"I'm sorry, ma'am. We're out."
"Do you have anything similar?"
The marine, one of the new batch from this Daedalus run, shook his head. "I'm sorry, ma'am. We won't be opening a new crate until the end of the week." He looked honestly apologetic, and Teyla smiled gently in return.
"I understand." She selected one of the fruits that the Earthers called an orange and left the line to find Ronon, who had arrived before she did. She set down her tray and took a seat across from him, poking at her salad and finding it lacking. When she glanced up, she found herself staring at a container of butterscotch pudding. She blinked, and then shifted her gaze to the man holding it, ignoring the clatter her other teammates made as they claimed the remaining chairs. "Why...?"
Ronon shrugged. "You wanted one, right?"
"Yes, but I would not wish to take yours." She reached out to move the item in contention, but he stopped her with a hand on her wrist.
"Keep it. You should be eating more, with the baby and everything."
Teyla opened her mouth to inquire where that had come from, but was interrupted by Sheppard choking spectacularly on his coffee. Ronon leaned over and pounded on his back while McKay kept glancing back and forth between her and Sheppard, his expression going from confused to annoyed as he processed something.
"Wait, wait. It's not yours is it??"
Sheppard's eyes grew comically larger, and he started shaking his head and waving his hands vehemently in denial. Teyla decided to take matters into her own hands. "I believe there has been some confusion here." Everyone paused, turning to her expectantly. Well, Sheppard and McKay did; Ronon had already settled back into his seat after delivering a few blows to Sheppard's back. "Allow me to clarify: I am not with child."
Ronon cocked his head to the side. "Uh, yes you are."
She rose and circled the table to grasp his arm and lever him out of the chair. "If you will excuse us, we will meet you at the briefing with Doctor Weir at 1100." Without waiting for a response, she hauled a confused-looking Ronon out of the mess for what promised to be an incredibly unpleasant discussion.
Once in her quarters, Teyla turned to Ronon. "That was not amusing."
He frowned. "It wasn't meant to be. I thought you knew; it is kind of obvious."
She glared. "I am not with child. I do not know where you came upon this ridiculous presumption, but I would have appreciated it if you had spoken to me in confidence."
Ronon shrugged, and straddled one of her chairs casually before lifting a hand and counting off items on his fingers. "You haven't bled. You've gained weight. You stopped wearing the leather shirts a month ago. Your stride is different."
She shook her head. "Ronon, if I were with child, I would know. There are other explanations for each of the things you have listed, and again, I wish you had spoken to me first. By now much of the city will have heard your ridiculous theory."
"Hey. My brother's wife had a baby; I know how it works, and I know what I see. I'm sorry I said anything."
She sighed. "I am not upset about the confusion, only the way it was raised. If it will make you feel better, I will speak with Doctor Keller after the mission tomorrow. Then will you cease?"
"That is impossible."
Doctor Keller smiled sympathetically. "I'm afraid the blood test doesn't lie."
Teyla shook her head. "No, you do not understand. I have not been ill, have not been unreasonably tired. There is nothing to indicate such a thing."
The doctor frowned. "But you requested the test..."
"I did at the behest of another. I- you are sure that the result is correct?"
"Right, yes. Um, when it came back positive, I re-ran it along with a second test to tell us how far along you are." She tapped something on her tablet screen. "It looks like you're between ten to twelve weeks."
Teyla stiffened at the number. "You are certain it is not less?"
Keller looked at the screen again. "Nope, two and a half, maybe three months?"
"I-" Three months, that was too late for the traditional answer; the Yalla bark required would be likely to kill her as well. And Ronon knew; he would likely have strong views. She would have to speak with him, find out where things stood. This was not the time for this, not in any way. She couldn't afford to leave, they needed her here. "No, thank you for your assistance, Doctor."
"Look, Teyla. I don't know you well yet, and that's something I'd like to change, but you do know that you have options, right?"
Teyla smiled carefully. "I do, and I thank you for your concern."
"I need to talk to you."
"Sure. Um, just let me..." Sheppard looked up from his laptop, and saw the expression on Ronon's face. "It can wait. What's wrong, buddy?"
"Something's wrong with Teyla."
