Disclaimer – I own none of the Stargate franchise.
This turned out way, way, WAY longer than I'd originally intended, but I'm quite pleased with the result. It was strange to be writing from the POV of a character that we've only met once, but I did my best… obviously I took certain liberties with backstory etc.
I had the idea for this story well over a year ago, and at that time it was going to be from Teyla's POV, and with John's mom… but that idea got thrown out pretty sharpish. I think this works well, anyway. But please do tell me what you think.
I don't think I have any choice but to dedicate this story to MrsB. Everyone on the Gateworld Sheyla thread will be able to tell you why…
Stuck in the Middle with You
Nancy's heels clacked loudly against the polished floor of the hotel lobby, and she made her strides as short as possible to eliminate the threat of slipping on the smooth surface as she hurried towards the elevators. She was already late.
Though, really, she had only been asked to come to the hotel about two hours beforehand, so she could be excused for being a few minutes late. At least she'd managed to get the information John needed.
John… this was the second time he'd suddenly asked her for help. The first time had been just after his father's funeral, and seeing him then hadn't exactly been a shock. She had expected to see him there, and had prepared herself for it. The truth be told, she'd still been very nervous about seeing him again, about the possibility that she may have felt… something. But, as it turned out, she needn't have worried. She hadn't felt nothing for him, but it had been more like affection for an old friend than for a lover. She had been surprised when he'd asked for her help then, and the fact that he hadn't told her what he needed her help for had reminded her of why they had separated in the first place.
In fact, seeing him again and being reminded of their failed marriage had been a very good thing. She hadn't been lying when she'd told John that she'd been starting to worry about keeping things from Grant. They had only been married for two years, and together for five, and yet she could still feel him becoming more and more frustrated. After seeing John, Nancy had made a conscious effort to try harder to accommodate his feelings, and to always let him know as much about her work as she could. She was pleased to be able to say that their relationship had definitely strengthened because of it.
And now here she was again, over a year later, and she had once again been called on by John for help. Considering what he'd asked her for this time, she was now even more curious about what exactly he was into. And wary of what she was getting herself into by helping him.
It was John though, and she trusted him to not put her in any danger. And she was sure that whatever he was doing, it was important. And it had sounded very urgent when they'd spoken on the phone.
The elevator doors started to close as Nancy neared them, but she managed to get a hand in between them before they did – they stopped immediately and smoothly opened again.
Nancy stepped inside – there was only one other occupant, a woman with a stroller. So, make that two occupants. Nancy gave her a polite smile, which was returned, and she went to press the button for the tenth floor, only to find it was already lit up. Nancy's hand dropped to her side and she stood up straight as the doors closed once more.
Nancy watched the numbers above the door light up as the elevator ascended smoothly upwards, going so quickly that she felt a little light-headed. Then, with a shudder, it suddenly… stopped. There were no sudden noises, the lights didn't so much as flicker – there was just that shudder, and then complete stillness.
The number on the display read seven. Nancy waited for the doors to open, but nothing happened. They had just stopped.
"Oh dear," said Nancy.
The woman turned to look at her. "What is it?" She asked.
Nancy frowned up at that number seven. "I think we're stuck," she said.
The woman's eyes widened. "Stuck?" She sounded slightly fearful.
Nancy wasn't more than mildly concerned about being stuck in an elevator – she was, however, annoyed. It was just typical that this would happen when she'd snuck out of work at lunchtime and needed to back within forty-five minutes.
She turned to face the woman properly, and saw that she was, indeed, looking very worried. She gave her a small smile. "Yeah," she said. "Typical – I'm already late." She tried to sound as flippant as possible, to alleviate the woman's worries.
The woman just glanced down at her sleeping child and then back at her. "What should we do?" She asked.
Nancy looked for the alarm button and saw that there was a sleek silver telephone hanging on the wall. She was glad – speaking to someone would be far more reassuring than just setting off an alarm. "Use the phone I guess," she said conversationally. "You know, I've never actually been stuck in an elevator before. Have you?"
It was a redundant question – it was clear from the look on the woman's face that she hadn't. "No."
Nancy gave her another smile as she picked up the receiver and held it to her ear. It started to ring immediately, and was answered by a man with a heavy Southern drawl.
"Wait a – are you stuck in the elevator?"
"Yes we are." Nancy heard the man swear under his breath and a rustling of papers.
