Betwixt and Between

by Domenika Marzione

When Teyla returns to Atlantis, it is quite late in the city and the gate room, populated only by a few engineers and the marines on guard duty, has a relaxed feel to it that it never possesses during the day. Lieutenant Kagan is standing by the railing to watch her return, greeting her with a friendly smile and nod, happy for the distraction. The marines next to the gate greet her as well and she feels both pleased and torn by the reception. She is returning to Atlantis from her people, from Kanaan, and while it is easy to be in one place and wonder if the other would truly miss her if she were to not return, when she does return, she always feels a frisson of guilt at the thought of abandoning either of her two homes.

For the Athosians, after the Ancestors returned and did nothing more than banish them from Lantea and then fall to the Replicators, the belief in the justness of the Earth people's cause has only grown. Teyla herself had been at least disappointed by the too-human failings of the Ancestors who'd returned to Atlantis, but the more spiritual of the Athosians, people like Halling, were heartbroken and angry. The prayers have not been abandoned, not completely, but it was -- and is -- hard to reconcile Helia with what they'd all been told from childhood and from Teyla's own stories of Chaya and her sacrifice.

Kanaan understands why Teyla does what she does, even though sometimes he pretends that he does not, even though he wishes that she would stay with their people and with him and never hides it. They have the same 'argument' every time she leaves his bed to return to her own in Atlantis, but it is an argument without heat and, by this point, it is far more a familiar routine than anything else. He believes as she does, that the people from Earth will defeat the Wraith, and it is their obligation to help them. That does not mean that he likes watching her go.

"Have a good time, ma'am?" one of the marines asks as she steps down from the platform.

"Very," she tells him. She thinks perhaps that the satisfaction is evident in her expression, as the sergeant's eyes go wide in comprehension and he grins a little wickedly. The other nearby marines chuckle.

"Good on you, ma'am," he tells her with an approving nod.

It is the middle of the night in Atlantis, so nobody expects her to do anything but head back to her quarters. She left Kanaan after dawn on his world (there is debate whether it should be called New Athos or just Athos or something else entirely), but she did very little sleeping during the night there and will be happy to take advantage of the time difference and sleep later. But rather than head directly to her quarters, she heads to Medical first.

John is improving quickly, although not quickly enough for his own tastes. After so much time in Atlantis and, unfortunately, so much experience with John's determination and courage coming at a cost, she is used to his impatience, letting the occasional sarcasm or even the rare flash of real anger reflect off of her without hurt. This was a serious injury, one with many potential complications, and she knows that he understands how fortunate he is to be merely bored and uncomfortable. He never says as much, of course, but one does not spend three years at John Sheppard's side without learning to hear sagas in his silences.

There are formal visiting hours in the infirmary, but the doctors and nurses are varying degrees of flexible when it comes to enforcing them. Teyla nods at Nurse Callahan, who does not seem surprised to see her, and makes her way to the curtained area at the far end of the inpatient ward. She is not the only visitor because John is not the only patient still awake in the dark of night; there are a pair of marines visiting a colleague, one of them holding a brightly-colored card with balloons, a smiling animal, and a giant 2 on it and trying to convince his ill friend to dictate the message instead of trying to write it himself. They smile greetings to her and return to their own conversation.

Across from John's makeshift room is the slightly less makeshift doctors' area, where whoever is on call overnight can be found dozing if there is no emergency to tend to. Expecting to see Doctor Grebner, Teyla is surprised to see Jonathan asleep in the reclining chair. She knows from shared missions and previous late-night infirmary visits that he is normally very easy to wake, but he doesn't stir. Instead, he looks tired even in repose; he was injured at the same time John was, but she knows better than to think that that is why. Not with Carson's white coat still hanging from the peg between the two 'rooms' and Jennifer Keller still not ready to assume his duties.

She turns to go into John's space, confident that he will be awake. He is and smiles broadly when he sees her.

"Did you bring me anything?" he asks playfully. He pretends not to hiss in pain as he tries to sit up, she pretends not to notice his discomfort.

"No," she tells him with a disapproving frown even she can't quite take seriously. She sits down on one of the stools. "I offer only the pleasure of my company."

"That's not nothing," he replies with a nod. "How's folks?"

She tells him of her people's progress and occasional setback, of growing crops, growing children, and the adventures of exploring a world still new after only several months. She does not tell him of Kanaan. It is not that she is embarrassed by Kanaan or thinks that John would react badly upon hearing that she has a lover, but instead that personal relationships are not something they have ever spoken about in detail. John does not like to share and so he does not ask and so she does not offer. Also, while she knows he wishes sincerely for her happiness, he has Earth views about families and children and, however well-intended they are and he is, they do not apply to life here.

"Is Doctor Crankypants still out there?" he asks after she finishes her recap of her visit. He is eyeing the small box on the table next to his bed.

She frowns at him.

"What?" he asks. "He's been snarly all night. Even for his standards of snarly. Which is not conducive to a healing environment for anyone."

