TEDDY BEARS AND LIEUTENANT COLONELS
Summary: When her teammates are involved in an off-world accident, a pregnant Teyla is forced to practice her mothering skills sooner than expected.
Spoilers: Takes place sometime after 4x12, 'Spoils of War'. No pairings: This is a friendship fic only.
Disclaimer: The conversation between Major Lorne and Teyla is edited from the episode transcript at Gateworld. The characters of Stargate Atlantis do not belong to me. However, if there are any spare Major Sheppards sitting around gathering dust, even whumped versions, I wouldn't say no.
Author's note: So far all of my stories, including this one, have been un-betaed. If anyone wants to volunteer for the job on future fics, please let me know. Feedback muchly appreciated. Now if only my thesis would write itself as quickly...
"Listen, I never got a chance to congratulate you," Major Lorne said as he sat down beside her to wait on the hive ship.
Teyla sighed. "I'm not really sure what to expect."
"Nobody ever is – at least not with the first one," Lorne said, grinning as he thought of his sister's experiences. "But you get through it ... You're gonna make a great mom."
Teyla smiled, grateful that at least someone had kind words for her. "Thank you," she said. "I wish I could be so sure."
Teyla Emmagen nodded at Major Lorne through the window as he climbed the stairs to the control room of Atlantis, her mind returning to their conversation on Todd's hive ship. Absently running her hands across her stomach, she stood on the balcony staring at the ocean, thinking about how that conversation compared to her teammates' reactions to the news of her pregnancy. Ronon had been supportive from the start, understanding that in the Pegasus Galaxy, life had to be lived as and when it could. After Rodney had gotten over his shock at the news, he had swamped her with information on pregnancy. Even though women had been having babies without medical intervention for thousands of years, she had to smile at his form of concern. But her smile faded when she thought of her dearest friend and the wedge this had driven between them.
Lt. Col. John Sheppard was a reserved man, but the venom in his words after she had made her announcement had surprised her. After the encounter with the Wraith queen that was nearly fatal for her child, she now admitted that his anger to her continued presence in the field had been justified, but even in the safety of Atlantis the new distance was perceptible. With her people still missing and her unexpected pregnancy by a man missing as well, she felt alone and full of doubt. The colonel's distance only served to cast her further adrift.
Activity in the gateroom cut into her thoughts and she hurried inside. She heard Chuck tell Lorne it was an unscheduled offworld activation, and both men watched the monitor for an IDC. Teyla stood near the exit to the transporter since she had promised her teammates that she would immediately leave the gateroom if a threat ever arrived through the gate.
"It's Dr. McKay's IDC," Chuck announced, everyone visibly relaxing. Teyla hurried forward to the railing. Her team was hours early. Either their mission had gone very well or very badly.
Rodney and Ronon stepped through, each with their arms laden with clothing. Ronon also wore a backpack, unusual for him. It looked like they had quickly grabbed everything they could and run. Teyla's heart sank a moment later when the wormhole shut down without anyone else stepping through. As difficult as things had been lately with John, she did not wish anything bad upon him.
Hurrying down the stairs as quickly as she could, she called out to Ronon as she approached.
"What happened? Where's John?" she asked in a rush.
"We're not quite sure what happened, but Col. Super-gene here probably activated something," Rodney said, keeping his somewhat mysterious explanation unexpectedly succinct.
Now that both men had turned toward her, Teyla could see that Ronon wasn't just carrying a bundle of clothing. He was carrying a child. An unresponsive child.
"John? What happened?" she asked again. The child in Ronon's arms looked to be about five years old, thin and pale with dark hair. Even in sleep or unconsciousness, the boy's features looked pinched, like he was in pain.
"We need to get him to Keller," Ronon said, heading for the doorway. His teammates quickly followed, Teyla taking John's shoes and trousers from Rodney while the scientist continued to carry the extra P-90 and vest.
During the walk to the infirmary, Rodney filled her in on the mission. The team had been exploring an Ancient building that had been listed in the database as a medical research facility. Finding very little, they were nearly finished when John had entered a very plain-looking room to clear it before he would allow Rodney to enter.
"The door slammed down and the place lit up like a Christmas tree. He looked so panicked," Rodney told her worriedly, as though seeking absolution. "Ronon couldn't even get the door open. It just opened on its own a couple of minutes later and we found Mini-Sheppard."
"Was he unconscious?" she asked, hoping for all her friends' sakes that John had not panicked or suffered any pain.
Ronon and Rodney exchanged a look. "He was actually freaking out when the door opened. I didn't know what to do, and then all of a sudden … he just kind of seized up," Rodney said, sounding quite disturbed. "We just grabbed everything and ran for the gate."
Just then they reached the infirmary and Ronon barged in, Dr. Keller running out of her office to guide him to the nearest bed. Having deposited his charge, the three conscious members of Team Sheppard were ushered out of the infirmary and into the waiting room.
Putting a hand on Rodney's arm to slow his pacing in the waiting room, Teyla looked at both men. Even Ronon looked slightly off-balance.
"You did the right thing, and I have no doubt we will be able to put right what has happened to John," she told them. "No matter what happens, we will take care of him."
Already Rodney was snapping his fingers, turning his brain toward the problem at hand. Satisfied that one teammate would not wallow in uncertainty, she turned to Ronon to find him grinning at her.
"You might get to practice being a mother earlier than you expected," he told her. Teyla could only roll her eyes. On most days with her teammates she felt like a mother to three rowdy boys.
"Oh, thank god you're here. Get in here!" Rodney said, practically dragging Teyla into the infirmary, where she could hear screaming. Apparently chaos had descended in the few minutes she had been in the restroom. Trusting the scientist not to lead her into a dangerous situation, she rushed into the room.
"Oh, good, you're here," Dr. Keller called to her from the far side of the bed, where she was struggling to restrain a tiny arm. "We haven't had much luck calming him down, but maybe you will."
Teyla's heart nearly broke at the sight of a five-year-old John Sheppard on the bed, tears streaming down his face, fighting the adults around him with every ounce of strength in his small body.
"Leave me alone!" he screamed, kicking at a medic who was trying to rescue the IV that had just been torn loose. "Let go of me!" he yelled as another doctor tried to calm him. He twisted his left arm out of one nurse's grasp and kicked his foot free from another restraining hand.
"I don't think he recognizes us," Keller told Teyla as she approached. "I'm worried he's going to inadvertently harm himself, but I don't want to give him a sedative until we know what happened."
John continued to kick and scream at the top of his lungs, quickly nearing a panic attack. Teyla doubted she would be able to help any more than the rest, but she nonetheless took a step forward.
"Perhaps we should send some personnel away. He may be frightened by the number of people," she told Dr. Keller.
The doctor immediately ordered most of the staff to wait just outside the door. With Ronon and Rodney standing just behind her, Keller leaned down to try to get the screaming boy's attention.
Once her words caught his attention, John quit screaming but was not much calmer. His eyes widened, the blood drained from his face, and with a terrified look he backed as far from the group as he could without getting out of bed. Keller was reluctant to reach for him, afraid he might either try to jump out of the bed or pass out.
On the other side of the bed, Teyla softly called John's name. On the second try, he briefly turned to her before turning his terrified gaze back to the others. For a moment she was afraid she had been unsuccessful, but then a tiny hand reached toward her.
Without thinking Teyla sat on the side of the bed and gathered the boy into her arms. He did not fight her, but she could feel tremors travel through his body as his breathing continued too quickly. As if reading her thoughts, Dr. Keller silently handed an oxygen mask over, and Teyla ducked her head down to look at the boy.
"John, you must slow down your breathing," she said softly. "I'm going to put the oxygen mask on you to help you breathe."
Surprisingly, the colonel did not fight her, instead clinging to her while his wide-eyed gaze never left the others. Once the oversized mask was in place, Teyla rocked and spoke softly to him. She realized he was clothed only in his oversized uniform jacket and t-shirt, and they nearly engulfed him. Ronon really hadn't paused when they found him. Grabbing a blanket that was offered, she wrapped John up and held him tightly, trying to stop his shaking.
