Winter Sunlight

SGA fic: Colors Seen by Candlelight (Shrine tag)

Title: Colors Seen by Candlelight
Word Count: 1500
Characters: Teyla, Keller, Rodney
Summary: Tag for the end of 5x06, "The Shrine"; gen, friendship.

The infirmary lay still and silent, dark but for the soft glow of a few muted lamps. The warm pools of light gave Teyla a soft rush of nostalgia for the glimmer of candles in a darkened sleeping tent. She was willing to allow that there were many benefits to the bright, omnipresent light favored by the Earthers, but it did nothing for the heart.

A light still gleamed from Jennifer's office, so Teyla put her head in. The doctor slumped with chin in hand, watching something on a screen hidden from Teyla's view, though she recognized the low cadence of Rodney's voice. Bathed in the blue glow of the screen, Jennifer's youthful face seemed aged beyond its years. The dark smudges under her eyes were plainly visible.

Teyla shifted Torren's sleeping weight in his carry-sling to free her hands, and tapped softly at the door.

Jennifer jumped and muted the sound on the screen. "I'm sorry, Teyla. I didn't see you there. Can I help you?"

"You should sleep," Teyla said gently, moved by the lines of strain in the other woman's face.

Jennifer combed a hand through her hair. "I have plans for that, don't worry. Cole's on duty all day tomorrow. But I wanted to be on hand tonight, just in case."

"Is he doing well?"

Jennifer lifted a shoulder in a small shrug. "As well as can be expected, considering that we, well ... performed brain surgery on him with power tools in an immune-compromised state." She gave a small shudder, her eyes distant. "So far, he's showing no signs of infection, and I've got him on the heaviest dose of antibiotics that I think he can handle. He should sleep through the night, and Jeannie's with him. I'd still be more comfortable if I'm up in case anything goes wrong, though. Any infection involving the brain or dural membranes can get really nasty, really quick."

Teyla nodded. "He is asleep, then?"

"He was awake earlier, but he'd drifted off again the last I checked. You're welcome to sit with him for a while, if you like." Jennifer's eyes drifted down to the baby in his swaddling. "I'd really prefer if you leave Torren here, though. Children are reservoirs of germs, and I know he's been spending a lot of time in the Athosian settlement. I can hold him for you until you leave, if you like."

Teyla felt her eyebrows go up; she'd never get used to the Atlanteans' way of sorting out the natural continuum of life into discrete boxes: one for children, one for adults, one for the healthy and another for the sick. But it was their way, so she unknotted the sling and passed Torren over to Jennifer's lap. "He has just been fed, and he, like Rodney, should sleep for hours yet."

Jennifer nodded and smiled, cradling the baby with inexpert tenderness.

Teyla left them together and slipped quietly into the darkened infirmary. Rodney was the only patient tonight. On the bed next to his, Jeannie's hair spilled across the pillow in a cascade of copper and gold; she slept loose and tangled, like a child fallen asleep at the end of a hard day's play. Teyla paused to tug the edge of a sheet over her legs, and then took up a station on Rodney's other side, folding her legs, drifting into the meditative state that had been all too rare for her since Torren's birth. Sleep pulled at her, but she eased beyond its clutches into her inner landscape.

Small rustles from Rodney's direction roused her out of a light, first-level meditation. His eyelashes fluttered as he turned his head in her direction.

"Hello, Rodney," she said quietly.

He blinked slowly, and focused on her. "Oh," he said sleepily. "Hi."

"How are you feeling?"

Another slow blink, and then his brows drew together into a faint frown. "I was trepanned on the floor of a cave with a power drill," he mumbled. "How do you think I'm feeling?"

Teyla felt her own lips tug up into a small smile. "Much like your usual self, from the sound of it."

"Ha," he said weakly.

"Would you like some water?" she asked, and poured a paper cup from the pitcher on the tray by his bed, holding it for him while his clumsy fingers fumbled against hers.

"I can do it," he mumbled, impatient, angry, and she withdrew her hand once he'd managed to fold his own around the cup. Yes, she thought; a man as independent and stubborn as Rodney could not help but resent the care he'd received over the past days. Though no one who had helped him feed and clean himself had found it a burden, this would matter little in his feelings about it.

And that reminded her of the thing she'd come to say, words that she'd turned over and over in the privacy of her quarters. It was easy to plan, much harder now that she was confronted with his acerbic tongue. But she owed it to him.

She watched him feel around for the bedside table, nearly dropping the cup on the floor several times, and managed to stay her hand from trying to help. "Rodney," she said.

"Hmm?" He finally got the cup onto the table; it tipped over as soon as he pulled his hand away, spilling a few drops of water, but he didn't seem to notice, and she restrained herself from reaching out to right it.

Instead, she said, "I came to apologize."

