But when she sees him sitting there on the balcony, eyes staring deep into the pale haze of the morning, black turtleneck riding up to expose a small sliver of smooth, rounded belly, she feels a sudden stab of jealously.
Why is he granted this when she is not?
Even if this gift is born of great tragedy, it pains her to think that he cannot seem to see the wonder in it.
That, she tells herself is the origin of this great weight she feels settling in her gut.
"Smooth movements, Colonel," Teyla reminds, gently. He is still weak, the stitches still tender welts across his belly, but he is strong enough to practice the slow simple postures Dr. McKay once referred to as ‘phallic stick yoga for the aspiring warrior.'
"This is smooth. And if you even think of telling me I haven't been practicing . . ."
Teyla smiles. It is the smile she saves for times when he behaves like a young boy and she feels inclined to indulge him like one. "No, I agree that you had a more important matter to which you needed to attend."
John stares down at his feet. She can tell he's surprised that he can once again see them.
Teyla sets her sticks aside, stepping up to him, cradling his head in her hands and bringing their foreheads together. John is not one of her people, and he considers his role to protect her, not the other way around, but he is family and in need of comfort.
"I just . . . I couldn't let him . . ."
"I know," she says. She has heard stories of lovers who would step beyond the grave to bring back those they loved, but the only time she has seen such devotion was in her father's eyes, that last second before the beam swept him up.
His hair is silky, but still thick and unwieldy in her hands as they sink down to the floor of the training room, him sobbing quietly against her shoulder.
"I thought I'd get him back . . . I thought . . ."
People wait lifetimes for loves like the one he had. It is because he knows how lucky he was to find it once that he cannot wait to know whether or not he will have it again. The worst of long waits like this is not time, but uncertainty.
"Patience, John. You have brought a life into this world. Only good can come of that," Teyla offers. Anything else would be a promise she could not keep, and Teyla always keeps her promises as dearly as she keeps her bonds.
They sit until the patch of sunlight shining down from the stained-glass windows has shifted and they are no longer graced by its warmth.
Rodney at three is exactly how Teyla would have imagined him. He is full of energy and curiosity and a petulant sort of impatience that would lead to tantrums if Teyla were to allow them. She doesn't.
John is prone to indulge Rodney's fits and cave in to his demands. But, she reminds herself, there was never a time in which John would not give Rodney whatever it was he desired. And the wide blue eyes and the defiantly-canted chin are much harder to resist on the young round face beneath golden curls.
"But I want to go play with Radek!" Rodney demands. His favorite place is still the lab, where Radek allows him all of the small practical devices that the Ancestors used for entertainment or grooming or art, or other everday things.
"You will practice with me first and then we will go to the mess and have pudding and carrot root, and then, if you are good, we will visit with Dr. Zelenka."
Rodney crosses his arms across his chest, an action that would make John fold within seconds, lost in nostalgia. " I don't wanna." As transparent as Rodney's emotions always were, they are even more so now. He does not dislike the smooth calming movements of the kattas, the positions as much to calm his restless energy as to be written into the body of a future warrior. Rodney once told her that it was never that he wasn't strong, for he had heavy muscles and the most delicate motor control when Teyla knew him, but that he never learned his body, when all anyone ever appreciated was his mind.
No, what bothers Rodney now is worry. His father is away off planet and he is uncomfortable, unhappy, searching for ways to act his futile anger out. Even as a grown man, Rodney was never very good at accepting his own frustration.
"We shall perform the series of the first positions now, Rodney. The longer you delay, the longer we shall wait."
He storms off to a corner of the training room. "You're mean."
"I am not. You are being childish." Considering all the times she has thought this, it's a relief to say it out loud now.
And then he turns and is rushing toward her, face filled with tears, small fists flying. "I hate you! I want my daddy! I hate you!" he screeches. He is tired, for he will not sleep without John by his side.
Teyla takes gentle hold of his wrists, stilling his flailing fists. "Your father is not here and he will not return for several days. No number of tantrums with change this."