"Do you know what floor you're on?"
"It says seventh floor on the display."
"Okay – I'm just pulling up the system… right, it says the elevator has stopped between the seventh and eighth floors…and it's right in the middle of the two, so we can't prise the doors open."
"Right." Typical ran once again through Nancy's mind.
"I'll tell maintenance immediately and they'll get the elevator moving again, so that we can get you out of there."
"How long will that take?"
"It's hard to say, but it should be no more than fifteen minutes. How many people are in the elevator?"
Nancy glanced over at the woman – she was staring straight at her, her hand tight on the handle of the stroller, obviously listening hard to her side of the conversation. "There are two of us," Nancy said, "but the other woman has a baby with her."
"We'll have you all out of there as soon as possible."
"Alright, thank you."
Nancy put the phone down and turned at once to the woman. "He said that we're stuck between the floors so they have to wait for the maintenance crew to get us moving again – which should hopefully only take about fifteen minutes," she said with an encouraging smile. "We just have to sit tight until then."
The woman nodded slightly. "I see," she said. She still looked very worried – ill, even. Nancy frowned.
"Are you alright?" She asked her. "You're not claustrophobic, are you?"
The woman seemed to shake herself and then she gave Nancy a small smile. "No, I am fine," she said.
Nancy was unconvinced – that smile had not reached her eyes. And if the woman was claustrophobic she needed to know so that she could help her. "You look a little queasy," she said.
The woman shook her head. "I am just not used to elevators… I do not use them very often," she said.
Nancy stared at her. It was odd to meet someone these days that didn't use elevators on a regular basis… anyone who wasn't claustrophobic, anyway. And Nancy believed her when she said she wasn't – she was looking better now. But she also had an odd way of speaking… Nancy had noticed that she hadn't used contractions in her sentences, and her voice was oddly formal, though her tone was friendly.
"Oh," she said after a moment. "Well, don't worry – they'll have us out of here soon. My name is Nancy."
"I am Teyla," the woman answered. "And this is Tagan."
Teyla smiled completely genuinely for the first time as she looked down into the stroller. Nancy followed her gaze, taking in the sight of the sleeping infant. He was dressed in denim dungarees over a long sleeved t-shirt. His skin was dark like his mother's, and he had a tuft of black hair.
"He's beautiful," said Nancy truthfully. She smiled at Teyla. "How old is he?"
"Almost nine months," replied Teyla.
Nancy nodded thoughtfully, looking down at him again. "Tagan is an unusual name," she said.
"It was my father's," said Teyla. She smiled as Nancy looked at her again. "His second name is John."
Nancy almost laughed at the coincidence, but didn't. It really wasn't much of a coincidence anyway – John was a ridiculously common name. She smiled back at Teyla. "Which is a little more conventional," she said.
"Are you staying here at the hotel?" Asked Teyla.
Nancy shook her head. "No, I'm just here to see a friend," she said. A friend who happens to be my ex-husband, who is working on something so top-secret that I, a director of Homeland Security, don't even know about, and which he still needs my help with – help that could cost me my job to give. Nancy just smiled again. "You?"
"Yes – I am here with some friends," said Teyla.
"Just visiting the city?" Nancy asked, rewarded with a nod. "What do you think of it?"
Teyla smiled. "It is breathtaking," she said. "The architecture and history behind it all is fascinating, and very beautiful. Your people's pride is evident in every corner of this city."
There wasn't a trace of irony in her voice, and Nancy knew she was staring. She couldn't help it though – people just didn't really talk like that. She decided not to comment on her style of speech, but instead zeroed in on something else Teyla had said.
"You're not American?"
Teyla paused for a moment before shaking her head. "No… I am from England."
Nancy narrowed her eyes – she didn't sound English. She sounded… well, it was an odd accent, actually. "Your accent has a hint of American in it," she said.
Teyla gave her a smile that once again didn't reach her eyes. "I have lived in Canada for several years," she said.
"I see," said Nancy. She still had the feeling that Teyla wasn't telling her the whole story, but really – was it any of her business anyway? And Nancy was probably imagining things anyway – she had become a lot more suspicious of the people around her in recent years.
At that moment, Tagan let out a strange mewling sound and stuck out his little arms at odd angles as he blinked his eyes open. Nancy looked down at him, hoping to god that he wasn't going to start crying.
"Uh-oh… I think we woke him up," she said warily.
