The scope and variety of Earth music astounds Teyla. Perhaps it is not so strange, on a planet populated by billions. It is stranger, Teyla thinks, that such variety is so well-represented among the small population of Atlantis, but here she has been introduced to more sounds than she could have imagined.
Teyla flatters herself that she has always had an ear for music, and she appreciates a great deal of it – the intricacies of jazz, the emotional sweep of classical, the dizzying rhythms of house and salsa, the storytelling of country, the rich sensuality of soul and R&B, the intimate purity of folk. She has well-rounded tastes. But she rarely sang until she discovered rock’n’roll.
"Arena rock?" Colonel Sheppard says when she brings her computer to dinner to show him the playlist she has compiled, sounding bemused.
"Hair metal," Rodney corrects, looking morose. "If I ever find out who brought Twisted Sister to a perfectly unspoiled galaxy...."
Colonel Sheppard smiles at her and nudges her arm gently with his elbow, a rare public touch. "I haven’t hung out with a girl who was into Dokken in about twenty years," he says.
"Judas Priest!" Rodney exclaims, and when Sheppard looks over at him, he waves wildly at her computer screen and says, "No, Judas Priest!"
"Metal hair?" Ronon asks.
Traditionally, Teyla’s people sing only on the most formal and solemn of occasions, mainly to commemorate the fallen. This is music like nothing she has ever known – fiercely, relentlessly joyful, tumultuous and noisy and disorderly, and it haunts her, a thunderous tide at the back of her mind. It feels blasphemous to sing.
It feels necessary.
She thinks she may know why this is.
"Don’t try this at home," Colonel Sheppard says, and Teyla knows that he means, Don’t tell anyone. She understands Sheppard when he speaks now, almost always.
He rolls the dried herb into a thin paper with utter concentration, and she is fascinated by his fingers as he does it; his hands are not as expressive as Rodney’s, or as warm and rough and addictive as Ronon’s, but they are unerringly precise. She has seen him clean weapons in exactly this way, disciplined and yet oddly gentle.
He uses the same lighter he tried to impress her with when they first met to make it burn, and he shows her how to breathe it in, how to hold it in her chest until she feels the warmth, then how to let it go. Teyla finds it strangely meditative, the process of rolling, the inhale and the exhale, passing it back and forth between his careful fingertips and hers, the way she relaxes into the heat and the sweetness of it.
It makes her happy, and more than a little foolish, she suspects. She smiles too much and becomes too invested in counting M&Ms from the bag he hides in the same false-bottomed shaving kit where he hides his rolling papers and bag of marijuana. He talks too much. He tells her stories about his adolescence, things that she almost understands about boring, perpetually unfamiliar towns that surround a succession of Air Force bases, parking lots and Billy Idol cassettes and Colt 45 and girls with acid wash and hairspray and band logos drawn in ink above their knees. Distantly, Teyla is aware that these stories are inappropriate, that they would embarrass her on another occasion, but she feels lax and happy and accepting, and she loves the way he smiles when he remembers these things. Many of Colonel Sheppard’s memories do not make him smile.
"It was harder to get a tattoo back then," he tells her, cupping her heel in his hand. He bends over, his breath as warm on her skin as the tip of the pen is cool where it moves in small, careful strokes around her ankle. "Doesn’t mean anything now, but it used to make you a certain kind of person. People could just look at you and know. So you’d try it on, first. You’d hide it, maybe. From your parents. From everyone. Just.... You wanted to know what it was like, being a certain kind of person. On the outside."
"I want to try," she says, when he has drawn Atlantis on the top of her foot and a human skull just behind her ankle. He gives her the pen and she slithers up the bed, nearly pulling herself by her fingertips. She folds his wristband in half, baring the fine skin over his veins, and writes her name there. When she smooths the band back in place, it is invisible.
She smokes the last half of their last joint by herself, even though her throat is sore, and watches the smoke draw on the ceiling as John mouths the inside of her thigh, wet and lazy and hungry. She lays her free hand in his hair and murmurs not quite coherently about his knowing mouth, his thoroughly inappropriate tongue, as he meanders his way up her leg, torturously patient.
He’s the one they call Dr. Feelgood, she sings throatily, rolling her hips up into his kiss, trying and failing to tighten smoke-lazed fingers in his hair, he’s the one that makes you feel all right....
