Warnings: This is excessively fluffy at times and I make no apology for it :) Its Christmas.
Spoilers: Set after season 5, but contains no spoilers.
Disclaimers: I own no part of the Stargate world and make absolutely no money from this. I only wish to play in this world and re-write it as I would love to see it. If only…
Note: This was written for the 2008 Christmas Secret Santa set up by Azure Horizon. A big Thank You to her for organising this and for allowing me a few extra days to complete this fic. The recipient for this is AlbinoMonkeyC - I hope this is okay and merry Christmas from your secret santa (who is not so secret I know, but this fic was too big to post with the others! Sorry!)
Teyla pushed the door open a little further and peered into the room. Tall glass windows lined one wall, the view out across the chilled winter afternoon was beautiful, but it was not what caught her attention. Instead her eyes were instantly drawn to the long line of bookshelves that lined the wall opposite. The shelves extended from floor to ceiling and she had never imagined one home could hold so many books.
Stepping into the room she stood before the wall of books and felt oddly in awe of them all. Her people had not used their written language to keep much of their history or knowledge, instead passed what was needed through words or stories. Yet, here in one room in one house on Earth stood a fountain of knowledge she had rarely seen before. She knew there were libraries of information, but Rodney had always told her that a laptop could hold more and the internet used on Earth was a mass storage of information that was accessible to all. He had told her that physical books were dead, and she had been oddly saddened by such a statement. But, she had seen the bookstores in the mall they had visited yesterday. She knew that people still valued books, to be able to hold knowledge in one's hand was a gift.
Stepping forward she started at the line closest to the door and looked along the first shelf. The books were ordered by subject and seemed to vary in age and in the amount they had been handled. This had been John's family's home for many years and she found herself wondering which member had been responsible for gathering the books on each individual subject. Though this had been Dave's home for two years now since his and John's father had passed to the Ancestors it was clear that these books had been here for a long time before that. Someone studiously cleaned the shelves and had taken the time to string up some Christmas tinsel along the top of the bookcases, and had added the odd Christmas card here and there. But, she could tell these books were not handled very often. She wondered if they sat here as a testimony to the family that had once lived here together.
Teyla brushed her fingers over the spines of the old books until she reached the first Christmas card. Peering around the sparkling drawing of a red breasted bird she read the inscription. Two names were written in ink at the bottom of the card below a printed inscription wishing a happy holiday and new year. She did not recognise the names so she moved on back to the books.
The next shelf held novels, which she skimmed over and the next held books on cookery. She pulled one out and flicked through it noting the bright, beautiful pictures of what looked like truly delicious food. She stopped at one page and read through one side, not really understanding the terms used or what the quantities meant. However the image on the opposite page resembled the Christmas meal they had all shared only an hour or so ago. The fruit pudding had been set alight before it had been served. She had seen that before on Atlantis, so she hadn't been as shocked as she had been that first time to see people purposefully ignite their food.
Smiling she pushed the book back into its place and carried on to the next shelf, crouching down and tilting her head to read the names on the spines. These appeared to be on strategy of some kind. She suspected they had been John's father's subject. Standing she moved on to the next bookcase and made her way down the shelves through gardening, health and psychology. The next shelf along presented more strategy books which looked more worn on the edges than the others before. She ran along the names, trying to capture for herself the energy of John's father through his books. She pulled one out and flicked through the pages noting some scribbles in the margins and that certain lines were highlighted brightly. Returning the book she looked at the next Christmas card on the shelf and its inscription. This one wished Dave and his family a good Christmas and hoped that John would enjoy his first Christmas home in so many years.
Intrigued to see that comment she picked up the card and opened it to look at the names. Memorising them she returned the card and noted to herself to ask John about them. The next shelf held books with no inscriptions on the spines and they varied in size and thickness. She selected one at random drawn in by the colour and pulled it from its place. It stuck to those beside it slightly and it weighed more than she had expected. Carefully she rested the spine back against the shelf and opened the book to find black and white photos stuck to both sides of the pages; a photo album. She had seen people with these back on Atlantis, but they had been small books with only choice pictures. Looking back up at the full shelf of photo albums she was amazed at the number of photos they held.
