Teyla was summoned to the mainland by her people, to help care for several sick children. She'd been called for such things before, a few times, and her friends thought nothing of it. But when she returned she seemed sad; she wouldn't say anything to anyone except Dr. Beckett and Elizabeth. That worried the others, but by the next day she seemed to be the same Teyla they'd always known; and they soon forgot all about it. But Dr. Beckett did not.
"Ah!" Teyla cried, stumbling away from Ronon, her hand cupped over her chin.
"Are you okay?" he asked, switching both his sticks to one hand and taking a step towards her. She waved him away, shaking her head.
"I'm fine," she said, dropping her hand. "Continue." But blood was dripping from a gash in her chin; he must have hit her hard enough to split the skin.
"Ouch," Sheppard, who'd been enjoying watching them spar, snatched up a towel from the bench and tossed it to her. She caught it, and tried to stop the bleeding.
"He got you pretty good," John said with concern. "Are you sure you're alright?" She nodded.
"A little off my game today; but it is nothing too serious."
"Maybe you should check in with Carson anyways." She laughed at Ronon's expression.
"I am fine! She assured him, wiping the blood off her hands and tossing the towel aside. "One more round?"
"I will speak to Dr. Beckett when we are done," his face broke into a grin.
"Fine, you win. Just one more, though."
"I promise," they faced off again, and Sheppard compared their styles. Ronon reminded him of a jaguar, tense and restless for his prey but the catch well worth the wait. Teyla he decided was somewhere in between a deer and a cheetah; graceful and fast and fluid; and much loser than Ronon.
Suddenly, she missed a step and stumbled forward, all the color leaving her face. Ronon was barely in time to catch her as she was pitched towards the floor, unconscious.
Sheppard was on his feet instantly, speaking into his radio to Dr. Beckett, who assured him that he'd be right there. That being done, Sheppard dropped to his knees beside Ronon, who had lowered her to the ground and now cradled her in his arms.
"What happened?" he demanded. Ronon shook his head helplessly.
"I don't know; she just fell down!"
"Well did you hit her again?"
"No, I never touched her!"
"Alright, calm down." Beckett came in, along with a stretcher and several nurses. They took over Ronon and John hovering nervously in the background. Then Beckett groaned softly.
"She was afraid that this was going to happen," dread settled in her friend's stomachs.
"But she's gonna be okay? Right?" John asked. The doctor ignored him.
"Let's get her upstairs." they lifted her onto the stretcher and carried her out. Ronon and Sheppard followed closely; and there was no sign of anything that had passed except the bloody towel on the floor.
Each minute was agonizing as the doctors did their work. Banned from the room and forced to wait in Beckett's office, the two paced furiously as they waited for news. What could have only been a few minutes seemed like hours to them. It was the uncertainty that bugged Sheppard more than the wait itself. Once they knew what was wrong they'd know how to fix it.
Finally, Carson came in. Ronon looked at the clock and was shocked to see that only about fifteen minutes had gone by.
"What's wrong with her?" he demanded, his focus returning to the situation at hand. Beckett sighed.
"You boys might want to sit down." Neither of them moved; and Carson sighed again. "Teyla is dying." that made them wish they were sitting. No, this could NOT be happening!
"Can't you help her?"
"Why is she dying?" their voices overlapped each other.
"It's a rare Athosian disease," Carson explained softly, his eyes looking defeated. "She said that it manifests itself mostly in children; and only a few get it in a generation."
"How do you cure it?"
"It's "shared"; every member of the family takes a part of it, and it weakens it enough that they all survive."
"Why is it happening to her?" Ronon asked.
"Yeah, you just said it happens mostly in kids."
"And normally it does. But do you remember last month when she went over to the mainland to help with the sick kids?"
"Yeah, I remember. Did they have this sickness?"
"Aye. When Halling told me about it and what could happen to her, I tried to make her come back; but she wouldn't. And when she came back she told me that it was very likely that she would relapse. In fact, she expected it and planned for it.
"So she knew she was gonna die?"
"Apparently when she had it as a child, there was a member of her family who disappeared; and the sharing was not complete; so her body still held too much of the sickness. She knew it was possible to relapse again."
"Can't she share it again?"
"No," Ronon realized. "She has no family left."
"Does anyone else know?" Sheppard asked heavily, the reality that there was nothing anyone could do weighing heavily on him. Carson sighed.
