Title: Parallax
Teyla gets lessons in photography from an unexpected source.
Teyla, John, Jennifer, Ronon
A single spoiler for season 5.
Written for ladyjax for the John & Teyla Thing-A-Thon at LJ. My prompts: (1) What you see is not necessarily what you get; (2) teach, open, skill, mastery. The story I wrote seems to fit both prompts. This is my first attempt at John/Teyla fic. Thanks to journeyman07 for the beta, as well as tardiscalling and sezjara for reading early versions (y'all rocketh).

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The late afternoon sun cast long, soft shadows across the length of the reading room. Everything the light touched was colored with an amber light from the stained glass of the narrow windows. She had rushed into the room, searching, but as her gaze came to rest on the form sprawled across the sofa, her breath caught in her throat and her heart tightened as the shadows turned into shapes, and then distinct figures as her eyes registered the near indiscernible movement that was the light rise and fall of a chest. She smiled when she observed the tiny head of dark curls nestled in the crook of a man's arm that wrapped protectively—lovingly—around the small, chubby body.

So peaceful.

Though it had been her original intention, she did not desire to disturb them now. Instead she tried to burn this fleeting scene into her memory. She could only recall a handful of times she had seen him this relaxed and unguarded. Unfortunately, most of those times involved him having been rendered unconscious by the sting of an enemy weapon.

She smiled once more and relaxed her stance. Her hand came to rest on the object at the end of the long strap slung over her shoulder, and she nearly jumped with realization.

In her mind, she went over the instructions she'd been given as she raised the viewfinder to her right eye and closed her left one to focus. Her fingers wrapped around the lens and turned the glass-filled cylinder hastily at first, and then with greater dexterity as the image viewed through the instrument sharpened to her satisfaction.

She held her breath and clicked the shutter.

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"I do not understand."

Teyla Emmagan stood with her head tilted to the side as confusion mixed with frustration crinkled her otherwise smooth features. She held the long roll of film between her outstretched arms, as water dripped from its slick surface onto the floor. Nearly the entire piece of material was translucent, with a few darker, muddy shapes sprinkled throughout. "Are not the images meant to be visible at this stage?" She inquired, turning to the young woman standing beside her.

"Let me see," Jennifer Keller said, taking one end of the roll from Teyla's right hand.

"Oh, gee. Most of these are underexposed," she replied, squinting at the film. "It looks like you forgot to change the camera settings to compensate for the indoor lighting," Jennifer explained as she studied the darkened images. "Well, these on the end look salvageable," she pointed out.

Teyla watched with piqued interest as Jennifer featured the images on the end of the roll. "We'll be able to tell for sure once this dries and you get the contact sheet printed."

"All right," Teyla sighed. She was already beginning to have second thoughts about this craft known as photography. At first, the idea was truly fascinating. Jennifer had proposed the idea of setting up a photo lab on Atlantis for recreational purposes. Apparently, the young doctor had studied the craft at some point before she fully committed to her medical curriculum ("I wanted to take something challenging, but fun to help keep me sane," Jennifer had said). She seemed quite convinced that it would help boost the morale of the expedition members, and she had used this point to get approval of the project from Col. Carter.

Jennifer had actually acquired most of the supplies under the guise of needing equipment to process X-ray's the "old-fashioned way, just in case." Teyla came to understand that the chemicals used in the photographic process were basically the same as those used to produce the medical images. Jennifer had also chosen to acquire the equipment in this way in order to avoid arising any suspicions from the IOA. She had suggested there may be concerns about keeping the confidentiality of the base operations, and Carter mirrored these concerns when Jennifer first proposed the idea. She made no promises that the equipment would come through.

Several weeks later, however, Jennifer nearly tackled Teyla when she encountered her one morning before their scheduled meditation session. Jennifer had excitedly shared that the photographic lab equipment had indeed arrived, and she requested Teyla's assistance in preparing the lab. In the end, Ronon had helped Jennifer to do most of the physical work, as Teyla spent much of her time caring for her infant son. Once the lab was in working order, though, Teyla was eager to share in "trying it out."

