Disclaimer: It's Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper's sandbox, I'm simply destroying the sandcastles
Title: More Than You Know
Characters: Teyla Emmagan, John Sheppard
Genre: Friendship, Missing Moment
Season / Episode Tag: Stargate Atlantis, Season 2; The Long Goodbye
Summary: "He cares for you more than you know." - Thalen as John Sheppard
Notes: Inspired by a comment made to Teyla by 'Thalen' when he'd under the alien's influence
More Than You Know
Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard gripped the balcony rail overlooking the East pier, looking out across the ocean and wishing he could see the breakers as they came rolling into the mainland. He'd been released from the infirmary less than an hour ago and after the events of the last two days he'd needed to get away.
From Beckett; from McKay; from Elizabeth.
A part of him wished he'd been cleared to leave the city and indulge in his passion for the sea, but Beckett had released him conditionally. The Doc was absolutely certain Thalen was gone but wanted them close for observation for a couple of days. Thankfully, Beckett had been convinced to let him out of the infirmary; if he'd been forced to stay, he'd have gone crazy while thinking about everything he'd done under the imprinting's control.
Like... kissing Elizabeth.
It hadn't exactly been his idea; and in fact, it had been more she kissing him since Thalen had been too shocked to respond to Phoebus' ploy. Which was probably for the best in all cases since it was an incident he'd never mention again. That Rodney and Beckett would probably never let him live this down was a side note and one he could deal with.
Deceiving Ronon and leading him into a dangerous situation where Phoebus could have killed him had been another low point. Something he'd never have done, at least not so recklessly, if he'd been himself. Ronon, fortunately, was recovering nicely. It took more than a bullet to down the Wookie-like man and for that Sheppard was grateful.
Attacking and crippling Atlantis' power systems; downing the security forces, playing the deadly game of hide and seek with Phoebus - all of it had been against his will, Thalen well aware that John would never have consented to any of it.
But, of all the things Thalen had made him do, confessing to Teyla had to have been the most uncomfortable in hind sight. The imprinted personality had violated him, delving into memories and secrets he'd long since buried to find something, anything, that would stay Teyla's hand.
His shoulders slumped and his head fell forward as he struggled with the memories.
The look on her face had been burned into his retina and he, smothered under Thalen's personality as he'd been, had well been able to recognize the personal conflict she'd been waging. He'd been there. Been put in situations where the loss of a single individual was considered acceptable in the face of losing many. Yet, for all he'd been there, he knew Teyla didn't like it any more than-
He stiffened but didn't turn as the most recent object of his thoughts joined him on the balcony. Forcing himself to ignore the unease with which he felt in her presence, he spared her a glance as she joined him at the rail. She didn't look at him and instead followed his line of sight beyond Atlantis' borders.
She was silent for a moment, as if waiting for him to greet her, and then exhaled softly and broke the silence herself. "It is very beautiful."
Not the topic he'd been expecting and it made him smile. Faintly, but it was there. "Yeah."
"It would be more beautiful from the mainland."
"Except you can't see Atlantis."
Her lips twitched. "I suspect you would not be watching the city," her gaze turned his way. "Am I wrong?"
He didn't bother denying it and shrugged, returning her look. "You know you're not. You didn't come down to talk to me about surfing, though."
"I did not," she turned her gaze back to the ocean, tension abundant in her frame. "I wish to... apologize."
"My actions; for what I was going to do."
Much as he wanted to ask the obvious question, Sheppard knew he didn't have to. Teyla had been to see him with Rodney, but the infirmary had been crowded with Ronon and Elizabeth and himself, and - as such - they'd not had a chance to discuss what had occurred alone. She'd deliberately searched him out at the first opportunity to put it to rest between them. Now, more than ever, she defied everything he thought he knew about women.
"You didn't kill me, Teyla."
"If Rodney had been unable to override the system," her tone was subdued; pained, "and despite what Thalen said... I would have."
He exhaled softly, remembering Thalen's declaration shortly before Teyla's apology. Sheppard doesn't believe you'll do it. It couldn't have been further from the truth; he'd known Teyla would always choose the greater good over the welfare of one individual - even one of her team members - after exhausting every other option. It was what made her such a good leader.
"I know." He turned to look her way, taking in her strained expression with a single look. "I never doubted you would. My life would have been a fair exchange for the safety of the others."
"No," she disagreed suddenly, turning to look at him again. "No, it would not have. This expedition would be poorer for your absence."
"I wouldn't go that far."
"No," she smiled, "you would not. Can you forgive me, John?"
"There's nothing to forgive," he contradicted. "You did what any sane person would have done in your place in the same circumstance." A smile stole its way across his lips, an echo of hers. "I'm just glad you stalled as long as you did to give McKay the time he needed to crack Weir's code."
She was silent for a long moment, her words serious when she finally spoke. "We are friends. I do not take that honor lightly."
Staring at her, reading what he thought he saw in her eyes, he found his words deserted him - as they usually did in moments of great emotional upheaval. "Teyla... don't take... what I... what he..."
Teyla smiled faintly at his strained look, inclining her head. "Do not worry, John; I know you were not yourself."
"You don't think-"
Her soft laughter cut him off. "I know; Thalen was far too eloquent to be you."
"Thanks... I think."
"Elizabeth has informed me that Phoebus deliberately chose her words to inflict harm, specifically on Colonel Caldwell," her expression turned as serious as her words. "I think... Thalen chose his to save himself, seeking to use my respect for you to his advantage."
He couldn't dispute that. "He was pretty desperate."
"So I surmised. Rest assured that his declarations have been... disregarded."
"That's a relief," he offered at last, needing to acknowledge her gesture. He didn't know if he should be relieved or disappointed but relieved seemed the safer choice to cop to.
"You are certain?"
"Sure, why not?"
"You do not sound certain."
"After flash freezer burn or something," he offered jokingly. "It's kinda like when I was turned into a bug."
Their gazes locked, sharing the memories but not voicing them. For someone who denied an attraction between them, there were too many signs to the contrary when he wasn't able to hold on to his rigid self control. Despite this, Teyla inclined her head and, as before, ignored them.
"You were not yourself; I understand." She left him then, pausing only in the doorway to look back and find him watching her. Her smile was the one he remembered from their first meeting only laced with relief, joy and mischief; her words catapulting him back to that other apology for something he'd done while not himself. "It is good to have you back... John."
And then, as now, he simply smiled briefly but didn't say anything.
The door closed behind her, leaving him once again on the balcony, except this time staring at the door instead of across the ocean. A smile crept back across his lips as he turned back to the ocean, his thoughts still on Teyla. Thalen, he'd realized earlier, hadn't been wrong. He simply wasn't ready, if he'd ever be, to sacrifice what they had for what might be.