Author's Note: I wrote this for the challenge on the LJ SGOneSweetLove board. :) The topic was music. :) I hope you enjoy! Takes place early S5, implies Teyla's baby is on Atlantis.
Hush little baby don't say a word,
Auntie's gonna buy you a mocking bird.
Ronon hesitated in the doorway, the soft sound of her voice carrying across the warm evening breeze. He moved forward, peering around the corner towards the end of the balcony. Night had long fallen and the lights from the city bathed everything in a delicate glow.
His breath caught.
She was so beautiful.
If that mocking bird won't sing,
Auntie's gonna buy you a diamond ring.
Jennifer's bare feet peeked out from the hem of the soft pink sleep pants riding low on her hips. He saw a flash of pale, creamy skin around her waist as she rotated, bare arms cradling the tiny babe.
Golden hair hung down around her shoulders, hiding her face, covering the stringy straps of the shirt she wore. He was jealous of the soft tendrils, for they were able to freely touch the delicate skin along the side of her neck. Skin he ached to feel beneath his lips.
His eyes dropped lower, following her hips as they swayed gracefully side to side, rocking with a sensual motion that heated his blood.
If that diamond ring turns brass,
Auntie's gonna buy you a looking glass.
So small - so tiny - so absolutely helpless that every time he saw the baby he felt a tangled rush of emotion. Fear. Angst. Protectiveness. Pride. The babe was not his, yet somehow, the little one had become everyone's. An entire city of overprotective family, smitten with ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes.
It was also overwhelmingly frightening. A shock to see the hold the little creature held over everyone after such a short time. How they all begged Teyla for turns watching him. Playing with him. Caring for him.
Ronon watched how gently Jennifer cradled Teyla's child. The way his tiny head rested so perfectly in the crook of her arm. The protective arch of her shoulders as she held him tightly against her chest. Graceful fingers caressing his tiny forehead.
If that looking glass gets broke,
Auntie's gonna buy you a billy goat.
Once… long ago… he had planned on having a family. It was the circle of life. He would marry. He would have a child. He would raise a family. He would fight the wraith and die. His child would start the cycle again. It was how they'd lived. How it was always meant to be.
But that was a dream of another.
A dream he'd long forgotten.
A dream he'd forced into a dark hole in his soul never to be thought of again.
A dream that with each passing day was forcing its way back out - one soft laugh, one fearless smile, one knowing glance at a time.
If that billy goat won't pull,
Auntie's gonna buy you a cart and bull.
It was all her doing.
He wondered if she realized she was doing it at all.
They'd never talked about it. The him and her.
Instead they been performing a slow, agonizing dance, a dance each refused to lead. Both following the same steps back and forth. One watching, the other catching, the first turning away.
If that cart and bull turn over,
Auntie's gonna buy you a dog named Rover.
Her body gyrated in a slow circle, the evening breeze teasing her hair as she watched the young one sleeping in her arms. She gifted the child with a soft kiss, her lips lightly brushing his smooth forehead.
She lowered her head, eyes closed, cheek pressed lightly against the baby's forehead as she swayed, and Ronon felt something give, deep inside his heart. A doorway he'd closed and locked years ago.
His mind drifted and for a moment – a tiny, fleeting moment – he wished she was his. He wished the child was his. He wished for the family he would never have. The life he would never know. And for a brief flicker of time, he was once again that man with the dream.
If that dog named Rover won't bark,
Auntie's gonna buy you a horse and cart.
He remembered the first time he saw her – the timid little doctor working in Carson's infirmary. Small. Pretty. And as intimidating as one of the lab's little white mice.
He growled. He'd pushed. He'd insulted her and demanded Carson. And she'd all but ignored him. Then when he'd refused to sit down so she could stitch his arm, she'd simply dragged a small table over and stood in front of him and cleaned his wound. At first he'd been too surprised to move away, then curiosity slowly edged in and he wondered just how far she'd go with him standing in the middle of the infirmary. She'd picked up his arm - he'd given her no aid – and propped his wrist on her narrow shoulder, and proceeded to stitch the inside of his arm while he stood towering over her. She'd finished, gently removed his hand from her shoulder, told him to take it easy for a few days, and walked away.