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Fifteen minutes later, Teyla carefully removed the plastic clip from the place where it secured her film to the cloth string stretched across the corner of the lab. She stopped a moment to inspect Jennifer's strip of film that had been hung next to hers. It appeared to be dry as well. Teyla spared a moment to closely inspect Jennifer's negatives. She was recognized Ronon's distinctive dreads in the reversed images of the large, square negatives. Interesting.

"Jennifer, I believe your film is ready to be cut," Teyla said, as she approached the table Jennifer where Jennifer was seated.

The young doctor looked up from the medical journal she had been reading and smiled. "Ok, thanks."

Jennifer jumped and Teyla merely widened her eyes when the sound of a loud bang followed by a muffled curse reached their ears. They both whirled around in the direction of one of the larger closets that had been made into a film-loading room.

The two women looked at each other questioningly before making their way towards direction of the disturbance. Jennifer called through the closed door, "Ronon? You ok in there?"

Silence. Then the some scraping, shuffling, before the door finally swooshed open to reveal a very sheepish looking Satedan.

"What happened?" Jennifer asked, the wariness apparent in her tone.

"I. . . uh . . . kinda bled on my film. Is that bad?"

"What?" Jennifer's response voiced what Teyla was thinking. How was that possible?

Without another word, Ronon offered up his bleeding palm as evidence. Teyla winced as her eyes fell upon the deep, inch long cut marring the center of his hand.

"How did you. . .?" Jennifer stammered as amazement and exasperation blushed her fair features.

Ronon brushed his thick dreads back with his uninjured hands and shifted his feet. "It was dark," he shrugged.

Teyla shook her head as she lost the battle not to smile at Ronon's predicament. One was required to load the film in complete darkness so as not to ruin the latent images before they were developed. Scissors were required to cut the film from where it was attached to the roll, and the cutting also had to be done in darkness. One would think that someone with such specialized training and experience in the handling of knives would be more adept at not injuring themselves. However, Ronon Dex never ceased to surprise.

"Come on. Let's get you cleaned up." Jennifer said after inspecting the wound. She shook her head in disbelief and spared a parting smile, which Teyla returned with a sympathetic nod.

"We'll be back a bit," Jennifer sighed. Teyla said nothing of the fact that it was Jennifer's day off, and that she very well could have allowed one of her on-duty staff members see to Ronon's injury. Teyla was sure Ronon was aware of this also. She watched as Ronon followed Jennifer out of the lab, with a level of obedience only displayed when he was in the presence of the lovely doctor.

Teyla was left alone to see how much of her film was, in fact, "salvageable."

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Teyla finished the fairly simple task of cutting the film and inserting the shortened strips into the narrow plastic stick sleeves divided from a larger plastic sheet.

Now she placed the smooth surface of the table that was illuminated from underneath. She put the circular magnifier over one of the imaged and leaned down to inspect the negative. It took her a moment to recognized the figures in the reversed image. She would need to enlarge the image and make a positive to be sure of what she was seeing, to allay any uncertainty.

Teyla looked up when she heard a flirtatious giggle travel into the room from the hallway. A feminine voice squealed and then Jennifer jogged through the door and stopped breathlessly at Teyla's side that was opposite from the lab entrance. Teyla took in Jennifer's flushed face and followed her gaze to back to the door to see Ronon saunter through. He held up a bag that appeared to be have been taken away from the cafeteria.

"We brought you lunch," he announced, as he plopped into the stool on Teyla's other side.

As if it heard, Teyla's stomach released a low growl. "Oh? Thank you both," Teyla said, taking the bag from him. She leaned away from the table as she peaked inside to inspect the contents of the bag. She very much approved their selection of a turkey sandwich and a cup of assorted fruits.

"How'd your pictures come out?" Ronon asked as he squinted at the small images on the negatives. He appeared nonchalant, but Teyla felt the excited energy that rolled off him in waves.

