Title: Frozen Tundra
Raiting: PG-13 (mostly for language)
Characters: John Sheppard, Teyla Emmagan
Summary: Since he wasn't going to be able to keep denying his losses, than it seemed more rational to bring about the crash in the most controlled way possible.
Warnings: Spoilers for Season 3 (up to and including Sunday)
He'd told Teyla that Carson's death hadn't really hit him yet. Told her that he wasn't looking forward to the moment when it finally did. He'd been telling her the truth. Repression and denial were coping skills he had learned early in his life and they had done him well since. He didn't loss perspective from grief as he had seen countless others do in the past. He didn't make bad judgement calls from pain. He shoved those kinds of emotions away until there was time to deal with them, until he was alone it was safe to fall apart.
John counted on that ability to see him through the next crisis. Depended on it to keep him safe and the people who mattered alive, if not well.
What he hadn't counted on was the crazy curve ball that was Pegasus and Atlantis. When he really needed time to break he was pushed beyond his own ability to endure and forced to stretch and bend – watching his control whisper out into something that resembled tissue paper. And then he was forced to deal with the consequences. One deadly crisis after the next would conspire to keep him going, keep him on his feet, and keep him awake and dazed. But when he wanted to continue to live in the numb bubble that denial provided, there was nothing but time and easy sailing.
Even his paper work was against him in this. He'd finished it the other day, and had gone over it twice since – hoping that something new would find it's way into his basket. But there were no more pointless forms or redundant requisitions that had to be filled out in triplicate. He was out of mindless reports to read, and found the abrupt end of the galling requests. There weren't even complaints to deal with. And he didn't want to touch the personnel reviews waiting for him with a ten foot pole through an open wormhole from the other side of the damn galaxy.
So instead he was sitting cross legged on the floor of his room. He could see the way the candle light was bouncing around the room behind his closed eyelids. The shifting shadows would have been made more complete if he'd had a fire place with a roaring fire. As it was, he was going to have to make another trip to the mainland to replace the candles he was planning to burn throughout the night.
Clearing his mind was a surprisingly easy task. It had been difficult to teach Rodney this because he honestly hadn't been paying that much attention to his teacher. But it was like muscle memory with the sticks. Subconsciously John knew how to do it and what worked best for him. You can't teach someone muscle memory – only drill them enough times that their body finally starts to remember out of a sense of self preservation. That was exactly what John's mind had done. Because listening to that woman drone on and on about clearing his mind and picturing himself somewhere he wasn't had been liable to drive him nuts.
Since he wasn't going to be able to keep denying his losses, than it seemed more rational to bring about the crash in the most controlled way possible. It helped that he knew, in part, how to do this now. He wasn't going to stumble about trying to figure it out.
Center and focus the Self on a peaceful image, or memory.
Take deep, controlled breaths, using the calm to slowly relax the larger muscle groups in the body.
His radio chirped at him from somewhere on his night stand. John ignored it.
The next part was the tricky part.
Immerse one's Self into the calm, peaceful place without becoming active in it.
Just be there, another element to the landscape and let the environment ease away the last of the tension in the body. It wasn't something he was used to doing. He didn't like being an inactive part of any environment, and he certainly didn't like letting his surroundings dictate his mental state. This had been the hardest part to learn – and sometimes he wondered if he'd ever learned it properly. It was like floating on a lake, letting the water take you wherever. The trick was not to fight it, just accept it.
Only for John, calm and peace were embodied in the frozen bitter tundra of the Antarctic. Where there was little life to disturb the quiet and there was a stillness that could settle deeply into the bone on a windless day. The nearly unchanging landscape was a constant and reassuring. But under all that, under all the peace and the calm and the stillness, was a sense of waiting.
Like a leopard tamed.
Soothing and beautiful on the surface but there was a threat of violence always lurking under the calm. That chance that everything would turned, become deadly, forcing him to fully appreciate and enjoy the gentler side.