Ronon apologized to her for the first three times they came together – not three apologies, but one time collectively. "It was the drugs," he said, his head ducked and his hands twitching uncharacteristically, the very last remnant of the enzyme madness that had mostly passed by that time. "I’m not usually.... I wouldn’t want to hurt you."
"You did not hurt me," she assured him.
It was rough, yes, but she was as altered by the enzyme as he was. It overrode everything else, healed the bruises on her wrists where he’d held her hands to the floor, turned the sharp bites of his teeth on her back into only a different kind of kiss, kept her insulated with lust and euphoria from fear or shyness or too much propriety as surely as its artificial resilience protected her from feeling the soreness afterward.
He owed her no apology.
But even now, he is slow to take his own pleasure with her, and Teyla believes it is his effort to prove that he is in control of himself. Teyla is not the one who doubts it, she knows.
Ronon likes to find her in hidden places, empty unlocked rooms and hidden corridors just around the corner from the voices and the footfalls of oblivious soldiers. She thinks she ought to resist the temptation to indulge him in this, and yet she never does.
He slips up behind her, much stealthier and more silent than he seems built to be, and wraps an arm around her waist, flattening his hand and sliding it under her waistband. She leans back into him, reaching behind herself to hold the back of his neck in her hand, biting her lip as he keeps one hand tangled in her hair, the other moving low, too firm to be gentle, too solicitous to be harsh. She can feel his hardness against her back and she tries to press into it, but he never lets her.
There is time for that later. There is always time, with Ronon.
Even when he comes to her room later, it does not matter that she is still quivering from the inside out with the sense-memory of his touch, and he is still hard and waiting. It is always for her first, and though he strips her abruptly and pushes her legs apart, he keeps his even pace as he rubs her with the heel of his hand, giving the lie to his frequent claims of impatience. Ronon can be extremely patient. He most often lacks motivation, but not when he is in her bed.
When he pulls her body across his and thrusts slow and deep up into her, she runs her hands over his chest and leans forward, nipping at his ear and the tendon in his neck. She is already exhausted, but if her body is not as invincible as it was when she was on the enzyme, her mind feels strangely similar: honed and sharp with want, reckless and greedy and fearless.
Afterward, she lays melted and dazed across him, letting him stroke her body while she rises and falls with the quiet panting of his breath. She kisses his sweaty skin and sings against it, And you, you shook me all night long...
She has to go to Rodney herself. She moves aside the ever-present cup of coffee and sits on the edge on his desk, and she puts her bare feet through the arms of his chair and rolls him back when he tries to push away.
He wraps his hands gently around her ankles and look up at her, wide-eyed, a bit lost. "What are we doing?" he asks. No one else ever asks that; Teyla has no ready answer. She puts her feet on his thighs and pulls him closer still.
He lets one hand drift up her calf, along the split in her skirt. His other hand shakes badly as he pulls the laces on her bodice, too much caffeine and internal resistance.
Teyla likes the way that Rodney kisses, soft and open and yearning under her mouth, one hand between her breasts where her bodice has come open. His mouth follows where his hands have been when she slides onto his lap, hiking her skirt around her hips and wrapping her arms around his warm, broad back. "Ah, God," he murmurs brokenly against her skin, touching her back, the curve of her rump. "Teyla, you...is this.... Why?"
"Because you are a part of it," she says. "Without you, it is...incomplete."
He pulls her closer, flush against him, and she rubs her cheek against his so that she feels the motion of his jaw as he speaks. "What if I wanted you to stop – with them? What if I wanted you to be with just me?"
She looks into his eyes and touches his face, smoothing her thumb over his frown. "Is that what you want?" she asks.
"I might want one thing to happen to me in this galaxy that wasn’t utterly insane, yes," he says. When she has no response to that, he kisses her again, and she rocks slowly against him, into him.
Sweet child o’ mine, she croons in his ear as he works his unsteady hand between them, stroking her stomach and opening his pants at once, oh, sweet love of mine....
He cannot cross the final three feet to the bed. Teyla does not mind; she knows how much courage it required to bring him here at all. "Ronon," she says with another quick kiss to his lips, and Ronon nods and rolls out of bed. Teyla lazes backward against John and watches.
Ronon makes quick work of Rodney’s clothes, a soldier’s efficiency, but he is not unkind. He strokes Rodney’s shoulder and his ribs as he bares them. Teyla thinks it is Ronon’s silent way of reassuring him, and it seems to work; Rodney’s stiff, uncomfortable posture seems to loosen somewhat and his eyelids flutter, betraying pleasure as Rodney’s face betrays everything he feels, but he elbows Ronon’s arm away and says, "Watch it, Mr. All-Hands." Ronon smirks and says nothing.
