Disclaimer: It's Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper and MGM's sandbox, I'm simply destroying the sandcastles
Title: In Context
Timeframe: Post Season 5, Legacy Book series, post The Lost. References to Conversion and Doppleganger and others in Season 4 and the Legacy books I (Homecoming) and II (The Lost)
Genre: Missing Moment / fluff
Characters: John Sheppard, Teyla Emmagan, Torren Emmagan
Summary: Even the most innocent of actions can be otherwise in the right context.
Author's Note: First Atlantis fic; it took the books to get me inspired; go figure!
"Teyla? Are you done with- Teyla?" When there was no response to his query and John frowned, looking up from his finished mission report, only to spy her in the other room.
Bent over Torren's playpen thing, she was tucking a blanket around him, a smile playing about her lips. It made John's frown disappear to see her like that, even as it made his chest ache. Torren, for all the little boy called him 'Da', was not his son.
They were attempting to relax in her quarters after another fruitless day of searching for Rodney, finishing their mission reports and spending time with Torren now that he was back from New Athos and his time with Kanaan. Time, they'd discovered, that hadn't gone as well as Kanaan had hoped. After such a long absence, Torren's bond with his father by birth was slow mend. The little boy was obviously both relieved and glad to be back with his Mother and 'Da' on Atlantis.
As if sensing his gaze, Teyla's lifted to meet it - and her smile faded. Casting one last look at her son, she came back into the main room as he placed his tablet on her coffee table. "Is something the matter, John?"
Extending his arm in silent invitation, he was grateful when she accepted. Taking his hand in one of hers, she seated herself next to him. Teyla left enough room so she didn't lose sight of his face, but angled her legs so their knees touched.
A new, but crucial, difference in their complex relationship. A relationship that hadn't moved beyond anything platonic but was more rewarding for the care they were taking in this new phase. They'd never been closer.
She studied him in silence for a long moment. "You are not thinking pleasant thoughts." It wasn't a question
"I'm thinking about a lot of things," he hedged, his gaze going unconsciously back to the other room.
Teyla said nothing, but there was a look on her face he knew well as he caught it from the corner of his eye. She didn't have to say anything; all she needed to do was wait him out. And she would, he knew. For all he disliked speaking about some things, Teyla could draw him out with silence better than anyone could with words.
He brought his gaze back to her before dropping it to their intertwined fingers. He hadn't really noticed until that moment she hadn't let them go and they rested easily high on one of her thighs.
The silence continued as John ran his thumb over the back of her hand and down the length of her fingers. She held such strength for such a tiny package, well able to mop the floor with him any day of the week - even when injured; as she's proven less than two weeks ago.
Two weeks of pain; of revelations.
Rodney having been captured - and still in Wraith hands - but now a Wraith himself thanks to their tinkering with Carson Beckett's retro virus research and tweaking it for their own use.
Teyla's admission that she and Kanaan were not married and never had been - and Kanaan having asked to be released from the relationship that had given her Torren.
Teyla pinning him - not unlike he'd once done to her while under the influence of the retro virus himself three and a half years ago - while in the gym and kissing him soundly. That had really thrown him for a loop. He couldn't count the number of times he'd relived that kiss in his dreams, not to mention the agony of his apology when she'd told him to give it no further thought.
Staring down at their hands, he realized it had hung between them - apology or not - and made things tense for some time until he'd been able to look at her without thinking of just how good her lips had felt beneath his. Fortunately, Teyla had never really held it against him, believing his uncharacteristic actions to be a part of the physical transformation he'd been undergoing.
She squeezed his fingers, subtly reminding him that she was still waiting for an explanation.
"It's none of my business," he finally hedged uncomfortably.
She arched her eyebrows, but said nothing; simply continued to watch him with a faintly knowing smile. This, she knew well, wouldn't prevent him from asking his question.
John, to her amusement, continued to hedge.
"You'll probably want to wipe the floor with me again once I ask this - and I'm okay with that," he hastily assured her, lest she think he was complaining. "I'll deserve it."
Teyla placed her free hand over his, stopping the motion of his thumb across the back of her hand and hiding it between both of hers.
John went quiet again for a long moment before finally letting out a sigh, turning miserable eyes to hers. "I did the math, Teyla."
It was an Earth expression she'd not yet heard and, for all it wasn't really a question, it was too.