John could feel his body relaxing. Could feel his mind slowly flowing open towards the dark grief and pain that lurked in the icy crevices of that frozen tundra. They ran long and cut deep into the landscape – chilling and beautiful, dangerous and raw.
The door chimed.
John ignored it – knowing that they would have used the intercom if it was really that important. Besides he'd been given three mandatory days off. In a row even. Lorne was on duty for emergencies.
It was a controlled decent into the chasm that was his grief – a place where even on the calmest of days, wind always blew. Those chilling currents of air had been trapped in that place for so long that they never stopped. Old and ancient winds mixed with the fresh breezes – howling between walls of ice.
This was the deepest he'd ever gone into this particular place. It might have been metaphysical, but it was real all the same. But it was controlled – the chill seeping into him slowly, easing through his blood like a gentle spring, warming and burning away from the unexpected heat of acceptance.
There were names and faces and memories here. Trapped and carved into the glass like walls. Mitch and Dex were in there, so was his mother, and now so was Carson. It was like time trapped in a bottle. There to keep and see, never moving forward or backwards – all the good and the bad. Preserved lovingly in the frozen casing.
He'd just reached that place where Carson's name was now engraved into the ancient ice. Finger tips reaching out to trace the ragged edges of those letters and memories that shaped his pain. The ice would never melt here, not even when presented with heat. It was too deep, too cold for simple body heat to make a difference. He was just allowing the vicious winds to flow around him – surround him – without overwhelming him.
His door hissed open softly.
John continued to ignore it.
"John?" Teyla's gentle voice intruded.
He was jerked away from the calm, from the control. Swept away and tossed about by the strong, violent windows that weren't really winds but his own suppressed emotions. The last mental image he had of that calm place was the intrusion of crimson blood splattering the walls, steaming in the cold – melting the ice that kept everything safely bottled away when he snapped his gaze to Teyla.
She looked concerned, and a moment later John knew why. He was breathing harshly, struggling for air – his lungs fighting for it. And he was so cold – so fucking cold – he expected to see his breath puff out before him. And then it was like all the strength went out off him. He was just suddenly lying on his side on the floor, staring up at Teyla while his body trembled and shook violently.
Six months tuck in the Sanctuary with Teer and the other wanna-be-Ancients and his time learning from Teyla had shown him how badly he reacted to being jerked out of a meditative state. If he wasn't given enough time to retreat properly from wherever he'd wandered off to in his subconscious mind he was stuck living through whatever emotion or memory or thought he'd been surrounded by.
This time it was deep, bone chilling grief – pain.
So much for the controlled acceptance and working through it, he thought.
From Teyla's expression, closer than it had been a moment before, he knew he was in a sorry state. Eyes wide, and wild and dark. Face pale and almost bloodless. Body shivering on the floor as though he'd been walking through a blizzard with nothing but a t-shirt and sweats on. John forced his body to curl up into a fettle position, trying to make a bubble of warmth to wrap himself around.
"Hi, Teyla," he managed for force out between clenched teeth while his body continued to betray him.
Her moment of student concern had passed and she was no kneeling on the floor next to him. Shame and humiliation washed through him in equal measures. He hated being seen like this. He was defenceless, completely vulnerable, and utterly helpless – and he wasn't any of these things.
Teyla reached out to him, hands smoothing over his arms and shoulders. Trying to ease the shaking, he realized, soothing him like one might sooth a frightened child with gentle touches. "I will call for a doctor," she told him.
John was sure that was meant to be reassuring but it wasn't. Instead, panic laced through him, causing the trembling to worsen. "No," he forced out between chattering teeth. "You don't need to call a doctor." It wouldn't do him any good. He'd only get a shot of muscle relaxants and sedatives, and stuck in the infirmary. John preferred to be coherent; at least he wasn't completely beyond some control.
Teyla was frowning at him now, hand paused part way to her ear. "You are suffering from the shaking illness. You need a healer," she insisted.