"You are not the only one in pain," she tells him. She meant it in the context of Yoni's broken ribs, but John doesn't take it like that and his mischievous expression fades to something closer to guilt at having forgotten. "He is asleep," she tells him, hoping to shift the focus. "So be happy that he has not heard you."

John mutters something for the sake of muttering something and reaches awkwardly for the small box. Turning and stretching plainly hurts him, even more so than sitting up, but Teyla does not offer to retrieve the box. John finally gets it with the tips of his fingers, sliding it back along the table toward him until he can collect it with both hands.

"Ahh," he sighs happily as he re-settles himself in the bed with the box on his lap. He gives her a smile almost childlike in its glee as he opens the wooden lid. "Want one?"

She leans forward to examine the contents. Inside are a dozen or so of the small candies the Ipetians gift them with a few times a year; they are strongly flavored and of an elastic consistency and nobody but John likes them. "No thank you," she says, wrinkling her nose a little at the smell. "Are you supposed to be eating them?"

John's diet is still very restricted, something that seems to bother Rodney more than it bothers John, who in turn is entertained by Rodney's taking offense.

"If Safir's sleeping, then one won't hurt," John tells her, popping one into his mouth. He leaves the box on his lap for now. "I don't think tree sap is on the list of forbidden items and I deserve a reward or two for good behavior."

Teyla arches an eyebrow. "Is it necessary for you to be congratulated for not doing anything especially ill-conceived?"

"When you put it like that," John sighs, but then smiles. "There's a rumor that I can start roaming around in a wheelchair this week."

"That would be nice," she says, trying to sound surprised. She has already been told this -- Elizabeth has deemed it prudent for John's team to be kept aware of his progress and limitations lest he try to use their ignorance to break the rules set out for him by his doctors. "Perhaps we can go out to the pier."

They spend a little longer talking about small things -- Ronon's desire to go somewhere (anywhere) and whether it would be prudent to suggest that he accompany Lorne's team on a mission ("Lorne's already doing all of my work," Sheppard says, "I'm not sure I should be giving him any extra."), the various goings-on in the city -- before Teyla can hear voices in the main ward and knows that Nurse Callahan will be by imminently to tell her that it is time for John to sleep.

"I will stop by later," Teyla says, standing up and pushing the stool back to where it was. She takes the box off of John's bed and puts it on the table. "Get some rest so that you are looking well enough to be promoted to a wheelchair."

"Yes, ma'am."

The recliner in the doctors' area is empty when she emerges from John's space. Jonathan is not attending to a patient, however; Teyla finds him in the hallway that cuts between the infirmary and Medical's suites of labs and offices. He is pacing slowly, stretching carefully to avoid aggravating his ribs.

"He'll get released faster if he'd cooperate and sleep during the night," he says without preamble when Teyla interrupts his path. Awake, he looks irritable and worn, although she wonders how much of the latter is visible to anyone who chooses not to recognize it. But she has too much history with Jonathan to not see it. (She is allowed to call him Yoni, has been encouraged to do so by almost everyone but the man himself, who has in turn assured her that he reads no disrespect into whatever variant of his name she uses.) They worked together constantly in the time after the Wraith siege, have been imprisoned together, and have fought together; she takes it as a compliment that he rarely resorts to artifice around her, even if that sometimes means not hiding his rougher edges.

"I believe he is counting on wearing out his welcome and thus encouraging early release that way," she says. Jonathan is much like John in certain ways, which is why she does not ask why he is walking in the halls when there is no reason for him to be awake at all; she is familiar enough with the infirmary's routines to know that the doctor on call can usually sleep uninterrupted. "Also, he said something about 'cashing in his frequent flier miles.'"

Jonathan makes a noise that could be annoyance or probably just acknowledgment. He rolls his neck awkwardly. "He used those up when we didn't have to open up a wormhole to evacuate him to Earth."

Teyla doesn't bother responding; they have all been through the particulars of that night's event too many times. "When will you be freed?" she asks instead, gesturing vaguely to the ribs he injured on Cudor. "I have missed you in the gym."

Jonathan teaches the martial art particular to his people to a select group of students; over the years, the two of them have occasionally tried to learn the other's style of fighting, to no great success on either side. Jonathan occasionally fights with Ronon, as she does, but unlike her own bouts, Jonathan and Ronon's fights tend to escalate with a ferocity that is nothing about skill refinement.

"I half-suspect my colleagues are withholding that liberty so that I have more time to dedicate to seeing to their needs," he says sourly. For a heartbeat, she can see him missing Carson, but then it disappears. "The pain is manageable; in another week it shall be more so. But thank you for asking."

"We shall have to make a date once you are healed," she says, taking the first step toward the transporter that will bring her to her quarters. "I told Colonel Sheppard to rest; I shall tell you to do the same."

Jonathan smiles at her. "Yes, ma'am."

"He said that, too," she tells him with mock sternness. "I will believe you both when I see it."

A laugh this time. "Goodnight, Teyla."

"Goodnight, Yoni."

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11 October, 2008