Rating: PG-13 for language
Author’s notes: Obliquely references a discussion from the episode Sunday that's always bothered me.
Summary: When a mission goes wrong, John and Teyla are given the perfect opportunity to clear the air between them.
John had known that their mission would go to hell in a hand basket the minute they set foot on P7M-859. Sure, the place looked innocuous enough, but five years in the Pegasus galaxy had taught John to be wary of planets that looked like British Columbia. For some reason, those were the planets that their team tended to get in trouble on.
They'd come to investigate the existence of what one of their trading partners had been convinced was an Ancient structure just a few clicks south of the Stargate, and John had to admit that it had looked promising at first. Rodney had been able to pick up energy readings that were coming from the right direction right away, and the first two hours had been spent trudging through the perfectly boring forest, trusting Rodney's PDA to lead them right.
It should have been pleasant, walking with his team through a forest decked out in vibrant autumn colors, nothing but the sounds of nature – a babbling brook there, a bird calling out in warning there, the only constant the rustle of dry leaves and pine needles under their feet – keeping them company, but John couldn't shake off his unease. He looked to both Ronon and Teyla, watching for their reactions, but neither of them appeared to be tense. Alert and ready for trouble, yes; expecting it, no. Still, John's spidey sense was tingling, even if he couldn't pinpoint a source for it.
He was walking next to Teyla, bringing up the rear a bit behind Rodney and Ronon, and he turned to her with his misgivings. “Sense anything out of the ordinary?” he asked under his breath.
She looked up at him curiously. “No. It seems this place is long abandoned.”
“No flesh-eating plants, sentient ooze, anything like that?” He prodded, half joking, half serious.
“No.” She smiled impishly at him. “But I do believe I saw a letnark a while back.”
“And that would be?”
“A small furry creature not unlike an earth squirrel.”
She looked closer at him. “You're truly concerned?”
John snorted. “It's not like you sensing Wraith. My ears are itching, that's all. It usually means trouble.”
Teyla frowned at him. “The instincts of an experienced traveler should not be taken so lightly, John.”
John felt relieved knowing that even if Teyla didn't share his misgivings, she at least took his seriously.
“It might be nothing,” he said, hedging.
“And it might not,” Teyla said.
John couldn't really disagree with that. “Well, let's stay sharp either way, okay?”
They'd walked another click before the mission officially went pear-shaped. Ronon was the first to notice, seven years of Running having honed his instincts to perfection. His gun went up, and John and Teyla swiftly followed his lead. Even McKay caught on after an extra second and drew his Beretta.
“What's going on?” McKay hissed.
“Something moved,” Ronon said.
And then it was over them, a black cloud of thousands of rat-sized, winged creatures, aggressive and armed with sharp talons and sharper teeth.
“Fall back to the gate!” John screamed, firing his P-90 into the creatures and hearing the responding fire from the others' weapons. It was no use fighting these gremlins – for every downed creature, there was another ten to take its place. Their only hope was to outrun them. Which, considering the speed of the attack, didn't look like a likely outcome, but John had always been an optimist.
“This way!” shouted Ronon, and took off into the woods, Rodney stumbling behind him. John and Teyla followed after, the gremlins closing in on them. One sank its teeth into John's leg, another ripped into his arm with its talons, and John grabbed its black and furry body and hurled it away from him as he ran. It felt like it had taken a big chunk of his flesh with it. He saw that Teyla was in a similar predicament, and he could only hope that Rodney and Ronon had managed to escape more unscathed.
He could see why Ronon had chosen to go in this direction – straight ahead of them was a river, and Ronon had probably hoped to confuse the gremlins by going into the water. And sure enough, he could see Rodney and Ronon wading in, Ronon diving, Rodney simply submerging himself.
Suddenly, Teyla screamed, and when he turned around, to his horror he saw her tumble to the ground with several gremlins attached to her legs. Quickly, he doubled back and grabbed her by her tac-vest, hoisting her back on her feet, and with her arm thrown around his neck, they managed to hobble their way the last few yards down to the water and – hopefully – safety.
The water was cold, but not as cold as John had feared, so he still counted it as a win. John still had two gremlins attached to his legs, and he fervently hoped the little bastards weren't able to breathe underwater for both his and Teyla's sake.