John surprised himself when he reached up to stop Teyla from activating the com unit. That much coordination was unusual, but John didn't want to have more people around, gawking at him. He'd have to explain to more people than he was comfortable with what was going on. And that would lead to countless sessions with Heightmayer and more questions he just did not want to examine. He didn't need a shrink to tell him he was in denial – especially when that particular dam was busted all to hell now anyway.
"It's not a seizure," John told her, his grip tightening briefly. "Told you I wasn't looking forward to when it finally hit me."
Teyla blinked at him as understanding finally came to her. She lowered her hand and John let her go, tucking the shaking limb against his chest. She reached for him again, and John felt his muscles jerk under her careful touch. "Then you are not ill?" she asked him, as though she had to be sure about this fact.
Licking his lips carefully he answered. "Not really, no. It'll pass on its own eventually."
Closing his eyes, John concentrated on the two small points of heat where Teyla's hands moved against him. He could almost feel the muscle spasms lessening under her hands. Warmth always helped – even if the cold he felt wasn't something physical, something that could be cured with warm blankets or lifting the room temperature. It wasn't something that heat would or could honestly reach. But it was comforting all the same to know she was still there.
"The body finds ways to expel its grief when one is not willing to consent to mourning." She didn't exactly say it to him, more as though it was an observation. "Do you believe you could stand long enough to lie on the bed?"
John thought about it. He didn't really want to have to move from the floor, uncomfortable though it was. He felt weak and knew from past experience that trying to stand and walk around wasn't a good idea. He didn't have enough motor control to stay on his feet by himself. "With help, probably," he finally answered.
He felt Teyla move away, taking her warmth away with her, to move around behind him. John clenched his teeth against the returning sense of cold. He hadn't realized that body heat or simple contact helped that much until he was practically convulsing on the floor. He hated this. He was dependant on Teyla to make sure he didn't hurt himself while his body blatantly refused to follow commands.
Then Teyla was back, her hands uncurling his body and pulling him up to his feet. She tucked herself under his arm, settling against his side, one of his arms slung about her shoulders. Her warmth radiated along his side, seeping into his chest and creeping slowly into his limbs briefly, making it easier to stagger the few steps to his bed and collapse on it. The sudden loss of contact brought the shaking back violently. John shuddered a sigh and closed his eyes again, body curling in upon itself – trying to protect the vulnerable areas.
The realization that physical contact helped to ease the shaking was news to him. It was also a relief because what eased the physical symptoms could also be used to delay them as well. If all he needed was a touch stone to be able to pull through when he was reaching his limit he might be able to put off the inevitable for a couple extra hours. What he didn't like was the realization of just how much physical contact was going to be required to make an outwardly noticeable difference in his current physical state. John wasn't really one for cuddling when sex of some kind wasn't in the picture somewhere.
He felt Teyla tugging at his feet, pulling off his shoes and socks before settling him back on the bed. John could only watch, almost completely helpless – or at least feeling that way. He still felt weak because of his lack of control and inability to coordinate his limbs more than to cling to himself.
"Teyla?" John questioned when she moved up to his side and began pulling him into a sitting position. He couldn't stay sitting up on his own either; he couldn't get the right muscle groups to do what they were supposed to. He ended up almost cradled against her lean body.
"You will not shed tears for the fallen," she stated, settling John against her. "You will not release the grief and pain for those lost in some fashion. So now your body will release it for you in a manner of its choosing, not yours." She slid her hands under his t-shirt and pulled it up, working it off, before setting it aside. "As such you are now unable to properly care for yourself until this has passed. I will remain with you and care for you until you are able to so yourself."
She settled him back on the bed and arranged a blanket around him. He had no idea how to respond to that. But he tried. "I can take care of myself," John told her. "This isn't the first time it's happened." And it wouldn't be the last time either, went unspoken but understood.