The doctors came back to finish their work one by one, trying not to set off the boy again. To her surprise, John hardly moved during the exams. He still shook in her arms, but he seemed lethargic, almost in a trance. Teyla wasn't sure which disturbed her more: a screaming mini-John Sheppard or a detached one. As Rodney would surely point out, it was as though 'the lights were on but nobody was home.'
"Teyla, would you mind staying with him while I go over the results?" Dr. Keller asked softly once the doctors had finished.
"Of course," Teyla said, smiling slightly as she looked down at the iron grip on her sleeve. "Although I do not think I could go anywhere even if I tried."
Jennifer smiled gratefully and left the room. Teyla rocked John gently, humming bits of Athosian tunes as they popped into her head. She was lost in thought when she suddenly felt John flinch. She turned to see Ronon and Rodney approaching.
"How's he doing?" Rodney asked, wringing his hands.
"He is calmer now, but he has not spoken a word," she told them.
Ronon knelt down on Teyla's other side to get a closer look. "Hey, buddy, how're you doing?" he asked Sheppard.
John's eyes darted around the room, not focusing on any one thing or person. He remained silent.
"This isn't right," Rodney said softly. Ronon nodded in agreement. Then Rodney's eyes grew wide. "Oh, god! What if I fried his brain?"
"Relax, McKay," Ronon said, slapping him on the shoulder. "I'm sure he'll be fine."
"Despite the fact he always says that, he rarely is fine," Rodney argued.
"Dr. Keller is evaluating the results now," Teyla said, rubbing John's back as he burrowed further into her embrace. Right now, John's behavior reminded her of children she had seen in shock after Wraith attacks. "It is quite possible his body just needs some time to recover before he becomes more like himself."
By the time Dr. Keller returned, Rodney was working on his laptop going over the information he had collected back on the planet. Ronon had offered to run to the cafeteria for Teyla after her stomach growled, but she did not want to eat in front of John until she knew that he could do so as well. She could feel her energy waning, but she doubted she could convince John to stay in the infirmary with the others. For his part, John had surprised her by staying awake, albeit remaining quite lethargic.
"Well, it seems our patient is doing just fine," Jennifer said, smiling down at John. He didn't notice, his unfocused gaze falling to the left of her.
Her smile fading a little, she said, "His DNA is a match, and he seems to be in relatively good health for a child. Granted he seems to be suffering from dehydration and shock, but I think he can leave the infirmary tomorrow morning. The big question is what to do with him then."
"I don't think he remembers us or any of this," Rodney said. "He must be terrified."
"It's hard to say what he does and doesn't remember," Jennifer said. "You're right, he didn't seem to remember any of us. But he seems to know who he is, and he certainly knew he could trust Teyla."
"Well, that's because Teyla oozes serenity," Rodney said. "He might not remember her, either."
"Oozes serenity?" Keller asked skeptically as Teyla raised an eyebrow at Rodney's remark. "You make even that sound like a disease."
McKay sputtered for a moment before turning the conversation back onto topic. "Look, I'll help look after him if that's what you need, but I'm not that good with kids," he said, looking at Teyla.
"And I am simply because I am a woman?" she asked with raised eyebrows, daring Rodney to answer truthfully.
"No," he said indignantly. "It's just that he's pretty much attached to you. He trusts you."
Teyla sighed. She cared deeply for all of her teammates and was especially close to John. Any quarrel she had with him was forgotten for the moment, but lately her pregnancy and hunt for her people had been sapping all of her energy. She wasn't sure she could keep up with a young child, as well.
Ronon picked up on her anxiety. "Don't worry, we won't leave it all to you," he said. "Don't feel like you're alone."
Teyla knew her teammate was talking about more just than the present situation. She smiled gratefully.
"Right now I want to get him into some scrubs and see if we can get him to eat something," Keller said. "If I call down to the mess hall, could someone pick up his dinner and something for Teyla?"
"No problem," Ronon said, hopping up from his chair. "Come on, McKay. I'm not carrying your dinner, too."
Getting John to change into scrubs took a while as he was unwilling to let go of Teyla for more than a few seconds at a time. He whimpered and began crying when she went to the bathroom. By the time she returned, he was panicking. Jennifer reapplied the oxygen mask and tried to calm him, but instead he fought her to reach for Teyla.
Once he was settled in the bed, Teyla climbed up to sit beside him. By now she was decidedly flagging, and she was relieved to see Ronon and Rodney walked in with trays full of food for all of them.
"I don't think I've ever seen you eat so fast," Rodney said, watching Teyla.
Before she could swallow to respond, Ronon replied, "That's because you're usually too busy stuffing your face."
"Stuffing my face? Oh ha, ha," Rodney said. "I suppose you picked that up from Sheppard?"
Ronon just grinned.
At the mention of the colonel, Teyla turned to check on him. He still lay back on his pillows, alternating between staring at and literally poking his food.
"Is something wrong? You usually like this kind of soup," Teyla said, taking the spoon from him and stirring. It did not appear to be too hot, so she scooped some up. "Will you try some?"
He shrank back from the spoon, so she ate the spoonful on offer. "See, it tastes good. You need to eat, John."
With the next spoonful he leaned forward and ate it, but refused any more after that. Teyla handed him the spoon, thinking he wanted to feed himself, but he just held the spoon in a shaking fist for a moment before his hand dropped to the blanket.
"What about some ice cream?" Teyla asked, grabbing the cardboard cup on his tray. "It is chocolate, your favorite."
John reluctantly ate a couple of small bites that she offered him, but then refused anything more.
"Colonel, are you feeling alright?" Keller asked as John leaned against Teyla. He didn't answer, but merely stared at the tray.
The adults all exchanged worried glances and quietly went back to their meals. They were just finishing up when John started crying. When Keller saw him cover his mouth, she dove for the nearest container she could find and brought it back just in time for him to throw up what little he had eaten into it.
"Oh, that's just disgusting," said Rodney as he helped Ronon move all of the dinner trays away from the bed. John wailed even louder and curled into Teyla's side. His shaking returned once again and his hands were cold in Teyla's.
"This is just like the reaction many survivors have after a culling," Teyla told Jennifer as the doctor tried to get a closer look at John.
Keller glanced up quickly. "Yes, he still seems to be in shock. I'm guessing it is just from the stress his body has undergone today. Hopefully we can get him to eat something tomorrow since things aren't sitting well tonight."
"You know how much trouble he has eating sometimes during recovery," Rodney said to her once everyone except John had calmed. "What if this is one of those times? He's going to whither away in, like, two days."
"Rodney!" Teyla said, nodding at John to keep the scientist from scaring the child any more. It didn't matter – John wasn't aware they were talking about him.
"We'll see how things go in the morning," Keller told them with a meaningful glance.
John's eyelids kept drooping as the others sat around his bed. Teyla continued to sit next to him, and it soon became apparent he would not relax and sleep without her there. Exhausted from the physical exertion and emotional turmoil of the day, she wanted nothing more than to go to her own bed for a good night's sleep. However, one look at John's terrified face whenever she even shifted on the bed told her that tonight she would be sleeping right here.
"Anything we can grab from your room for you?" Ronon asked her as he and Rodney got ready to depart for the night.
"Would you mind grabbing my nightclothes from my bed and the blanket from the sofa?" she asked. Just as Ronon turned to leave, she said, "Oh, and one more thing…"
Despite John's failure to show much support for her pregnancy, the night after the Daedalus' latest arrival, she had found a teddy bear outside her quarters with orders stationing him on Atlantis because 'every kid needs a teddy bear'. John's familiar scrawl had given away the sender's identity.
Yes, she thought, every child on the Atlantis base needed a teddy bear for occasions such as this. There was plenty of time to obtain another one for her baby if necessary.
Ronon came back with her belongings, raising an eyebrow as he handed her the teddy bear. She removed the 'marching orders' and put the note in her pocket, then handed the bear to John. At first he kept his distance, but then he made deliberate eye contact with Teyla for the first time since the team's return. At her smile and nod, he cautiously took the bear and hugged it in one arm while continuing to hold on to her sleeve with the other.