"Most of them did not, I am afraid. However, I do not recognize the images that are salvageable." She turned to Jennifer. "I am in need of your assistance to scan the negatives." Jennifer had shown Teyla the process once, but now that the woman was available, it would not hurt to have her go over the process once more.

"Alright, no problem," Jennifer agreed.

"I would like to see these images first," Teyla said. She pulled the strip of negative from the last row of the sleeve and handed it Jennifer.

"Okee-dokee," Jennifer replied. Teyla's brow crinkled, but she smirked at the strange phrase. The people of Earth seemed to take much pleasure in improvising their spoken language.

After a few minutes, Jennifer had the images scanned. She had positioned the monitor in front of Teyla with as they waited for the images to appear the photo-editing interface.

Teyla moved the mouse to select one of the images. She was speechless when at the sight in front of her. It was. . . her. She was in her room, sleeping, with her son cuddled against her chest.

"Oh wow, Teyla. This is a really beautiful image. You figured out how to use the timer?"

Timer? Ah, yes, Teyla remember Jennifer explaining how it could be used to take a self portrait. Teyla shook her head. "No," she said after a moment.

She couldn't take her eyes away from the image, but went on to select the next one in the series for viewing.

"You didn't use the timer?" Jennifer asked for clarification.

"No. I did not take these photos," Teyla stated.

"Then who did?" Ronon asked. "They're good."

"Yeah," Jennifer agreed.

Teyla looked to the Satedan, to Jennifer, and then back to the computer screen. She pursed her lips as she considered the person who had captured the timeless scene that closely mirrored the first one she had taken with the camera.

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She would get it right this time.

Curious brown eyes stared up at her with fascination as she aimed the lens down into the crib. The baby smiled, a gleeful coo bubbling forth as he reached up towards the camera. Teyla clicked the shutter, advanced the film, and clicked the shutter once more.

Over the whir of the gentle breeze and the muffled crash of the waves several stories below, she heard the hiss that was the door opening. She was no longer alone on the balcony. There was a slight lift in the air around her—a carefree energy—and she knew without looking up that it was him.

She heard his footsteps falter. He was debating on whether or not to disturb her, as she gave the appearance of not being yet aware of his presence. It was then that she straightened and turned to him with a welcoming smile on her lips.

"Hello, John."

Green eyes sparkled back at her greeting, and she saw the shadow of a smile that was always seemed to be waiting for a reason to reveal itself. He was glad to see her, and Teyla smile widened.

"Teyla," he nodded, "I see you've been having a lot of fun with that lately," he said as he closed the distance between them, coming to stand beside her at Torren's crib.

Teyla followed his gaze down the camera she clutched between her hands. She had indeed used it frequently, so much so that she was now accustomed to the weight of it in her hands, and she barely felt it at all, now.

She looked back up to see John regarding her. The afternoon light glistened in the green of his eyes, and she liked it. "Please, do not move," she requested as she lifted the camera to her eye. She saw John's eyebrows raise briefly in curiosity, but he quickly relaxed and looked at her through the lens; his eyes were intense. She remembered to look at the little white gauge that told her if there was enough light before capturing the image. Ch-click. She quickly adjusted the meter and snapped another frame, just to be sure, before lowering the camera.

Teyla smirked with satisfaction.

Torren let out a cry and they both looked down into the crib. Teyla made to reach for the babe, but then remembered the camera around her neck and stopped a moment to remove it. Instinctively, John reached out to take it from her fingers, and Teyla was free to lift the fussy child into her arms. Torren's cries ceased once he was comfortably cradled in his mother's arms. Such a precious, fussy little one, Teyla mused, as she nuzzled against the smoothness of his cheek before placing a soft kiss there.

"I think the little guy's jealous," John quipped, and then Teyla heard the familiar click of the shutter. She looked up to see John holding the camera just below his eye. There was the semblance of a question in his stare. She lifted Torren a bit higher in her arms, so that he would be included in the frame. She looked down into his round face and smiled. Torren responded by reaching up to touch her cheek. Teyla heard the shutter click once more.

