Lt. Colonel John Sheppard typed in the last word, added punctuation and saved his document. He then ran spell check and fixed the few words the program identified as incorrect. Opening his email, he composed a new one to Woolsey and attached the document. He hit send, looked at his watch and a big smile lit up his face. He stood up and threw his hands in the air. "Touchdown and the crowd goes wild!" He said loudly.
Major Evan Lorne looked up from his laptop with a smile. "Get all your reports in on time this month, sir?"
"I did and with twenty minutes to spare I might add! A new personal best!"
Lorne laughed. "Not hard to best always being late, John."
"Do NOT forget that I am your superior and your commanding officer, Major Lorne, and I deserve the respect my rank entails." He responded in a cold tone. The two men stared at each other for almost a full twenty seconds until Lorne's lips twitched causing Sheppard's to quiver. Both men dissolved into laughter, calling it even. "Ok, Evan, I am officially done, D-O-N-E, done. I'm heading to my quarters for a quick shower and then see if I can find any of my team who are up for a late dinner. You gonna be around?"
"No, I actually have a date tonight." He had another hour or so and then Cadman would be taking his place as duty officer.
"Oh, really? Do tell!"
Lorne went bright red and wished he'd kept his mouth shut. If Sheppard knew, then Ronon, Teyla and McKay would shortly know and he could expect the four members of Atlantis's premier off world team to tease him unmercifully. After that, it would be all over the city. He half decided not to tell his CO who the date was with. After all, it was on his personal time and none of the Colonel's concern. Then he took a closer look at the expression on the man's face. It appeared to be simple curiosity, although maybe there was a bit more lurking underneath and he suddenly wondered if the Colonel might be lonely. He had his team, who were closer than friends, more like family, and a lot of acquaintances, but no one special in his life. He cleared his throat. "I'm taking Celia Larm on a picnic on the East Pier when I finish up here."
"Celia Larm? She the cute new nurse that just came in on the Daedalus a few weeks ago? Blonde, blue eyes?"
"That's the one." He seriously hoped the Colonel wasn't interested in her as well. All the women on base seemed to want to catch the eye of the tall, dark and handsome military commander of Atlantis. Sure, he had his own success in that area, he'd be stupid not to know that he was good looking in his own right. It was just something about Sheppard that attracted them in droves. The sense of mystery maybe? The air of command? The stories about his escapades and many escapes from death? The feeling he was unattainable? The fact that he didn't even seem to know they followed him around like puppies, looking all googly eyed at him? Hell, he didn't know, he'd never been able to figure women out. He knew the Colonel flirted as much, if not more, than most of the men on base but, as far as he knew, his CO had never had a romantic relationship with anyone here. His personal opinion was that Sheppard's heart was already taken by someone he thought he could never have.
He'd watched Teyla and John together over the years and was pretty sure there was something special there, something neither one seemed to be willing to act on. To the point where Teyla had become involved with a fellow Athosian and had born his son. Kanaan had quietly faded into the background and, while he knew the man had recently gone to live on New Athos permanently as he'd been the one to ferry him there, he doubted many even realized the man had even lived here, let alone had gone again.
While Teyla was technically under his command, as John was leader of their team, she wasn't military and there were no real regulations against a relationship. He'd heard from Ronon that Sheppard had an ex-wife. He wondered if his CO had been hurt so badly he was afraid to try again. He stopped himself there. While the Colonel was easy going and didn't stand on ceremony, there were certain things that were off limits, even for him. The man's love life, or lack thereof, was sure to be one of them. He realized Sheppard was looking at him oddly, as he'd zoned out for a minute. Clearing his throat, he asked. "Is there anything you need me to do before I go off duty?"
"As a matter of fact, there is something." Lorne sighed, wondering if he was going to have to cancel his dinner plans after all. Sheppard grinned at the sound. "You can make sure you look your best for tonight and fill me in on all the details tomorrow. I live vicariously through you." He laughed but Lorne's thoughts returned to what he'd been thinking earlier, again wondering if the Colonel was lonely. Maybe he meant it as a joke, but maybe it wasn't really funny.