She flicked to the front of the album she held and looked at the writing under the first picture. The photo was of a couple, standing rigidly tall as if they had been told not to move in the slightest. Their clothing did not look modern and she returned her attention to the words written carefully beneath them. Two names, a word that she guessed was a name of a city or country and then a number. A date she realised. She knew that by the Earth calendar it was 2009 almost 2010, which meant this photo was old. Moving on through the book she glanced at names and faces and saw that the years were passing with each photo. The clothes began to vary and the postures of the people grew more relaxed.
Closing the book she pushed it back into its place and pulled out the one to its right. After flicking through she pushed it back and moved onto the next to the right and pulled it out. The years were closer, the pictures now in colour and as she turned to the last page a man appeared whose posture and attitude clearly poured out from the page and she knew without needing to read the inscription beneath that this was John's father. The shape of his eyes, the tall broad shoulders were the same as John's.
When she had first met Dave she had struggled to see the family resemblance at times, though after two days in Dave's company she had seen the similarities of mannerisms and intellect between him and John. However, now she saw their father she could see both of them in Patrick Sheppard. She closed the album and pulled open the next. Most of these were of Patrick at various stages of his life and then shaking hands with a series of important serious looking people.
The next album started with Patrick standing formally with a beautiful woman dressing entirely in white. Teyla stared down at the woman who had John's hazel eyes and smiled. John's mother had been an exceedingly beautiful woman and looking at her now Teyla could see that John's soft smile had come from his mother. Excited suddenly she flicked through the pictures following the couple moving into new homes, standing with various horses, cars and then John's mother was rounded with her pregnancy with Dave. Impatient now Teyla pushed the album back onto the shelf and pulled out the next. This one was thicker and as she settled it against the shelf it opened by itself half way through and her eyes fell on two boys standing before the camera in smart uniforms, though they must have only have been in their early teen years.
The older boy looked directly into the camera, staring out of the picture with a confident expression, his shoulders level and his spine ramrod straight. However, the younger boy stood one hip higher than the other and his attention was directed off to the side, clearly more interested in something else, or anything else other than having his photo taken. Teyla gasped at the image of a young John. He looked so different, yet so him. His expression was one of boredom and impatience and she smiled at the familiar expression, though it had matured somewhat since. Looking at the date she worked out that he had been fourteen years old in the photo. She moved forward through the book. Most of the following pictures were family pictures, now clearly absent John's mother, at various Christmas and official looking events. Noticeably there were fewer of John than of Dave, but he was there. Quite often he was in the back and involved in something else, but she could always pick him out. One picture of what appeared to be an entire school of children, all lined up in neat rows before the camera, gave her pause as she looked through each line in term until she eventually found John. He was wearing the same uniform from before, though he was older, and she understood now it had been a school uniform. Yet, in this one his uniform was crumpled and he looked like he and those around him in the picture had been up to something. She wondered what the next photo would have shown.
Moving onwards she flicked through the pictures noting how John was filling out, growing taller and stronger and that boredom had changed into a new more familiar look of mischief and amusement. Pictures of Dave became even more predominant and there were many more of an older Patrick Sheppard at various official looking dinners with more serious looking people. It was many pages later when she found the next of John and in this one he was dressed in a uniform which looked similar to his flight suit and he was standing tall and looking very serious. Someone was attaching a medal to his chest as he stared off straight into the distance. She paused on the image, this John so unlike the man she now knew. He looked so serious in this picture, in fact he looked gravely serious as if something very bad had happened before the picture had been taken.
Not liking the hollow look to his eyes she skimmed forward and so saw no further pictures of him and began to close the album to return it to the shelf, when she paused. Opening it again she flicked onwards from the start that she had missed before. She flicked past pictures of a very young Dave most of which were of him running around in a large nappy. Smiling she moved on and found John's mother pregnant again and with anticipation she turned the next page.