"John, I am going to go in there to change clothes and get ready for bed," she said to him, nodding toward the bathroom. "I promise I will be back in a few minutes, so do not panic."
To her surprise, he once again looked at her again while she spoke. He said nothing but hugged the teddy bear tighter. Teyla took that as consent and went to change.
When she emerged, John was still quiet but was watching the door intently. Jennifer stood behind him, reassuring him. "He seems to be interacting a bit better now," she said to Teyla.
"Yes, he does," Teyla said, smiling down at John. He looked back solemnly. "But he still has not spoken aside from those first few minutes."
"Today's been a crazy day. Maybe a good night's sleep will help," Jennifer said before wishing them good-night.
"John, do not despair. We will figure out what happened," Teyla told him as she brushed his hair back and leaned forward to place a kiss on his forehead. "Good night."
John didn't immediately react, but after Teyla had climbed into bed and turned off the bedside lamp he snuggled into her side.
Despite her fatigue, Teyla did not get the sleep she needed. Throughout the night, John was restless, occasionally kicking her or moaning in his sleep. Once he began screaming, "No! Stop!" and Teyla could only hope his young mind was not being forced to deal with the colonel's more disturbing adult memories.
Still, he would not let go of her. She, in return, would not let go of him.
Thankfully, not long after Jennifer had come on duty and distracted John long enough for her to get dressed, Rodney and Ronon walked in with breakfast trays and a large mug of tea for Teyla.
John was as pale and haggard as Teyla despite the sleep. Jennifer took pity on both of them. "If we can get you to eat something this morning, I'll let you leave the infirmary so you can both get some rest." Teyla sighed in relief, but John didn't seem to have an opinion one way or the other.
With some coaxing from Teyla, John nibbled at some toast and juice. Jennifer still wasn't thrilled with his lack of appetite, but if he kept this down that would be an improvement.
After finishing their breakfasts, Ronon and Rodney met with Col. Carter to discuss what to do with John.
"How is he doing?" she asked as soon as they sat down in her office. Carter had not been able to spend much time in the infirmary yesterday because she had been busy coordinating Lorne's takeover of Sheppard's duties and the continuing search for the Athosians.
"Well, he's not screaming his head off this morning," Rodney said. "I still think I fried his brain, though."
"McKay, you didn't fry his brain. Stop worrying," Ronon said.
"Oh, and how many science degrees do you have, Conan?" Rodney shot back.
Carter cut in. "Ronon's right, McKay. Now, how about Teyla? Is she okay? She must be exhausted," she said.
Ronon was always silently grateful to the Earth leaders who showed concern for the Pegasus members of the expedition. Although Teyla was perfectly capable of taking care of herself, and was probably the most responsible of any of them, she seemed out to prove herself during her pregnancy. He planned on keeping an extra-close eye on her.
"She's okay, but she looked tired this morning," the Satedan said. "Whether or not she asks for it, she's going to need help from us."
"I've been thinking about that," Carter said, perching on the edge of her desk. "What do we do with him once he's released from the infirmary? Do we just have people stay with him in his quarters?"
"We can try, but so far we've had no indication that he remembers anything about Atlantis," Rodney said. "In fact, aside from the one time he turned when Teyla said his name, we can't be sure that he remembers anything about us or his life in general."
"Right, so if his quarters aren't going to be more familiar to him than anywhere else, what should we do?" Carter asked.
The other two exchanged a glance. "I suppose he could stay with us, but our rooms aren't really child-proofed. I mean, I know he won't take up much space, but what about all the other stuff kids come with? You know, toys and stuff?" Rodney asked.
"We'll worry about long-term accommodation later," Carter said. "I was thinking more about tonight."
There was a pause, then Rodney ventured a suggestion. "I hate to say it, but Teyla has the most comfortable room, and he's been glued to her since this whole thing started."
"That's what I've been thinking, too," Carter said. "I'll talk to her and see if she would be okay with that at least for tonight. Maybe after that he'll be more settled and can stay with one of you. In the meantime, have you made any progress on what happened, Rodney?"
He shook his head. "I disconnected my datapad as soon as the door opened, so the data hadn't finished downloading. I'd like to take a team back to see if I can recover any more information. Zelenka has been going through the database to see if there are any entries about this machine there, as well."
Carter caught Ronon's eye and nodded. "Okay, take a team back for the day and see what you can find. Be back by sundown on that planet. I want to make sure you all have a chance to sleep properly," she said with a pointed look at Rodney.
"What? I slept!" he argued, before muttering, "…an hour or two."
"Keep me posted," Carter said. The two men went to find a team and gear up while Carter headed down to the infirmary to speak with Teyla.
Breakfast had stayed down, so Keller was preparing to release John into Teyla's care, hoping that the boy might relax more somewhere other than the infirmary and become more like himself.
"How's he doing?" Carter asked as Keller dug through the children's clothes the infirmary kept on hand, trying to find something that wouldn't engulf John's slight figure.
"Better," Jennifer said as she reached toward the bottom of a plastic box. "But he still hasn't said a word since his panic attack. He doesn't go crazy when Teyla goes into the bathroom now, but he's really tense and watches the door until she comes out."
"Does he realize she's not his mother?" Carter asked. As if Teyla didn't have enough on her plate already…
"I'm not sure," Jennifer answered. "He hasn't called her 'mom'. Perhaps subconsciously he remembers Teyla and associates her with love and protection. But who knows?"
Carter bit her lip. "I know you really shouldn't tell me, but I'm wondering: Do you think he had a traumatic experience when he was younger, and that machine happened to make him regress to that point?"
Jennifer shook her head. "To be honest, I don't know if this regression has anything to do with real life. I'm not even sure this is exactly what he looked and sounded like when he was five," she said. "This might be the machine's interpretation of John as a child. Once we know more about how the device works and why the Ancients built it, we should know more about his condition."
Carter then explained their plan for housing John for the night. "I feel bad about doing this to Teyla, but I don't know what else we can do save keeping him here…"
"…which would basically mean Teyla would be here anyway, so she might as well be comfortable in her own room," Jennifer added, picking up a couple of outfits she had found for John.
Together they walked into John's room and explained to Teyla about the earlier meeting. She was tired and wanted nothing more than to take a nap, but she understood the dilemma.
The rest of her team and Lorne joined her by the time John was dressed and ready to go, so they headed first to his quarters to see if he would recognize them.
"Do all children on your planet have these kind of shoes?" Ronon asked Keller as John walked in front of them, red lights in the heel flashing with each step.
"Quite a few," she answered. "I know they're kind of obnoxious, but to be honest they're all we had in the infirmary that would fit him. At least they're not the ones with the rollers in the heel."
Rodney snorted. "Madison has a pair of those. Can you imagine Sheppard flying down the Atlantis' hallways in those?"
"He'd be in the infirmary even more often," Jennifer quipped. No one disagreed.
Up ahead, John walked hand-in-hand with Teyla. After a couple of hallways he began slowing. When the transporter doors opened to reveal another long hallway, he sagged against Teyla's leg.
"Hey, buddy. Want a lift?" Ronon asked, kneeling in front of Sheppard. Rodney had rarely seen Ronon interact with children, and was surprised at how gentle the Satedan could be.
They could see John's hand tighten around Teyla's. He kept staring apprehensively at Ronon, but Rodney was happy to see that he now recognized the presence of other people.
After a tentative glance up at Teyla and a reassuring nod from her, John stepped forward toward Ronon. He still refused to let go of Teyla's hand, but he let Ronon pick him up. Teyla released the breath she had been holding. She had been hoping John would start accepting his other teammates, as well.
By the time they arrived at his quarters, John was reaching for Teyla again. She took him from Ronon and carried him through the doors that Rodney opened. She stood in the center of the room, and everyone watched his reaction.
