dancing in the moonlight
There is little difference between a wedding on Earth and a wedding in Pegasus, or so claims Dr. Lindsay. Having never seen an Earth wedding, Teyla cannot say.
But she knows how such things go in Pegasus.
A public pledging - to remain and to stay, to nurture and to protect, to defend and to bring joy; friends and family there to witness and celebrate - loved ones bringing laughter amidst whatever griefs have recently touched their lives; the kindling of fire on bare stone - the start of something new; and the celebrations after - food and drink and dancing.
"So, not that different from an Earth wedding," John says as they bring back a plate of nibbles from the feasting table. "Just more enthusiastic."
Teyla tries to imagine a sober wedding and finds the thought strange. "Is not a joining of wills is a time for celebration, not for solemnity."
John's expression is strange when he looks at her. "Wills? Not hearts?"
"Emotions are easily aligned in the heat of passion or desire. But to match one's will with your partner is more difficult. I would be badly paired with one whose dreams did not match my own."
"We don't think of marriage that way." He hesitates, with the expression that Teyla has come to know as John trying to think of a polite way to phrase what he wants to say. "To us, it's about love."
Were this anyone else, Teyla would suspect a subtle chiding. "You do not think Sabiya and Vard love each other?"
"I didn't say that, I just meant..." Another hesitation as he looks away. "I think your way is a good one for looking at relationships. If more people looked at it as common will, common goals, and not just how people feel about each other, then maybe there'd be less failed marriages."
Something about the way he says it causes Teyla to wonder if John has such an experience himself.
His parents, perhaps? He claims he has no-one on Earth, but that can mean many things. Death and loss. Divorce and separation. Teyla knows all too well that the rending of relationships often leaves scars too raw for sharing with even a friend. She has not told John everything of herself, after all.
Even friends must have some secrets from each other.
When the moon rises, the music starts and people begin dancing. Teyla laughs as Mira draws Aiden out to the bonfire, and he follows her with an easy laugh and a skip in his step. Another guest tries to flirt with Rodney, who seems oblivious to the attention until she takes his hand and tugs him up towards the dance space.
"What? No! I can't... I mean, not that there's anything wrong... I'm just not..." He casts an agonised look back at his team-mates. John shrugs and makes a gesture as if to say, 'Go on!'
Teyla grins as Rodney follows after the guest. "Perhaps he needs another drink first?"
"Oh, I think he's had quite enough wine already. For Rodney."
She regards him, sitting quietly beside her, his elbows planted on the table before him. "Your people do not customarily dance at weddings?"
"Hm? Oh, yeah, they do." He watches Rodney's uncertain steps, and Jediara's encouragement with a smile playing about his lips.
"So will you dance with me, then?"
The smile falters a little. "I'm not very good."
Teyla does not let his hesitation stop her from holding out her hand. Through the last few months of their friendship, she has discovered that if John is hesitant in many things at first, that does not mean he is not willing to try it. "We shall be 'not very good' together, then?"
He grins at that, takes her hand, and leads her out to the dancing ground just as the drumbeat changes.
"Okay, you're going to have to show me how this one works," he says, glancing around. "Although the beat sounds like a waltz, and I was never very good at those."
Teyla shows him how to stand and the directions in which they should move. John follows her lead at first, then, once he's worked out the movements, takes it himself. She smiles as he puts a foot wrong but does not correct him, merely accepting his direction and the errors that come with it.
There is an easy pleasure in the dance, in the heat of John's body and the pounding beat of the music, in the joy of the occasion and the smile on his face.
His grin would kindle fire in a thousand hearts. "Dancing in the moonlight? Sure."
a nice day for a white wedding
"And they call this a shotgun wedding?"
Ronon Dex speaks in a low undertone as he rests against the railing, munching away on the prepared feast and surveying the room with the kind of suspicion that suggests he is looking for the quickest exit.
"Apparently it is to do with Sergeant Askill's pregnancy." Teyla is still a little vague on that point: neither John, nor Elizabeth's explanations have been particularly helpful regarding the relationship between the type of marriage and the fact that the Sergeant is pregnant.