Baby John stared out at her from the next page. He was lying on his back and looking up at the camera with wide baby eyes. He couldn't have been more than a few days old she estimated in this picture.
"what you doing?" John's voice from her right shocked her from staring into the baby's eyes and she looked round to see the fully grown man looking at her curiously.
She smiled widely and lifted up the album so he could see his own face on its page.
"Oh, no." He exclaimed, but she saw the smile over his lips that he was trying not to show. "No, no." He added as he began to move towards her.
Laughing she rested the album back down, knowing he was going to protest. "You were a very beautiful baby, John." She said.
He arrived by her shoulder. "Okay, you've seen it, now let's put the album away." He reached forward and pulled on one side of the book.
She pulled back resisting his weak attempt to take it from her and instead she turned to the next page. In this one baby John was being cuddled by his mother. "Look how sweet you were." She said.
"Teyla." He warned, but she was having far too much fun now. Turning to the next page in which a slightly older John was sitting in a high chair with his face practically coated in food. Laughing she lifted the album for him to see better. "Yes, yes." He protested.
The next was of John crawling around a garden and this time it was him in the overly large nappy. Laughing even more now she looked up at John and saw the red staining his cheeks as he looked down at the picture.
"Not much has changed I feel." She said and he looked up at her with a glare that told her he would remember that comment. She looked through the next pictures. "I should ask Dave if he would allow me to take some copies. I am sure Rodney and Ronon would find these especially amusing. The next one was of toddler John standing up in a bath completely naked as he chewed on what looked like a toy ship. She began to laugh again.
"Yes, like you haven't seen it all already." He protested and this time she let him close the album and take it from her.
"It is no use; I have already looked through it." She told him as he pushed the book back into its place. "I thought your school uniform was very smart." She teased.
He faced her with his cheeks red and he sighed. "Shouldn't you be wondering where your son is?" He asked, clearly trying to change the subject and not smile.
One of the Christmas presents John had given Torren had been a large box full of brightly coloured blocks that could be built up into a castle. He and Torren had spent the last hour or so putting it together. Teyla wasn't sure which one of the two had been enjoying the castle build more. But, she had enjoyed sitting in the large comfortable sofa by the tall brightly decorated Christmas tree, watching John and her son build the castle together. In the year and a half that she and John had been together as a couple he and Torren had grown very close. John had been there when Torren had first started walking and then talking. Torren trusted him without question and though John was still a little unsure of his place with Torren when Kanaan was around, he was clearly a very capable father figure.
"Have you two finished the castle yet?" She asked.
"No, he ran out of steam, but he wanted a mommy cuddle before he had a nap."
"Alright." She said before she looked back to the bookshelves lining the wall beside them. "Your mother was very beautiful, John." She said softly, knowing it was a delicate subject with him. She watched John's eyes turn to the albums and she wondered if he had a picture of his mother and if he did when he had last looked at it. He nodded, his smile slipping away. "I can see her in you." Teyla added gently.
John looked back at her clearly surprised before he looked back to the albums. It had been difficult for him to be here, but she had been happy to accompany him following Dave's invitation for them all to visit for the holiday of Christmas. Last night she had woken to find him wide awake and he had said simply that he had been thinking. After talking for a while he had admitted through the moonlight that he felt strange being back in the house, especially with his father gone. But, he had seemed to enjoy today. Several cousins and Dave's girlfriend had come round to share the Christmas lunch and she had been told some interesting stories of John from when he was young. It was clear to her that some of the family were very happy that John was in some ways coming back into the fold. One cousin had also quietly told her that many of them had been very angry with Patrick for his treatment of John, though it was clear that Patrick Sheppard had been the ultimate patriarch of this family. Once he had rejected John the rest of the clan had followed. Now he was gone and John had begun to communicate with Dave again it seemed to be the catalyst for the rest of the extended Sheppard family to welcome him back. John for his part was polite, but clearly uncomfortable. She was glad she had been here for him through this and Torren had been a nice distraction for them all away from discussions of the past.