Teyla looked slightly exasperated now, standing with her hands on her hips. She stared down at him. "I do not doubt that you would be able to care for yourself even in this state," she spoke carefully, slowly, as though she were talking to a stubborn child. "I am pointing out that you need not suffer this alone."
Shaking her head, Teyla took a step back from the bed and reached for the ties on her shirt. "What are you doing?" John demanded eyes wide. She already had most of the lacing undone in the few seconds it had taken him to overcome his shock.
She slipped the material off and John couldn't look away – couldn't find enough control to turn his head in the opposite direction and he was a little too stunned to close his eyes. She folded the material carefully, setting it aside, before she answered. "Physical contact will help. Skin to skin will help more."
And it wasn't as though he'd never seen her naked or partly naked before. Camping off world and infirmary stays drove out what little self consciousness any of them had in regards to nudity between the team. And John had lost the shyness that used to creep up on him when he wasn't completely dressed when he'd joined the Air Force and learned to share not only bedroom but also an open shower with twenty other guys.
But this was Teyla, topless, pulling back the blanket and crawling into bed with him. Things like this just didn't happen and John could feel that sense of panic and awkwardness coming up. "As a species we use touch as a form of comfort. We gain that understanding when we are babes nestled in the crook of our mother's arms. We always remember that lesson unless it is taken from us."
She dragged the blanket back over then and then manipulated his body into a more comfortable position for sharing the small bed. "You really don't have to do this," John told her even as she pulled one his arms away from his chest and moved it over her waist, pressing his hand into her back. "This goes above and beyond inappropriate."
The candles were still sending crazy shadows along the walls when Teyla eased an arm under his head and wrapped her other one around him. "Why are you doing this?" he asked suddenly. Her body was warm and soft against his. He was still shaking against her, but not as hard as before. His head tucked under her chin, eyes closed. They touched almost from neck to waist, but John was careful to keep his hips back. It had been a while since he'd had a woman in his bed, and he usually equated sex as comfort, and he didn't want to get into that with Teyla. He made far too easy a target to be smothered by his own pillow. But he could accept the comfort she was offering, he just had to know why she was offering it.
Her answer came easily, and without a pause in the soothing circles her hands were rubbing over his back. "Because you did this for me," she told him.
John stilled for a heartbeat. I did not such thing was a protest sitting on the tip of tongue. Because he hadn't, not really. But she wasn't talking about getting naked and crawling into bed with her. Teyla was talking about offering her comfort. He'd helped her get from the infirmary to her room, and then helped her dress when she couldn't move enough without pulling her stitches and then getting to the Gate room for the memorial.
"Oh," he said dumbly, the trembling coming back.
They were silent for a while after that. John closed his eyes and tried to will his body to stop shaking. It wasn't having that much an effect. Mostly because he was dividing his efforts between trying to bring about stillness, and trying not to notice the way Teyla's arms felt around him – strong and gentle – or the way her hands felt moving over his back – soothing – or the way her breasts were pressed against his chest, moving slightly with every breath. It had been far, far too long, and as he slowly began to stop trembling from the emotional roller coaster he'd gotten dumped into, he started trembling for a completely different reason.
Teyla didn't seem to notice, and he was thankful for small favours. But he also knew it wasn't going to take too much longer for her to realize that he wasn't getting better. If anything, he was getting worse. It didn't help that all he felt was how soft her skin was and how strong she felt under his hands. It didn't help that he already had an erection because with his eyes closed, she smelt like a warm summer day on the mainland a little away from the settlement. And he didn't think she'd really blame him for wanting a little more than soothing touches for comfort except –
He was mourning for his friend. And all he could think about now that he'd finally worked his way through the physical betrayal of his body was sex! He wished he was normal, normal enough to cry. Except he couldn't or wouldn't cry – he'd never figured out which – for someone dying. He hadn't done it since his mother had died when he was in his teens.