Seemingly unaware of the focus on him, John kept his head on Teyla's shoulder and paid no more attention to this room than anywhere else they had been so far. She wandered over to the photo of John as a child with a famous Earth performer, pointing it out to him. It was the only picture she had ever seen from the colonel's childhood. The boy in it was much older than John was now, so it was hard to tell whether this was how John had originally looked at five.
She exchanged helpless glances with her friends. There was no point in keeping John in this room if it meant nothing to him.
"Is there anything we should grab for him out of here?" Keller asked.
"Like what?" Rodney asked, slightly frustrated. "The clothes are too big, he probably can't read yet, and we are NOT letting him tear around Atlantis on a skateboard."
Jennifer glanced around. She had been looking for something like a photo of the colonel's parents or a keepsake from his past that might be familiar to him, but she realized his room was strangely devoid of sentimentality. Somehow, she thought wryly, Johnny Cash probably wasn't too reassuring to a five-year-old.
Lorne looked at his watch. "I have to go. The marines who aren't off-world have physical training, then the military pilots have aerial maneuvers this afternoon. Not to mention someone," Lorne let the others guess who he was talking about with his mock scowl, "hadn't done any paperwork for a while before going offworld."
After the group said good-bye to Lorne, Rodney spoke up.
"Well, I guess it's off to Teyla's room, then," he said. "We'll help you get settled before we take off."
Teyla smiled her thanks. She didn't want to hand off the boy again, but her arms were getting tired and her back was hurting. "Ronon, would you mind?" she asked.
Ronon took John with no questions asked and made sure he carried the boy so he could see Teyla at all times.
The group entered Teyla's quarters, and she was thankful that she had straightened the room before the whole affair began. On the floor lay a mattress that Ronon had dropped off earlier so that John would have a comfortable place to sleep. The teddy bear was propped against the pillow.
"Look, John," Jennifer said, pointing to the bear. "You have a friend waiting for you."
The boy only stared.
Sighing, Teyla turned to the others. "You had better be going. Thank you for all of your help. Please be careful back on that planet," she said.
"Don't worry," Rodney assured her. "We're propping the door to that room open. I don't think the process can occur unless the room is sealed."
Ronon laid a hand on her shoulder. "Take care. We'll be back tonight. Let us know if you need help."
Teyla nodded, and her teammates went to meet Lt. Millican's team in the gateroom. Jennifer watched as the door closed behind them, then turned to Teyla.
"Have you got anything planned for now?" she asked.
Teyla sighed. "I would like to sleep a while, but it is more of an issue of what John wants to do" she said. "I dare not leave him unattended."
"Actually, I don't think you have much to worry about," Jennifer said, looking past Teyla to the mattress on the floor.
Already John lay atop the mattress, curled around the teddy bear and eyes barely able to stay open. He was shaking slightly, so Teyla put an extra blanket on him, tucking it in tightly after removing his shoes. His breathing soon slowed to an even pace. He looked much more peaceful in sleep than he had previously.
"It looks like he was as tired as you are," Jennifer said quietly. "Take a nap and I'll bring down lunch for all of us in a little while. Let me know if you need anything."
"Thank you," Teyla said, placing her hand on the doctor's arm. As soon as the door closed behind Jennifer, she kicked off her shoes and slid under the covers of her own bed. She was asleep in moments.
Whimpering woke Teyla a couple of hours later. Still half asleep, she peeked over the edge of her bed to see where it was coming from.
The sound stopped as soon as she noticed John, who was looking back up at her. He still lay on the mattress, curled up into a ball.
"Are you okay?" Teyla asked him, rubbing sleep from her eyes. "Is something wrong?"
Just then the door chimed and Jennifer entered a moment later with food for all of them. "Good morning, sleepyheads!" she said cheerfully.
Teyla murmured a greeting and looked back at John. He seemed better now. Perhaps he had not realized she was on the bed and thought she had left him. For some reason, that thought saddened her greatly.
"Let's eat lunch," Teyla said to John, taking his hand and leading him across the room. Because there were only two chairs at her small table, she automatically hoisted John up on to her knee, opened a packaged sandwich for him, and placed it within his reach.
Jennifer watched, amused. "It looks like you've got the juggling act down already," she said.
Teyla smiled slightly. "If only it were that easy," she answered.
They ate quietly, Jennifer and Teyla occasionally discussing some small matter and John taking nibbles out his lunch. He managed to eat nearly half a sandwich and a few bites of fruit cup, but ignored the cookie that the cooks had sent down specially. Teyla wrapped the cookie in a napkin, intending to give it to John later as a snack.
"Here, I brought these for you," Jennifer said, holding out a box of crayons and some paper to John. He looked up at her but made no move to take them.
"It's for coloring, so you can draw some pictures," she said. John's expression didn't change.
Sighing, Jennifer sat down on the floor next to him. Dumping the crayons out on the floor, she grabbed a few and drew a rainbow across one piece of paper. John watched her but made no move, so she handed him a purple crayon. "Here, now you try drawing."
While John sorted through the crayons, Jennifer sat back up on her chair and spoke to Teyla. "I'm curious to see if any memories come out in his pictures," she said. "If he draws a car, then he obviously remembers Earth, or if he draws anything from his adult life."
They looked back at John's drawing. There were little patches of color everywhere, but it seemed he was merely testing the crayons. When he had scribbled with each one, he sat back and stared at the paper.
Teyla sighed. This was not normal behavior for a child. So far, aside from clutching the teddy bear while he slept, John had shown no inclination toward toys or amusement of any kind. But neither did he seem to be an adult bored inside a child's body. It was as though his mind was not fully engaged.
Jennifer tried to get John to draw a picture of something, but it was almost as though he did not understand the concept.
Eventually giving up, Teyla suggested they head to the gym so she could do some stretching and perhaps John could run around. Jennifer begged off so she could return to work.
In the gym, John did not take off like most children but simply sat where she left him. Sighing, Teyla went about her stretches as best she could, talking to John the entire time and trying to get him to join her. He did not stretch, but watched her while she talked with the same rapt fascination of children listening to a bedtime story next to the fire.
A little while later Teyla noticed the familiar hum of jumper engines outside, but it took her a few moments to realize that there were actually several. Looking out the open window of the gym, she saw the aerial maneuvers Lorne had mentioned earlier.
"Come," she said, grabbing John's hand. "You will want to see this."
She led him to the nearest balcony and sat on the bench next to John, who stood awestruck, watching the jumpers flying in all different directions executing maneuvers not possible with Earth-based aircraft. Even she had to admit the aerial dance was mesmerizing.
John hardly moved a muscle for the next two hours, and when the jumpers finally descended into the landing bay, Teyla thought she saw a glint of excitement in his eyes and a ghost of a smile on his lips.
True to their word, Ronon and Rodney were back in time for dinner and arranged to meet Teyla and John in the mess hall.
As soon as they entered, Rodney waved them over to a table and offered to get food.
"Please, see if you can find something he really likes," she said, watching John and absently trying to flatten his hair while she spoke to Rodney. Both men looked on, amused. "Part of his lethargy may be a lack of food."
She was not sure what to expect from Rodney, given his self-proclaimed aversion to children, but she was pleasantly surprised when he brought back John's tray.
The small pile of mashed potatoes had been turned into a food monster, with carrots sticking out of the head for ears and peas carefully positioned to form a smiley-face. Two fish sticks were alongside.
For being one of the smartest men in two galaxies, Rodney looked extremely proud of his simple creation. Teyla couldn't help but laugh both at him and the food monster, but her heart really soared when she followed Ronon's gaze to find a small smile on John's face, too.
"Thank you, Rodney," she said. "I think you made a wonderful dinner."
Despite his smile, John's attack on the food monster was less than total annihilation. Teyla had been hoping he would finally eat a full meal and perhaps regain some energy, but John only ate half a fish stick, a third of the potatoes, and all of his vegetables.
"There's definitely something wrong with a kid who eats all his vegetables and no dessert," Rodney said, only thinking afterward that perhaps he shouldn't have said it within the colonel's earshot. Both Ronon and Teyla glared at him before turning their attention back to John.