Walked away as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
After that he'd watched. Watched and learned. He noticed way she pushed herself to find solutions other's refused to believe. Saw the respect she'd earned from her staff and the personnel of Atlantis. Watched her commanding transformation - the way her staff obeyed without question - when she was in the operating room. Witnessed her practically destroy her own lab in order to break them out during the quarantine.
He'd been impressed.
More than impressed.
He'd been taken.
If that horse and cart falls down,
You'll still be the cutest little baby in town.
The final words of her whispered lullaby faded into the night air and she turned, walking away from him, her hips swaying as she continued to dance. She moved across the balcony towards the small basket sitting on a chair in the corner. With a last kiss, she lay the little one gently down, and tucked him in with a knitted blanket.
When she turned away from the sleeping child, the light breeze carried the sad sound of her sigh across the balcony to his ears. She leaned on the railing, her shoulders hunched as she stared into the night. Her body was unmoving, a statue, save for the soft rise and fall of her chest. He studied her profile in the golden light of the city, watched as she raised a hand to swipe at her cheek, and ached to know who or what could cause her to shed a tear, and it startled him to realize he'd never before seen her cry.
He straightened and stepped out of the shadows, unable to stop himself.
She jumped when he appeared beside her, and laughed at herself.
"I know." He shrugged, his voice soft so as not to wake the baby. "I need a bell."
She laughed again, the sound soft and musical, and he smiled to know she really did think it was funny – not frightening, not annoying, not alien – just funny… how he could always sneak up on her.
No one had ever thought he was funny.
No one, until her.
He leaned on the railing, his arm a hair's breadth from touching hers. His body warmed when she leaned ever so slightly to the right, completing the contact and brushing their skin together.
"You okay?" He asked, finally finding the courage to say the words.
She nodded and turned around to rest her back against the railing, her eyes watching the basket and the sleeping baby. Then she shook her head and he saw her breath catch, her throat working as she swallowed hard, then she turned towards him and with a suddenness that shocked him, she wrapped her arms around his stomach and buried her face in his chest.
"Hey." He said, his arms slowly circling around her. "What's wrong?"
She shook her head, refusing to speak, leaning into him as her arms clutched tightly around his middle.
He rested his chin on the top of her head, trying to remember the last time someone had sought him - him… Ronon Dex… for comfort. Since Melena? There had been no one. He was looked to for safety and security now that he'd been accepted on Atlantis as part of John Sheppard's team. But even then, people still treated him like an outsider. So how was it this woman – this healer – would turn to him for comfort? Would she have done this if someone else had come through the doors tonight? He tensed to think of her wrapped around someone else – Sheppard. McKay. Lorne. She was friendly with them all. Perhaps this was just one of those earth things.
"For what?" He blinked and felt his arms tense.
He felt her body jump slightly as she laughed against her chest.
"For letting me do that."
"Letting you do what?"
"I just… I guess I needed a hug." She sighed and pulled back. "I'm sorry."
"Why?" He released her… reluctantly.
"For… well, for attacking you like that." She turned on the balcony, her hands gripping the railing while she stared out across the city.
"Why are you sorry?" He turned and faced night lights, resting his arms on the railing.
"I just… sometimes, here… this place… everything… it gets to me after a while." She sighed, and glanced over at him before dropping her eyes and turning away. He could see the embarrassed flush in her cheeks.
"It happens to everyone."
"Yeah but everyone else seems to have an outlet." She shook her head. "Teyla meditates. John flies. Rodney talks to Jeannie, even though he would never admit it. Evan paints. You spar…" She nudged him with her shoulder. "And me?" She shrugged. "I got nuttin."
"I just…" She snorted. "It's silly. I know. But sometimes? Sometimes when I think of all the things going on here. People we've lost. People we've found. I get so overwhelmed and sometimes I just want…" Her voice trailed off and she turned her head to watch the baby. "I just want a hug."
"And you can't… get one?"
She shook her head and crossed her arms tightly over her chest. "Not here, no. Not since I left home."
"And do you want a hug often?"
"Oh yeah." She exhaled so softly he wasn't sure he'd heard her correctly if not for the tiny nodding of her chin.