Teyla shifted against him. "You do not seem to be getting better," she said evenly, a little concern showing through. And John wanted the bed to open up under him and just swallow him whole because he knew what was coming next. "What is it you normally do to work through this grief?"
His arms tightened fractionally around her, pulling her closer, even as he said, "You really don't want to know," into the curve of her shoulder. But he didn't have to tell her what he normally did, because pulling her a little more tightly against him, made her shift to compensate for being closer. She moved her legs against his, looking for an anchor to keep from falling out of the small bed. She even managed to get a thigh wedged between his before she stopped moving completely.
It took a heartbeat, but John relaxed his grip on her, starting to pull back. But Teyla didn't let him go. It was her turn to clutch at him, nails digging lightly into his back to keep him from moving, to keep him still. John stopped moving, because he had no idea what was going to happen, but he knew what the tension in Teyla's muscles meant. It wasn't the kind of tension that came before a fight, but the thoughtful kind that meant to she was either thinking hard about something, or else weighing the pros and cons of the situation was presented.
John didn't look up to find out which one it was. He didn't really want to know, because he didn't want to see rejection in her face before it fell from her lips. And it wasn't as though he were really asking for something from her. He wouldn't do that to Teyla. But he also knew that she – like him – would do whatever was necessary to see to the well being of her friends and especially her team. He didn't have to ask, because if this was what Teyla thought he needed, she'd give it to him – freely and without complaint. John did not want a pity fuck.
When the tension melted away, John waited for the shoe to drop. Except nothing happened. Teyla's hands began making their soothing circles over his back again, her body relaxing against him. She also didn't move away. John figured she was just going to ignore the situation, let them both escape with their dignity intact. Or at least as intact as it could be with the resulting awkwardness this turn of events was likely to create.
John started to try and disentangle their legs, shifting his hips back. Because even if Teyla could ignore the fact that he was hard and pressed tightly against her upper inner thigh, it was near torture for John. But that was exactly when she started talking.
"Intimacy after the loss of a friend or family member is not unheard of among my people," she told him gently. And John wished he could make her stop talking, but he was still shaking – admittedly not completely for the original reasons, but he still lacked enough control over his major muscle groups to just fling himself out of the bed without causing himself serious harm.
"When one looses someone important or dear, it is natural to seek comfort in another body – with another person," she went on as though not noticing John's growing stiffness against her. "It reaffirms the fact that you are still alive, still able to feel something other than pain and grief and loss. It is natural, if rather unfulfilling."
John winced inwardly, because ouch. That was a verbal slap if nothing else was. But Teyla wasn't done. "Teyla," he tried to interrupt. But she just walked over him with a soft voice.
"You cannot share your grief with someone who does not understand the loss you have suffered. You cannot find a fulfilling comfort with someone who isn't missing the same parts of their being." She paused, long enough to press her fingers more firmly into the muscles in his back. "But intimacy with someone who is grieving for the same loss, who understands which parts of your life have been torn asunder, can be an act more healing than tears."
John did pull back at that. Just enough to see Teyla's face, just enough so he could know if the same question and offer was written across her face as what was searing through him. He didn't want there to be mistakes on this count, because he wanted. He didn't want just Teyla, and as much as it pained him a little at the moment any woman would have done for him in that sense so long as she was willing. No, what John wanted was what Teyla's words were offering. Not just meaningless sex that let him know he was still alive, that has bad as he felt right then, he was still alive. He wanted the comfort and the… the healing sex – a naturally creative act – could give to ease the ache in his chest.
Some of the candles had burnt out, leaving the room a little dimmer than it had been when Teyla had first arrived. But there was still plenty of light left for him to see the slight, hesitant smile on her lips. Just enough light left for him to read the question, the offer, in her expression. Blinking, John stared in wonder at something he hadn't expected to be able to have or even find.
"Oh," he sighed softly. And whatever she saw in his face, the question and offer, made her smile a little more solid as she leaned into him, brushing soft lush lips against his own in a gentle kiss.