"Are you sure you cannot eat even another bite?" Teyla asked, holding out a forkful of potato. John merely turned his head into her sleeve, and Teyla took that as a 'no'.
"You know," Rodney said, wanting to atone for his earlier statement, "maybe we could all watch a movie tonight. Something kid-friendly like 'Finding Nemo' or 'The Lion King'."
"I think that sounds like a fine idea," Teyla said, looking to see if John had a reaction. However, he just sat with his head against her arm and stared at a spot beneath the table.
Rodney was tapping away on his laptop when the rest of the team entered the rec room to watch the movie.
"Any luck so far?" Teyla asked, pausing by Rodney's chair before heading over to the sofa.
Rodney sighed. "From what I can deduce so far, the device was part of a medical research project," he said, looking despairingly at his teammates, "but other than that I can't tell you what it's supposed to do or how to undo what it's done."
A moment later he jumped when he felt something on his sleeve. Turning, he saw John standing beside the chair, looking quite seriously at Rodney and holding on to his jacket. As Ronon dug through the base DVD collection, John dropped his hand and walk over to Teyla. Rodney smiled a sad smile as he realized that was probably the new version of the old John Sheppard tactic of slapping Rodney on the back and telling him he had done well.
Ronon put the DVD on, and for the next hour the team watched 'Finding Nemo' as other staff members occasionally drifted in. However, Teyla could feel her eyes closing about halfway through the film, and John seemed restless. Looking down, she saw that he was not watching the movie.
"Perhaps it is bedtime for some of us," she said to her team. "I will see you in the morning for breakfast before you depart?"
"We'll be there," Ronon rumbled. After saying their good-nights, Teyla could hear the rest of the adults in the room arguing whether they should switch to another movie.
"Do you mind if we walk the entire way instead of taking the transporter?" Teyla asked John. She did not really expect an answer, but at least he did not slump against her side this time. She wanted the time to clear her mind, and John seemed to need an outlet for the first bit of energy she had seen from him since the incident.
Hand in hand, they walked off into the Atlantis night.
This time it was a full-blown wail that jolted Teyla from her sleep. Rolling over while still half-asleep, she forgot to compensate for her new center of gravity and nearly fell out of bed as she turned to John.
He was on his mattress, clutching the teddy bear in a death grip and curled up in a shaking ball. Not sure if he was asleep or awake, Teyla shook his shoulder.
John jumped slightly and toned down his crying as he seemed to awaken, but still he shook and sobbed.
Teyla rubbed his shoulder from where she was propped on the edge of her bed. As he awakened, John seemed to calm slightly.
"Did you have a nightmare?" she asked, not expecting an answer. To her surprise, he looked up and nodded.
On the one hand, she was thrilled to see him actually responding to her now, but on the other, she was heartbroken that he could not flee his nightmares even in his younger state.
She patted her bed. "Would you like to sleep up here?" she asked.
Slowly he stood, teddy bear still in a death grip. The beds the expedition provided were small but so was John, so they managed to fit two people and one stuffed animal beneath the sheets.
Hoping perhaps for a bit more interaction, Teyla asked John, "Do you remember what your dream was about?"
Instead of answering, John merely burrowed further under the covers. When he had climbed into her bed, Teyla had felt how cold his hands were despite the room being a bit too warm for her current taste. She wasn't sure if the constant shaking that had plagued John from the beginning was from fear or his body in shock, so she tucked the covers tightly around him while he sniffled.
Keeping one arm across him to keep him from falling and to lend some moral support, Teyla lay on her side watching John until his breathing slowed and evened out. Only then did she give in to the urge to close her eyes and fall asleep.
The first thing that registered in Teyla's mind as she awoke was that a teddy bear apparently was trying to stick its foot in her ear. The second thing she noticed was that she really did not feel well.
Bolting out of bed, she rushed to the bathroom, bouncing off a couple of walls and pieces of furniture as her equilibrium was not as awake as her nausea.
Stumbling into the bathroom, Teyla just managed to make it to the toilet before throwing up. In between her bouts of retching, she mused that she had not had morning sickness for some time and certainly did not miss it.
She dared not exit the bathroom until her stomach had settled and she could brush her teeth. Her heart skipped a beat when she walked out into her bedroom and saw the bed was empty. Scanning the room, she quickly located John.
He had curled himself into a corner near the door, still clutching the teddy bear. He shook and watched her intently as she entered the room. Poor thing, her leap out of bed must have scared him. Grabbing a blanket from the bed, Teyla knelt down in front of him and covered him as best she could.
"I am sorry, John," she said soothingly. "I did not mean to frighten you. I have not suffered from morning sickness in quite some time, but I assure you that I am fine."
As they sat staring at one another, Teyla took a closer look at the boy. He was thin, too thin she knew, for his size. His skin was pale and his expression worried, as though permanently bordering on panic. If Rodney and the other scientists could not find a way to fix this, she feared for her friend's health and even his life.
"Oh, John," she whispered, a tear escaping down her cheek. Her heart was breaking for her friend, and that on top of everything else in her life was causing her to reach breaking point.
John still sat crowded into the corner, watching her carefully. For once, his gaze was not an empty stare but full of John Sheppard compassion. One look at those hazel eyes and Teyla did something very uncharacteristic for her – she lost it.
A small hand reached forward to wipe the first tear away. Unable to stop the flood, Teyla held the small hand where it lay against her cheek and cried. Soon John moved in to hug her and she grasped him tightly, having to remind herself not to crush him. She held him like that until she regained control of her emotions.
"I am so sorry, John," she said, smiling while she sniffled. Not fooling either of them, she told him, "I think my hormones are out of balance this morning."
John moved to sit directly in front of her, knees touching hers, watching her carefully. His eyes had always given him away despite having mastered his emotions so well. They were one reason Teyla had always been able to read her friend when no one else could, and over time he seemed to accept her insight and even welcomed the emotional accounting it forced him into. While the adult John Sheppard might not be inside this child, his heart certainlywas.
Already she understood that it was the moments like these that made all the tears and angst of parenthood worth it. This boy had not said a word, yet she felt so much better.
Once Teyla had regained control of her emotions and had taken a quick shower, she looked at John. Even at this age, his dark hair was sticking up everywhere. Unable to hide her smile, she managed to smooth it down as best she could.
"Shall we go get breakfast now?" she asked. "Ronon and Rodney are going to think we were planning to sleep all day."
Hand-in-hand, they headed out the door.
Teyla went about her day as best she could, with John as her shadow. Their moment this morning had centered her somewhat, but she still felt slightly unbalanced. When Major Lorne handed her all of the latest intelligence reports pertaining to her people, she nearly started crying again and fought off the urge to hug him, more to save his reputation than for her sake. She was just so grateful to the Lanteans for continuing the search for the Athosians even though she was not actively leading the charge.
While Teyla sat in the conference room reading the reports, John absently pushed a toy car from hand to hand. His teddy bear sat in the chair next to his. The other toys that had been donated by members of the Atlantis expedition – and there were so many that Teyla began to suspect that the expedition members enjoyed some toys as much as children – were ignored.
The further she read, the more disheartened Teyla became. There were whispers of sightings of people clad in Athosian clothing, of people moving through the darkness of the night, and of third-hand stories of those who glimpsed the Athosians at a market or fair. Intriguing, but nothing of enough substance to risk lives checking out what were probably cold trails.
Teyla rubbed her eyes and set her datapad on the table. She felt so emotional today, and now she had to struggle not to cry, again. She was at a loss of what to do.
Just then, there was a knock on the conference room door. After taking a moment to compose herself, Teyla called out, "Come in!"
Major Lorne stuck in his head and looked at the two of them. "I was about to take a jumper out to get some of my flight training hours in, and I was wondering if you two wanted to join me," he said.
The memory of John's face the day before popped into Teyla's mind. John stared at the major with bland curiosity, but Teyla knew he would love it. She agreed without hesitation.
After a quick trip back to her quarters to get jackets and snacks for them both, Teyla led John up to the jumper bay. Major Lorne waved them over as he signed a datapad for one of the marines.