"Guns and babes?"
"It makes no more sense to me than it does you." Teyla has been among the Lanteans long enough to know that sometimes one can keep asking, but the answers will not necessarily make any more sense.
Certainly the wedding conducted here today, does not have the same feel to that one on Athos so many months past. Then, there was joy - a pleasure in what was promised, hope and future.
It is a happy occasion if the number of smiles and warm well-wishes are counted. The bride is wreathed in smiles and tears, the groom takes the teasing with a grin...
Everyone has turned out to wish the couple happiness.
Still, there lies beneath it all an undercurrent that Teyla does not understand; conversations that imply something other than the joy that should be present when two people submit their wills to each other and prepare to walk together in live, balancing out each other's weaknesses.
Dr Brighton has a glass of wine and a captive audience in hand when Teyla and Ronon approach the meal table that has been set up along the side of the mess hall to collect a little more food. Ronon is enamoured of the hot dogs - a habit which John is doing nothing to dissuade - and Teyla wishes to see if there is any popcorn left.
"Well, it's one thing to fool around in Pegasus - quite another to stay home and look after the baby while he's haring off after aliens on the Air Force pay!"
"Shush, Misha. They didn't have any other options. Marriage is probably for the best."
"For him? Or for her?"
"Of all the places--" One of the group looks around and espies Teyla and Ronon. Teyla puts on her most bland 'alien idiot' look which may or may not work depending on the biases of the person involved and whether or not they know her, and the woman shuffles the group off towards one of the doors.
Ronon waits until they're gone, then dabs his finger in the sauce. "Do they have something against children?"
Teyla considers the possible answers to Ronon's question, and settles for the innocuous. "Their world has all the population they can contain."
"It's new life. A child." He sticks his finger in his mouth to lick off the sauce. Teyla arches a brow at him. Ronon sucks on his finger and shrugs. "I don't get it."
She thinks she does. But there is an inextricable divide between understanding and being able to express it such that Ronon might understand.
"Hey," John comes up behind Ronon. "Enjoy the wedding?"
"Yes. There was a great deal of ceremony."
"Yeah, well, Sergeant Askill's Catholic so it was kinda required." John shrugs.
Teyla flicks a warning glance in Ronon's direction as John searches about for an answer. "It's...a tenet of her personal beliefs. That you should be married before you have children."
"For stability." That is something Teyla understands, even if the kind of stability the Lanteans seem to prefer seems very uncertain. An Athosian child is not brought up by just those who created it, but by everyone in the community. One is born to blood, but one is always raised among family - the Wraith do not leave families intact.
"Yeah. Like that."
"Why's she going back to Earth if he's staying here, then?"
John looks awkward. Teyla knows he is unwilling to say what is surely going through her mind right now - what she overheard Carson saying earlier: Pegasus is no place to bring up a child.
As though children were not born in Pegasus every moment, as though families were not raised up among the broken remnants of Cullings to love and to cherish each other in the hardships of life.
As though Pegasus was a disease one must be careful of contracting.
Teyla does not think Ronon is ready to be answered with this understanding of Atlantis.
She is not sure she is ready to be answered with this understanding of Atlantis, either.
say goodnight and stay together
"They seem happy," says Teyla when John comes alongside her on the back porch. Before her, the Millers' backyard is bathed in the soft twinkling lights strung up across the maple trees, like the fairy lands in the books she bought for Torran. The light casts a glow on everything - making Rodney's expression less worried than usual, and casting silvery haloes off the highlights in Jennifer's hair as they dance.
"They should," John says. "They just got married."
He seemes subdued, almost a little weary, and Teyla slides an arm around his waist and steps into his side. "It has been a long day."
"Yeah." His arm comes around her back, warm in the cooling evening. "Torran's fine, by the way. Madison's checking on him."
Teyla laughs then, doubtless as he meant her to. Jeannie's daughter is fascinated by her son, treating him as though he's an oversized doll for her to play with. "Jeannie claims it is usual of most girls Madison's age on Earth to be drawn by babies."