"Aye, her people know; and Elizabeth. But no one else."
"Can we see her?" he asked, his eyes red with unshed tears. Beckett nodded.
"You can; she'll be awake soon."
"You gonna tell her people that it happened?"
"Elizabeth is radioing them now; and she's sending a jumper for Halling. They'll be down as soon as he gets here." Sheppard had no more questions, nothing to delay the inevitable pain he knew would come when he entered that room. And Ronon was tired of waiting for him. He grabbed his arm and towed him towards the private room that Beckett had brought Teyla to. They were both afraid of what they would see; but they couldn't bring themselves no to. What they saw almost killed them.
Teyla was lying in bed, on IV's and all kinds of monitors. Some of the machines showed her brain waves, others monitored her heart and other vital signs; as if that would help. Her heartbeat was weak and erratic, but mercifully there.
They froze when they saw her there, utterly helpless and vulnerable and small.
"No," there was no way she was going to give up her life like this. She'd been through so much in her life; she'd survived everything! She couldn't die now, like this.
"This can't be the end."
The two of them were frozen in place for a moment; finally, they recovered enough from the shock to move. Sheppard sat down in a chair by her bed, but Ronon remained standing just beyond him. They waited in silence for a few minutes for her to wake up.
Finally, her eyes fluttered opened. She smiled when she saw them.
"I am sorry that I did not tell you before," she whispered, her breath rasping in her throat. "I did not want you to worry."
"And you think we're not worried now?" Sheppard attempted a lame joke.
"I wanted to make the last few days good," she explained. "But this is the last."
"Don't say that-"
"I know what it feels like." Ronon sighed.
"Is there anything we can do?" he asked softly, his eyes red and misty.
"Stay with me," she whispered. "Until the end. I don't want to be alone anymore." Just then, Elizabeth and Halling came in.
"Ah!" the cry of anguish that came from Halling made them all jump. He was at her side in a second, holding her hands and crying and kissing her, and his forehead pressed to hers. She tried to quiet him, with little success.
"Teyla, it's alright; we'll share it." she shook her head.
"Our people will bear it with you."
"Halling, no..." again she was ignored.
"...they've all agreed..."
"They will die with me if they do..."
"No, no, no..."
"There is nothing you can do." he continued to argue with her, weeping uncontrollably. He'd known; but he still couldn't bear it.
When Elizabeth had entered the room, her hand had flown to cover her mouth, and she had frozen at the sight of her dying friend. Even though she had known, she had not until now been able to accept it as reality; Teyla had seemed fine. But now she was forced to open her eyes to the fact that Teyla was going to die.
As Halling became more desperate, he became less aware of the force that he was using, to the point where he would probably hurt Teyla even more. Elizabeth motioned for Ronon to stop him. He practically had to drag the disraught man back.
"This isn't going to help her," he hissed sharply. To their relief Halling quieted, making an effort to stay calm.
Elizabeth came and stood beside the bed, squeezing Teyla's hand gently in a silent gesture meant to reassure her that she was there for her. Teyla smiled faintly, glad for the love of her friends. She decided that if she did have to die, she would rather spend her last moments with all of them. But there was one face missing.
"Where is Rodney?" she asked, not realizing until that moment how much a part of her he really was.
"He's with Katie," Elizabeth explained softly. "If you'd like I'll go-"
"No!" she was terrified of losing them. "Don't leave me." her words grew quiet, and her eyes rolled back, and suddenly the monitors flat lined. It was only for a second, but it was enough to thoroughly frighten the rest of them. But them her heart returned to it's erratic beating, showing them that she was still alive.
"What happened to her?" Halling demanded, more worry than anger in his voice.
"Her heart stopped for a second," Beckett explained, coming in. "But she's back with us now." he heard scattered sighs of relief.
"Will she wake up again?" Elizabeth asked, crossing her arms protectively over her chest.
"Hopefully," the doctor answered. "According to what we talked about, she will." They all looked at her, angry that there was nothing that they could do for her.
Suddenly, in her sleep, Teyla started to speak very quietly. They were all instantly silent, listening.
"Taar," she murmured. "Blood for blood." she repeated those word over and over again, and Halling's eyes widened. He gasped, and all eyes turned to him.
"What's she talking about?" Sheppard asked.