"Okay... wrong how?" Sheppard tried to think back to the last few times he'd seen Teyla, but with her temporarily removed from combat missions their meetings had been fewer than normal.
"She's too quiet. Even with the baby, she shouldn't be sleeping as much as she is, and I don't think she's eating enough."
Sheppard frowned. "I'm no shrink, but that sounds like depression. She having problems with the baby?"
"No. At least, I don't think so. She's started avoiding me; it's hard to know."
"She does want the baby, doesn't she? You're not backing her into a corner or anything, right?" Sheppard sat up straighter, visibly shifting into big-brother mode.
"I think so. I mean, we talked about it. She didn't say no. She hasn't said much of anything lately." Ronon stole the Rubix Cube off of Sheppard's desk, focusing on the toy rather than his team leader. "I wouldn't force her. It was different when I thought she knew about it, that she had made a decision. When I found out she didn't...It was never a serious thing, between us. Not like everyone thinks. Kids, weren't in the plans. Not anytime soon." Sheppard reached over and placed a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to be comforting. This was probably the deepest conversation he'd ever had with Ronon, and it wasn't exactly familiar territory.
"Look, buddy, it could just be hormones." Ronon looked up and glared. Sheppard retracted his hand. "Right, not hormones. Of course not. Look, I'll keep an eye on her, but I don't see as much of her since she's off the team. Maybe try the new doc, or Elizabeth. She might be talking to another woman."
"I'd appreciate that."
A month and a half.
Every day that passed for Teyla was one day closer to the inevitable, and she sought to stave it off as long as possible. It was easier than she would have thought; now that she was no longer on an off-world team, she saw her friends sporadically at best. Elizabeth and Doctor Keller were appeased with a smile, John with a few words in passing. Even Ronon pulled back, his expression troubled. He never spoke of his concerns, however, and she presumed that among his people childbearing was the realm of women and not truly his concern. He had noted the pregnancy, but would not engage unless she forced the issue; there was no need.
She knew how he felt about family and blood relations. Late one night, as they spoke of things long gone, he had shared with her the names of his brother's family - his only living relations at the time of the attack. He'd never stated a desire for children of his own, but she could hear it in his voice. His own children would be a way of continuing his people's traditions and bloodline. She certainly couldn't begrudge him that. She only wished it didn't come with such a price.
Kate found Teyla in her rooms, using one of the walls for balance as she stretched. "Teyla. I was wondering if you would go for a walk with me."
Teyla looked up, surprised. "A walk? I am not sure -"
Kate cut her off before she could complete the excuse. "There's something I want to show you."
Teyla frowned, but seemed to decide that it would be faster to acquiesce. "I see. Give me a moment to locate my boots."
"Take your time." Kate waved her hand expansively. "I've got all afternoon."
Kate led Teyla to a portion of the city that was still, for the most part, unused. They took the transporter halfway out the South East Pier, and continued walking away from the center of the city for several minutes before arriving at their destination. It was an open air garden, filled with seedlings and sunlight, the distant edges flickering with just a hint of a forcefield.
Teyla looked around, taking in the variety in plants. "I was unaware that there were active botany labs this far away from the center of the city."
Kate smiled softly. "This isn't a botany lab." She took a seat on one of the benches along the neatly laid path, waiting to speak until Teyla joined her. "When I was younger, I did some work in grief counseling. One of the things we did was start a memorial garden, and when I realized how high the death toll for the war with the Wraith would be, I started working to create one here. Doctor Parrish came to me about eight months ago with a similar suggestion, and we began work to turn plans into substance. As you can see, we're almost finished with the initial work."
Teyla nodded. "It is a sound idea, to offer a grave for those lost to the Wraith."
Kate bit her lip, and finally voiced her real reason for bringing Teyla to the garden. "Doctor Keller told me that you lost a child."
Teyla looked up from her study of the pathway, startled and wary. "I was not aware that Doctor Keller knew of it."
"It's in your medical file, from the examination you received when your people first came to Atlantis."
Kate sighed. "She's worried about you, Teyla. She asked me to speak with you."
"I see. I thank you for your concern, but you may tell Doctor Keller that I am fine." Teyla stood, and began to heading for the door.