His CO was a good man and the best commander he'd ever served under. He deserved to be happy. Lorne hadn't been too sure what to think when he'd first arrived here. Then he found out he was expected to think, he was expected to offer his opinions and he was expected to disagree with the Colonel if he felt strongly about something. And Sheppard always listened, a situation most soldiers never experienced with their CO. He may still go his own way, but he paid attention to the opinions and thoughts of those under his command. And for the Pegasus Galaxy, it worked. He watched the man walk away with a wave over his shoulder and went back to his own work. Another hour and he'd be free to clean up and pick up Celia.
Sheppard whistled as he loped towards his quarters, his ground eating strides making short work of the distance. He acknowledged greetings as he went, never stopping to talk until he saw Corporeal Hank Kline approaching from the opposite direction. The base wasn't huge in terms of personnel, but there was still a good sized military presence he had responsibility for, all of whom were very far away from home and the familiar. He had a good memory and put it to use as he made it a point to know all of his men's names and get a general understanding of what was going on in their lives. He did the same for the scientists, as Rodney would never be able to comprehend the concept. He made sure that it was never to the point of intruding on personal matters, but was just enough to give him some insight into his people, both military and civilian. He often wondered if his own career path would have taken a different turn if even one of his commanding officers had cared enough to find out about the men serving under him. He was oblivious to the fact that his people adored him for this personal touch and would follow him anywhere. John stopped and Kline did as well, saluting his CO, Sheppard returning it. "Corporal Kline, it's good to see you back. How's your father doing?"
Kline's face broke into a huge grin. "He's doing much better sir! The surgery was a success and he's back home with my mom now. He'll have to take it easy for a while but the doctor's think he'll make a full recovery and have many more years with us. Thank you for arranging my leave so quickly and for taking care of all the transportation arrangements to get me home in time to be there with my mom. I would have hated to think of her waiting there in that hospital without me. I have to admit I was a bit of a mess when I found out how bad his heart was."
A shadow flickered across Sheppard's face, quickly gone but Hank had seen it and felt bad, not knowing what to say. He'd heard through the grapevine that his CO had been estranged from his own father and that the man had died of a heart attack several years ago, without them being able to make amends. He was floundering for something to say when Sheppard beat him to it.
"You're very welcome but I didn't do much, just greased a few wheels." He winked. "I'm very happy to hear he's doing so well. Keep me up to date on his progress, will you?"
"Yes sir!" Hank knew the Colonel wasn't just saying it, that he really would be expecting updates and would track him down if he didn't get them. He'd raved about his CO to his family when he'd been home, telling his mom how he'd known about his dad's health issues almost as soon as he did. Detailing how the Colonel had gone out of his way to make sure he could get leave and get home as quickly as possible, without his even having to ask. When he'd passed on the Colonel's personal words of encouragement for her, she'd fallen under his spell without even having met him. That reminded him. "Sir, my mom baked some of her special snickerdoodle cookies and sent them back with me for you. Would it be okay if I dropped them off at your quarters when I'm off duty at 0500 hours tomorrow morning?"
The Colonel's face lit up. "Cookies? Real, honest to goodness, homemade cookies?"
"Yes sir, best you'll ever taste, if I do say so myself! My mom's a great cook!"
"It would be more than okay for you to drop them off, but at your convenience. Just, do me one favor?"
"Of course sir."
Sheppard looked up and down the hall and then leaned in towards Kline, who blinked a couple times in confusion. Whispering conspiratorially, John said. "Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get those cookies to me without McKay, Ronon or Teyla getting wind of it. If any of them find out, I'll be lucky to get one or two of them before they're all gone!"
Kline's jaw dropped open as Sheppard straightened up, grinning. Finally getting that his CO was joking with him, he sketched a quick salute and replied. "Most likely a mission impossible, but I accept this assignment and will carry it out to the best of my abilities, sir!"