As they headed for the back hatch of Jumper Two, John began dragging Teyla toward the ship.
"He is eager to ride in the jumper," Teyla said, smiling. "He quite enjoyed your training maneuvers yesterday."
Lorne laughed and shrugged. "Well, I figured the two of you wouldn't mind getting out of the city for a while, especially knowing how much the colonel loves to fly."
"Thank you for that," Teyla said, taking a seat in the cockpit. The situation must be awkward for the major: His commanding officer was a five-year-old who did not seem to be himself and could not communicate properly.
"All I ask is that if we get into any trouble, both of you either sit in the back seats or in the rear of the jumper," Lorne said.
Teyla looked confused. "Of course, but why?"
"Well," Lorne said, shrugging. "He would go face-first into the controls, and you, ma'am … well, I would rather not worry about you hitting the console."
"I see," Teyla said, touched once again at the 'Lanteans' thoughtfulness.
She looked at John, who was standing on the front passenger seat leaning against the console, waiting expectantly for the ship to take off. A thought struck her. "Why are the controls not lighting up when he touches them?" she asked.
Lorne looked over as he finished his preflight check and smiled at the young boy's eagerness. Even though he didn't seem to be fully himself, you couldn't take away the colonel's love of flying and fast things.
"We think that the Ancients had some sort of security system in their gene activated technology to prevent kids under a certain age from using them," Lorne explained. "Different devices could probably be set to different ages, otherwise a young child could accidentally destroy the city. We have enough trouble as it is with only adults having the gene."
Teyla smiled at the thinly-veiled reference to two of her teammates in particular.
Powering up the jumper, Lorne took them up out of the jumper bay and into the brilliant sunshine of the day. Leaving the teddy bear to sit all alone in one of the back seats, Teyla took the front passenger seat and held John on her lap so he would not accidentally push any buttons he should not.
When he turned to look at her with what she imagined was a slightly accusing look, she returned the look and said with mock sternness, "I would like to see out of the front as well, John. There is enough room for us to share." The ghost of an apologetic look passed over his face before he turned back to the front.
Unknown to either, Lorne had seen the exchange and hid a smile. He had always known his CO would do anything Teyla asked of him, and she could read him like a book when no one else could. Although it had been strained of late, their relationship was a special one, and he vowed to do all he could to help restore Col. Sheppard to his old self.
The major flew the jumper among the city's towers for a while, weaving his way around for a bit of practice maneuvering and to generally escape the pressures of his day-to-day job. Occasionally he stole a look toward his passengers. The colonel was transfixed, a small smile playing at his lips. Teyla, who had been under so much pressure as of late, looked far more serene than she had in a long time, the way she should look.
Deciding his passengers needed this flight even more than he did, he eventually left the towers behind and sped along the ocean. Finally sighting the mainland, they flew along the coast for a bit before the major set the jumper down on a sandy stretch of beach.
"I didn't bring any weapons," he admitted, "but maybe we can just walk along here for a bit."
"That would be nice," Teyla said. "Although you may need to keep an eye on John, as well. I would hate to think that he would get hurt out here, and I cannot run after him as quickly as usual."
Lorne suspected she could still outrun many of the marines, and then turn around and beat them up, but he chose not to say anything.
Thankfully, John kept his hand firmly in Teyla's as they strolled along the beach. Teyla closed her eyes and relished the smell of the ocean and the feel of the wind through her hair. Lorne kept one eye on their surroundings as they walked, and John occasionally stopped to poke at a shell or pebble.
They came across a large shell that Lorne said vaguely resembled a scallop shell from Earth. The entire coating was a silvery mother-of-pearl which glittered far brighter than any shells from home.
John gently brushed the sand off and looked at Teyla, questioning. She nodded and he gently picked it up, revealing it was only half a shell. The teddy bear had stayed in the jumper, Teyla telling John that he could keep watch from the jumper, and that teddy bears did not like sand in their fur, anyway, so he carried the shell back in his free hand.
That night, as Teyla climbed into bed, she found the silver shell on her pillow.
Anguished cries once again ripped Teyla from her sleep. She sighed as she rolled over to check on John.
The evening had been a difficult one. She was sure John would have loved to fly forever, but they had to settle for landing just before dinner. Her teammates met her for dinner as before, but once again John seemed to lack any appetite. He ate a few bites of spaghetti before climbing into Teyla's lap and sitting quietly with half-lidded eyes.
Thinking he was tired from his day, and feeling her constant exhaustion sneaking up on her again, Teyla took them both to bed early. No sooner had she tucked in John, though, then he had thrown up on the floor. After cleaning up and finally settling him down, Teyla prayed to the Ancestors for her friend's health before climbing into her own bed.
This time, his eyes were open but his crying did not subside.
"What is the matter, John?" she asked. As usual, there was no answer.
Placing a hand on his forehead, she realized he was burning up. Brushing his damp hair off his forehead, she grabbed her ear piece off of the bedside table.
"Dr. Keller," she said urgently. "Please respond."
After what seemed like ages but was probably only moments, Jennifer Keller answered in a whispered voice, "Teyla, is that you?"
"Yes," Teyla said, trying to ignore the soundtrack of the movie in the background. "Please, something is wrong with John."
Jennifer didn't hesitate. "I'll be there right away."
Teyla turned back to her young charge and pulled him up as best she could onto her lap, brushing his face and hair and whispering soothing words. She was nearly ready to call Jennifer again when the door chimes rang.
"Come in!" she called, hoping the doctor could hear her through the thick door.
Jennifer ran into the room, breathless, with Ronon right behind her. "What's the matter?" she asked, kneeling down on the other side of John.
"I do not know," Teyla said, panicked. "He woke up crying, and he is burning up."
Jennifer felt John's forehead with her hand and agreed. "We should take him to the infirmary until we figure out what is wrong," she said before stopping and looking at Teyla. "I guess that means another night in the infirmary for you, too. I'm sorry."
"It is all right," Teyla said, looking down at John, who had quieted but still whimpered, with a worried gaze. "I would rather be sure that he is okay."
Jennifer turned to Ronon, intent on asking him to carry John, when she stopped at his questioning look.
"What?" she asked.
"Does he look … bigger to you?" Ronon asked.
Jennifer looked back. Now that he mentioned it, John did look slightly taller than he did earlier.
"I just assumed it was awkward to hold him because of our position, but I think you are right, Ronon," Teyla said, realizing the boy no longer fit neatly in her lap.
The three adults shared a look. This could be very good or very bad.
"We'd better get him to the infirmary," Jennifer said, standing up. Ronon stepped forward to pick up John, and Teyla stood with a grace that belied her pregnancy and grabbed a sweater from a nearby chair.
In the light of the hallway, the difference in John's size was more apparent. The group hurried to the medical center, with Teyla radioing Rodney along the way.
The scientist had arrived before them and stood outside the doors wringing his hands. "Wow, you weren't kidding!" he told Teyla when he caught sight of his friend in Ronon's arms.
"Whatever is happening, let's hope it's for the best," Jennifer said, leading the worried group into the infirmary.
Teyla jumped as she felt a blanket placed around her shoulders.
"Sorry," Ronon whispered.
She sat up, blinking the sleep out of her eyes and getting her bearings. The lights were low in the infirmary. Most staff were sleeping, so the team sat in Sheppard's room alone aside from Jennifer or the occasional nurse.
John's brow was creased in sleep. Until now Teyla had spent the night trying to cool his discomfort with damp cloths and soothe his distressed cries. She must have fallen asleep during one of his quieter moments.
"You should sleep. There's an empty bed right here," Ronon said, snapping her back to the present.
"I am fine," she murmured, turning her attention back to John. She reached for the cloth again, but another set of hands beat her to it.
"It's fine, I'll do it," Rodney said, taking the bowl. "Sleep. You need it."
Surprised at the uncharacteristic compassion of her teammate, Teyla finally relented and decided to sleep a while in the other bed in the room.