John stood now with a strange expression on his face as he looked at the range of books. Reaching out she touched her hand against the warmth of his bare forearm and drew his attention back to her and the present.
"Where is Torren then?" He smiled at her clear distraction technique. His eyes dropped to her lips and he leant in towards her and gave her a light kiss which tasted of the rich flavours from their lunch and the liqueur afterwards. They hadn't had any real time alone together all day.
"Did you really like all your presents?" He asked as he walked along with her back towards the door.
She smiled up at him as she reached up to the necklace she now wore. She had admired it many months ago during a trading trip for Atlantis. She was touched that he had returned there and found it for her. Running her fingertips over the warm stones set into beautiful twisting metal and she leant into his side.
"Yes, I did. Very much." She replied.
His arm slipped round her waist and he tightened his hold briefly. "Santa might have another one for you later." He added.
She looked up at him. "Really?"
"Yes, later tonight when we're alone." He replied.
She looked up at him expecting one of his usual teasing seductive smiles, but instead his gaze was directed forwards and his hold around her felt comforting rather than enticing. Though curious she put aside the thoughts of her present and made her way down the hallway with him to find Torren sitting on the floor by the partially built cast, but his attention was directed towards the bright laughing cartoons on the TV.
She sat down on the sofa and Torren climbed up onto her lap without a word, his attention still fixed on the cartoons as his eyelids growing heavier. John sat down on the floor near her feet, and turned his attention to continuing the castle build. She sighed gently; it had been a most enjoyable day.
Dave had been out saying goodbye to his girlfriend for half an hour now and John finally allowed himself to relax. Teyla was upstairs reading a goodnight story to Torren and he had the sitting room to himself. The latest news report broke the evening movie he had been idly watching. He reached forward and lowered the volume, not wanting to hear all the horrors happening on Earth; he had enough to worry about back home.
The Christmas tree's lights glowed from beside the sofa, the colours adding to the subdued evening lighting. He was glad Dave had changed the sitting room. It felt different from when he was a kid here, so he felt better able to relax in here. Yet, this was still the same house and he couldn't deny it. Every room held a wealth of memories, most of which were not all that great. The walls were permeated with what he had tried to forget, words said, shouted or days spent sulking that had gone completely unseen by the family patriarch. Now John was back here, in this home he had sworn he would never return to. But, then Dad had died and now things were changing with the rest of the family.
There weren't a huge amount of the Sheppard family left, but there were a load of cousins and even a couple of uncles and aunts, half of which lived out of the country. It wasn't a close family, it never had been; not since Mom died. The cousins that were still around, who had joined them today for lunch, had stuck around as they had been part of the family business. John had always thought of them as leaches or perhaps worse; the same as Dad. But, today John had seen ordinary people wanting to enjoy their family, wanting to know about him again. So much had changed now, he knew more than he ever knew he would have, seen things he wished some days he could just delete from his memory. He had a new family; those in Atlantis. But being here reminded him of where he had come from and what was important now.
The movie began again and he lifted the volume slightly. He had seen the movie a hundred times, but it was nice to watch it at Christmas again. To be back on Earth for Christmas. Down the hallway he heard Dave re-enter the house and the sound of Linda's car heading off down the long driveway. John looked up to see his brother enter the room and drop down into the easy chair opposite.
"She seems nice." John indicated the door through which he had said a polite goodnight to Dave's girlfriend. She was rather like Dave; very business orientated and a snappy dresser.
"Yeah, she is." Dave said with a casual shrug, but though they hadn't spent much time together for many years John could still read his brother. Dave liked Linda a lot. "Sorry about the cousin invasion today." Dave added.
