Disclaimer: It's Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper and MGM's sandbox, I'm simply destroying the sandcastles
Timeframe: Post Season 5, Legacy Book series, post The Lost. References to The Legacy books I (Homecoming) and II (The Lost)
Genre: Family fic
Characters: John Sheppard, Teyla Emmagan, Torren Emmagan, Kanaan
Summary: Kanaan and Torren return to the city to return Torren to his mother after a two week visit with his father...
Teyla Emmagan glanced up at where John Sheppard stood on the platform overlooking the gate room and speaking with Radak Zalenka before turning her attention back to the gate. Kanaan was scheduled to bring Torren back today, around mid day, and she was anxiously awaiting them.
It was almost that time.
The last time he'd been on New Athos, the Wraith had taken Rodney; she wouldn't feel right until her son was back in her arms. Not that she didn't trust Kanaan to keep Torren safe, but on Atlantis she knew he was safe. Safe from culling; safe from the Wraith. It wasn't that Atlantis couldn't be, or hadn't been attacked it was simply that... that... It was simply that Atlantis was home and she always felt better with her son under its roof.
"Keep pacing and you'll wear a hole in the gate room floor."
She flashed a faint smile Sheppard's way at his teasing and halted her course. She wasn't a pacer by nature but ever since she'd had Torren and needed to walk him to sleep, she'd found it was as soothing on her nerves as his. Stopping on the stairway a few feet to the side and below where John now had his hands spread on the rail, a smile turned her way, and she cocked her head at him. Her return smile was as teasing as his comment had been.
"You have missed him as much as I."
To which he smiled, making to respond, only to be cut off when the chevrons on the Stargate began to light up.
"Offworld activation, sir!"
The shield flared to life as the wormhole engaged, the shimmering pool coalescing without incident as the event horizon shimmered and shone, giving off the familiar blue glow.
Turning his head, Sheppard glanced towards the controller. His question was almost bored, but there was a tension in his shoulders that always accompanied a gate activation. There was no guarentee it was who they were expecting. "IDC?"
There was a pause before an answer. "New Athos sir; Kanaan's requesting permission to enter the city."
John's hands tightened on the rail and he nodded. The force field dropped and, several moments later, Kanaan stood in the gate room with Torren in his arms. Sheppard took a moment to study them as Teyla moved forward, a smile on her face; and then Torren caught sight of her, his youthful exhuberance easily reaching John where he stood on the platform.
She laughed, reaching out to her son as he reached for her, and plucking him from Kanaan's grip. Hugging her baby tightly, she kissed his cheek before turning her gaze to the boy's father. Her smile dimmed a little, but she stepped in, placing one hand on Kanaan's shoulder, and tilting her head forward in the traditional Athosian greeting. It was immediately returned, along with a strained smile.
"Welcome to Atlantis, Kanaan."
"It is always an honor to be welcomed to the city of the Ancestors," he replied softly, his gaze leaving hers and going back to Torren.
Torren had caught a lock of Teyla's hair and was now chewing on it as his wide eyes scanned the room expectantly. Teyla opened her mouth to respond to Kanaan when Torren suddenly stiffened in her arms, drawing her attention, a huge smile crossing his face as he reached across her towards the viewing platform. A squeal of delight passed his lips.
The silence that followed the excited demand was deafening for the few seconds it lasted, not even the sound of the wormhole disengaging filling it. Teyla stared at her son, wide-eyed, before her gaze shot to the man he'd called for. In passing, she saw the shock and hurt ripple across Kanaan's expression.
Torren, seemingly unaware of tension his delight had caused in the room, clapped his hands together, nearly striking his mother in the process, and then extended his arm towards John again. "Da!"
"Hey buddy," Sheppard's tone was jovial, if forced. "Welcome home."
The boy frowned, tugging on his mother's hair with one hand and reaching for John with the other as his tone turned demanding. "Da; hug!"