Sheppard laughed. "All I can ask, Hank, all I can ask. Now, I have an appointment with a shower and the mess hall." He waved as he turned and continued on his way to his quarters. It wasn't until he disappeared around a corner, that Hank realized he was standing there staring after him and that his CO had just called him by his first name. He started walking again, heading towards his original destination and the smile never left his face.
Sheppard rounded the corner to the corridor his quarters opened off of and stopped short when he saw something lying in front of the door. He approached slowly, his sense of caution finely honed by a little over six years in another galaxy, fighting enemies on all sides. As he got closer, he realized it was a flower, one he didn't recognize. Unsurprising, as he wasn't well versed in the flora of the worlds they visited or even, truth be told, that of Earth. He could just about tell the difference between a rose and a daisy, but that was it. He stopped when he reached it and debated on whether to pick it up or not. For all he knew, its scent was poisonous or it had thorns that could kill him. One never knew around here, it could be anything. He pulled his bandana out of the right pocket of his BDUs and wound it around his right hand. Leaning down, he carefully picked the single flower up. Hard as he tried, he still caught a whiff of its perfume as he lifted it and closed his eyes. Not only was it a beautiful flower, but it smelled heavenly and it hadn't knocked him out. Yet.
He thought about going to ask one of the botanists what it was, but then had a better idea. He'd ask Teyla. He quelled the traitorous thought that maybe she'd left it for him. Since Kanaan had left, a departure that seemed to have little to no impact on her or Torren, he thought he'd noticed a shift in their relationship. He'd loved her since the moment he'd placed the lost necklace around her neck in the ruins, but had never acted on it. At first because he didn't recognize the feelings for what they were. He'd thought he'd been in love with Nancy when they'd married but look how that'd turned out. What he felt for Teyla was so much stronger than anything he'd ever felt for anyone that it scared him. She'd become an ally, was the leader of her people and a member of his team. Someone he had come to depend on when they were off world. He hadn't wanted to jeopardize that by telling her how he felt, especially not knowing how she felt about him. Plus, he wasn't good at talking about his feelings. Nancy would testify to that.
Then there were all the military regulations, none of which really applied to Teyla but were deeply ingrained in him. You didn't have romantic relationships with those under your command. So, he'd settled for friendship and they'd fallen into a routine. Then he'd found out she was pregnant and it had felt like his whole world had gone gray and lifeless. Pregnant with another man's child, in love with another man. He was too late. He hadn't reacted well, but had covered the why, putting it down to concern that she was placing her unborn child in harm's way, grounding her as soon as he found out. Eventually, he'd locked it away with so many other things and moved on with his life. He hadn't had a real lover in years, contrary to what McKay may think with all his Kirk comments. There'd been Chaya, but that had never had a chance. Same with Teer. She was destined to ascend and he'd wanted no part of that. They'd been together exactly once when his team had arrived to rescue him. She'd been gone shortly after that. The Lord Protector's daughter Mara had been beautiful but had only wanted to use him to get the throne. Then there was Larrin, commander of the group of people who called themselves Travelers. She'd been attractive but deceitful. He'd never be able to trust her while he trusted Teyla with his life.
He sighed. Maybe he was just destined to be alone for the rest of his life. A thought that made him immeasurably sad. He was a very private person but that didn't mean he didn't get lonely. He'd like to have someone in his life, someone he could love and who would love him back, with no conditions. He wouldn't mind having a family and Torren was important to him. Without realizing it, he'd been moving and now found himself in front of Teyla's door. He shrugged and triggered the door chime to let her know someone was requesting entrance.
Teyla opened the door and was surprised, but happy, to find John standing there, her heartbeat picking up its pace. She'd tried to ignore her feelings for him over the years, even going so far as to try a relationship with someone she cared about and who cared for her. She would never regret her time with Kanaan as it gave her Torren, the most important thing in her world. Still, she had quietly longed for more. Recently, it had seemed like John had been giving her signals that he had those kind of feelings for her and she'd been hopeful he would finally act on them. Perhaps this was it. She smiled at him until he held up the flower he carried and her world burnt to ashes. She knew he was speaking but couldn't hear over the roar in her ears. How dare he? What had she done to deserve this except give him her loyalty, her trust, her friendship and yes, her love? She lifted her eyes to his and without conscious thought, her hand flew out with every ounce of strength she had in her as she slapped his face. It was hard enough that his head snapped to the left and his body actually spun to follow it. She quickly stepped back into her room and closed the door between them.