"You are not unfamiliar with the use of a camera," she stated, meeting John's eyes.

"Well, practically everyone has one back on Earth," he shrugged.

That was not what she meant, as she was sure John was aware. Teyla knew of the more advanced cameras—digital, they were called—which were very popular for their facile of use as well as the instant gratification that came with being able to view the captured image moments after it was taken. Jennifer had explained with impressive enthusiasm the difference between "taking a picture" and "making a photograph," and it was something that Teyla had come to appreciate in the short time she had practiced the craft. It was a test of patience and skill. It was an art.

"Yes," Teyla allowed, her gaze unfaltering. "However, it seems you are more familiar with the technical skills required to operate the camera manually. I developed my first roll of film today and it seems I have much to learn . . . " Torren gurgled and caught a tendril of her hair. She shifted him in her arms and bounced him against her shoulder.

"Yeah, well, I might have taken a class or two back in college," John drawled, turning the camera over in his hands as if to inspect it. "This is a pretty good camera. You got if from Dr. Keller, right?"

"Yes, she allowed me use of it."

"This is a rather old model, you know. It's probably older than Jennifer," he explained, looking trough the lens and pointed it out into the view of the city.

"I believe it is. She told me that it belonged to her mother," Teyla supplied. That fact had made her very much hesitant to use the camera, as Jennifer had insisted, preferring the use of a boxy camera known as a Hasselblad.

She saw John's hand adjust and turn the lens to focus, but he failed to click the shutter.

"You do not wish to capture the magnificence of the city?" she asked, as he lowered the camera and turned back to face her. She had seen Major Lorne's paintings of the breathtaking spires, and she had observed the never-ending fascination many of the Atlanteans held for the city of the Ancestors. John, however, always seemed reluctant to give himself over to the natural feeling of awe. Still, she knew it was there, always riding a wave just below the surface, like his ever-present smirk.

He leveled his eyes at her as he considered his response. "'To photograph is to confer importance,'" he said, as if an explanation for everything.

Teyla inclined her head as she took in the import of the statement.

John continued, "That was something I read once in a book written by a famous photographer. I don't really remember much else after that, but that stuck with me for some reason."

"It is a very bold statement," Teyla replied. "It seems to touch at the heart of that for which this art of photography is meant. Does it not?" She smirked as she swayed to still the movements of the restless baby in her arms. Torren seemed to be losing the battle with wakefulness now.

"Yes. It does," John sighed.

Teyla looked down at Torren to see his long, dark lashes dip down as his eyes closed. This was a good time for him to rest. He would wake in a few hours, ready to feed, and it would be late evening by then. Ancestors willing, he would sleep for several hours after that.

She thought of the pictures John had surreptitiously taken with her camera. Of course he would have known they would discovered once she had developed the film. Teyla supposed the exact day when the photo was taken, as the mysterious photos were at the end of her roll.

Torren had been particularly agitated that night, refusing to sleep for more than two hours at a time before waking up crying. At one point, Teyla cried with him, she felt so hopeless and weak and utterly overwhelmed by not just the present situation, but everything—all the loss—that had occurred over the last few months. In that moment, as if he suddenly became truly aware of his mother's distress, Torren's cries subsided, and the little one settled to sleep. In her fatigue she had slept through her morning meditation session with Jennifer, and, apparently, the door chime, because she was awakened by a gentle shaking. She felt the ghostly touch as her hair was brushed away from her face behind her ear, and she looked up to see John's worried eyes and messy hair leaning over her.

A smile teased the corners of her mouth at the memory. In the periphery of her vision she saw John raise the camera, but she paid no mind, her attention focused on the image of perfection in her arms. Torren John Emmagan.

The shutter clicked.

"To photograph is to confer importance."
On Photography by Susan Sontag

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par • al • lax ('parəˌlaks) noun

the effect whereby the position or direction of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions, e.g., through the viewfinder and the lens of a camera.

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A/N: Uhm. . .yeah. I minored in photography in college and have been wanting to write a story with this theme for a while. I hope ya'll enjoyed it.