He gave a more alert-sounding "Hmm?" and rolled his head on the pillow so that he could look at her. His eyes were sleepy, and a little unfocused from the drugs they'd given him, but she could tell he was tracking on her.

As in every diplomatic situation, she had chosen her words beforehand, a speech carefully committed to memory as she’d mused over her own actions and their consequences. "I owe you an apology, Rodney. I believe that the others do as well, but I suspect they would never offer one. And so, speaking on their behalf as well as my own, I am sorry. We are sorry."

He blinked at her in silence for a moment, and finally said, "Okay, maybe it's the drugs, and I really should be relishing this moment more than I am, but I have no idea what you're talking about."

John and Ronon, she thought, would probably think her foolish for worrying about it. To them, it was over and done, the decision made for good or ill. But though time had taught her to make peace with her own decisions, she had never learned to forget, or to stop turning them over in her mind, remaking herself in small ways, day by day.

"The decision that we made for you, to take you to the Shrine, was not something you would have chosen for yourself. In the end," she added, looking over the bandage on his head and Jeannie asleep beside him, "it did work out for the best, but no one could have known that, and had you been able to understand what we were asking, you would never have given consent. It was hard to see when you were ill, hard to see beyond what was happening to you, but I am sorry that we acted against your wishes."

Rodney looked away from her, rolling his head on the pillow, and let out his breath in a long sigh. "Well," he said, "considering that your shrine thing, with a little help from Black & Decker, halted my slide into vegetable-hood, I think I'm hardly in a position to complain about it, don't you?"

"That is true."

Rodney rolled his head back her way, looking at her from under half-lidded eyes. "Yeah, if it was up to me, I'd never have come within a thousand miles of your shrine. I'd have laughed at the very idea and then signed a do-not-resuscitate order. I'd have locked myself in my lab rather than let you drag me there kicking and screaming. But just between you, me and the wall, Teyla, and this probably is the drugs talking now -- my decisions are, um, not precisely, not entirely, well, not always right." The last few words came out in a rushed mumble. Rallying a bit, he added, "And if you tell Sheppard I said that, or, god help me, Zelenka --"

Now her smile was wider, and she felt it down to her toes. "Your secret is safe with me."

He gave her a little answering smile, the shy genuine kind, and then blinked a few more times and closed his eyes.

After a few moments, when she was sure that he was asleep, Teyla placed a hand over his, and let her fingers curl around the edge of his palm. Stubborn, arrogant and insufferable he might be, and half the time she wanted to crack him over the head with one of her bantos rods. But the alternative was much worse. "You are safe with me," she whispered. "With us. And we will never fail to let you know when you have made a wrong decision."

After a few moments more, she let his lax hand slip free of her own, and rose to find Jennifer and retrieve her son, to sleep before the dawn.

Title, slightly re-punctuated, from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's The Lady's "Yes".
Thank you! I'm glad you like my Teyla - I find her an enjoyable character to write.

I love your Teyla! I love that she's got Torren in a sling (just a few eps ago, when she was complaining about having to walk him in order to get him to sleep, I yelled at the TV "Where is your sling??"). I love that Teyla apologizes, especially after having seen Rodney's reaction to the 'reawakening.' I love that Rodney admits that sometimes he's wrong. Very sweet and I'm sure this is exactly what happened, they just had to cut it for time...
Thank you very much! Yes! to the sling! That frustrates me too, and in my head, she walks around off-duty with a baby-sling and a loose Athosian nursing shirt, and raises a sarcastic eyebrow at any Earth people who give her funny looks for it. *g* And I'm very glad that the characters rang true for you!
Interesting, and it touches on something I was thinking about tonight - the issues in the episode regarding people's beliefs on life and death. Ronon and Teyla assumed Rodney would want the gift of the Shrine because they would in his situation, but they didn't stop to think about it from his perspective.
Aww, you didn't have to delete your long comment! I liked your long comment!

In general, yes, I think it was a very thought-provoking episode. Like end-of-life situations in RL, it was a massively complicated situation -- I do feel that all three of Rodney's team members were essentially doing what is best for them, not for Rodney; out of all of them, Keller's the only one who seemed to be acting with Rodney's interests in mind. On the other hand, I think Rodney came to realize in the cave that they'd done what they did out of love for him. So, yes, complicated. It seemed to me that out of all of the teammates, Teyla was the only one who was self-reflective and empathic enough to realize the depth of Rodney's discomfort, and to want to try to smooth things over with him. (Though, Rodney being Rodney, there wasn't really a lot of smoothing to do; he's not really one to dwell on emotional stuff, either.)