He cries himself into exhaustion, allowing Teyla to scoop him up and rock him against her breast, before falling into exhausted sleep in her lap, her fingers stroking through his baby-soft hair.
There is nothing that she would not do for him. And so, she thinks she understands why John did what he did. He had no choice.
When Rodney wakes, he sniffles up at her, still grabbing at her when she tries to stand.
"Now, we will practice," Teyla says.
But Rodney still looks hesitant. "Okay," he agrees. "But I wanna sleep in your room tonight."
Teyla bends down and touches her forehead to his. "Of course you may."
He rushes out the second the briefing has finished, ready to retreat to some deep pocket of the city, which will indulge him, allowing no one to find him.
Teyla does not let him get that far. "Colonel!"
He does not turn, but keeps on walking.
She jogs to catch up to him, yanking at his arm before he can step into the transporter. "Leave me alone, Teyla."
He tries to wrench his arm from her grasp, but she clings tight, forcing him to haul her into the transporter with him.
"This is irresponsible," she reprimands, voice low and harsh.
"I'm sorry, Teyla, I don't remember asking for your opinion."
She thinks about what Rodney would have said to that. ‘Too bad,' or ‘Why should I wait for you to get around to asking,' or ‘Fuck you, John.' Instead, Teyla says, "I would be negligent in my responsibilities if I did not give it."
"My responsibilities to Rodney."
"Teyla, I appreciate all you've done, really, I do, but I'm the one who did this. I'm his . . ." He cannot even say it.
"And yet you do not take those responsibilities seriously."
"What? Teyla, I'm doing this for him! I'm protecting him! We need more gene-carriers out in the field. The Wraith are at our doorstep! I can't afford to be a stay-at-home mom!"
"The responsibilities of a parent are more than just to protect and to love."
"He has you, Teyla. He has Radek and Elizabeth and a whole fucking city full of people wrapped around his stubborn little finger. He'll be fine."
"When, you made this decision, John, did you even understand what being a parent is?" Or maybe he just doesn't want to, because he didn't do this because he wanted a child.
John looks down, all wild hair and embarrassed shame, in so many ways still a child himself. "I have to do this, Teyla."
He doesn't, but she knows that if he still thinks himself Rodney's lover or friend and not his father, there is nothing she can do to change that. She hurts for him, and yet part of her cannot pardon this.
"You will be on Atlantis four days every week. You will spend that time with Rodney. While you are not here, he will stay with me. I will no longer go on missions with you unless it is for already established negotiation on worlds that will not trade without the two of us. You will not put yourself in unnecessary danger. And when you are here you will act as a responsible adult, delivering responsible discipline and attending to the needs of a child."
"Teyla . . ." She thinks he might dare to contradict her, that he might say that he needs her on his team, that he's not doing the very same thing he once drunkenly admitted his own father did to him, but instead he just sighs, nodding. "Okay."
She would that he would tell her ‘thanks,' but knows better than to expect it.
In order to distract Rodney from John's absence, she has decided to take him with her to the mainland. There are other children there, and though Rodney shows very little patience for them, she believes it is best that he learn to interact. John rarely takes him out here, preferring to give in and let him play in the lab with Dr. Zelenka.
Rodney clutches at Teyla's skirt, trying to hide behind her as Reka, the youngest of Ashar's four children (though still older than Rodney), comes running up, mud already smeared across a chubby cheek and clumped in soft blonde hair.
"Please, go play. I must speak with Jinto's father," she turns, trying to free herself from the small hands clutching her skirt.
"I'll stay with you," Rodney protests.
"You will enjoy yourself. I promise. Reka's mother has made the Sep'a cookies that you like so much. I can smell them from here."
Rodney's eyes light up, but he still does not release her.
Luckily, with three older brothers, Reka has never been so shy. She jumps forward, grabbing Rodney with a muddy hand and dragging toward her family's tent. "C'mon, Roddy, Mama made cookies and Sethan and Tilel are building a fort on the churanga path."
