrowed his brow, looking crushed, miserable, almost ready to cry as Teyla realized the wisdom of Cahal's comment and began to put away the treat. "After supper," she told the boy.
Nash moaned as if in horrid pain and sat back on his rump, his face scrunched up in anguish as he keened.
"Oh, oh," Cahal made placating motions toward the child. "Shhh, shhhh."
Norene, standing near the stove, folded her arms over her chest, watching as her sister tried to calm the boy. Teyla turned, and said quietly to the older sister, "I am sorry. I was not thinking and --"
With a no-nonsense tone, Norene stated, "If he shows that he can be a polite and proper boy, he may have a bite before supper."
Hope soared in the boy and he quieted instantly. He held out his hand again. "Please," he called. "Please! Please! Please!" His hand opened and closed quickly.
Teyla smiled, and unwrapped the Hershey bar, breaking off the first section. Chocolate had been a strange and mysterious substance when she first met with the Atlantians – it had since become something she couldn't bear to live without. She hoarded it whenever she could, keeping it out of reach of certain other members of her team.
Ronon was the quickest among them to spring on unguarded Hershey Bar.
She held out the piece and it disappeared in a moment. The boy held it, sniffed it, then it was quickly stuffed into his mouth where he masticated and sucked it into a chocolate lump. He looked about as pleased as a boy could be. He swallowed. The expression was replaced with one of longing as he gazed greedily at the remainder in Teyla's hand.
But he was a polite and proper boy and made no further demands.
With a smile, Teyla folded the wrapper and returned the chocolate to her pocket. "You may have the rest after supper," she promised.
Nash made a happy little grunt, nodding furiously as his adopted aunties returned to making the meal.
The boy was another of the refugees, collected on some Wraith-pocked planet and herded to the oasis that was the 'mainland'. There were several races here, making the settlement a mishmash of cultures and peoples, and one tiny group was easy to fold in.
The Gallatins had been living for months in detestable conditions, on a world forever ruined by the hands of the Wraith – those that weren't culled, were left to starve on the stripped planet. Nash's parents, his entire family, had been taken, and a child that had once been sunny and quick-witted, became the strange being that now huddled under the table.
At times he acted as if he was barely past his first year. Other times, he acted far too old.
His own people had difficulty with him. Perhaps because his sullen disposition reminded them of what had befallen their people, of what they had lost. So, when he arrived on the mainland, alone and strange and eyes full of dispair, the Athosian sisters had taken him in.
Cahal was happy for the addition, privately telling Teyla that it would give her older sister someone else to mother for a change, and Norene was glad of that responsibility. Teyla had caught Norene looking at the troubled boy once with an expression of longing, of loss. Nash wasn't the only one who lost family in the cullings.
Teyla straightened and the boy scuttled into the deep recesses beneath the rectangular table. Cahal and Norene continued their work over the supper. So Teyla stood, watching them, unable to convince anyone that she should assist.
"Sit," Norene insisted. "Relax."
"Enjoy the quiet," Cahal continued. "Besides, there really isn't room for another near the stove."
Teyla tried to look pleased. She was used to action, used to being in the thick of things. With her team, she felt strong and vital. In Atlantis, where she should have been a stranger, she felt as if she was an integral part of everything. Of course, she reflected with a melancholy air, there had been a time when she had felt 'different'… 'alien'. There had been a time when she'd felt apart from the others.
No… she corrected herself…not entirely – never entirely. Her team had always welcomed her, made her feel trusted, wanted. They'd always accepted her, and the rest of Atlantis had, in time, accepted her as well. She realized that her actions spoke volumes, but it was the trust of her team, more than anything, that had brought about the change throughout the rest of Atlantis.
And now she sat beside the table, watching the sisters toil.
She listened as they continued to gossip about their 'special guest' and what he might like and whose dish might gain the greatest favor. Teyla did her best to keep from laughing at their girlish behavior.
Sheppard would love their attention, she promised herself.
"Teyla! Teyla!" a voice shouted from outside the tent.
She turned her head just in time to see Jinto and Wex burst through the flap. "He's coming!" Jinto cried, pointing to some location over his shoulder. His eyes tracked toward the table, looking apprehensively at where the strange boy huddled.
Wex said nothing. He just grinned before turning sharply and running back the way they'd come. Jinto was right behind him.
Teyla smiled warmly at her hosts, and promised, "I will return momentarily."
"Don't forget to bring that handsome young man with you," Cahal commented. She giggled, and her sister laughed with her.
"He is a good man and has given so much to us," Norene declared, "He is always welcome in our house and we are deeply honored. Be certain he knows that," she insisted.
Teyla nodded, "I will be certain," she told them.
"I am thinking Nash will like him," Norene went on, her eyes fixing on the spot beneath the table where the boy was now huddled. "Do you believe Colonel Sheppard will be quiet and easy with the boy?"
"No sudden movements?" Cahal went on. "Nash doesn't like loud voices."
"I will be certain to let Colonel Sheppard know," Teyla said confidently as she turned, pulling back the tent flap to follow the boys into the common area between the Athosian tents.
Villagers were busy with their late afternoon chores, preparing for supper. Smiles were focused on her and she nodded to her people as she passed.
Their attention felt a little strange to her. They looked on her as one might look on a visitor, someone who wasn't normally seen in their village. She had spoken with many of them when she'd first arrived, asking after their families, checking on their progress, asking if they'd needed anything, but there was this strange sense of disconnect with them. She felt like a luminary among her own people. She moved quickly through them.