A little surprised at that John just shrugged. "It was okay." Teyla told him that many of the cards around the house had been addressed to him as well, or mentioned him. Dave had passed on various Christmas wishes, but John hadn't really taken it to heart, but then he had looked through the cards earlier himself and had been surprised by the comments. There were many names he recognised and it had brought back all manner of memories again. Old friends and family. Family.
"Teyla told me she found the family albums." Dave said with a smile.
"Yeah she did. Had a good laugh too." John added.
Dave lifted his cold coffee and drank down the remains in one fast swallow and sat back in the chair. "I haven't looked through those in years." He said quietly.
John nodded. He hadn't even thought of them. He had a small selection of family photos somewhere in storage with his other stuff. After Teyla's comment about Mom he had snuck back into the library and looked at a few pictures of her. The timing of the comment was not lost on him and he had sat quietly in the old reading chair and looked at the pictures of his mother. He had spent much of the past ten years ignoring what had happened with his father and trying to forget the hurt of Mom's passing. Now he had reflected on Mom again, allowed himself to remember her more clearly than ever before. He had had to take a walk by himself out around the gardens and paddocks after that before he had felt the emotion settle. He had come here to face his past, to not let it win. He wanted to move onwards with his life. And that was what he was doing, he just needed to be brave enough to see it all through.
"If Teyla asks for any copies; don't let her." John begged.
Dave actually smiled in return. "I can't make that promise. Teyla's far nicer than you."
John nodded at that. "True." He smiled softly towards the castle he and Torren had started to build this afternoon and then he and Teyla had finished it together while Torren had napped.
"Haven't seen you look at a girl like that since Ally Millan in high school."
John looked away from the castle and laughed. "Alison Millan. Wow, haven't thought about her in years. Wonder what ever happened to her."
"Last I heard she married Ted Cullan."
John turned to his brother in shock. "Teddy? The computer geek?"
Dave smiled. "He owns his own highly successful software company, but yes the computer geek."
"Wow." John replied, remembering the gangly ginger haired boy who had stuttered his way through even the most simple of sentences. "Go Teddy. As I recall you were rather besotted with his older sister."
Dave focused intently on the movie. "A mild crush." He added absently.
"That's not what I remember." John added. "I remember Dad catching you two making out behind the stables that New Year's Eve party."
They both laughed. "God, he was mad." Dave said. "Made me ring up her Dad to come and collect her. I had to stay away from her for a month after that."
"Yeah, right. I saw you sneaking out." John replied.
Dave met his eyes with a smile. "That's only because you passing me through the gardens on your way back from visiting Ally."
They smiled together at their past antics. "Wonder if Dad ever knew." Dave asked as he turned his gaze back to the movie. The mention of their father dulled the light mood somewhat. The dull ache in John's chest over his father returned and to counteract it he too watched the movie intently, trying to ignore what he was feeling.
"He would have liked Teyla." Dave said abruptly, surprising John.
John looked briefly at Dave and then down to the castle he and Teyla had finished together. John couldn't imagine anyone not liking Teyla, but then it was difficult to picture her meeting his father, because he hadn't really known his father for a very long time. In fact John had never understood his father. It was a clash of worlds to imagine him meeting Teyla. They were so different. His father had been demanding and dominating of everyone and all spaces. Teyla was gentle, considerate and confident in a calm assertive way. Yet, one thing he was sure of was that she would have stood beside John in all his decisions, not like the other members of his family.
"No, you never looked at Ally quite that way." Dave cut in with an amused tone. "Or Nancy." He added.
John looked up at his brother and saw the seriousness in his eyes, as well as the gentle amusement. "Teyla and I have been through a lot together."
"You said you've been together for a year and a half?"
"Yeah, but we've been friends for a lot longer." John answered.
"Where's Torren's dad?" Dave asked.
"He's lives near us back home. He sees Torren all the time." John replied.
Dave nodded and they both returned their gazes to the TV. "Well, I'm glad you brought them with you. That you came to stay." Dave said eventually.