"Get your disease-infested hand off me!" Rodney complains. Sometimes, she wonders about his large vocabulary. John takes it as a sign that some part of him remembers, but Carson explained that a child of Rodney's intelligence is bound to pick up on things when constantly exposed to well-educated adults in a workplace setting.
Teyla smiles after him as he continues to struggle against Reka. Despite all of the training she gives him, Teyla knows that he will never poses Reka's natural grace.
Halling walks up beside her, watching the children sneak out of Ashar's tent and run off into the woods. "Oh, how they grow," he says sadly. "Sometimes I wish Jinto would stay a child forever."
Teyla smiles sadly. A part of her already knows Rodney's future, though she works hard to prevent it – too much stress, not enough exercise, a defensive nature, a two-bladed wit, a loneliness that she sensed in him from the first day they met. Her people know little of biology, of the difference between what is determined by these ‘genes' that allow John to make Atlantis sing the way he does and what is determined by love and teaching and the world before the child's eyes. But Teyla does not doubt that she would have been a different person if she had been born on Earth, and so Rodney must be different born here.
Unlike John, Teyla hopes that she will never have to see the Rodney that died again. Like the parent John was never meant to be, for him, she wishes only the best.
Teyla's senses have always been sharp, but she surprises herself when she picks up the high pitched wail from afar, running down the path, heart pounding panicked in her chest. She is not surprised, but fretful when she breaks through the trees to see Rodney lying down on the path, face scrunched up and red, emitting an impossibly loud cry for his small size.
Reka is crying too. "Sorry, sorry, Teyla."
"It was not my fault," Sethan adds.
Teyla ignores them both, focusing instead on pulling Rodney's hands away from his elbow and the long bloody scratch there. It is bleeding profusely, but does not appear too deep. She will be able to take care of it here and return to the infirmary with the next shuttle.
She scoops Rodney up into her arms, letting him hug her and sniffle into the sparse material of her shirt as she strokes his back.
"It . . . it . . . hurts," Rodney moans.
"I know. But you are very brave." She places a kiss to his forehead, his skin so soft and smooth on her lips. He hugs her tighter.
"What happened?" she asks Tilel, the oldest boy.
"We were playing Wraith and he tripped and caught his elbow on a sharp log."
Teyla nods. This is a common occurrence among Athosian children. She, herself, has an old faded scar on her hip from a sharp rock she scraped against hiding from the ‘Wraith.'
"You are fine, Rodney," she soothes. "I will take you back to camp and we will put a big white bandage on you and then when we return to Atlantis, you can show Radek and Carson how heroic you were fighting the Wraith."
Rodney nods, the sobs dying down. "Mama?" he asks.
"Reka told him that a Mama is the woman that kisses you better when you are sick," Tilel informs her.
"Oh," Teyla, says, bewildered. She wonders what John will make of this. "That is one definition, I suppose."
She gives Rodney another kiss, on the cheek this time. By the time they make it back to the camp, they are both smiling.
In sleep, Rodney does not curl up around her the way she has seen him do with John. He wants to be near, but though Teyla might have taken on the role of mother, she will never be what John is, never protector, carrier, the one trusted above all others.
On cold nights, he will press his cold tiny feet up against her thighs, struggling to stay warm.
On those mornings, Teyla wakes up with a smile.
Dr. Zelenka's voice is tense and urgent over the com. "Teyla, do you think you could come to infirmary please?" Teyla hears a familiar wail in the background, feeling like a sympathetic pain in her own chest.
"Of course, Doctor," she answers, already running for the nearest transporter, Ronon trailing behind her.
"What is it?"
"Rodney has injured himself."
"Oh." Ronon seems almost disappointed. "Should I come with you?"
Teyla shakes her head. In truth, Rodney is still a bit frightened by Ronon. Fortunately, Ronon doesn't seem to particular Rodney's company either (too many ‘why's).
As the transport doors close behind her, Ronon mumbles, "Later."