Glancing down at Teyla and the stony look on Kanaan's face as he'd followed Torren's gaze, John wondered why he'd ever thought it would be a good idea to be here. Yes, he'd missed Torren, but seeing Teyla in the arms of the man who'd fathered him had John itching to tear her - to tear them - away. No matter that she'd already released the man and was technically - unspokenly - his; not to mention he'd never been able to get Torren to stop calling him Da no matter what he said. Not that he minded.
Now... now it would cause complications for Teyla as she tried to re-forge her friendship with Kanaan around the little boy that tied them together. He exhaled softly, knowing he had to say something. "Your mom wants to spend time with you first, buddy," he told the toddler, aware that all eyes were on this little scene. The gossip mill would be running full bore on this for days. "And I'm working right now."
Teyla's sharp and sudden admonition made the boy's face fall and he sniffled, looking up at her with luminescent eyes which suddenly swam with confused tears. "Why no hug Da, Momma?"
Her expression softened. "Colonel Sheppard is working, Torren. When he is done he will come hug you."
"Da no miss me?" For a young child, he had a surprisingly good grasp on quite a few words even as tears slipped down his cheeks. "No hug?"
Teyla glanced helplessly up at John , who closed his eyes for a moment.
Well crap; no getting out of it if he didn't want to seem like a complete monster. For he knew there was no reasoning with a child as young as Torren; he would see the lack of a hug as a lack of affection. It was the last thing John ever wanted the boy to think. Not when he'd grown up thinking just that about his own father. Not that he was Torren's father; just his friend, but the kid wouldn't understand the distinction yet.
With a silent sigh, John turned from the platform and crossed the few feet to the stairs. Kanaan was still glaring at him, but it was the relief in Teyla's gaze that drew him. And, if he was honest with himself, he'd rather have been on the ground with her to greet the tyke in the first place. Standing back wasn't his thing; especially when he'd missed Torren as much as the boy appeared to have missed him.
It was quite the novel feeling for a man who'd never spent much time with kids or given them much thought.
Torren, who'd been focused on his mother, caught sight of Sheppard approaching and his tears dried, his smile back. One arm extended part way and then stopped, almost uncertainly. "Hug?"
"Hug," John confirmed, plucking the boy from Teyla's arms; she made no move to stop him.
Torren threw his arms enthusiastically about John's neck and squeezed as hard as he could as he buried his face between John's neck and his own arm. His momentary hesitation was all but forgotten. "Miss you!"
"Missed you too, buddy. Did you have a good time?"
"No Momma; no Da," he complained, but there was laughter in his face and the smile that lit his face was slightly shy as he looked towards Kanaan, his face still tucked close to Sheppard's neck and his own arm. John was barely able to see it from the corner of his eye. "Big 'Nan."
"I'll take that as a yes." Glancing up to where Teyla stood watching him with an obviously irate Kanaan, John lifted the boy and drew him away from his neck so he could look the toddler in the eyes even as he set him on his hip. Without thinking, he lifted one hand to gently wipe away his tears. "I have to get back to work, buddy. You gonna be okay with your mom and..." he really should call Kanaan the boy's father but, at that moment, he found he couldn't do it. "Kanaan?"
It was such a Teyla thing - words, inflections, everything - it made John grin. Handing the boy back to Teyla, he couldn't resist ruffling Torren's hair before stepping away. "Bye buddy."
Sheppard returned to his post as Torren took his mother's hair back in his fist, gripping her neck with the other hand, and was content to be carried. Kanaan walked with them, exchanging looks with Teyla, but her sharp tone went over Torren's head when she strictly told Kanaan that this was neither the place nor time for a discussion.
Teyla took them directly back to her quarters where she placed Torren on the ground inside what John like to call his 'play pen'. Torren let out a squeal of delight upon rediscovering his giant stuffed frog, and grabbed it tightly, babbling in half formed sentences about everything he'd done while he'd been with Kanaan. He didn't notice, and wouldn't for some time as his mother and father stepped into the other room, to begin speaking in hushed whispers.