John looked back to his brother shocked again at the sentimentality from him. "You feeling okay?"
Dave smiled and shrugged as he looked away, clearly embarrassed himself at the emotional display. "It's just nice to have family back in the house again." John met his brother's eyes for a moment and saw the echo of his own grief. Of course Dave had had a very different relationship with Dad, but the loss was the same. Family. It was a term that John hadn't related to for a long time and only since living in Atlantis had it begun to make sense to him again.
He looked back down at the castle he, Teyla and Torren had all helped put together. Family.
Teyla lowered her novel onto her lap and looked at the partially open bedroom door. Torren was fast asleep down the hallway and she had heard Dave call goodnight before he had turned in, but John had yet to come to bed. She wondered if he had fallen asleep down there, or was he wandering the silent house lost in his past memories?
She slid the bookmark that Torren had made for her into the pages of the book and set in on the bedside table. The air was cool around her as she made her way across the room and pulled on her warm dressing gown and pulled on her thick house socks. She pushed open the door and made her way down the hall to the stairs. Looking over the banister she could see that the sitting room light was the only light left on downstairs and she could hear the faint sounds of the TV. Pushing her hands into the pockets of her dressing gown she made her way down the stairs.
The air was warmer down here from the log fire that had been burning all afternoon. The sweet smell of the wood smoke mixed with the lingering scents of the wonderful food they had all shared today. John was seated on the floor in front of the fire in the sitting room. The TV was on a movie that she didn't recognise and he was watching it absently as he pushed the fire protector back into place.
"John?" She asked as she padded quietly into the room.
He looked round and smiled up at her. "Hey, Teyla."
She reached him and settled down onto the carpet beside him. "I was wondering where you were."
He looked at his watch and back at the TV. "Sorry, I got caught up in the Christmas movies."
She pulled the gown around herself though the warmth from the fire was still strong and John wrapped his arm around her, pulling her closer to his side. "What are you watching?" She asked looking past him to the changing pictures.
"It's an old scifi movie. I never used to like watching them, but nowadays they kind of feel like research." He mused and she smiled at the crudely made spaceships on the screen. He turned from the movie and shifted even closer to her. "Torren okay?"
She pulled her attention from the oddly absorbing movie and smiled up at him. "Yes, he is fast asleep. I believe him to be well worn out after today."
"Well, he's certainly got enough presents to keep him quiet for a while." John smiled as he reached up and stroked her hair. She had begun to grow it out again and the older red colour was returning with the length.
"You were very generous towards him." She added. John looked up from twisting a piece of her hair around a finger. "You gave him more gifts than anyone else." He smiled slightly. "Though I have to wonder if the castle was more for you as much as it was for him." She teased.
He looked over his other shoulder to the castle. They would have to dismantle it again to transport it back home and she had no doubt that John would thoroughly enjoy reconstructing it back in Atlantis. She suddenly had an image of him sitting with Rodney and Ronon arguing over which piece should go where.
"No, it was for him, but I admit I always wanted one like that when I was a kid." He looked back at her, his eyes soft. "And thank you for my presents." He said. She looked over to the pile that was his that he had clearly been going through earlier.
"I could find nothing close to a Jumper for you." She explained with a smile. "So I thought the Millennium Falcon would be the closest." He smiled widely in return.
When they had first arrived in Dave's home Teyla had accompanied Torren to his room which had been John's when he was younger. The dark blue painted walls had been empty, save for a set of framed pictures of aircraft and below them on top of the chest of drawers had sat several models. She had asked John later about them and learnt he had made them from kits when he was younger. He had said he had spent hours constructing them and then meticulously painting them, all whilst he had dreamt of escaping home and flying the craft himself. Which he had eventually done and had flown far away; to another galaxy in fact. Not that she was complaining. So yesterday during their shopping trip she had sought out a shop that sold model kits and had selected him a new one to make.
"I love it, we're gonna need to hide it from Rodney though until I finish it." He replied as he stroked her hair again.