Teyla just smiled widely. "It is fine," she said. "He was only taking a nap." She crouched down in front of the stroller and unbuckled the little boy. She picked him up and settled him on one hip as he looked around the elevator, still blinking sleep out of his eyes. His eyes were big and brown, and familiar.
Nancy couldn't help but smile. "He has your eyes," she told Teyla, grinning at Tagan as his eyes fell on her. "Hello there cutie!" She said softly, reaching out to stroke the back of his hand.
Teyla was grinning as well. "Do you have children?" She asked pleasantly.
"No… not yet anyway," Nancy answered, still staring at Tagan. He was doing that thing babies sometimes do where they just stare at you, as if they're able to read your mind or something, taunting you with the fact that you absolutely can't read theirs. It had been a long time since Nancy had been round a baby – her nieces were in their teens now, and her girlfriends' children were all getting to that age as well. She'd always hated the notion of feeling 'broody', dismissing it as whimsical fantasy, but looking at Tagan now she couldn't help but think about the children she'd wanted to have – still wanted to have.
Nancy glanced at Teyla and gave her a small smile. "My husband and I have talked about it, but we're both so busy with work at the moment…"
It was the same excuse she and John had used, the one time they'd talked about having children, just before they'd got married. She had just been offered a job with Homeland Security and he'd just made Captain – it had been the wrong time. And they had been so young that putting it off hadn't seemed at all like a big deal. On the rare occasions that she thought about it now, Nancy was incredibly glad that they had made the decision not to have children then, considering how things had turned out.
She'd never told him, but the thought of having a baby with John had become less and less appealing to Nancy as their marriage had progressed. As she had grown more frustrated with him and what she perceived as his non-commitment to their marriage, she had come to realise that bringing another person into the equation would have been wrong.
Nancy knew, now, that she had been rather too harsh on John, but she still thought that she hadn't been entirely wrong. John lived for his job. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing, it was just who he was. The Air Force would always come first for him.
Some regret must have shown on Nancy's face, though, because Teyla sounded worried when she spoke again. "I am sorry – I did not mean to upset you," she said, shifting Tagan's weight in her arms.
Nancy shook her head a little and gave her a smile. "You didn't – really you didn't," she said quickly, reassuringly. "I guess I just haven't thought about it in a while… but maybe it's time to have that conversation again."
And maybe it was. Hadn't she just been thinking about how her and Grant's relationship was stronger than ever? Didn't she truly believe that Grant would make a wonderful father? Didn't she want a family with him?
She did, she really did.
Nancy smiled again, and Teyla returned it. "I did not plan to have Tagan," she said softly, "but becoming a mother has been the most rewarding experience of my life."
Nancy tilted her head to one side and just looked at Teyla. She really was quite different from any other woman she knew. Nancy knew that that line should have sounded snobbish and conceited – as it had sounded coming from the mouths of other young mothers she knew, all looking on Nancy with pity and derision for her childless state – but from Teyla it sounded completely sincere, and Nancy had no reason to believe it wasn't. She didn't look at Nancy with pity, just understanding and warmth in her expressive eyes.
Nancy gave a small nod and was silent for a moment. "Do you still work?" She asked eventually.
"Yes," said Teyla, rubbing Tagan's back in a seemingly unconscious manner. "Luckily I have many friends to help me look after him."
"What about his father?"
The question was out before Nancy could even think to stop herself, and she regretted it instantly, when she saw the pain flash across Teyla's eyes. Nancy quickly shook her head. "Wow, I'm sorry," she stammered, "that's a really personal question…"
"It is alright," said Teyla. She didn't look at all angry at the question, just a little sad. She held Tagan a little tighter to her. "His father… he passed away before Tagan was born."
Nancy's eyes widened and she doubly regretted bringing it up. "Oh my… I'm sorry."
Teyla gave her a small smile. "He was a very old, very dear friend of mine. We were not together for long before he… but as I said, I am not short of help with Tagan."
Nancy nodded, her heart aching for the unusual young woman. Life could be so unfair sometimes. But at least she still had Tagan – and he truly was a beautiful child.
Perhaps because of the lull in conversation or sensing the agsty turn of what they were saying, Tagan started to whimper, squirming in Teyla's arms, looking around him as if searching for something.
"Uh-oh," said Nancy again, watching him.
Teyla bounced him a little. "Come now my darling," she said soothingly, "don't get fussy."