The first was a pained accusation. "Colonel Sheppard, Teyla?"
"He is my friend and has been most helpful," she returned tightly. "I would not have managed so well with Torren on Earth if he had not been there. Torren is very attached to him."
"So I see."
"You have asked me to release you and I have, Kanaan; you have no say as to with whom I spend my time."
"Even if I did, it would not matter as you are on his gate team!"
"You are hurt," she returned evenly. "I will forget you said that."
Kanaan exhaled and bowed his head, struggling for control. What he'd seen and the emotional sting of betrayal had been the initial reaction; one borne of resentment and hurt and the fact he'd not seen Torren for more than six months while believing him to be dead.
Pacing away from Teyla, he turned to the window in her quarters and looked out across the city, grateful when she didn't follow, struggling to sort through what he'd seen and heard. Teyla watched him in silence, aware he needed the time and giving it to him.
It was many long minutes before he was able to control himself and full examine what he'd seen and heard. Digesting it, reviewing it in his mind's eye, he took his time to analyze the situation and why they'd affected him so strongly. He was not proud, he admitted some moments later, of his initial reaction.
Turning back to Teyla, he met her gaze squarely, more than ever appreciative of the fact she knew when silence was necessary. "Forgive me; you are correct. I was simply... hurt when Torren addressed Colonel Sheppard as his..."
Kanaan inclined his head.
"John has been the primary male influence in Torren's life through no fault of your own, Kanaan. If our son was to have a role model, was it not best to be one who can teach him compassion as well as survival?" She arched one eyebrow, seeming to follow his train of thought. "You were not there, Kanaan and Colonel Sheppard has ever been there for me, even from the first."
They both knew it to be true.
"And now that I am here?"
"I will not deny our son the friends he has made. To do so would be cruel."
Kanaan inclined his head in agreement; both wanted what was best for the boy.
"I would see him given every opportunity to choose his own path, including a chance to someday go among the stars as I do."
"He may wish to return to New Athos for a quieter life."
"Yes," though she secretly doubted it. Torren was far too taken in what she and John did for a living. Not that he really understood it yet, but he would. "It is possible. And while I would mourn the loss of his company, I would never forbid it."
"And you believe I would." Kanaan shook his head. "That is not my concern."
"No; your concern," she returned softly, watching his expression, "is that Torren, your son, does not see you as his father."
There was no doubting that this was the key issue and Teyla voiced it with a conviction that made him flinch. She'd ever been able to see through to the heart of a matter and in this case, it was no great effort. Kanaan's reactions, for such a private man, had been extreme.
Teyla search his face and then shook her head. "If I had left him with you when Atlantis went to Earth, would I not be facing the same situation you are now? Being forced to get to know my son, and he me, so he would call me mother?"
Kanaan conceded this after a moment and a brief nod.
"He is safe Kanaan; that he has the opportunity to know you is what matters. He will know you are his father; I will not deny you."
"And you and Colonel Sheppard?" His expression had changed, softening, and in it she saw the remnants of the man who'd once been a dear friend; a friend she'd not seen since his departure from Atlantis.
"We..." she hesitated. "It is complicated."
"Complicated is not always worth the fight."
"This is," Teyla exhaled; it was the closest she'd yet come to admitting her feeling for John Sheppard. Like John, she preferred to let her actions in this matter speak for her. It was what they both understood best. "Do not worry for me, Kanaan. I am in good hands."
Kanaan exhaled a long breath. "As is Torren, or so you mean. I have no wish to see you hurt, Teyla."
"If Colonel Sheppard was going to abandon me, Kanaan, he had plenty of opportunity to do so while I was Michael's prisoner. He did not. He has not. It is not the first time he has come for me or the others on our team. He will always come for us, just as we will always come for him. He is our family just as we are his. Torren is a part of that family."