"I wouldn't know about that," John says, turning his head to smile at her. "Not being either a girl or having any sisters. But I think you can take Jeannie's word on it."
"I will be sure to let her know."
They are silent a while, just standing together on the porch while the guests below mingle and mix, chatting and laughing in voices loud and soft.
"...a really weird choice, because it's not like Jen didn't have her pick of guys back in med school," someone says rather less softly than she thinks. Teyla feels John tense against her arm, against her side and looks for the speaker, who turns out to be one of Jennifer's bridesmaids, stalking along the side of the house while another woman flounders along behind her.
"Those guys were douches, Nat," says her companion, quieter, less tipsy. The scent of cigarette smoke drifts up to the porch through the bushes that screen their movements.
"Oh, come on. You can't tell me that you think this is a match made in heaven, Penny."
Penny takes a moment to answer, perhaps because she's stopped behind a tree. "I think it's Jen's choice. And he seems nice enough. A little neurotic, maybe."
"Oh, he's nice enough when you get to know him, I'm sure," says Nat in the tones that Teyla has learned mean the speaker thinks more or less completely the opposite of what they are saying. "But really, look at him! Who'd want get to know him in the first place?"
The disgruntled bridesmaid lowers her voice as they drift back into the crowd, and Teyla glances up at John who has not relaxed with their going. "Has there been much of that sentiment around?"
"Enough," John says. "They just don't know Rodney the way we do."
He sounds as if he is convincing himself of something he does not really believe, and Teyla sighs a little and tugs at his waist. "Will you dance with me?"
The smile is older now, more weary than at that first wedding, but the gleam in his eyes shows him sure. "I'm not very good."
"You are good enough."
For me, is what she doesn't say, although she know he hears it.
Teyla savours the feel of his hands on her waist, the weapon callouses that her fingers rest against. She settles against him without shame or intimacy, and his hands slide to the small of her back. They are among friends; there is no need to be circumspect, and so they are not. John can let go when she asks it of him, because she does not ask him often.
"I never really thought I'd see Rodney get married. I mean, there was the thing with Katie Brown ages ago, but... I don't know. It's just...not Rodney."
"Is it not what most of your people do, though?"
"Not everyone. And...our lives aren't exactly..."
Teyla wonders if this is an apology of sorts. "I do not expect you to marry me, John."
In fact, if he asked, Teyla would say 'no'. Not because she does not love him, but because marriage would be too restrictive between them - too laden with expectations Teyla is unwilling to shoulder. But to say this to John would hurt him right now. He is not ready to understand her reasons; she does not think he can yet comprehend them.
As the music ends, John exhales and leans his head down to hers. To an onlooker, they are sharing a private, intimate moment. But his lips barely move and his voice is for her ears alone. "Sometimes I wonder if Rodney isn't just following his own expectations of himself."
And Teyla does not agree or deny, but holds John close in her arms and understands only too well his misgivings.
as long as you're mine
Two days after the funeral, John calls her from Jeannie's house. "Rodney's gone."
"Gone?" Teyla's heart leaps into her throat before she settles it. Rodney may be a little melodramatic at times, but he is not foolhardy. Yes, he is grieving right now - angry and guilty and in pain - but he would not take that step.
He is Rodney.
"Left his luggage behind. Took a duffle instead." There is a faint noise, like a zipper being undone. "Left his notes and papers behind. Took his laptop."
"He has not contacted you?"
"No. I'll call Ronon, see if he left anything--" But John sounds doubtful. If Rodney left no word with John or with Jeannie, then it is unlikely he would have left anything with Ronon.
"I shall contact Radek," Teyla says looking around the room for the cellphone she was given. "If I hear from Rodney or anyone else..."
A buzzing noise interrupts her conversation with John - her cellphone vibrating on the desk across the room. "Wait, John-- My phone--"
The number is unfamiliar, no caller identity available. She flips open the phone and answers, "This is Teyla."
"Don't be mad."
"Rodney!" Relief stains her voice. After losing Jennifer, even those moments of concern are stressful. "We were worried."