After about five minute in the water, swimming towards the middle of the river the whole time, it felt like they were letting go, but that could also be his legs going numb. He looked over his shoulder, but he couldn't see any more gremlins. It was like they'd disappeared as suddenly as they first turned up. And luck was on their side in more ways than one, because the river's current was actually taking them north, back towards the gate and Atlantis. Ronon was starting to swim back towards land, and John decided to follow his lead. The current was quite strong, and swimming with it like this they'd reach the shore almost a click north of were the creatures attacked them.
It was with a sigh of relief that John finally staggered back onto dry land, Teyla once again plastered to his side.
“What the fuck was that?!” John could hear his voice breaking, but seriously, what the fuck?
“Don't know what they're called,” Ronon said, “but I've seen them before. They're protecting their nest.”
Rodney groaned. “Whatever they are, there's no way I'm going back there. Zelenka can check out the outpost.”
“Rodney,” Teyla snapped, a sure-fire sign that she was seriously rattled, “no one is going back there.”
“What she said.”
Carefully, John and Teyla made their way up on the rocky outcrop they'd landed on. John helped Teyla lower herself to a sitting position, and then he did away with his pack, jacket and uniform shirt. Teyla was similarly occupied, and Ronon had already stripped down to his pants.
“McKay, get out of those wet clothes before you get hypothermia, Ronon, go get us some firewood,” he ordered, not that he thought Ronon needed to be told. Rodney grimaced, but started to peel off his clothes, grumbling all the while, and Ronon simply nodded and loped off into the forest.
“How's your leg?” he asked Teyla.
She grimaced. “I fear it might be broken.”
He knelt down in front of her. “Well, let's take a look.” He untied her boot and gently pulled it off her foot, and her sock – pink, which surprised him a little- soon followed.
“You'll have to cut it,” Teyla said, and handed him a knife, pulled from god-knows-where.
John raised an eyebrow at her. “Have you been taking lessons from Ronon?”
Teyla quirked a smile at him. “Ronon's not the only one who knows the importance of a sharp knife.”
“Guess not.” He took the knife from her – it appeared to be Athosian in making and looked wicked sharp – and used it to cut her pants leg open up past the knee.
“Jesus.” Her leg was bruised and scratched and covered with puncture wounds, and under the comparatively superficial damage and the swelling, he could see that it was well and truly broken.
“Wow,” Rodney said from behind John's shoulder. “That – that doesn't look good.”
“Rodney,” John said evenly, “why don't you make yourself useful by rigging up something to dry our clothes on, and let me and Teyla deal with this. “
John could practically feel Rodney's glare burning a hole in his neck, but he didn't complain. It didn't take a genius to see that dry clothes was a priority. Nightfall was still many hours away, but the autumn air was cool even in this mid-day sunshine.
“Right,” John said. “Let's start with cleaning these wounds. Who knows what kind of crap those guys had in their saliva.”
He was glad that they'd made hermetically sealed medical supplies standard equipment for off-world missions like this one. This way, between them, they had enough clean bandages and antiseptics to deal with most SNAFUs the galaxy threw at them, even if all bets were off for when things really went FUBAR.
Some of the bites and gouges on Teyla's leg were deep enough to worry John, but he couldn't do more than clean them as well as he could and bandage them so to avoid any further contamination. It had to hurt like bitch, but Teyla didn't so much as twitch.
He started to remove her other boot, and then he remembered to ask if the gremlins had gotten her anywhere else.
“No. I believe they were coordinating their attack.”
“Doing as much damage as possible to a limited field, gotcha.” It explained why they'd all seemed to focus on John's ankles and shoulders as well. It was probably the most efficient strategy for such a diminutive species.
He took off her sock and cut up her other pants leg as well. This leg was just as bitten and scratched as the other, but at least it wasn't swollen and twisted. He finished cleaning and wrapping it just as Ronon reappeared with the firewood, Rodney in tow.
“What's the plan?” Ronon asked. He dropped to his knees and started to build a fire.
John frowned. “Well, Teyla's leg is broken -”
“And John's shoulder is wounded, as is his legs” Teyla cut in smoothly, and John started. He'd been so focused on getting away from the gremlins that he hadn't even noticed how much pain he was in. Adrenalin was a wonderful thing.