She leaned up against it and let tears fall for the first time in a long time. Teyla Emmagen did not cry. Still, the tears on her face would say otherwise. She looked around the room as if she'd never seen it before. As if in a trance, she pulled out a satchel and began to pack her things. She could not stay here, she couldn't bear it. She would only take those items that were Athosian. She would not take any of the Earth things with her, especially those given to her by John. She sighed when she realized she'd somehow accumulated more than would fit in a single bag. She would have to get something else to put them in or ask that they be sent on to New Athos after her departure. She stood in the middle of the room, not sure what to do next, feeling more bereft than she'd ever felt before.
Outside in the corridor, John stared at the closed door with his mouth open and his hand held to his burning cheek. She'd hit him hard enough to pull the muscles in his neck and he had no idea why. That woman sure packed a punch. He pulled the hand away from his cheek and went to knock on the door, determined to find out what the hell had just happened, when he heard footsteps and froze. Footsteps he recognized as belonging to Ronon. Great. The big man turned the corner and found his friend standing in front of Teyla's door with his hand lifted as if to knock. His first thought was that it was about time. His personal opinion was that the two of them were made for each other and he had voiced his thoughts about that on more than one occasion. When Sheppard didn't knock and didn't turn, Ronon started to laugh, figuring his friend was either frozen with indecision or just plain old fear of asking out the girl you liked.
When Sheppard finally turned, he stopped laughing when he saw the angry red mark on the man's cheek. Was that a hand print? He started to ask what had happened when he saw what Sheppard carried. All laughter fled and his eyes narrowed to glittering slits as his hand strayed towards his blaster. "You offered her a Kansaga Blossom? How could you do that to her?" His voice was low and angry.
Sheppard looked down at the flower still held unnoticed in his hand. "A Kansaga what?"
Ronon's anger abated a little and he pointed at the flower. "A Kansaga Blossom. When offered to a woman, it says that the bearer has no respect for her and considers her worse than a chatatra."
Ronon struggled to remember the Earth term. He'd heard it used in an Earth movie they'd watched a few months ago and had figured out what it meant by the actions of the female character. Finally it came to mind. "A whore? A woman who would sell her body to anyone, for anything."
Every bit of blood drained out of Sheppard's face, making the angry red mark stand out even more. "I didn't."
"You didn't what?"
"I didn't offer it to her! Someone left it for me and I brought it here to ask her what kind of flower it was. I've never seen it before." He didn't volunteer the fact that he'd hoped that maybe Teyla had been the one to leave it. He had a sudden thought. "What does it mean if it's offered to a man?"
"No idea, never heard of a Kansaga Blossom being given to a man."
"Huh." Sheppard turned back to the door. "Why would she believe I would ever think that of her?"
"It's one of the worst things a man can 'say' to a woman here in the Pegasus. She wouldn't have thought, she would've reacted." He indicated Sheppard's face.
"Yeah, she reacted all right." He wasn't sure if he wasn't a bit angry with her for believing he would ever do anything so cruel to her. "I doubt she'll listen to me right now. Think you can get her to listen to reason? To explain it wasn't meant for her?"
"I can try. Stand behind me, I doubt she'll let either of us in if she knows you're here."
"Okay." He moved to stand behind the big Satedan, feeling a little cowardly as he did so.
Ronon reached out and hit the chime, adding his voice. "Teyla?"
Inside, she immediately wiped away the evidence of her tears. She wouldn't, couldn't tell him why she was leaving. She scrambled for a reason that would sound plausible and the only one she could come up with was that she missed Kanaan, as did Torren, and that they'd decided it was best to live together on New Athos to try and make it work as a family. Somewhat more composed, she moved to the door and waved her hand over the box to open it. Ronon stared at her, noting the signs that she'd been crying, and she looked away, moving back into the room, folding and refolding her things in order to have something to do with her hands. Anything to keep her turned away from him so he wouldn't see the pain on her face. "What are you doing?" He asked.