John's gaze drifted deliberately back to where Torren was sleeping before returning to hers and he waited, not explaining. Following the path of his gaze, Teyla's brow furrowed. What did Torren have to do with the strange saying... understanding dawned after a moment when she followed his train of thought.
She didn't ask why; he would clarify when he was ready. Instead she shifted in her seat, drawing one leg up beneath her and watching with some amusement when John's gaze dropped to follow the nearly bare appendage. Ever since her advance in the gym a couple of weeks ago, their relationship had shifted. It was deeper, closer than it had ever been, and she was grateful she'd taken the chance she had when she'd told him about Kanaan.
"I remember the festival that was held a couple of days after Heightmeyer's funeral," he said at last, his words stilted, awkward. "It's the only time I remember you going off world to be with your people that fits."
"You know; alone?"
What he really meant was; without him. Teyla offered him a gentle smile and there was no censure in her tone when she realized what he was asking. "You are asking when and why I turned to Kanaan."
He shrugged, uncomfortable, and looked away. "I told you it was none of my business."
Reaching up, she placed one hand along the side of his face and drew it back to her, taking in the character of his visage in the same way she'd been doing since their first meeting. She'd never tire, she'd quickly realized all those years back, of looking at him. Her thumb caressed his cheek, an echo of his on her hand.
"You know me well enough to know I would not answer if I did not think it warranted one," she replied, keeping her tone even to ensure he wouldn't be more uncomfortable than he already was.
"Yeah... I know... I... You know I'm no good at this. Just forget it."
"When it is obviously bothering you?" She shook her head once. "Ask what you wish, John. I will answer you as best I can."
He stared at her and she met his gaze squarely, knowing he'd be able to see the sincerity in her eyes. John had always been able to read her better than anyone she'd ever known, bar none. It took some long moments of his gaze searching hers before his shoulders sagged a little, an indication of the tension having drained from them - partially - even if he was not fully comfortable with his own question. The fact she'd been intimate with another man and born him a child did not sit well, for all he would not judge her, with the man she'd claimed as her mate.
If he realized it or not.
His free hand snuck up to cup hers, not letting her draw it away from his face, and their fingers locked there, too. She wasn't even certain it was a conscious action on his part, but she was well aware of the roughened skin on hers; of the thrill it gave her no matter the context in which he chose to touch her. Seeing he was struggling, she decided to have mercy on him and instead broached the subject herself.
"You remember the events surrounding Kate's death." It wasn't a question and she could see the way his eyes flared with remembered guilt. It sidetracked her momentarily. "It was not your fault, John."
"If I hadn't touched-"
"You did," she cut him off gently with a shake of her head. "There is no changing that now. It could have easily been myself or Rodney or even Ronan who touched the crystal. It is done; do not dwell."
"Kinda hard not to when the damn thing was wearing my face."
"It is in the past," she reassured him calmly. "I only bring it up now because of the relevance to this topic."
"I'm sorry I asked."
He flashed her a weak smile, but didn't pursue the line of thought.
Teyla continued her explanation, her hand slipping from his cheek, but remaining locked with his as it dropped to her lap to join the others. "I had grown very close to Kate Heightmeyer. I counted her among my Lantean family and to lose her in such a fashion was... difficult for me to bear. My people understand grief, it is a part of who we are and one we cannot avoid with the reality that is the Wraith, but this was different."
John, didn't interrupt, but she could see the remembered pain in his gaze.
"Do you remember when I came to your quarters?"
He swallowed hard, nodding.
"Do you remember what I did when you opened the door?"
"You hugged me."
She inclined her head a fraction. "Did that not seem... odd to you?"
At the time, when he'd been about to go to her quarters to offer her the same, he hadn't thought so. Looking back now he realized that it had been one of the first times - the first time? - that Teyla had ever hugged him. But not, he realized, the first time she'd turned to him for comfort.
"At the time, no."
John thought about it and then shook his head. "I don't think you'd ever hugged me before that. Not even when we returned from Earth after the Ancients were destroyed."
"I had not." She smiled faintly and then corrected herself. "At least, not when we were both in good physical condition."
They shared a small smile, the years of experiences between them; on more than one occasion she'd held him while he'd been injured and vice versa. It was not, he knew, anything more than necessity at the time and nothing like the hug she'd lain on him. The desperation in her grip that day had been something he'd been uncomfortable with; something he'd not been sure how to respond to except reciprocate.
Teyla wasn't really a hugger; it was more an Earth-thing.