As she stood, dizziness engulfed her. Teyla could feel herself falling but was stopped from hitting the floor as expected by a set of strong arms.
"Easy," Ronon said, supporting her while she got her bearings. It took several moments for the room to stop spinning, and by that time Teyla found herself sitting on the floor leaning against Ronon.
Once the room was under control, she looked up to find both of her teammates staring at her, worried. Rodney looked panicked like a fish out of water, but he had managed to hang on to the bowl aside from the bit of water that had dribbled on to his shoe. Ronon sat patiently beside her, letting her take her time.
"Sorry," she muttered, looking down at the floor. Looking up, she saw an outstretched hand waiting to help her up.
"Nothing to be sorry for," Ronon said once she was on her feet. Dizziness assaulted her again, but this time less fiercely. The runner kept hold of her until her balance had settled, then helped her over to the bed.
Teyla disliked being helpless and downright hated being unable to help her friend. However, Ronon and Rodney appeared determined that she rest now.
She smiled ruefully. Knowing their luck, the worst was yet to come.
Teyla did not know how much time had passed when a hoarse shout awoke her. Sitting up quickly, she would have fallen if not for the bar on the side of the bed that one of her teammates had raised.
John still hadn't opened his eyes despite his cry, and he was restless in the bed, occasionally tossing his head back and forth. Sometime during the night one of the enterprising nurses in the infirmary had thought to dress John in scrubs that would fit his adult frame. The clothing still engulfed him, but the fit became closer with each passing hour. By now he looked to be in his late teens, gawky, but with the familiar spiky hair.
Ronon was nowhere to be seen and Rodney had somehow managed to sleep through Sheppard's cry in a chair on the other side of the bed. Remembering her earlier dizzy spell, Teyla climbed out of bed as quickly as she could and moved over to John. His fever was high again, so she grabbed a new cloth from the bedside table, dampened it, and placed it on his forehead. He seemed to sigh in relief and turned his head toward her when she lay the back of her hand against his cheek.
Teyla took a moment to examine her friend. Teenage years were awkward no matter where one grew up, and she could tell that John was no exception. The gawky features only hinted at the handsome man she had come to know. Even if this was not an accurate representation of him as a child, judging from her friend's inability to express himself as an adult, the teenage years could not have been enjoyable.
Smiling to herself, Teyla hummed absently as she continually rinsed the cloth and re-applied it. John had settled into a deeper sleep and all was quiet. Lost in her thoughts, she did not notice that Rodney was awake.
The scientist sat, uncharacteristically quiet, for quite some time watching his teammates. He had heard from Ronon about Sheppard's reaction to the news of Teyla's pregnancy. As socially clueless as he was, even he felt the shift in tension between his friends since then. While he never felt forced to take sides, the new undercurrent cut into the team dynamic. Something was wrong with the family, the one thing in the galaxy Rodney didn't know how to fix, but now that he sat watching Teyla tend John, his heart warmed. Maybe this time it wouldn't be up to him.
A growl came from behind him. "What are you doing up?"
Opening his mouth to answer, he turned to find Ronon giving Teyla a critical look.
"His fever is rising again. Perhaps we should get Dr. Keller," she said, looking at Ronon but not giving up on her ministrations.
The rest of the night and next morning passed in a blur for Teyla. At one point the medical staff had to put cooling blankets on John to lower his temperature, and only Teyla's soothing voice seemed to calm him enough to avoid dislodging them. Medical staff came and went, and her teammates offered to take over from her, but even Dr. Keller could not convince Teyla to abandon her post.
The day passed, the sun first streaming in through the windows, then slanting until it faded away into darkness, and still Teyla did not leave John's side. Her teammates brought her meals and cups of tea, but she hardly looked up and missed the worried glances they exchanged.
For his part, John had finally quieted and fallen into a deeper sleep. He looked to be the same age as before the accident, although perhaps slightly thinner from his ordeal. Once he had settled, the pinched look that had plagued him during his sleep finally relaxed into one of peace.
Teyla fell asleep with her head resting on her arms on John's bed. Ronon shook her awake an hour later, offering to stay with their friend while she went to bed, but she only accepted his offer as far as leaving to shower and change before returning to the infirmary. By that time her energy was flagging, but she was determined to remain with her friend.
Ronon and Rodney shared another look over the bed as Teyla pulled up an extra chair.
"You should sleep. You're tired," Ronon told her.
"I can sleep when John is back on his feet," she said, stifling a yawn as she sat.
Ronon had had enough. For the past several days Teyla had selflessly looked after their commander, and it was obvious on her face that she was exhausted. The woman needed to rest, but she would not admit that her pregnancy affected her at all. He raised an eyebrow in her direction, and she answered it with a raised eyebrow of her own.
Rodney watched their exchanged with more interest than was probably prudent, but even he was surprised when Ronon suddenly stood, walked over to Teyla's chair, and picked her up bodily and carrying her over to the other bed in the room despite her protests. Careful not to drop her too unceremoniously, he placed her on the bed and stepped away to take in her steamed expression.
Rodney moved around the bed to stand next to Ronon, unable to wipe the shocked expression off his face. Ronon stood, arms folded, a self-satisfied smile on his face. Since she hadn't beaten him up yet, she either wasn't as angry as she pretended or was realizing how desperately her body needed the break.
Teyla, on the other hand, felt that livid best defined how she felt. Of course, if she weren't so tired, she would have flattened Ronon already. She had not expected him to pick her up out of the chair and march over the bed. She knew he was trying to tell her something in that straight-to-the-point way of his, but she did not appreciate being manhandled when she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself.
Finally coming to his senses, Rodney stammered for a moment. Stepping between the two most dangerous people on Atlantis probably wasn't his smartest move ever, but he was reasonably sure it wouldn't be his last. "Look, Teyla, maybe you should, uh, rest awhile and Ronon and I will sit with Sheppard. You'll be right here, too, and probably more comfortable than we are. I mean, these chairs have absolutely no lumbar support to speak of, and my butt always falls asleep as soon as I …"
A small grin finally reached Teyla's eyes as she listened to her teammate ramble on. Her temper was short because of her fatigue, and she knew they were only trying to help.
Ronon cut in with his trump card: "You know Sheppard would feel guilty if anything happened to you while he was sick."
That bullet dodged, Rodney stepped forward to help her pull the sheets down. A marine must have made this bed, because the sheets were pulled so tight that Rodney was amazed Teyla's weight creased them at all. While he assisted her (he wasn't tucking her in, not at all), Ronon dimmed the lights. They murmured their good-nights, and Ronon and Rodney took their seats on either side of Sheppard to wait for some sign of life.
It was about 0400 Atlantis time when Sheppard groaned quietly and turned his head. While Rodney quietly tried to coax John awake, Ronon looked over at Teyla. She was dead to the world, probably getting the first good rest she had gotten in a week or so, and he debated whether or not to wake her. Deciding he would rather have her rested and ready to kick his ass, he let her sleep on.
Another half hour passed before Sheppard finally peeled open his eyes and took a look around. For a moment he said nothing, only taking in his surroundings. Rodney unconsciously held his breath, again worrying about brain damage, when Ronon cleared his throat and nodded toward the tray beside the bed, where a glass of water sat with a straw in it.
"Oh, sorry," Rodney said, jumping into action. He put the straw to his friend's lips and Sheppard took several swallows. His head immediately fell back to the pillow, the man already exhausted by the exertion of waking up.
"Wha' happ'ned?" he slurred.
Large grins broke out on both Ronon and Rodney's faces, but Sheppard was too tired to notice.
Rodney opened his mouth, but Ronon cut in to save his friend from McKay's long-winded explanation.
"An Ancient device activated and did something to you, but it reversed itself so there's nothing to worry about," Ronon said. "Keller can tell you more."
While Rodney bounded off to wake Jennifer, Ronon watched Sheppard struggle to keep his eyes open a few minutes longer. "T'la?" he asked.
Ronon looked at the sleeping figure behind him but doubted Sheppard had followed his gaze. "Don't worry," he told his friend. "She's sleeping right here. She's been with you the whole time."