"And I am not."
"By extension you are," she corrected. "John could have left you on Michael's hive; he saved you because I asked it. He is a good man, Kanaan."
That appeared to make the Athosian think but, instead, he latched onto the one thing that interested him the most. He'd never heard her call Colonel Sheppard anything but his rank. "John?"
She smiled softly. "I have leave to use his given name and, as you suspect, our relationship is no longer simply professional; it has not been for some time."
"Did this occur on Earth?"
"It is not as you are thinking. We are friends; family."
"You wish more."
"I have more – and I do not."
Kanaan's eyebrows arched, but there was no jealousy, simply acceptance in his gaze. Teyla and he were not to be no matter that they'd had a child together. "You could do worse in your choice of husband."
"He has not asked."
Not yet, Kanaan smiled faintly. There was no mistaking there had been a shift between the couple. One he couldn't exactly place his finger on, but it was subtle, as if a wall had broken. They were no longer trying to completely conceal the attraction. "I have long suspected there was someone on Atlantis to whom you had become bonded. I did not think it to be Colonel Sheppard."
She inclined her head, accepting the compliment for what it was worth; she'd done well to hide her attraction and subsequent fall for her commanding officer. "Torren will see much of him, Kanaan; we spend a good deal of time together and... Torren adores him."
"I had noticed." His dry response made her smile and he took a minute to regroup. Digesting all he had heard, Kanaan finally nodded, placing his hands on her shoulders and tilting his head to hers, touching her forehead with his own. "If our son is to have more than one father, I cannot ask for a better mate for you, or protectors for him. Be happy Teyla; it is all I have ever wanted for you."
"I am." She placed her hands on his arms in acceptance, her heart lifting with his words. "Rest assured, Kanaan; Torren will know you. I swear it."
Stepping back, he released her, looking beyond to where Torren was still babbling to his toy. "It is good he is back with his mother. Will you be returning to New Athos soon?"
Her expression closed. Rodney was still out there somewhere and her concentration and efforts must go to finding him, his capture and eventual rehabilitation. It would take time, considerable time, and she couldn't afford to make promises she knew she might have to break. Kanaan and Torren deserved better.
Kanaan must have read something in her face for he nodded, once. "Then I will return soon to see Torren – and you if you are here."
"I look forward to your next visit." And, since his decision to depart from Atlantis, it was the first time she'd said the words where she had truly meant them.
"As do I." He smiled faintly. "Have you an objection if I speak with Colonel Sheppard before I depart?"
"You are aware of the boundaries of our friendship, Kanaan; I trust you to adhere to them."
He inclined his head. "I could do no less. With your permission?"
"You have it."
Kanaan took a moment to say his goodbyes to his son before taking his leave. Teyla remained, collecting Torren from his 'play pen' - a name she knew she'd end up adopting despite the Athosian design - before making her decision and heading for the door.
"Where Da, Momma?"
"Colonel Sheppard is working, Torren," she reminded him. "I thought we might visit the infirmary and have Jennifer examine you."
She chuckled. "Yes, Jen."
Torren clapped his hands together with delight as she carried him into the hallway and then set him on his feet when he promptly demanded, "Down!"
Keeping his hands in hers, Teyla adjusted her pace to that of her son and, together, they headed for the infirmary, Torren walking delightedly with her assistance.
Back in the control room, Sheppard had retreated from the main area and out onto the balcony despite the snow. Few people wanted to brave the cold and cold had never bothered him. Still, as a nod to the fact he couldn't afford frost bite or a cold, he did zip up his jacket.
The sound of the door opening brought his head around and he was surprised to see Teyla's Athosian mate. Former mate. She and Kanaan were now just friends again. He wasn't exactly sure how he felt about that, other than he disliked it intensely, but it was a part of their culture and he'd always tried to make allowances for it. It wasn't easy, but he knew she appreciated the effort.