Nancy bit her lip to stop her grin at Teyla's words – for some reason it was strange to hear her say something like 'fussy' about Tagan… and she had used a contraction as well, for the first time.
Teyla continued to bounce a still whimpering Tagan on one arm as she stuck her other arm into a bag hung on the back of the stroller. A moment later she pulled out a small teddy bear – Nancy immediately recognised the dark blue uniform it was wearing and couldn't help laughing.
"An Air Force bear?" She said incredulously.
Teyla gave her a rueful smile. "I know," she said, sounding amused. "A friend bought it for him, and he just cannot be without it."
Sure enough, Tagan grabbed the bear out of Teyla's hands as soon as it was offered to him, and it seemed to calm him down a great deal. Nancy grinned. "That's so adorable – woah."
She and Teyla swayed as the elevator jerked suddenly, and then started to ascend, though much slower than before.
"Are we moving?" Asked Teyla, looking up at the display. A moment later, the number seven changed to a number eight.
Suddenly, with an almighty creaking sound, the elevator stopped again.
"That didn't sound good," said Nancy, exchanging a worried glance with Teyla.
Just then they heard a man's voice, heavily muffled, coming from the other side of the door. "It's stuck again – it's no use, we'll have to –"
"Open the door!"
The voice that cut off the first voice was louder, and sounded angry. And Nancy recognised it immediately.
It was John.
Nancy glanced at Teyla, and saw that she was staring at the closed doors, a small smile on her lips.
"I appreciate your concern Sir, but – "
"Get those doors open right now!" John was yelling now.
His yelling seemed to set Tagan off again, and he started to whimper once more, looking around again, though his bear was still tucked tight under his chin. Teyla pulled him tighter against her and shushed him.
The first voice sounded decidedly sulky when it spoke again. "Alright, alright… hello? Can you hear me?"
"Yes!" Nancy and Teyla called out simultaneously.
"Stand away from the doors," the voice ordered.
Teyla looked startled. "What are they going to do?" She asked Nancy.
"Just prise them open – don't worry," she answered, taking a couple of steps back just in case. Teyla did the same, and they watched in silence as, with lots of bangs and scraping sounds, the doors shuddered and then opened slightly. Tagan was whimpering more than ever, and Teyla rocked him, making soothing noises, though her eyes were firmly fixed on the door.
They slid open a little further and a gloved hand appeared, then a shoulder of the man it belonged to, his face screwed up in concentration as he struggled to push back the door. Then, suddenly, John appeared next to him, pushing at the other door, and together they got them open.
John and the maintenance man stepped down into the elevator – it was stuck about a foot lower than where it should have stopped, and they both secured the doors with pairs of pliers wedged under them. Nancy thought suddenly of the movie 'Speed', and hoped that her elevator experience wasn't going to end the same way as that one.
"Are you okay?" John asked seriously as he straightened up. Nancy opened her mouth to answer, but quickly realised that it wasn't her that John was speaking to.
He was looking directly at Teyla, and worry was etched into every part of his face.
Nancy felt her jaw drop and she stared over at Teyla, and found her nodding at John, looking exceptionally relieved to see him. She noticed that Tagan was still whimpering, but instead of looking around the elevator he was holding out his arms to John, his Air Force bear dangling from one tiny fist.
"We are fine," said Teyla in answer to John's question.
John nodded and took a step closer. "I saw you come into the hotel but when you didn't make it up to the room I figured something was… Nancy?"
Nancy had been staring at Tagan and hadn't noticed John turn to look at her. She looked up at him now and saw that his eyes were wide with surprise. He obviously hadn't known she was in the elevator. He'd been trying to get to Teyla… but how the hell did he know Teyla?
Nancy glanced over at Teyla and saw that the woman was now staring at her, her eyes as wide with shock as John's. Nancy raised her eyebrows a little and looked back at John.
"Hi John," she said.
John stared at her in silence for a moment and then seemed to snap out of it. "We should probably get out of the elevator," he said. He glanced back at Teyla for a moment before stooping and picking up the stroller and the bags attached to it. He jumped out of the elevator after the maintenance man.
Nancy turned to Teyla and gestured for her to go first. Teyla gave her a small smile and stepped out of the elevator after John, before he'd even had a chance to put down the stroller. Nancy saw him turn round and not look the least bit surprised that Teyla had followed him so quickly. He looked over her shoulder at Nancy, who also stepped out of the elevator before giving him a chance to offer to help her.