"Taar is her cousin," he explained. "He used to be more like her brother when they were children. But the last time she was sick like this, he ran away and never came back."
"Could he save her?"
"It is possible, if he is even still alive."
"Where would he be if he was?" Ronon asked.
"I am not sure."
When Teyla woke up again, only Dr. Beckett was in the room, and it scared her. But the doctor immediately soothed her fears.
"I sent them out; I have to do some scans, and too many people in the room upsets the sensors."
"I see," she still seemed worried, understandably so. But she knew that there was nothing that she could do about it.
"I'm going to send Rodney in, alright love? He's been out there for a long time, complaining and begging to see you. And one at a time won't interfere with the scans." she nodded, and he left, letting McKay in. He handled the sight of her surprisingly well. But his clumsy attempt to comfort her was done in typical McKay fashion.
"How do you feel?" he asked, making her smile. He really did have a terrible bedside manner, but it was sweet.
"Numb," she admitted. "Cold. It is past of the sickness."
"Is there anything that we can do to help?" he asked. She shook her head.
"There is no way that you can save me. But just... being here for me, that is enough." they were quiet for a minute. Then Teyla sighed.
"Rodney, when I die..."
"Don't say that!"
"I want you to be part of the ceremony with my people. Halling will explain what you must do." Rodney's face held the same defeated look that Beckett's had when he had been explaining the situation to Sheppard and Ronon.
"I'll do whatever you want me to do," he promised her. "If you promise not to let yourself die without a fight." she nodded.
Everyone else was questioning Haling about Taar, trying to figure out where the man was. Finally, Halling gave into their pleas.
"I have an idea where he might be, but I cannot be sure. We have only seen him a few times; and we have not visited that world for many years. But if somehow he is alive, and her abilities connect them in some way, he will know what is happening, and we will find him there."
"Let's go," Sheppard said, but Elizabeth stopped him.
"Halling will take you if he wishes," she said, "but as much as I want this, only one of you can go with him. Either you or Ronon. She needs at least one of you here." the two men exchanged a silent glance, and made their decision.
"I'll go," Sheppard said finally. "I'll do anything to save her." he knew that Ronon would, too; but he also knew that the big man needed to stay close to her.
"Are you sure that you'll be okay for a moment?" McKay asked. Teyla nodded, and he sighed. "Well, okay. Hang in there," he slipped out.
"Okay, Elizabeth, your turn." He'd handled it well for a while, but it was finally starting to sink in, and it was starting to scare him.
He was brought out of it by Sheppard and Halling's departure.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa whoa! Were are they going?"
"Halling has one last idea to try to save her," Carson explained to him as Elizabeth went in.
She didn't talk until Teyla did, not wanting to make her feel any worse. When Teyla did talk, she was deep in memory.
"I wish that we could have found Aiden," she said softly. "I would have liked to say goodbye." Elizabeth nodded, her eyes sad.
"I don't know what I'm going to do when you're gone," she admitted suddenly. "I mean, it's always hard to lose people; but they're not always as good of a friend as you are." she sighed. "I just wish that things didn't have to end this way."
"It is not the end," Teyla told her. "At least, not for you. And for me it is the beginning of a new journey." they were quiet.
"Where are John and Halling?" Teyla asked eventually. "I would like to speak with them about something."
"They went to New Athos for a few hours," Elizabeth lied. "To prepared your people." They'd decided not to tell her what they were doing; Halling had been certain that she would protest.
"I asked him to go." Teyla frowned a little.
"Where is Ronon?"
"He's waiting outside. He feels terrible about what happened."
"It is not his fault."
"I'm not the one who needs convincing about that," Elizabeth stood up to go get him; he needed to talk to Teyla more that she did right now. But Teyla stopped her for a second.
"Thank you," she said finally. "For everything that you have done for me, and for my people. I wish that there was some way that I could repay you for that." Elizabeth's heart ached, and she couldn't even reply.
In the time that it took for Elizabeth to get Ronon, Teyla was unconscious again, though she was still alive. Ronon sat in the vacant chair by her bed. He couldn't believe that any of this was happening; it felt like some kind of crazy dream that he was trying to wake up from; and if he could only wake up she's be well and okay again. But reality dominated his mind, and all he could do was wait, restless and on edge but suddenly exhausted from his worry. He wished that John and Halling would hurry and find Taar.