“I think,” John said, “that it would be best if you and Rodney headed back to gate on your own. We don't need any more lectures from Marie about proper medical procedure, and Teyla and I would just slow you down. We should be fine while you two get help.”
“Should be fine?” Rodney said unhappily.
“Yeah,” John said, “we should.”
“Can we at least dry our clothes first? I don't want to survive being attacked by flying monkeys only to die of pneumonia.”
John had to bite back a smile at that. “That's fine.”
Ronon's fire was soon blazing, and since he and Rodney had built a nice little drying rack from the tree-branches they'd brought back with them, drying Rodney and Ronon's clothes to a passable state didn't take long. While they waited, they ate the rations they'd brought with them, and Teyla tended to John's wounds. His legs turned out to be in better shape than Teyla's, even discounting the fracture, but the bite on his shoulder had Teyla worried. She'd made him take his t-shirt off, and the difference between his cold chest and the heat coming from the wound didn't feel all that promising to John either. John wasn't all that concerned though. Ronon and Rodney had about a two hour walk back to the gate, and on the way back they'd be able to take a jumper. In that time, it was unlikely that he or Teyla would keel over. Unless they were attacked again, but John was very pointedly not thinking about that. Ronon had said that the gremlins were protecting their nest anyway, and this was clearly out of the danger zone.
Their radios had survived the swim, and after Rodney agreed to check in when they reached the gate, and Teyla and John at any sign of trouble, Ronon and Rodney were off, and John and Teyla were alone together.
It was a little awkward, John had to admit. He knew he felt more for her than just friendship, and ever since she and Kanaan had parted ways, he'd had to fight himself not to do anything stupid around her, like telling her how he felt. What they had together was pretty damn amazing the way it was, and John didn't want to ruin it, the way he'd ruined every other relationship he'd ever been in.
He didn't even know if Teyla shared his feelings. There had been a hint of something between them in the past, but that was before Kanaan and Torren. John had been careful to not notice any interest from Teyla's direction ever since she dropped that bombshell on him.
“How's the leg?” he asked.
“Painful, but I'll live.”
“Yeah.” John scratched his head awkwardly. “So...”
He could see Teyla smiling tenderly at him from the corner of his eye, and it was doing funny things to his stomach.
He almost jumped out of his skin when he felt her hand touch his uninjured arm. “There was something I did want to speak with you about,” she said.
John stared at her. Could she mean?
She met his gaze squarely, but to his surprise, he realized that she was nervous. Teyla was good at hiding any sign of insecurity, but he could see it in the uncertain twist of her mouth, the look in her eyes.
“This is not,” she began, only to clear her throat and start over again. “There are rules, for how courtship should go,” she said. “Traditionally, I am not supposed to take the first step.”
John could feel his mouth falling open. “Seriously? That doesn't make any sense.” It really didn't. Teyla was the leader of her people – wasn't she supposed to take charge?
Teyla smiled ruefully at him. “It doesn't,” she said. “Still, when we first met, I did not know your ways, and though I shared your interest -” and wasn't that one word for it, John thought, remembering when he'd practically attacked Teyla with his “interest” during that time he was mutating into a bug - “I did not act on it for that reason.”
“And then?” John prodded.
“And then I met Kanaan, and he shared my customs. I did not have to take the first step.”
“But you're not with him now,” John said.
“No,” Teyla said. “He was not who I truly wanted. We both knew that. When he moved out, I decided I was done waiting.”
“Good call,” John said. He was feeling a little dazed. All this time, he'd wanted Teyla, rationalizing that if she had any real interest in him as something other than a friend or team-mate, she would tell him, and now he learned that she'd been working under the same delusion. He was just happy that in the end, she'd proved to be a lot more courageous than he was.
“Just for the record,” he said, “we're both idiots.”
And then he did what a braver man would have done years ago, and leaned in and kissed her.
From the transcript to s03e17 “Sunday”:
ATLANTIS. Teyla Emmagan and a young female scientist, Doctor Hewston, are strolling through the city. They are wearing sweatpants and tops and both have a small backpack.
TEYLA: I could never just say that to him!
HEWSTON: Why not? You like him, don’t you?
TEYLA: That is not the point.
HEWSTON: I think that’s exactly the point, actually.
TEYLA: The ways of my people are different. I would never ...
HEWSTON (interrupting): He’s not gonna make the first move.
TEYLA: We shall see.