"Colonel Sheppard," Kanaan looked about but didn't enter the balcony. "May I have a word with you?"
He'd been dreading this. "Sure; come on out. It's a beautiful day."
The Athosian farmer took a moment as he stepped outside to view the surrounding area. The chill, the show – all of it so different from Athos and New Athos; snow had not been unheard of, but it was not generally associated with beauty.
"You and I have different degrees of beautiful," Kanaan told him dryly as he joined Sheppard at the rail.
He said nothing for a long minute, but John knew what this had to be about and beat him to the punch. "I'm sorry about the scene in the gate room; I've been trying to get Torren to call me John, but he's stubborn."
"Like his mother." Kanaan slanted Sheppard a look. "I... have had some time to think. I have spoken with Teyla about this."
Which had to have been a hell of a chat since they'd been gone the better part of an hour and a half; Sheppard leaned forward on the rail, looking across the icy waters.
Kanaan turned to face him completely, his words soft and serious. "Teyla has said that you consider Torren as family."
Uncomfortable, Sheppard straightened, curving his fingers around the rail much as he had an hour earlier when Kanaan had first arrived. He said nothing for a moment, unable to look at the other man. Teyla knew it to be true and, despite the awkwardness of this discussion, he was able to admit to himself that she hadn't exactly been out of line telling Kanaan if it would put his mind at ease.
It just made things… uncomfortable.
"It is my understanding that not many men of your world would take such an interest in a child that is not their own." Sheppard felt Kanaan searching his expression, but knew he'd find nothing. In fact, he said nothing as Kanaan continued. "I am... grateful that you have been, and continue to be, such a positive influence in his life."
It wasn't what Sheppard was expecting. "I just gave Teyla a hand; anything good he is has comes from her."
"Children, Colonel, do not lie." Kanaan cracked a faint, surprising smile. "Torren would not be so delighted in your presence if you do not spend a great deal of time with him."
"Yeah well... he's Teyla's kid."
That, Kanaan knew, said everything he needed to know. "On New Athos, Torren would be raised by a community, much like he is being raised here. His parents, Teyla and I, would have responsibilities to oversee and others would contribute to his care. Some, like yourself, would take a more active interest and it is to these that the children gravitate."
"Don't make it out to be all self sacrificing," Sheppard protested, finally looking at Kanaan. "I just pitch in when she's otherwise occupied. All of us do."
"But you more than most or Torren would not have looked for you upon his return." That made Sheppard look away again and Kanaan shook his head. "What I am trying to say, Colonel, is that I do not mind what my son calls you. So long as I get the chance to know him, and he, me."
There was a heartbeat of silence.
"You have always been known as a good friend to our people, but your support of Teyla and Torren when they were so far from home makes you family. Torren and Teyla already consider you so; who am I to dispute it?"
Arching his eyebrows, Sheppard finally turned fully to Kanaan, but the other man was already inclining his head respectfully, and turning to go. Apparently he was as uncomfortable with this line of discussion as Sheppard was. "I take my leave of Atlantis, brother, with the reassurance that they can be in no better hands."
Floored, John stared after Kanaan dumbly, trying to process what he'd just been told. It took a full minute - by which time the gate to New Athos had been dialed and Kanaan was passing through it - before he was able to really digest the conversation.
Shaking his head to clear it, he wondered if he'd been hallucinating from the cold and stepped back into the building.
Whatever Teyla and Kanaan had talked about, the man's mood had done a completely reversal from when Torren had called to him initially. Had it been real? Real or not, he took his leave of the gateroom, deciding to search out Teyla and Torren. With the tyke back on Atlantis, his private time with Teyla was going to be cut, but John found he didn't really mind.
In fact, now that Torren was back, a weight seemed to have been lifted from his shoulders. Torren was back safely, now all he had to do was find Rodney and bring him home to be treated and all would be well with his world. He was looking forward to that day.