Lacing his fingers through Teyla's, he stroked her hand gently. He wondered how the city would survive this loss; if they would survive.
"Are you sure that this is the right place?" John asked Halling as they trudged along a path towards the village that the man had promised was there.
"Yes, this is the place. I have seen him here before."
"And you never brought him back?"
"He would not talk to me."
"Colonel, he will come back with us if we tell him what is going on."
"Whatever you say." They didn't talk anymore until they reached the village.
"Well?" John asked.
"Give it a moment..." they walked through the marketplace, Halling greeting people; and Sheppard saw whispers start to spread.
"If he knows we're here, wouldn't he hide?"
"He knows that I am here because it is important."
"Okay, fine." He fell silent, and waited.
It turned out that Halling was right. After a few moments, a man approached them, and Halling clearly recognized him. When John looked closely, he could see a resemblance between the man and Teyla. Something about their eyes.
"What are you doing here?" the man asked Halling. "And who is he?"
"This man is my friend," Halling said. "He saved my life." Taar didn't seem to be interested in questioning that.
"Why are you here?" he repeated.
"To save Teyla's life." Taar's eyes widened.
"No. She can't be..."
"She is, Taar. And none of us can save her; only you can."
"She won't want me to do that for her," he said. "And she knows that I deserve to be in her place."
"We're not really giving her a choice," John said. "We need her. And you can help her or not, but you really don't want to have her death on your hands."
"And she won't want mine! Halling knows what will happen; he knows the choice, and what Teyla will say. And yet you still came for me."
"Taar," John tried to soothe him. "Nobody has to die." he sighed.
"You don't understand."
"He doesn't need to," Halling said sharply. "You just need to come. I know why you left all those years ago; and I know that you'll come back now for the same reason." Taar nodded.
"So that's it then?" Sheppard asked. "We can go back?"
"Let me explain what is happening, first, to these people. They deserve to know why I can't come back." Sheppard looked urgently at Halling.
"We still have enough time," he assured him, seeming calm now that he knew that Teyla's life was going to be saved. "Let him say his goodbyes." John didn't understand what was going on, but Halling and Taar seemed okay, so he held his tongue and waited.
Ronon sat next to Teyla for what seemed like a long time, although he could never be sure. But in that time, he hated his life more than he'd ever thought he could; loathing himself and whatever he'd done to bring death upon yet another friend; another love. He blamed himself for what had happened; as if his accidental hitting her had been the cause of all of this and not some mysterious Athosian illness that they had no power to save her from; and he wondered if he would ever love again. It was the same every time; he'd loved Melina, and he'd lost her. After that he'd promised himself that he would never allow himself to love again. But then he'd met Teyla, and their friendship had grown and strengthened until he realized that he really did love her, more even than he had Mulaina; and he was still learning to feel it. But the depth of his love-was making her that much harder to lose.
"You've gotta hang on," he whispered, wondering if she could hear him. "Hang on until John gets back with Taar. I won't lose you, too; I need you. This city needs you to keep going, you're what holds us together." he sighed, feeling totally strange and out of place baring his soul to a dying woman, even if he was in love with her. Which was the other thing that he kind of felt that he had to say.
"Teyla, I love you. I love you and I need you, and I don't know how I can live on without you. I wouldn't be alive now if it wasn't for you." he squeezed her hand tighter, bowing his head in an attempt to stop or at least hide his tears.
"Did you really mean all that you said?" she whispered, waking up. But she was too spent to open her eyes more than the barest crack.
"Every word," he promised, concealing his relief to hear her voice. Somehow, though, it seemed odd; he would rather say all the things that were on his heart when she could reply, even if her reply was rejection.
"I love you, Teyla Emmagan. Pure and simple. And I don't want to lose you."
"Ronon," her voice was weary. "There is nothing you can do."
"At the very least I can let you know that you're loved, that I love you, before you die." she made a rasping sound that should have been a laugh, and it broke his heart.
"Not much left to love," she whispered.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "No matter what happens I will still love you like I always have."
"And I you," she admitted. "I wish that I had something better to offer you than a goodbye."
"It's my fault," Ronon lamented. "I should have told you; I should have told you the day that I met you. Then this could have been something beautiful, instead of a goodbye..."