It dawned on him at that moment that hugging might actually mean something different to her people, which is why she didn't hug. His question must have been in his gaze because her lips curved even further.
"You see where I am going with this."
"Wait... are you trying to tell me that you... you came to my quarters for... that you...?"
She laughed softly and did something very un-Teyla; she blushed. That didn't prevent her, however, from affirming his suspicion. "As you are aware, physical contact between the adults of my people have very different meanings than yours. Our greeting," she tilted her head to him, which he returned automatically, their foreheads touching even as her hands released his, sliding upwards along his arms to grip his biceps. Their eyes, however, remained locked as she repeated herself. "Our greeting, as you know, is a gesture of respect and affection. Traditionally, it is the closest men and women physically get."
"I was hurting and I turned to you for comfort. You are so very respectful of the traditions of my people, it is sometimes difficult to remember that you are not one of them."
A compliment if he'd ever heard one. There were no people Teyla held in higher esteem.
"It did not occur to me until you did nothing but hold me that you did not understand what I was asking... and I had no desire to make you more uncomfortable than you already were." Her blush receded and she pulled her forehead away from his. "I am... grateful for your presence that night. For your company; but I truly desired it in another fashion. You did not appear to wish the same and so I left."
"Grief makes people do crazy things," he allowed reluctantly. "I would never take advantage of it - of you - that way."
"Shared grief often leads to healing. Among my people it is not uncommon to assuage that grief by a reminder of life."
It was not what he'd been expecting despite the fact he'd understood what she was saying. "Does this happen often?"
She smiled faintly, but shook her head. "Strong grief is powerful and creates as much as it destroys. We Athosians choose to embrace that grief by embracing one another. I chose you; but could not, in my grief, understand why you turned me away."
"After everything that had happened..." John shook his head. "It would have been wrong for me to, Teyla."
"Among your people perhaps," she conceded, knowing their traditions varied greatly on this point. "I did not realize this until much later."
"Is that why you suddenly began hugging me?"
She laughed softly at his random question, knowing it was more to diffuse the tension. "Perhaps. I know you are not comfortable with public displays of affection, John, but there are times when the traditions of your culture far better express my gratitude than my own."
Nodding, she squeezed his fingers. "Once I understood you would not take them as an invitation, no matter how much I had desired otherwise, I could not deny myself the comfort of your embrace."
They sat in silence for a long minute before John finally looked away, towards where Torren was still sleeping peacefully, unable to see the toddler but well able to picture him in his mind's eye. "So... Kanaan."
"Yes." Her fingers tightened on his, but he didn't look away from the other room. "When I returned for the festival, I could still hear Kate's deathsong and desired to feel alive. Kanaan and I had always been close we simply became... closer in sharing our grief."
Now that she'd begun this story, her gaze on his face, she knew she should have told him sooner. Rodney had been right; John had deserved to know and, as he'd proven, he wouldn't judge her for it. He understood, even if he didn't particularly like it.
"Torren, as I told you, was an unexpected blessing. And unlikely; we were only together the once."
"Once," John returned softly, still not looking at her, "is all that it takes."
It was the way she said his name that finally drew his gaze back to hers.
She read everything there that she'd expected to find. John, she'd known for some time, held strong feelings towards her. Feeling that remained unsaid thanks to his past hurts, but were expressed in everything he did, in everything he had done, to ensure her safety. That he would do, and continued to do, the same for the rest of their team only proved to her what he'd once told her. They were his family; a family that now extended to include her son simply because he was her son.
A son, she saw him realize, that could have been - had he understood and accepted her unspoken invitation - his.
The pain in his gaze twisted within her and she shifted closer. "Do not dwell," she repeated sagely. "Kanaan may have helped create Torren, but he does not see Kanaan as his father."
"Thanks to our little side trip to Earth."
"It played a part, yes, but I suspect if we had not left this galaxy, Torren would still be more yours than his."
"He's not mine."
Teyla laughed, but did so softly, her amusement plain. "You have not noticed?"
"The looks?" She cocked her head, studying him, and realized he hadn't. "You truly have not."
"Have you truly not noticed that you are as much his parent as I, John? Or have you simply justified the extended amount of time you spend with him as part of our friendship?" She didn't need an answer to know it was the latter; it was written plainly in the shock on his face. Leaning in close, she let him see the sincerity in her gaze so he couldn't doubt her next words. "In every way that matters, you are his father. Torren listens to you. He respects you. He cares for you as I do."