"Look, there's a reason I'm calling you and not anyone else, okay? Is John there? Don't put him on."
"He is not here," she says, although she can hear John's voice coming from the discarded landline across the room. "I have him on the room phone. Wait a moment, Rodney." She swaps phones. "John."
"Tell him that not to do anything stupid," comes the brisk reply. "I'll let Jeannie know, and then I'll be on my way back."
He hangs up with a decided click. Teyla knows the terseness is anger and is not hurt or pained by it. John and Rodney are much alike in how they hide their hearts: misdirection, distraction, and the 'safer' emotions - anger, frustration, exasperation.
She takes up the phone again. "Rodney? Where are you?"
"I don't want you to send anyone after me, okay? I just... I just want a bit of time..." He sounds both like Rodney and unlike, an unaccustomed note of uncertainty in his voice. "Anyway, I thought I'd call and let you know that I'm fine, because, God knows, the last thing I want is to find that I've been beamed up on the Daedelus to satisfy John's need to keep an eye on all of us!"
"We only wish to know that you are safe, and when to expect you back." At least, that is all Teyla wants. John would wish to know exactly where Rodney was, and Jeannie is doubtless furious with her brother - and equally terrified that Rodney has gone and done something stupid. "If you tell me those things, I will do whatever I can to ensure that your solitude goes uninterrupted."
"I'm fine. I'm... I'll be back in a couple of weeks."
"Specifics, Rodney." She makes the demand more gentle than John would, but vagueness now will appease nobody.
"All right! End of next week. If I'm not back by next Wednesday, then you can all panic. But it won't be because I've killed myself or anything so irreparably stupid as that!"
"I did not think it would be."
"It'll probably be because something bit me or stung me and I had an anaphylactic reaction in the middle of the National Park, or I twisted my ankle and died of hypothermia in the night. Satisfied?"
"Not at all," she tells him gently. "But when you are ready to come home, we will be waiting for you."
There's a noise that, were it anyone else, Teyla would say was a sob. But this is Rodney. She lets him ring off with a suspicious husk to his voice and does not comment on it.
John has a lot to say about her refusal to push Rodney on his location. Teyla listens in fairness, then cuts him off when he begins to repeat himself.
"John. You may find Rodney at any time with our subcutaneous implants. I felt it more important to give him the freedom he desires at this time - to make his peace with his grief and his guilt." When John frowns, she explains, "After her father's death, Jennifer expressed a desire to go camping in a place she remembers fondly from childhood. Rodney was not amenable."
"You think he's gone camping? Rodney?"
"I believe he would seek out somewhere that has no memories of Jennifer, but which nevertheless retains a connection with her. John, we can find Rodney if we must. We know he is safe and has no intention of doing himself injury. He cannot grieve in Atlantis, and he would not suffer our compassion. When he tires of solitude, he will return."
John paces a little around the room for a moment or two longer, then abruptly comes and sits down on the bed beside her.
"We've never talked about what happens if one of us dies."
Talked about? No. But thought about? Yes.
"You and Kanaan are reasonable men, I have faith that you would work Torran's future out between you if I died."
She doesn't like to think about it - her beautiful son growing up without her. But Teyla is a realist. Even on Earth where the Wraith do not cull, death comes to mothers. And she does not sit safe on Earth, but continues the battle out in Pegasus.
John's hand folds over hers. "I named you and Torran as beneficiaries of my estate in my will. If anything happens to me, you get the lot - the pension, my accounts, all of it. I asked Carter to be the executor, and O'Neill and Landry both know of it. Dave, too. He's not happy, but he can't do anything about it."
Teyla supposes she should not be surprised - either about the beneficiary estate or about Dave Sheppard's continuing distrust of her. "But we are not married."
"Do you want us to be?"
She weighs her words with care. It is a fine line to walk between what she needs and wants and what John needs and wants, and Teyla will not sacrifice either one.
"I will have you as long as you consent to be mine," Teyla says at last, and kisses him softly.
the banner over them
Torran is fast asleep in the spare bedroom when Teyla checks in on him, sprawled atop 'Raffy, his stuffed giraffe.