Teyla's gaze followed the boys as they ran through the little town, toward the clearing just outside. They were growing tall, nearly men. Soon they'd be sent on hunting parties and taking on the responsibilities of adults, but the arrival of the colonel always brought the 'boy' out in them.
She smiled at their spirited romp and lifted her gaze to see the puddlejumper, large in the sky.
"Colonel Sheppard," she greeted, touching her radio. "You are early."
"Well, one tends to make their way to their destination a little faster when one doesn't get constantly lost on the way," was the smug response over the radio.
Teyla frowned, but replied with a bright, "Doctor McKay, it is a surprise to hear you."
Ahead of her, the two boys had reached the clearing and were jumping about excitedly."
"The colonel was pulled into a meeting at the last moment," Rodney explained. "He figured I could perform this little errand since I didn't appear to be doing anything at the moment." The comment came with an annoyed snap. "I mean, just because I didn't LOOK busy doesn't mean that I didn't have a dozen pots on the stove ready to boil."
Teyla smiled at the tone as she continued her walk toward the clearing. The puddlejumper came to a halt in the air, and hovered before her. "He asked you, and you thought you could use the extra flying time?" she tried.
"Yes, I… hang on…Could someone get those kids out of there? I'm trying to land."
Teyla called to the boy's gesturing them back. They looked puzzled, but moved.
The ship shuddered a moment, but came down gracefully enough. "Okay, yeah, flight time, yes. The colonel said this wouldn't take long. Just pick you up and come back, right?"
Wex and Jinto crowded near the back of the ship as soon as it had landed and Teyla strode up beside them. She waited as the rear hatch came down and the boys prepared to spring forward. Their advance stopped immediately as soon as they saw who stood at the opening. They drew back.
Rodney cringed backward as well, and then glared at the boys. "Huh," was his greeting.
Jinto's look of dejection was hard to miss, but he was a well-mannered lad. "Hello, Dr. McKay," he said formally. He gave Wex a jab.
"Uh, hello, Dr. McKay," he said with the same reserve.
"Yeah, hi," McKay responded. He glanced to Teyla, his expression showing distrust and surprise, as if he didn't know what else he could say or do.
"Return to your homes," Teyla instructed to children. "Certainly, your fathers are waiting."
The boys nodded, grateful at the excuse. They threw Teyla accusing looks before they moved quickly toward the settlement.
"Farewell committee, huh?" Rodney asked Teyla, then gestured to the interior of the ship as he turned sharply toward the interior. "Well, come on. Time is wasting."
"Dr. McKay," Teyla started, but Rodney was already moving back toward the pilot's seat.
"Things to do…people to see…" McKay uttered. He made it to the seat before turning toward her. He looked perturbed when he noted that she hadn't moved from her spot outside the ship. "You are coming, aren't you? Because I'm sure someone will squawk if I came back without you."
"Dr. McKay," Teyla tried again. "Norene and Cahal…"
"What? Noreen and what?"
"They are sisters, my friends…"
"Oh, great. Yeah, fine. Good to have friends. Good for you. You coming?" He gestured impatiently at the copilot's seat. "Got to get back before dinner. It's pizza night. I mean, it's not like 'real' pizza. Not as good as I could get back home. There was this great little pizzeria not far from where I used to…" He shook his head, as if realizing he was rambling. "Anyway, it's pizza. We've got to get moving."
"Rodney, we have been invited to supper at Norene and Cahal's home."
"Oh…" His face twisted in puzzlement. "We? What, are they -- psychic? They knew I was coming? That would be quite the trick, because I didn't know I was coming before Sheppard came skipping through the lab looking for someone with the gene. Well, not skipping really, but he looked pretty damn smug. Told me he needed a favor because Weir was upset about something and he had this obligation to pick you up. Look, I don't even know them."
"They have been preparing the meal all afternoon and it would be …"
"They thought Sheppard was coming. They invited the colonel."
Teyla smiled. "They were expecting a pilot from Atlantis to retrieve me and invited…"
"Nah, not just any pilot." McKay shook his head as if scolding her. "They wanted Sheppard – flyboy – Mr. Hair. Well, he's not here. It's just me. My hair…" and he ran a hand through his 'locks', "…not so great." The attention left his hair standing on end at one side of his head. "So let's go, okay?"
Teyla sighed, feeling her annoyance rising. "It would be rude," she told him.
"It would be rude if anyone except Sheppard showed up," McKay told her as he poked at the jumper's controls. "I'm sure they're getting themselves all gussied up for his arrival. And I… as you can plainly see… am not Sheppard. My entrance would only disappoint and ruin their little party."
"Let's get cracking. Come on. Pizza night!" He popped a hand against a closed fist, and then snapped his fingers. "Pepperoni… sausage…no Canadian bacon though."
"Please…" Teyla said softly.
She expected some smart remark, but McKay quieted, his attention apparently on the control panel. Continuing, she said, "They have worked all day to make something special. They are my friends. Please…"
With a groan, McKay punched a few controls and the soft whine of power quieted. "Fine," he muttered. He stabbed at a few more buttons. "It had better be good."
"I promise it won't be painful," Teyla uttered quickly.
Rodney raised his head, meeting her gaze and saying, "I'll keep you to that."