Kate was having none of it, and grabbed Teyla's arm before she could get out of reach. "Teyla, wait. Please. You're not fine, and if nothing else I'm concerned as a friend. You're withdrawn, you're not eating - it's not like you. You're one of the strongest people I've ever known, but you don't have to deal with this alone. It's not uncommon to be worried in a case like yours, but cutting yourself off isn't the answer."
Teyla turned, eyes flashing. "I will be gone when the child begins to show anyway, now less than a month hence. What does it matter if I begin the withdrawal early?"
Kate frowned, and released Teyla's arm. "What do you mean, gone?"
"Among the Athosians, women who are with child are protected. Sent away to an old shielded farming settlement. Is it not also the way of your people to protect those who carry the future?" Her last words were laced with mockery and old pain. It was obviously a phrase that carried emotional weight.
"You think we'll send you away? Oh, Teyla, no. Your place will always be here, unless you decide otherwise. No one has the right to take that away from you. Why didn't you say something?"
Teyla looked away. "It is how things are done, or was. It is tradition."
Kate shook her head. "It's not our tradition, and besides - there's no where safer than this city now that we have a ZPM. Is that...is that what happened before? To your baby?"
Teyla closed her eyes, and Kate worried that she'd pushed too far. It was always a delicate tightrope in her profession - push too lightly and you never address the causes of trauma; push too strongly and cause your patient to shut down. There was a very real chance that if she caused Teyla to shut down, she'd never get her to open up again. The Athosian had a remarkable ability to keep secrets. She carefully held back a sigh of relief when Teyla's eyes opened and she drew her knees up to rest her feet on the bench between them.
"Among my people, our number is always a concern. The Wraith favored us more than any of our trading partners, and culled us with every generation. Some times they would take only a few, strike just one or two hunting camps. Other instances they would take half our number. Those of us who escaped from Athos before the scouring are all from a single hunting camp. There were eight, scattered across the lands between the Ring of the Ancestors and the far sea." She laid her head on her knees, staring sightlessly at a climbing vine. "Seven of those hunting camps are gone forever, in retribution for our rebellion and alliance with your people."
Kate had no idea how to respond to such an unexpected revelation, and remained silent. She had spent months working with the Athosians in the period after the evacuation to Atlantis, and had never heard anything like this. Teyla wasn't finished, however.
"There was a ninth settlement, more permanent than the hunting camps. It was there that those who could not run were sheltered - women with child, the very young and the very old. I had passed nineteen summers when I was sent away to the settlement, and I was older than many of those who traveled with me. I... Among my people, there are stages required to become a voting member of the community. The final of these is the birth of a child with a member of another hunting party - a demonstration of one's commitment to see our people continue and flourish. Due to my position as heir to our camp's leader, and my possession of the ability to sense the Wraith, it was strongly encouraged that I take the final step to become a voting member as soon as possible."
Kate reached over hesitantly and placed a hand on Teyla's shoulder. "I had no idea that this was done among your people. I can understand the need, but still. A child without love seems cruel."
Teyla looked up in surprise, and shook her head. "It was no hardship, or at least no more so than my position demanded in other ways. I had a brief liaison with a representative from another camp at our annual summit, and when my status was confirmed our obligations were seen as fulfilled. His name was Dakar, and he was a good man, a strong warrior." She smiled faintly in memory. "He had beautiful eyes. Nalan had them, too."
Kate frowned. "Nalan?"
Teyla's smile saddened. "He was my son."
"I thought..." Kate trailed off, realizing that she had made a mistake; Doctor Keller's comments on the subject had been vague, and Kate had inferred her own experience into them.
"There must have been a misunderstanding when your doctor questioned me; things were very hectic at the time, as you well know. Nalan did not die as a babe. He would have been four when the scouring hit." She blinked hard, and looked away again. Kate could just make out the silhouette of a tear tracing its way down her cheek. "The age at which children 'rise' and join their fathers."
This time, Kate was unable to stifle her gasp of shock. "He died when your people came to Atlantis? Teyla, why didn't you say anything?"