Rodney looks to Teyla for direction, and she smiles at him and puts her hand flat on the bed in front of her.
John and Ronon trade places. Ronon’s strong arm wraps around her, supporting her all the way as she kisses Rodney’s throat, his chest, his hitching belly, the warm tip of his erection. Ronon slips his hand between her legs, rearranging them so that he can slide into her from behind. She feels warm and secure, braced with Ronon’s shoulder behind her head and Rodney’s thighs against her shoulders. She can hear John, lying behind Rodney and making the low, sweet, secretive chuckle that he makes when he is happiest.
Rodney’s big hand rubs the side of her head, then moves away. When Teyla closes her eyes, she can imagine him tangling his fingers into Ronon’s thick hair, but she knows that is unlikely. His touch will be timid, a faint caress. Half-real, so that he does not need to make himself believe in it later.
He chokes out her name when he floods her mouth, and his leg jerks, his knee colliding with her chest. She hardly feels it, lost instead in the way Ronon’s hands clench her arms, the way his body jerks against her as he hisses against the top of her head, and then she is lost entirely. Nothing is real but the heat, the woven complexity of their breathing, the triumphant resounding chords of joy that sound through her whole body.
She lies there, sticky and shivering and smiling into the bedclothes while Ronon strokes her hip and thigh. She kisses Rodney clean, and when she rolls back she can see him, his eyes pressed shut and his fingers knotted in the pillowcase, his own wrist pushed half into his mouth to silence himself. John’s hand cups the back of his other hand, their fingers lacing together.
Rodney jerks to life all at once, struggling up and sliding off the bed. He cannot seem to look back at any of them as he pulls on his pants.
John rolls off the edge of the bed, as graceful as Rodney is not. "Hey," he says quietly, stepping up to Rodney. He puts his hands on Rodney’s face, and Rodney twitches, a half-hearted attempt to escape. "Hey, buddy," John says again. He is smiling sweetly, contentedly, even though he is still taut and hard. "It’s okay."
Rodney looks back at her. She nods as Ronon snuggles closer to her back, wrapping sleepily around her. It is okay. Rodney must understand that.
This is no song that Teyla was raised with, but it is in her life now. She does not want to stop.
"It’s not okay," Rodney says. "It’s– " John stops his mouth with a faint, careful kiss, just the touch of his lips to Rodney’s. Rodney goes rigid; John holds his face tighter and does not stop. Rodney puts his hand lightly against John’s waist and closes his eyes – just for a moment, allowing himself to be here, to be with them.
He pulls away. "I can’t," he says roughly, but then he smiles, wry and embarrassed, and says, "I – I’m not ready. Not yet."
"Don’t worry about him," John assures her when he comes back to bed, fitting against her front just as Ronon fits against her back, adding his arms to Ronon’s around her. "He’ll get it together sooner or later. Nobody in their right mind would give you up."
Teyla can feel his erection slipping against her wet inner thighs, and she reaches down and guides it inside her. She bites John’s lips as they kiss, her breasts pressed almost uncomfortably against his hard chest, her hand cradling the back of his head. She is worried about Rodney, a little, but something in her knows John is right and that she can rely on Rodney; he sometimes panics first, but in the end, he always does what must be done, and few things in Teyla’s life have ever felt as necessary as this.
Cum on, feel the noize, she sings giddily, the words garbled as John licks her mouth, but the rising, calling melody ringing in every part of her. Girls, rock your boys....
John cannot carry a tune, although he loves music. Ronon seems indifferent to it, although sometimes he taps out rhythms on his kneecap or the edge of a table that make her suspect he is hearing some tune that he cannot shake just as much as she is.
Rodney has quite a fine voice, but he rarely sings. He prefers instrumental music; sometimes when they are alone together she can coax him into explaining orchestras and concertos and symphonies. It is strangely intimate, to understand something that Rodney understands. It is so rare.
He claims disdain for most of the music his people cherish, and particularly for the kinds that Teyla loves best. But she passes by his office late some nights, and she hears him singing softly to himself – Round and round, with love we’ll find a way, just give it time....
She passes noiselessly by, smiling her secrets. He hears the music that she hears, and she knows Rodney well enough to know that he cannot keep his silence forever.