Teyla practically knocks John over as they both converge on the infirmary. Neither apologizes in their rush to get inside.
Rodney is sitting on a cot, wailing at a completely flustered-looking Carson, a panicked-looking Zelenka and an amused nurse.
"Mama!" he demands, opening his arms. Teyla doesn't hesitate to embrace him.
He clings to her, whimpering.
"What happened?" John demands of the doctor.
"Oh, just a wee burn, though why you let a three-year-old near a . . ." he looks at the small, oddly-shaped cube in Zelenka's hands. "A whatever this bloody thing is."
Zelenka looks contrite. "Well, we thought was egg-timer, but with water it is also apparently egg-cooker."
John stalks up to him at this. "You let him play with an Ancient stove?!"
"Not stove, device for boiling water."
John's face is angry and red as Rodney's, though the child's is hidden buried in the curve of Teyla's neck. "It doesn't matter what exactly it is! Radek, letting him play with dangerous alien devices is just irresponsible!"
Though normally Zelenka is intimidated by John's more military displays, he steps in to his anger, the way he used to do with Rodney. "I am sorry for this incident, Colonel. I care as much about Rodney's safety as do you, but is lab, place where experiments happen. The point is to explore the unknown and sometimes that is dangerous. I thought you knew this."
John is heaving in great gasping breaths now, calming his anger. Rodney clutches Teyla tighter, though he is now staring up at his father with wide blue eyes.
"Fine. No more lab then."
Rodney lets out a wail.
"Shh . . ." Teyla soothes, before turning to John. "You cannot allow him to spend every day there and then suddenly take it away when you realize your mistake."
"Don't you tell me how to . . ."
Teyla sighs, lifting Rodney up off the table and sitting him on her lap so Carson can finish wrapping his burn. "Dr. Zelenka will be more cautious in the future. Will you not, Doctor?"
"And Rodney shall attend classes with the rest of the children on the mainland, even if he outpaces them."
John sighs, but does not disagree.
"But he will still be allowed to play with Dr. Zelenka in his free time."
"But those other morons are . . ." Rodney begins, pulling his hand away from Carson.
"What do we say about using our tongues to attack others?" Teyla reprimands, even as John is smiling.
Rodney is calmly insistent, blanket clutched to him as he walks into Teyla's room, padding barefoot across the cold tile floor to pull on her hand, wordlessly tugging her out of bed, careful of his other bandaged arm.
She knows where they are going before she gets there. John is still with exhausted sleep, curled shirtless on his side, looking so young in the moonlight. Rodney slides in beside him, dragging Teyla down on his other side. It is a tight fit, but Rodney seems contented mashed between them, dropping almost immediately into the peaceful sleep of a child.
She knows what will happen the moment she gets there. There is this strange tension in the air, a dark foreboding feeling in her stomach, like the Wraith, but quieter and yet all the more ominous for it.
"Hey, Teyla," John whispers. He's so pale, eyes glassy and fevered. She does not know why she was the one that he called here. Ronon waits outside, pacing and impatient.
"John," her voice catches, eyes immediately roaming to the way his hands are clasped to his belly, coated, slick with red. They both know that there is no way he can survive this wound. Even moving him will kill him.
"Take care of him, Teyla," John says, hands not moving, eyes flitting closed. He sighs his conscious away, but that does not stop Teyla from stepping forward, pressing her forehead to his, the prayer of the Ancestors already on her tongue, a song, high and lifting and near impossible to speak through the tears.
She pats his hair, runs her fingers through the sweet-slicked softness, as she has done to Rodney many times.
It is Rodney she thinks about as she beckons Ronon enter, as she dials the symbols – not home, but the Vaas.
They stare at her, strange luminescent eyes wide with wonder, if not surprise.
"I am willing," she says.
Rodney has stopped his loud tantrums, his uncomprehending tears, his moping depression.
Now, when they sleep, he hugs her tight, head resting gently against the swell in her belly.
Teyla wonders, if subconsciously this is what John had wanted all along.