"I don't understand why this should be such a problem then."
At this she laughed. "The problem is… the problem is… I don't just need a hug. I need a hug. It's not something you can just ask for. It's not something I can ask for."
He saw her smile again at his frown, and wondered if he'd ever truly understand these people from Earth and their strange speech.
"I'm not explaining this very well, am I?" She hesitated, then turned towards him and leaned her hip on the railing, opened her mouth then closed it, and he knew she was choosing her words. She looked over at the basket and the tiny baby. He watched her, mesmerized, and waited for her to continue.
"A hug has to… envelop." She said quietly, her eyes softening as she watched the sleeping child. "It has to… surround. It has to wrap you up and tuck you in, and sing you a soft lullaby until you fall asleep, feeling protected. And safe. And warm. And comforted. For a brief moment you are… shielded in a circle of warmth and security and nothing… nothing… anyone can say or do will hurt you because you're completely immune to it all. You feel invincible. Sometimes you just need that kind of hug. And if you can't find it… if you search for it and can't find it… it all backfires and you're left feeling even more lost than you were before you started."
Ronon wasn't sure how to answer… or how to react. Her words were beautiful, and they'd surprised him. She'd spoken with such emotion, such sadness, that he'd actually felt the urge to grab her and pull her against him again, to tell her all the things she needed to hear. That he'd protect her. Keep her safe. And warm. And comforted. That he'd shield her from the universe and all it's evil as long as he breathed. For as long as she'd be his.
He wanted to tell her all these things. But the words remained locked inside. So he thought of a different question. One that made him wonder. Made him spark with a flare of jealousy.
"Why don't you just… ask someone?"
She shook her head quickly. "Oh. No, no. I can't. I mean… It's not something you can just… get anywhere. And certainly not here. It's not right." She let out a surprised laugh and made a face. "I wouldn't dare ask anyone here… There's no one who could… well… no one except…" The sidelong glance she awarded him left him feeling breathless. "Except… I… I mean, earlier. I just…" She stammered, looking quickly away. "And you're just…"
"What?" He prompted.
"You're very huggable." She whispered, her fingers clenching the railing with such force she was turning her knuckles white.
He was huggable?
He blinked. Stared. And watched her face turn a dark shade of crimson as she stuttered to retract her bold statement.
"I'm sorry. That was… that was… very inappropriate." She pushed off the railing and stepped back. "I shouldn't have said that. I'm… I'm… I should take him back to my room. I'm sorry to have bothered you. I mean… I just… I didn't mean to do that… Please just forget everything. Just forget I said anything. Please…"
Forget? He could never forget.
The woman had just called him huggable.
And with a shot he connected the pieces of the puzzle of her admittance. She'd needed. She hadn't found. Until tonight. Until now. And he had been the one – the only one – she'd asked?
She continued to back away but he caught her. Caught her before she could leave his reach. Caught her and pulled her against him, wrapping his arms around her shoulders. He felt her body stiffen with surprise, then suddenly slump with a soft sigh as she exhaled and slid her arms tightly around his torso, her fingers digging into the material of his shirt.
He rested his face against the top of her head, the scent of her filling his nostrils.
"So, if not here, then who else do you hug?"
"Other than my Dad?" She shook her head quickly, her hair sliding against his cheek. "You… you'd be um… it."
He exhaled and smiled into the darkness.
"How long do these things last?"
"What? Oh, I'm sorry… I shouldn't have… Again…" She muttered, squirming to push herself away.
"That was not a complaint." He held her by the arms, tilting his head. "It was only a question."
She hesitated, her eyes wide as she searched his face. He saw the worry and embarrassment in her expression and tugged her gently back into his embrace.
She slowly returned her arms to their tightly locked circle around his waist. Then she sighed, and he felt her body leaning into his, relaxing into his arms, letting him hold her upright. He marveled at how easily she trusted him to keep her from falling.
"How long do you have?"
"As long as you need."
For a few moments, they stood in silence on the balcony, unmoving in the soft glow of the sleeping city.
"What about next time?" She whispered.
"You'll know where to find me."
He felt the warmth of her laughter against the skin beneath the opening in his shirt and smiled.