General O'Neill pauses at the end of the hall. "He okay?"
She opens the door a little wider to allow him to see. "Fast asleep."
"They grow so fast," he says, musingly, and Teyla looks up at his face and sees the memories heavy on his features. "One day, they're cuddling stuffed animals, the next they're hitting baseballs through the neighbour's windows... Although you won't have to worry about that in Atlantis, at least."
He smiles and there's a gentle humour in it, but also a sadness that no time will ever erase.
"No," Teyla says, gently closing the door and following the general up the hall. "Although I may have to worry about him learning how to operate the city control computers."
"Can't get McKay to lock him out?"
"I fear it would be Rodney teaching him in the first place."
"And if not him, someone else?" O'Neill asks dryly. "The problem with a bunch of people who want to know how things work. Once they know, they want to show other people how it works."
"In as much detail as possible," Teyla agrees, smiling as they reach the kitchen and General O'Neill diverges. "Do you need any assistance?"
"Hm?" He pulls out a cool beer - a bottled artisan brand that she drinks - and brings out a Coors for himself, then begins opening drawers and frowning at their contents. "Nah. We're just keeping it casual. No frills, no fuss. Goddamit! Carter!"
Teyla hides a smile as he leans out towards the open window through which music and laughter and chatter are heard - and the floating sound of Colonel Carter's voice calling back across the lawn.
"What are you looking for?"
"There's one on the fridge!"
His brow creases as he stands back and looks at the fridge where a magnetised bottle-opener is attached to the metallic front. "Huh. It's always magnets."
The general hands her the now-opened beer, and makes a 'you first' gesture towards the door. They wander out into the lantern-lit evening, soft purple and warm gold in the summery evening. A perfect day for a gathering of friends and a small and private ceremony.
"Thank you for inviting us," she says to O'Neill as they lean agains the railing and watch the people moving around on the lawn below. "You did not need to..."
"I had second thoughts about Sheppard," he says, jokingly. "But, you know, Carter's fond of him, so he stayed."
Once again, Teyla finds herself biting back a smile. "And Rodney?"
O'Neill snorts. "I think Carter wanted to make sure he got the point."
Teyla laughs, imagining Sam's expression at her most sweetly vicious. Down on the grass, John turns from where he's arguing something with Cameron Mitchell and flashes her a brief smile. "Excuse me."
She leaves the general on the railing and goes out to John. Colonel Mitchell excuses himself to go up and chat with O'Neill, assuring her that it's nothing personal.
"Oh sure," John calls after him, "you say that now!"
Teyla pokes him in the ribs. "Torran is sleeping soundly inside. How is Rodney doing?"
"Why's everyone so worried about Rodney?" John complains, but softly and only half-heartedly. Since Jennifer's death, many people have taken to tiptoeing around Rodney, as though afraid of what he might say or do. Which seems foolish to Teyla, since grief has made him no more snappish than he ever was. "I think he's doing okay. It brings up hard memories for him, but he's coping."
"He is strong," Teyla murmurs, her own private grief welling up inside her at the thought of Jennifer's loss. She banishes it for the now. Jennifer would not wish her to grieve here. "And it is a lovely wedding celebration. A lovely ceremony."
To have and to hold, to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health, before these witnesses, until death take us both. The words echo in her head - a ritual she has seen enacted many times before - on television, in Atlantis, in Jeannie's backyard, and now today, in a little chapel on the Academy grounds.
"A joining of wills. I remember," John murmurs. He looks at her, head tilted in query. "You sure you don't want--?"
"I do not. Unless you do?"
"No. I don't-- I mean, I do, but--"
"John." She closes her fingers around his wrist and he falls silent. "We are not Rodney. We do not have to follow the script."
Teyla thinks of the text Dr. Jackson showed her earlier - the 'bible reading' that was quoted from during the short ceremony. "'My beloved is mine, and I am his, and the banner over us is love,'" she quotes and sees John's mouth curve. "Is that enough?"
His fingers wind into hers and something in him relaxes. "Yeah," he says. "It is."