"I am going to New Athos. It is the only way Kanaan, Torren and I can truly be a family. He is not comfortable here."
John's heart stopped for a second, then started beating frantically. She couldn't leave, he wouldn't let her. He stepped out from behind Ronon. "Teyla, please don't leave, let me explain."
She ignored him as if he wasn't in the room. "I was hoping you could help me move some of my things later?" She asked Ronon.
"Teyla?" She still ignored him and he wasn't sure what to do.
Ronon stepped forward a little. "Teyla, listen to him."
"Listen to who?" She would not acknowledge the man who had just insulted her in the worst way possible, the man who had broken her heart. All the love she had had for him had been burned away, leaving nothing but ashes. To her, he no longer existed.
"Teyla." Ronon said gently. "It's easy to forget that they aren't from here. That they don't know the old stories or all our traditions." She blinked and a tear slid down her check unbidden, despite her best efforts.
John couldn't stand it and stepped forward to gently cup her cheek and wipe the errant tear away. "Don't." He whispered. "Don't you ever cry over me. I'm not worth it and you're better than that. Teyla, you have to know that I think you are the most loyal, trustworthy and admirable person I've ever met. Everything Ronon told me that flower means, you're the antithesis of. I'm sorry you misunderstood and I'm sorry that I never told you any of those things so that you wouldn't have believed what you did. I had no idea what that flower was and I wasn't offering it to you anyway. Someone left it for me in front of my quarters and I…" He stopped and swallowed hard. She searched his eyes, not saying anything but not drawing away and he took his chance. "I hoped that maybe it had been you." He finished quietly.
"Yeah, it's a custom on Earth to anonymously leave a small token, such a flower, for someone you…like. It means that you have a secret admirer, someone who has an…affection for you and is interested in pursuing a relationship but is trying to figure out how you feel about them." He blushed furiously at how much he'd just revealed, but he needed her to understand he hadn't meant to insult her and didn't want her to leave, especially not to go back to Kanaan. Kanaan. Suddenly he realized what she'd said. She wanted to try to have a family with Kanaan. He stepped back and his voice was devoid of any emotion. "If you're leaving to go to Kanaan, no one will stand in your way and we'll wish you every happiness. Just don't leave if it's only because of a misunderstanding."
"You hoped I had left it?" She ignored everything he said about the father of her child. Her heart was rising from the ashes and she felt hope again. He nodded. "And if I had?"
"I would've been the happiest man in two Galaxies." He said so softly she could barely hear him. She could tell how much it cost him to say it, how uncomfortable he was with talking about his feelings. But he had said it, trying to make her understand, trying to make her want to stay.
She moved closer to him and raised her hand to his right check, gently stroking the mark she had put there. "I am sorry I hit you. When I saw that flower in your hand, everything I had been hoping for seemed like a foolish dream."
He reached a hand up and covered hers. "What dreams were you hoping for?" His heart was in his eyes and Teyla had never thought she would see such honesty there.
"You." She breathed out.
He sighed and slowly leaned down, waiting for her to draw back. Instead, she slid her hand behind his neck and pulled him closer. He paused before their lips met, giving her one last chance to pull away and she urged him closer still. He gave in and closed the last of the distance, touching his lips gently to hers, ready to pull back if she indicated she was uncomfortable in any way. When her lips opened to his, he sighed again and the final tension left his body. Deepening the kiss, neither of them noticed when Ronon slipped out of the room. The door closed behind him and he rubbed his hands together with glee. He needed to find McKay and cash in on their wager. The genius had bet his complete supply of chocolate that Sheppard and Teyla would never act on their feelings and get together. Even the obtuse scientist had seen what was right before their eyes but was positive nothing would come of it. Ronon had bet they would. He'd won and he was going to collect. Now. He sprinted towards McKay's lab.
Inside Teyla's quarters, the flower lay on the floor, forgotten.