Teyla avoided her gaze. "What would have changed? The situation would still have been just as desperate. I would still have remained my people's most skilled diplomat, and Nalan would still have been dead." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "He was no longer my son, anyway. Not once he rose, and not even truly before. When I left him at the settlement to take up the mantle my father's death left for me, the bonds were broken. He bore my name and my blood, but he was not mine. He belonged to his father."
"Teyla, grief is still grief. Burying it doesn't make it go away. Especially not for the death of a child. I...I know." Kate closed her eyes, and tried hard to do exactly what she had just counseled Teyla against - bury the grief. It wasn't as strong, ten years had taken much of its force, but it still hurt. It had been a long time since anything had brought it to mind, and she always forgot how strong the memories were.
Teyla turned back, having heard something in her voice. "Kate?"
She shook her head. "I'm sorry. I-"
She was interrupted by a voice over her earpiece. "Doctor Heightmeyer, report to the infirmary. Doctor Heightmeyer, please acknowledge."
"Acknowledged. I'll be there in twenty." She tapped it off, refocusing on Teyla and giving her an apologetic look. "I'm on call. I'd been hoping nothing would come up, but..." She stood, and placed both hands on Teyla's shoulders. "I meant what I said, Teyla. Grief will do you nothing but harm if you don't deal with it. We are not on Athos, and I know that the ways of your people are changing, but consider a Ceremony of Passage. And speak to Elizabeth; I think she'll put some of your fears to rest. My door will be open. Well, when I'm not on call, anyway."
Teyla nodded, her expression having shifted to something resembling thoughtful. "I will think about it."
Kate smiled softly. "It's a good first step."
True to her word, Teyla thought about Kate's advice. She couldn't stop thinking about it. She'd been trying so hard to ignore the reason behind her fears, and now that it was exposed it bubbled up whenever she gave it an opportunity. No matter where they started, her dreams always ended with a small boy, barely old enough to place one foot in front of the other, trying to run after her as she left the settlement. Eventually, it was the dreams that forced her to speak with Ronon.
She startled badly at the quiet words. In two weeks of 'dreams', she'd managed to avoid waking him; apparently she had progressed now to talking in her sleep. "That is a long story." She sat up slowly, and reached blindly for her fire-starter. "But it is one that you should hear."
Leaning over, she lit several of the candles that lined the bedside table before turning to face him in the soft light; this was going to be difficult. She swallowed hard, composing her thoughts. "You have told me of your life before coming to Atlantis. It is time that I did the same. Nalan. Nalan was my son. He died in the culling of my world, four years ago."
Ronon blinked, but gave no other reaction for a long moment. "His father?"
She shook her head. "As far as I know, Dakar died in the scouring. We had not spoken in three years."
He nodded, a single sharp movement. "How old?"
"He was less than two years, when I left him. He was four when he died." She closed her eyes, seeing again the small dark-haired child. "He was my duty to my people."
"Duty. Is that how you see a child? As a duty?" His tone was harsh, and she looked up in surprise.
"It is how I saw Nalan." It was what he had been, and she refused to pretend otherwise. She had no right to claim otherwise. "Among my people, the birth of a child is the final step to adulthood. There are many who are children of obligation. I was a child of obligation. When such children reach their fourth summer, they join the hunting camp of their father and that is the end of it." She shifted, arranging her legs into what Lieutenant Cadman had called a "Butterfly" position, and focusing her attention on her ankles as she began to stretch.
"You said they join their father's camp at four summers. I know that the culling came in the springtime for your people. Why was he not with you?"
"As you know, my father died two years before the final culling; I was recalled to our hunting camp to take his place. Nalan was not yet old enough to live in a hunting camp; he could not run without assistance." She smiled sadly in memory. "He learned to walk later than most, and could barely manage a few running steps when I left." She shook her head, and looked up a touch more defensively than she had intended. "I had no right to take him with me."
Ronon didn't look angry, exactly, but there was something in his expression that made her shiver nonetheless - an intensity that he normally reserved for the Wraith. "What is this child to you?"
"I-" She paused, and considered his question. "I don't know. This was not something I had planned on; not for several years. I suppose I am...coping. I know that for a while, I was not."
