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".