And, as often happened when there was much to say, he simply stared at her, unable to voice the many thoughts and feelings that flashed through his unguarded gaze. He didn't need to voice them, for she had learned him well this past half decade and she didn't need the words. Not when his actions, intentional or not, spoke so clearly.
Leaning in, she freed her hands and cupped his face between them. "I spoke no vows with Kanaan, John; nothing beyond the agreement to share our time with Torren. He and I were friends once; I hope to be friends again. Nothing more."
"And... the training room?"
"Once, many years ago, we shared a similar encounter in the training room; do you remember?"
"It's been hard to forget."
Unable to resist lightening the mood for his sake, she slid her hands down to his shoulders and arched an eyebrow, aware he would know she was teasing even as the words left her lips. "I believe I told you to give it no further thought, Colonel."
He laughed, the tension in his shoulders releasing fractionally. "Sorry, I couldn't help it."
"Nor I." Her lips curved. "It set a standard none have met."
"Not even Kanaan."
It was a revelation that made his eyebrows hit his hairline. "It didn't creep you out I was mutating into a bug?"
She laughed, shaking her head. "We did not know at the time you were mutating... and it was a very stimulating, if confusing, encounter."
"That's good for my ego if nothing else."
"And the fact it is only your name I call when I am in danger and hear P90 fire coming to my rescue is not?"
He blinked. "I hadn't noticed."
"Nor did I until Jennifer mentioned it," she smiled faintly. "When you found us after my people had first been taken, it was you I called for when I heard P90 fire." She didn't need to explain; he'd read her mission report. "When Michael held me and it was Carson who came to my rescue, it was you I called for - just as it was your name I called when you came for me on Michael's ship."
"I was just glad to hear your voice," he admitted.
Hearing what he wasn't saying, she brought them back to the heart of the matter. "Where Kanaan and I were once friends who shared an intimate encounter, you and I have ever been only friends. I find I require more from you, John Sheppard."
"More?" His gaze had turned hopefully guarded. "How much more?"
Sliding her hands down over his arms, she heard Torren stir in the next room and offered him a teasing smile, knowing their time alone was about to be cut short. "How much do you offer?"
It was the right thing to say and they shared a smile before John, to her surprise, drew her into his arms and - after a moment's hesitation - onto his lap. His lips brushed against her cheek affectionately, caressing the corner of her mouth, and Teyla turned her face to his. Their lips met properly, a soft kiss unlike the other two they'd shared, and it was his turn to cup her cheek as her eyes drifted open upon their parting.
That kiss, she felt strongly, had been an acknowledgement of where they'd been and where they had yet to go.
"Torren's awake," he told her, regret clear in his eyes as he set her away and got to his feet; Torren's soft cries could be heard from the next room. Nothing urgent, but nothing they could ignore. She made to move but he held out one hand, stopping her. "I've got this."
It always pleased her when John took it upon himself to see to her son and this time was no different. Torren, for his part, loved and idolized the man who had been the main father figure in his life for as long as he could remember. Unable to resist teasing him, she leaned back on the couch, waiting until he had moved towards her room. "Was that my answer?"
John paused in the doorway, Torren's cry already having subsided upon seeing him, and turned his gaze back to Teyla's. "No."
With a wink in her direction, he turned to her son and Teyla simply watched, enjoying the way they interacted. John's voice was a soothing murmur as he lifted Torren from his enclosure - he called it a 'playpen' - and hugged him. Torren, for his part, latched onto John, curling against his chest with one hand on his ear. Her child was confident in his belief that John Sheppard could banish all his nightmares.
Her lips curved as John paced back into the room. Torren lay easily against his muscled chest, finding as much comfort in his embrace as she did.
Their eyes locked and she read everything there he couldn't say, didn't know how to say, and she extended her arm in a silent invitation for him to join her, an echo of how this conversation had begun. He grinned, seeing it for what it was, and took her hand as he settled back to the couch.
Teyla moved to him, settling against his side and resting her head against his shoulder as she placed her hand on his arm, wrapping the once again sleeping Torren between them. No further words were spoken, but none were needed.
With his actions, Teyla suspected his answer had been premature.
Despite what they'd discussed, he'd gone to Torren the moment he'd stirred, taking an active role as a parent regardless of what he otherwise thought. And, in doing so, he'd only affirmed what she'd known for a long, long time. John Sheppard would ever be the one to give her his all; but with actions, not words.
Sometimes, she decided with a contented smile, words were overrated.