She thought back to those old models up in his old room. It had been an oddly emotional sight seeing them and knowing that though it had been many years since John had left, his father and now his brother, had kept those pictures and models in his old room as a testament to John's presence there so long ago. She wondered if John had known before that they had kept them. Reaching out she stroked over his chest enjoying his warmth through the soft shirt. The air around them glowed with the firelight and the gentle colourful glow from the Christmas tree. She looked over at it, took in the bright glittery tinsel and hanging decorations. Her eyes lowered to see a bag sitting on the floor in front of the tree near the castle.
"There's still one present left." She said.
"That's for you." John replied without looking round at it.
"This would be my gift from Santa?" She asked smiling up at him.
He looked down at her with dark eyes, but there was a seriousness in them that she was surprised to see. "No, it's from me." He said softly.
"Can I open it now?" She asked, curious now at what it was that would make him so still.
He studied her face for a moment before he got up and quickly returned with the colourful little bag. He sat down again beside her, but didn't press up against her again, instead he set the bag down between them, but he held onto the small handles of the bag. "It's an Earth tradition I'm not sure you know about." He said as he looked down at the bag.
Intensely curious now she stared down at the bag herself, but there was a large amount of tissue paper blocking her view of what was inside. So she looked back up at him to find him watching her and she smiled encouraging at him. After a long moment he cleared his throat and looked away a little embarrassed now.
"It's something I've been thinking about giving you for quite a while now." He said as he looked at the small flames in the fireplace. "But, it feels right now." He looked back at her. "We feel right to me." He added.
"Us?" She asked indicating both of them. He nodded cautiously. "To me as well."
It had warmed her heart to hear him utter such a confession and she enjoyed being able to return it to him. He was not one to be openly emotional, but she understood him now. She could read into the way he touched her, the way he snuggled up to her at night that told her clearly how he felt. It had been months into their relationship when he had first whispered into her neck late one night that he loved her. Now, he would say those words, but only when they were alone. She knew it was not that he wanted to hide his feelings from the world, but that he was intensely private and she valued that about him. However, it did not stop her from expressing her affection and love for him openly. He never seemed to mind on those occasions.
She watched him now look back down at the bag, his fingers toying with one handle. "You don't have to keep it if you don't want to." He said eventually meeting her eyes. "Don't feel you have to."
Still confused she nodded and he set the bag closer to her and released the handles. The atmosphere had changed around them and though she still had no idea what this was about she acknowledged the importance of it to John. As she reached for the bag she hoped she would understand the meaning of his gift.
She settled herself in front of the bag, giving it her entire focus as John watched her silently and tensely. She reached in and pulled out the first layer of beautifully coloured tissue paper and found another set beneath. Carefully she pulled that out and as she did her hand brushed against something solid beneath it in the bag. Reaching back in her hand closed around a small box and she drew it carefully out of the bag. It was very small and sat in her hand with a serious weight to it. It was not wrapped in Christmas paper but instead felt like it was covered in lush fabric and she could see the top of it could be opened. Closing her fingers around the box she pulled it gently open and inside, nestled in dark rich fabric sat a ring.
She understood this ritual. Her breath froze in her throat as she took in what this meant. Looking up at John she wanted to ask him if this meant exactly what she thought it did, only to remember his words and saw once again the tension in his body as he watched her. He was offering her marriage. A joining of their families. A connection for life that would bind them beyond the borders of their jobs, their peoples and even galaxies. Tears blinded her for a moment as she looked back down at the ring. His gift said more to her than ever before of his feelings for her and now in crystal clarity she could see her own so clearly.
She looked back up at him blinking away the tears as she took a steadying breath. "I would love to be your wife." She whispered back.
His tense expression vanished and a wide smile lit up his face. "You're sure?" He asked, but his eyes were sparkling now.
