Author's Note: This story is based on a dream I had a month or so back. This is a Teyla and Ronon who exist in an AU where they are slaves on a plantation in a society very much like the Antebellum South of the US.
This story is the second story of this year's SAWS (a group with a new Teyla/Ronon story each week)! Thanks, fyd818, Mama Jo and TeylaFan!
Teyla crouched to make sure her head was lower than the tassels of the corn stalks that surrounded her. She could hear drivers talking in the distance as they strolled past, chuckling and calling to their hounds. Her gut twisted as their voices sifted on the wind, the breeze making them sound closer than they were. She felt like she was asking to get caught.
The stalks around her bumped against each other in the changing air of sunset, and Teyla wondered how much time had passed since she'd first slipped into the field. Her instincts told her to flee – to return to her sleeping barracks before she was caught. She regretted agreeing to meet the tall man in the field. She was risking herself for someone who was practically a stranger. This was ridiculous. Her thighs were starting to burn from squatting. Teyla batted at a fly then pivoted to peer back at her barracks hidden behind the sheaves of green. Every slave had a tragedy behind their gaze. Why had the silent scream in this man's green eyes moved her so?
It hadn't, she thought and resolved then and there to sneak back to where she belonged. No one was worth risking her life for. She let out a deep sigh and listened to be sure the driver's voice had faded. Then she heard the slithering of leaves in the corn behind her that wasn't from the wind. She turned to face the tall man and blinked in surprise. He was studying her with an earnestness that cut like a knife. In his arms was an infant, wrapped in a blanket.
Teyla sucked in a breath and instinctively glanced about her to make sure no one was around to see them. The only witnesses were insects and corn. Men weren't allowed to care for children. This man was already involving her in a crime. She furrowed her brow and hissed at him. "What are you doing?"
He swallowed and hastily adjusted the baby in his arms when the infant began to fuss. After he had quieted the child, he looked back to Teyla. His nostrils quivered as he breathed, as if he were about to cry. His voice was as soft as he could make it. "My wife died."
Teyla stared at him, waiting for him to continue. Something inside her began to coil and reel away from what she feared was coming. A voice in her head chanted at her to not look him in the eye. Don't look him in the eye. Dreams are hidden there. Hopes are hidden there. People peer back from masks. She shook her head. "I am sorry to hear that."
He took in a shuddering breath and licked his lips, looking down at his child. His hair was knotted and fell to his shoulders, his body long and muscled. Yet there was a desperation in his shoulders that hunched around the small life in his arms that was beginning to tug at her conscience. Ignore it, she thought. Weakness. He is weak. The weak will die. His low voice once again interrupted her thoughts. "We had twins. A boy and a girl."
She stiffened and the man met her gaze. The timid tremors had spread to his lips and his eyes looked like cracking glass.
"After she died..." He paused, swallowing, trying to ease the tension she knew pained his throat. "No one would help me. They found my son. They took him outside and threw him in the air, and shot him as target practice." His lips had formed a sneer that was reflected in her heart. She felt her stomach wrench with nausea. "Left him there for the flies."
She needed a moment to close her eyes, to fight back the memory of the whites of brain matter on the loam of the road beside a field. She had hardly spared it a second glance at the time. She couldn't afford to. And she couldn't afford to hear this now. She had to go. She opened her eyes and looked to the tall man before her and watched as a small arm reached out of the blankets and grasped at nothing. He offered the tiny fingers his thumb and they curled around it.
"Please," he continued, and she saw now that there was more than dying sunlight shimmering in his eyes. There were tears. "You have such a kind face."
She shook her head, parting her lips to reply but he cut her off.
"Please take my daughter. She will pass as yours."
Teyla's breath was frozen in her lungs. She wanted to reply that he was being so incredibly selfish, that he was asking the world of a woman he'd only spoken a few words to, that he was so wildly terrified and devoted that he was melting her heart. She swallowed, realizing that the pain in her throat was not from the dry air.
A tear slipped down his cheek and disappeared into the earth. His entire being was so desperately coiled around the little girl in his arms that he appeared as fragile as so many tendrils of ice, yet his resolve was as strong as the wind. "Please... save my daughter."
She couldn't say no. She couldn't. Not when his pleading gaze and the soft sounds from the little girl were stirring life in her breast, reminding her that she was alive, that she was young, that she was a human being. That she could feel.
He took a timid step towards her, tilting his head, his voice cracking. "Please."
Teyla studied the child out of the corner of her eyes, feeling them begin to sting. She hastily brushed some of her hair out of her face and held out her arms. The man let out a gasp of such relief that more tears fell, his entire frame shuddering. He brought the tattered bundle up to his chest and hugged the child to him, burying his nose in her dark curls and closing his eyes as he breathed in her scent. He kissed her forehead and whispered something to her that Teyla couldn't make out. His eyes didn't leave his daughter's face as he handed her over to Teyla.
She was surprised by how light the infant was in her arms and held her stiffly as the man readjusted the baby's blankets. He sniffled and met Teyla's brown gaze once more. His voice was breathless yet carried the weight of the sighing of the sea. "Thank you."
Teyla nodded, unable to look away from the glistening jade of his eyes. She felt the tug of gravity in her mind as she had the thought that he would be beautiful when he laughed. She longed to hear him laugh.
He bent over his child and ran his calloused fingers through her featherlight curls and kissed her once more before taking a step backwards. He nodded at Teyla then pivoted and turned away, creeping through the stalks, trying to hide his tears and the breaking of his heart.
Teyla's voice was a whisper. "Wait."
He paused, looking over his shoulder at her, his eyes red and miserable.
"What are you called?"
He sniffled. "Ronon."
The ghost of a smile graced her lips. "I am Teyla."
He inclined his head and she could tell that it was taking every ounce of strength remaining in him to keep from dashing back over and taking his daughter from her. "Thank you, Teyla."
Teyla nodded. She looked down to the infant who was chewing on her own hand, blinking up at Teyla with grey-blue eyes that had yet to settle into a color. Teyla smiled at the child, her mind racing for words of comfort, for assurance that she and Ronon would be able to see each other again in the future so that he might know his daughter, and she him. So that Teyla might find a way to make him laugh. But when she looked back up, all that remained of Ronon were the corn stalks that swayed in his passing.