My thoughts on the episode, let me show you them! *g*
Beautiful. Just beautiful. Absolutely in synch with the episode and just thoroughly lovely! The apology did need to be made, and this is exactly how it could have happened.
Thank you very much! I'm delighted that you liked it; the episode was very nearly perfect, but there's always room for a little more. *g*
Heh, I love that last paragraph,

"After a few moments, when she was sure that he was asleep, Teyla placed a hand over his, and let her fingers curl around the edge of his palm. Stubborn, arrogant and insufferable he might be, and half the time she wanted to crack him over the head with one of her bantos rods."

It was just so sweet, and I know that you're probably thinking, "uh hm, I think someone hit her heat one too many times" but really. The knowledge that despite that, despite what would be considered his negative points, they love him anyway, and accept him regardless. So sweet now I'm way into mush land!
I don't find that strange at all; that's exactly what I love about their friendship with Rodney! He's so abrasive, but they love him anyway, enough to travel to a Wraith-infested planet just to talk to him one last time. Awwww, team! And thank you very much. :)

Edited at 2008-08-26 07:18 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad it worked with the episode - it was a fine line, trying to get the balance right and keep them both in character. Rodney being drugged helps a lot. *g*
:) Awwww, what a sweet story. I do agree the team owes him an apology, but then who can blame him and it did work out for the best. Not believing in magic shrines, I'm surprised they didn't think that there might be a science solution that could help, however. Either way, this little story covers the situation well and is very sweet.
Thank you! I'm glad the story worked for you; it was one that had to be very carefully balanced so as to be fair to both characters.

I'm honestly not sure if I'd even go so far as to say that they owe it to him, but I do think they were definitely acting in their own best interests, not his. It seemed to me that Rodney in the cave did come to realize that they were acting out of love (after his initial shock, anger and hurt), but I'm not sure if the teammates realized that their actions were essentially selfish rather than being motivated by Rodney's interests. Just an altogether complicated situation ...
Oh yes! One of the things I loved about The Shrine is that Rodney comes back to himself just as acerbic and impossible as ever. I love that here - slightly melllowed by the drugs but not too much. Teyla's patient humour is perfect, and I love the sleepy, warm tone of this.

Thank you; that's pretty much exactly what I was going for with Rodney, his sharp edge blunted just slightly by drugs and sleepiness. I'm so glad it worked! :D
Awww...! Yes. This was lovely and sweet and so very Teyla. I'm so glad you let them have this conversation. It was a pleasure to read. And the title you borrowed is gorgeous!
I'm so glad it worked, and didn't read as a ... a manifesto, or something. *g* I tried very hard to be true to both characters and in keeping with the episode. I must admit that sleepy, slightly-loopy-on-painkillers Rodney was too much for me to resist! And isn't that a pretty quote? I found it poking around in Bartlett's Quotations ... something I commonly do when stuck for a title. *g*
Lovely. Teyla coming to apologize shows the respect she holds for Rodney and her own honor, and it's difficult and right, and I love how Rodney accepts it and admits his own decisions are fallible too. That situation of making a mistake which results in something good is always complicated, and I'm glad to read this resolution for it.
Thank you so much! It is a difficult situation, and there's no right answer and a certain amount of (understandable) selfishness on both sides; I wanted to address that while being fair to both characters, and I'm glad you liked it.
Lovely and thoughtful. :D I was quite impressed with the episode for not sugarcoating the fact that the team's good intentions meant something very different for Rodney. I like that Teyla recognises that here, and feels she has to square things. In a sense, I can't blame them, exactly, because they were clearly acting out of love for Rodney and grief for seeing him so incapacitated... but I can definitely see Rodney's side of it too.

/rambling. :p Really enjoyed this fic, thanks for sharing!
Thank you very much! I agree with you; I appreciated that the moral ambiguity of the characters' decision was addressed on the show. And I agree, too, that I can definitely see why they did what they did; that's what makes it so hard, that they were acting out of love, and how many people wouldn't have done what they did for one last chance?

In any case - I don't mind rambling a bit, and I'm very glad that you enjoyed the story! :D
Oh, this was just lovely. A scene so perfect I have no problem adding it right onto the episode. :)
That was really beautiful! You write Teyla so very well!!! The episode really needed some Teyla and Rodney interaction!
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it - and, yes, it was a little light on that particular character relationship. (Even "Tao" had a nice scene for them, but not here, alas!)
Wonderful and just perfect. You handle the situation well - with Teyla recognising that what they did was for them and that he wouldn't have wanted it, and with Rodney saying that sometimes he is wrong (go drugs, though he may have admitted it anyway!).

Also the bit with Torren is cute. I like that Jennifer is still be there (of course she would be!), and she is right, children do tend to be 'reservoirs of germs'.

I really like this - it's going into my re-read folder!
Thank you very much! :) Yeah, I was originally going to have her take Torren with her into Rodney's room, but got to thinking about his immune-compromised state, and I didn't think Keller would let her...