"Yes." She clarified as she leant in towards him and kissed him. His arms slid around her, holding her against him. He laughed as they hugged each other tightly and she blinked away more tears as she nuzzled into the side of his throat, taking in this moment with him. She had known she was important to him, that he loved her, but now she understood how much he did and that he cared for her as much as she cared for him.
He let out a heavy breath as he stroked her back. "You have no idea how long I've been stressing over asking you." He said.
She chuckled as she pulled back from his embrace, shifting forward to sit right up against him. "How many people know you have been planning this?" She asked smiling up at him.
"No one. Well…" he paused. "I spoke to Halling. On Earth it's traditional to ask permission from the bride's father, so I thought Halling seemed the closest, like an older brother or something." He shrugged as he pulled her tighter against him.
She ran the fingers of her free hand along his jaw and smiled up at him. "I am sure he would only ever welcome you into our people." She replied softly.
He leant down and kissed her gently before he sat back and smiled. "He didn't seem all that surprised to be honest."
She smiled as she lifted the box and looked at the ring properly for the first time. It was a beautiful silver band, with three different coloured stones set along the top.
"If you don't like it you can always change it." He said as she studied it intently.
"No, it is beautiful."
"It's a little different to the normal engagement rings, but then it seemed more 'you'." He added as he reached for the box and pulled the ring out gently. "The store will be open tomorrow and they said they can fit it properly to your finger." He said as he reached for her left hand. "But, this is still part of the tradition." He lifted her fingers across his palm and slid the ring onto the right finger. It was a little wide, but for now it would stay on and she tilted her hand, the light catching the coloured stones beautifully and they sparkled against her skin.
She smiled up at him and let out a happy sigh. "Thank you, John." She whispered.
"Hey, you're the one who's agreeing to put up with me from now onwards. There's no excuse now." He added smiling. She laughed gently.
Behind her she heard wood creak and she looked round to see Torren making his way cautiously down the stairs, one thumb in his mouth as he watched her through the gaps of the banisters.
"Hey, buddy." John called out to him. "You okay?"
Teyla pushed aside her nervousness at seeing her son climbing down stairs unsupervised. Torren climbed down the last few steps and hurried across the hallway towards them.
"Couldn't sleep." He muttered as he arrived, though his eyes were clearly sleepy.
"You couldn't?" John asked as Teyla lifted Torren up onto her lap, wrapping the edges of her dressing gown around him.
Torren shook his head, but his attention was abruptly caught by her new sparkling ring. His tiny fingers touched the stones gently and he tilted his head all the way back so he could look up at Teyla.
"It is a gift for me from John." Teyla explained. "Isn't it pretty?"
Torren returned his attention to the ring and nodded. "Very pretty."
Teyla kissed the top of her son's head. "Torren, how would you feel about John becoming a member of our family?" She asked him.
Torren tilted his head back again and frowned at her. "Is family." Torren replied.
Teyla laughed gently at her son's wisdom and looked up to see John was purposefully not looking up at her. She smiled at the wealth of emotion she saw in his expression as he reached out and ruffled Torren's hair affectionately. Torren, as usual giggled at that despite his sleepiness. She waited until John looked back up to meet her gaze and they smiled at each other.
Torren wriggled in her arms, settling himself so he could relax against her. She really should carry him upstairs back to his bed, but right now she was enjoying this new sensation of their little family. John seemed to understand as he tilted his head towards the sofa.
"How about we watch the end of the movie together?" He suggested.
She lifted her son with her as they headed the short distance to the large plush sofa. John pulled the large warm throw down from the back of the sofa and as he sat in the far corner she nestled up against him with Torren on her lap as John draped the throw around them. Torren shuffled around until he found a comfortable spot, which ended up being partly over John's lap and onto hers.
She focused her attention on the movie, but soon closed her eyes to drink in the sensation of John beside her and her son asleep in her arms. She could feel the new presence of the ring around her finger and with it a new future blossomed in her mind.
As she began to drift asleep the sounds of the movie distorting slightly, she felt John's lips touch against her forehead and he whispered to her how much he loved her.