Something in Ronon's statement seemed to settle Sheppard, and he was asleep before Rodney could return with Jennifer. He managed some response when Keller examined him before dropping off for the rest of the night. Teyla never stirred.
"You were a cute kid, but kind of strange. You never spoke and you never ate. Kind of like now except less annoying..."
Rodney's endless chatter made it impossible to drift back to sleep. Full realization hit Teyla a moment later when she remembered where she was and why she was there.
"John!" she said, sitting up too fast. Once the room stopped spinning quite so much, she looked over toward her friend. She was surprised to find that Rodney was not just providing a running commentary for himself but also for a certain lieutenant colonel who looked half-awake in front of him.
"Teyla," John said softly, a smile lighting up his features as he located her.
Teyla maneuvered herself out of bed as quickly as she could and moved to her friend's side. Her bedhead could never compete with that of the man in front of her, so she couldn't be bothered to arrange herself.
"You were supposed to wake me if anything happened?" she said, shooting daggers at Rodney before turning to John.
"How are you feeling?" she asked, taking his hand in hers.
She ignored Rodney's protests to focus her attention on John. He looked exhausted and probably would for some time, but he seemed to be back to his old self.
"Been better," he said, his voice still foggy. "McKay says I was turned into a kid. He's not serious, is he?"
Teyla smiled at the look of serious concern on his face. "I am afraid Rodney is right," she told him. "He was also correct that you were a very cute child."
"And strange. Don't forget about strange," Rodney added.
Ignoring him, Teyla kept focusing on John. He looked vaguely uncomfortable. He liked to be in control and disliked any situation that he could not remember.
"Do not worry, John," she said, reading his thoughts. "You did not do anything to be ashamed of. If anything, you only exercised your natural charm when there was need."
"Oh, no!" he said, swiping a hand over his eyes. "Please tell me I wasn't saying incredibly cute, grammatically incorrect stuff to all the staff."
"Actually, you did not say much of anything. You never spoke to us directly," Teyla said.
"Huh," John said, thinking. "My mom always called me a little chatterbox growing up."
Teyla was not sure what a 'chatterbox' was, but she was surprised by his mention of his childhood. After so many years, she still knew so little of her friend and his past.
John's eyes drifted shut and Teyla reassured him she would be back after a shower and breakfast before climbing off the bed. She had reached the doorway where Ronon and Rodney waited for her when a voice called her back. Waving them on, she returned to John's bed.
Checking to see they were alone, John began picking at his blanket and struggling to keep his eyes open. Whatever he had to say was important.
"Teyla, I don't remember much of anything from the past few days, at least of what McKay was talking about," he said quietly. "I remember feeling at times like I was walking through a fog in a dream, but everything was so disconnected. There were times when I felt really scared for some reason.
"But there is one thing I remember," he said, raising his eyes to meet hers. "Whenever I felt scared, you were there and suddenly everything was okay. I don't know if those are actual memories or not, but ... thanks, I guess, for being there. For everything."
"You are most welcome any time, John," Teyla said, stroking his hand. "When you are feeling better, we can tell you more about this adventure."
"Adventure?" he asked, quirking an eyebrow even as sleep tugged at him.
"Rest now," Teyla said soothingly, brushing some stray hairs back from her friend's forehead. She waited until his breathing evened out, then left the infirmary to join her friends in the mess hall.
"I think we have a better idea of what happened to Sheppard now," Rodney said between bites of lunch.
"And you're only figuring this out now?" Ronon asked skeptically.
Rodney put his sandwich down. "I know, we were lucky this time," he said solemnly. "He didn't need my help to fix what went wrong."
"Do you understand what happened?" Teyla asked, trying to turn the conversation back to its original subject. "You said before it might have been part of a medical research project?"
"Well, Zelenka and I have been going over the data we downloaded from the device after Sheppard's, uh, downsizing," Rodney said, warming up to his subject.
"Apparently the device was meant to temporarily turn people into children so they could study child psychology in order to better deal with traumas and medical issues children might face. Of course, this was made for Ancients, not humans. That might explain why he seemed to be a few fries short of a Happy Meal."
"In other words, we're lucky the transformation worked right, at least physically," Ronon said.
Rodney nodded. "He really is lucky the device didn't fry his brain."
"One thing still puzzles me," Teyla said as she cradled her cup of tea. "John always seemed on the verge of panic, and he was constantly shaking. It was as though his body was in shock and could not recover."
Ronon shrugged. "Probably was."
"I actually have a theory about that, too, but I can't prove it," Rodney said. "I remember the look on his face as the doors into that room closed. Sheppard never panics, but in that moment showed it on his face. I'm wondering if maybe the device kind of captured a person's state of mind as it was activated. It would explain how people could study child psychology. They'd not only become smaller, they would be put into a child's mind-set, mentally choosing whatever emotion they wanted to study when the device was activated."
"So John felt panicked the entire time he was small?" Teyla asked, feeling slightly sick to her stomach to think about her friend's experience. It was a relief that he did not remember much.
"That could be one reason he latched on to you: He felt safe," Rodney said. "After all, it was like the rest of us didn't really exist.
"Is there possibly another reason?"Teyla asked, not wanting to completely believe Rodney's explanation despite what John had said earlier.
Rodney caught Ronon's eye. "Well, we know that the device was somehow able to transfer what an adult was thinking to the thoughts of their smaller counterpart," the scientist began. "Lately Sheppard's looked really tired, and he's been preoccupied."
"He was even worse on this mission," Ronon added.
"It's possible," Rodney said, turning back to Teyla, "that when he shrunk, he was thinking about you."
The next day John was released to his quarters for more bed rest, since Jennifer said he would be feeling 'a bit wrung-out' for a while. That was an understatement, given how he felt at the moment. He did not remember going on to the mission that led to him being turned into a child, but his team had filled him in on the events. Rodney, and to a lesser extent Ronon, wouldn't let him forget this for a long time, especially the fact that he had sat on Teyla's lap and slept in her bed, even if he was only five-years-old.
They also told him about all that Teyla had done for him during the ordeal. Most of the problems they had experienced since Teyla's pregnancy announcement were now water under the bridge. Although they had not spoken explicitly about it, John was pretty sure that they were good.
John dropped heavily onto his bed and cracked open the bottle of water he had carried with him from the infirmary. He moved to put the bottle on the bedside table and finally noticed the gifts waiting for him.
Propped up against his lamp was a big, light brown teddy bear that looked suspiciously familiar. In its paws, it held a photo of Teyla, obviously taken recently, holding a young boy on her lap. The boy's face was upturned, a slight smile dancing on his lips, looking at Teyla with wisdom beyond his years. In return, Teyla gazed back with all of the warmth he associated with her, holding the boy tenderly. A lump formed in John's throat as he realized how much he missed his own mother, but then he smiled. This was him with Teyla, and she had taken care of him just like she would take care of her own child. She would be a wonderful thought warmed his heart, and he drifted to sleep with a smile playing at his lips.
Teyla sighed as her door hissed closed behind her. Her back ached, her feet were hurting, and although the Daedalus had stopped along its route to scan many worlds for her people, there was no good news to report. Just as she shuffled over to her bed and dropped on to it, she noticed the gift.
On her pillow sat a large blue rabbit with big floppy ears. In his paws were clutched familiar marching orders stationing him on Atlantis. Behind it was a photo that Rodney or Ronon must have taken one night at dinner while John was a child. The corners of her mouth turned up as she studied the picture: John gazing at her adoringly, and she returning the look with a mother's love. Scrawled across the back was a message: "Teyla, I know you're worried about motherhood, but I know you'll be a great mom. Here's the proof. Thanks for looking after me. I hear you even managed to flatten my hair. No one's done that since my mom. -- J.S."
Blinking back the tears at his uncharacteristic candor, Teyla placed the photo on her bedside table next to the silver shell and lay back. His words meant more to her than all the good wishes in Atlantis. Clutching the rabbit, Teyla closed her eyes and drifted off with peace in her heart for the first time in many weeks.