John raised a hand and scratched the back of his head. "So… I guess you guys have met then," he said awkwardly. "Nancy, Teyla – Teyla, Nancy."
Nancy looked over at Teyla again, and saw the woman was looking at her with a new understanding in her eyes. Then she smiled. "John neglected to tell me your name," she said, "or I might have realised who you were…"
Nancy nodded politely, but her head was still reeling – she, after all, still didn't know who Teyla was.
"Teyla's on my team," said John now. "Rodney and Ronon are upstairs in the suite – you remember Ronon?"
"Sure," said Nancy, trying not to sound as confused as she still felt. Team? What kind of team? Ronon, as she remembered him from their brief meeting, was certainly not in the Air Force, and Nancy would hazard a guess that Teyla wasn't either… surely she would have said something when Nancy noticed the bear.
The bear. That was probably given to Tagan by John.
Nancy looked at Tagan again, and saw that the boy was still reaching out towards John, though Teyla kept seizing his little hands and pulling him back to her. He started whimpering again, and John looked down at him as well.
"Okay, come here buddy," he said, stepping closer to Teyla. He took the child from her with the greatest of ease, as though he did so all the time. And, judging by the smile on Tagan's face and the way he immediately stopped squirming and whimpering, Nancy assumed that he did.
To say that she was shocked would be putting it mildly. It wasn't that John was bad with children – in fact he was quite good with them – but babies… babies he just didn't really do. He – and Nancy – had always attributed it to the fact the John was the youngest of his family, and had never really been round babies. Plus they just didn't seem to like him.
Tagan did, though. And the feeling was quite clearly mutual.
John grinned down at the boy in his arms. "Have you been getting fussy on your Mom?" He said in a mock-stern voice. "What have I told you about that, huh?"
Tagan just grinned back and whacked John on the side of the face with his bear. John and Teyla both chuckled, but Nancy could only stare. There was a look on John's face as he looked at Tagan – a look of such open adoration that Nancy's breath caught in her throat at the sight of it. She'd never seen him look at anything like that before – not even at her when they'd first got married and they'd both truly believed that that was it.
Part of her wanted to feel resentful, but she couldn't. It seemed John had finally found something he loved more than his job, and Nancy was truly happy to see it.
"He has actually been remarkably well behaved," protested Teyla mildly.
"I don't believe that for a second," said John, bouncing Tagan a little and then looking up at Teyla as he spoke. The look on his face didn't change one iota as he looked from one to the other.
Teyla smiled at him – a smile wider and warmer than any she had given Nancy in the elevator – and the two of them just looked at each other for a moment.
Nancy raised an eyebrow. Well well.
After a second, though, John seemed to shake himself. He glanced back down at Tagan, and when he looked back up at Teyla again the look of adoration was gone, replaced by one of simple friendliness.
He looked over at Nancy and seemed faintly embarrassed, perhaps sensing that she might have noticed something. She arranged her features into a blank look and gave him a small smile. "I don't have much time," she said pointedly.
John nodded. "Right," he said. "So – stairs up to the room?"
"Yes please," said Teyla. She started to push the empty stroller down the carpeted hallway towards the stairwell, pausing only to thank the maintenance man, who was still standing a few feet away, busy with a panel of electrical wiring in the wall.
John nodded to the guy, and then gave Nancy an encouraging smile, standing aside to let her precede him. Nancy also thanked the maintenance man, and began to follow Teyla, John bringing up the rear, still carrying Tagan in his arms.
In the back of her mind, Nancy had always worried for John after their divorce – he had fallen out with his father and brother years ago, and all of them were far too stubborn to do anything to heal the breach, besides the fact that they had never been particularly close to begin with. He had very few close friends left from college, and he spent all of his time at work. She knew that he was constantly surrounded by people, but she felt that he must have often felt alone in a way that couldn't be helped. When she had seen him at the funeral, she had been surprised to meet Ronon, but glad that John had at least one friend close enough to him to support him at a time like that. She didn't know what he was doing or where he was doing it, but Nancy had hoped that whatever it was, John had found himself a home.
Now, walking down that hallway, Nancy felt for the first time that her hopes were not unfounded. She couldn't shake the feeling that John had formed a new family for himself… and she was walking right in the middle of it.