"Ronon," her gentle, sweet voice stopped his words. "Everything that we've had together was beautiful; I would trade it for nothing. No regrets." Gently, Ronon stroked the line of her jaw, and his fingers lingered by her lips.
Ronon wasn't quite sure exactly how what happened next happened; all he knew was that his lips were suddenly touching hers, pressed together in a beautiful kiss full of passion and pure love. Tender and long, Ronon was certain that he could live that way forever; kissing her, holding her close, her slender fingers burying themselves in his hair and holding him close too.
"Ronon," she spoke past his lips. "Never forget me."
"Of course not."
"But don't think of me like this."
"What?!" he sat up abruptly, ending their kiss.
"I am sick and dying. When you remember me, I want you to see me beautiful." he smiled a little.
"Teyla, you are beautiful. That kiss was the most beautiful moment of my life. When I think of you, that's what I'll remember; not your sickness, you. And how absolutely in love I am and always will be."
Ronon refused to leave her for the rest of the day. The others- Dr. Beckett,Elizabeth, Rodney,- would come in every so often to visit, to check on her. But they were always called away for something or other, leaving Ronon and Teyla mostly alone. They didn't say much, but he didn't let her hand go the whole time. He wanted her to know that he was there for her, and would be until the end no matter what happened.
For Teyla's sake, Ronon stayed calm; but as the hours ticked by and Sheppard and Halling didn't return he grew worried.
"They will come," Teyla assured him, not understanding why they were gone or what their return could mean.
Suddenly, Ronon's radio came alive, along with Beckett's and Elizabeth's and Rodney's, and John's voice blasted in their ears. A small piece of Weir's soul was restored as he spoke.
"We've got him, he agreed. We're on our way down." Tears of relief formed in their eyes at the news, and they all gathered in Teyla's room, and waited.
Sheppard and Halling reached them after only a minute or two, along with a man that Teyla recognized instantly. He practically flew to her side, and wrapped her in a warm embrace. Words poured out of him as if he couldn't control them, and at first they made no sense to Teyla; all that she knew was that he was back, and his voice was one of the sweetest things that she had ever heard. But then she began to comprehend his words. He was here to heal her.
"...I will take it from you, and you will never have to worry..."
"Taar, no! I won't let you do that for me."
"I left you once when you needed me. I am not going to make that mistake again."
"No!" Taar turned to look at everyone in the room.
"Don't let her stop me."
"I won't," Ronon said. Taar nodded, and took a knife from his belt. He took Teyla's hand and turned her palm up, and sliced across it. That was almost too much for her friends to see; he was hurting her even more! But Halling held them back.
Taar made a cut in his own hand, then gripped Teyla's, their fingers entwining and their blood mingling. Taar closed his eyes, bowing his head.
"Blood for blood," he whispered, "I take her pain." he paused, and looked up straight into her eyes. "All of it." She screamed and tried to wrench her hand away. But she was too weak from the illness and Taar's grip was too strong.
After a moment, Taar kissed her fingers gently.
"I never wanted to hurt you, Teyla," he whispered. "I never meant for any of this to happen," he paused. "I love you." They saw her lips move, but she spoke so quietly that only Taar could hear her.
"I love you too," she said. "No regrets."
"Never forget," he said softly. And then he died, Teyla's hand slipping free of his as he fell to the floor. Teyla buried her face in Ronon's shoulder and cried.
Teyla refused to explain what had happened, so Halling had to tell them late. They were shocked at what Taar had known would happen; that he'd still agreed. And they were all the more grateful.
Taar's body was taken to New Athos to be buried. Everyone who had been with him when he died attended his funeral, out of respect for him and gratitude for the sacrifice that he had made for Teyla. Teyla herself went as well, her ceremonial clothes black for mourning. She was still very weak from the illness that would have taken her life had Taar not done what he did. It was because of that she merely had to attend a ceremony that she normally would have performed. But even that was hard for her. Unable to stop his death, she was equally unable ti accept it. Her only comfort was Ronon.
He never left her side for a second; he held her close, letting her lean on him when she had no strength left to stand alone. When it was just the two of them he covered her face in kisses, a constant reminder of how much he loved her. He dried her tears when he could, cried with her when he couldn't, and never let her bear her grief alone.
He shared her pain as Taar had shared her illness. But he knew that he could never take it away.