"Coping. Yeah, that's one word for it." He reached out, and placed a hand on her wrist. "I know that this isn't what you wanted, but I don't want this to be duty for you. I want it to be more, and if it's not then I need to know that." He looked away and shivered in the warm air. "I've known people who were raised as obligations, whose parents felt trapped by the responsibilities of children that were born for status or financial benefit. I don't want that for my child. I don't want that for you."
She nodded, and shifted her hand so as to grasp his. "Give me time, Ronon. Let me think things through before I give you an answer, so that I know it is the truth."
John looked up from his laptop at the knocking, and was surprised to find Teyla standing in the doorway with an uncharacteristically hesitant expression on her face. He sat up straighter out of habit, and closed his laptop. "Teyla, have a seat. It's been, well, it's been longer than it should have been. What brings you down here?"
She took her time sitting down, shifting repeatedly before settling, and John's curiosity peaked; a conversation from a month earlier came to mind with startling clarity, something about Teyla being out of sorts enough to have Ronon worried. He'd meant to follow up with her about it, but things had just gotten kind of crazy. Things were always kind of crazy. Now, he hoped that he hadn't missed something important. "Teyla?"
She shook herself. "I'm sorry, John. I was distracted."
He frowned, and leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his desk. "What's wrong?"
"It is..." She made a face. "Complicated. I have come to ask your participation in a Ceremony of Passage."
"A Ceremony of... For who?"
She took a deep breath, and he got the feeling he wasn't going to like the answer. "For my son."
"I, uh." He sat back, hitting the back of his chair hard. "Teyla, isn't it a bit late to be making that kind of decision now? I mean, it is your decision, but I thought that you and Ronon had, you know," he made a vague hand gesture that looked like it belonged more in a discussion about piloting a jumper than a funeral, "worked things out."
She frowned, confused. "As well as can be expected. This" she motioned to the barely visible bump of pregnancy, "was not planned, as you know."
John relaxed; apparently he'd misunderstood. He could live with that. "So when you say Ceremony of Passage..."
Teyla met his gaze squarely, but it looked like it took a lot of effort. "Four years ago, my son Nalan was killed in the scouring of my world. As part of the healing process, Doctor Heightmeyer has suggested that I conduct a Ceremony of Passage on his behalf. As my friends, I had hoped that you and Doctor McKay might take part."
"I. Wow. I. Teyla, why didn't you say anything?" A son. She'd lost a child in the culling, and she'd said nothing. None of the Athosians had. He didn't even think the Wraith took children; Carson had said that the enzyme overloaded a child's nervous system - a dead body had no value as food, and the Wraith couldn't turn off the enzyme injection, so instead they just left them to die. Or had, before the "Great Awakening". "I thought we were closer than that."
She looked away. "It was not something I spoke of, for many reasons. I am sorry, John. It was not a reflection of my trust."
He wasn't sure he believed that, but this wasn't the time to address that. A kid. It wasn't that he couldn't see her with a child, but the concept had never even occurred to him before he'd learned of her pregnancy. He wondered what else she had kept hidden over the course of their friendship. He realized that the silence had dragged out, and said the first thing he could think of to break it. "So. Ceremony. I can do ceremonies. Have you picked a date, yet?"
"I spoke with Elizabeth, and she suggested next Wednesday. She offered to arrange coverage so that you and Rodney can attend, should you wish to do so, and it provides enough time for me to make arrangements with Halling."
"Halling? You're not performing the ceremony yourself?" It had been a while, but he was pretty sure she'd been the one to handle Charin's funeral.
"I am... no longer considered qualified by my people to lead such a ceremony. When Halling officially took my position as leader, he assumed my responsibilities as well. It is the way things are."
He hadn't realized they'd kicked her out, not that far out. He knew things had been rocky ever since the Athosians had moved off the mainland, but still... Any concern over her trust in him was set aside by a need to make this better. He'd cost her this, a place with her people. The least he could do was ease the transition; he certainly knew what it felt like to realize that you were from Atlantis and no longer from the place that had once been 'home'. "What can I do to help?"
He nodded slowly. "I can do that. And I'll make sure McKay keeps his mouth shut during the important parts."
She smiled at the weak attempt at humor, as well as the unstated promise to ensure McKay's attendance, and he was glad to see her diplomatic side resurfacing. It was disconcerting to see her so open. "I would appreciate that." She stood, and he took a moment to study just how much she had changed in the last few months. She was paler, and looked more fragile in the skirts that she had taken to wearing, but she was still a force to be reckoned with. He was one of her people now, and he'd do his best to keep her that way.
The morning of the funeral dawned unseasonably cloudy; "summer" in Atlantis usually meant long weeks of cloudless skies. It gave the sunrise a blood-shot appearance, and it was not an analogy Teyla was particularly pleased to make. While this day was set aside to acknowledge the death of her son, that didn't mean she wished to dwell on the likely manner of his passing.
She had not slept, and was unsurprised when Ronon stepped out onto the balcony and settled beside her. "You meditating?"
She shook her head. Her thoughts were too chaotic for successful meditation, and for once she had no desire to calm them. He nudged her gently, and she looked up. "You ready for the ceremony?"
She considered the question carefully. "I do not believe there is such a thing as 'ready', but I believe that I am prepared." She flinched reflexively when his hand landed on her thigh, but relaxed as he squeezed gently in reassurance.
"We all lose people we love. It does no good to hang onto the pain; it won't help you fight them." There was no need to specify who 'they' were. "I wish you'd told me, but I know why you didn't. Some things hurt too much to remember."
She allowed herself to lean against his shoulder, taking comfort in his strength for a just a few moments. "I didn't. I didn't think I had the right to miss him. He wasn't mine anymore. I thought if I could bury him deeply enough, I could move past him." She closed her eyes, blocking out the lightening sky and holding in the tears that had unexpectedly begun to obscure her vision. "I wish so much the ancestors had allowed me to do so."
He shifted, and she felt his arm ease around her shoulders. "It gets better." He gave her a gentle shake. "You know it gets better. All things in time, right?"
She nodded, not bothering to open her eyes. She could feel the sun burning through the clouds, and she let herself drift in the pleasant sensation. Her relaxation was ended, however, by a somewhat firmer shake. "Hey, if you wanted sleep you should have gotten it last night."
She sat up, blinking, and found that the sun had climbed a good deal higher than she had thought. "I didn't realize..."
He chuckled and stood, offering her his hand as she pulled herself up beside him. "You've still got plenty of time, but you needed the rest. I'm getting breakfast; you want anything?" She shook her head; she wouldn't be eating anything this morning. "Yeah, I didn't think so. You've got a couple hours left; call me if..."
She nodded. "Of course." He was almost out the door when she spoke again. "Ronon." He paused, turning to face her, but said nothing. "Thank you. For understanding."
He inclined his head, a small smile on his lips and an unexpected seriousness in his eyes. "Of course." He held her gaze a moment, then turned and left her to her thoughts. She was grateful of the solitude. This morning, she would inscribe Nalan's name upon what they had decided to call the "Wall of Mourning" - a listing of those who had lost their lives to the Wraith since the expedition's arrival in the Pegasus Galaxy. She would also plant a dark Yanan in his memory; life out of death. It was a tradition of the Earthers, but it seemed fitting, and the small but hardy crimson flower would provide beauty for many years to come.
The beeping of her watch caught her attention, and she realized that she had again lost time - this time close to an hour had passed as she contemplated the coming ceremony. Shaking her head to clear it, she turned to the dress that had been carefully laid out the night before. She had hoped to wear the dress she had worn for Charin's passage, but had found that it no longer fit. She knew that her body had been changing - it was one of the reasons she had chosen to don the traditional skirts of the settlements, even as she had quietly rejected everything that they stood for - she just hadn't realized how much. After an awkward explanation, Marta had offered her a brown dress for the occasion, and asked for permission to attend the ceremony. Teyla had granted it gladly, surprised at the show of support from a woman who had barely spoken to her in recent years.
Teyla found herself fidgeting with the soft fabric, and forced her hands to still. They came to rest on the small bump that represented her new child, and she wondered for the first time if she carried a daughter or a son. She hadn't cared, before. It hadn't been real before a few weeks ago, not in the ways that mattered. She smiled softly, and thought back to Ronon's words. All things might not be well in time, but perhaps they would be well enough. With a new sense of hope, she picked up the small potted Yanan and stepped to the door.
Only time would tell.