Summary: Gifts Team Sheppard Received That They Didn't Even Know they Wanted
Written for the Gifts prompt on flashfic
Author's Chapter Notes:
Author's Notes: Could be spoilers for anything. Also, this is probably AUish because I think I've referred to things from some of the later seasons after Elizabeth and Carson are gone, but in my world Elizabeth and Carson are still on Atlantis, so they're here as well.
The people of Y32-910 were friendly and welcoming. There was a delegation waiting to greet the team as they stepped through the gate. They had flowers for Teyla to wear in her hair and cool drinks for everyone. They invited the team to join them for their afternoon repast.
Rodney and Ronon were all for repasts, they were both ready to eat pretty much 24/7. Teyla took it all in stride. It was only courteous to accept their hospitality. John was a little suspicious of it all. After all, this was the Pegasus Galaxy. No one accepted the Lanteans with open arms unless they had ulterior motives. He kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, or for Rodney to find their secret-underground bunker, but nothing dropped, no bunkers were exposed. Rodney and Ronon just kept eating the delicacies set before them. Teyla smiled at him serenely and advised him to sit and enjoy himself.
So, John allowed himself to unwind a little. Maybe Pegasus was cutting them a break after all. As they were preparing for the mission Rodney had reminded them all that it was Christmas Eve (and he expected big presents). Maybe it was their turn for a little peace on earth, or Y32-910. Whatever.
Things were going really well when a gong sounded. Silence descended on the hall.
Ronon had been lounging on a pillow scarfing down little pastries, attempting to eat them all before Rodney could get any. Before the reverberation from the gong had even ended Ronon was up, his weapon was out. John was with him. His P-90, which had never been far from his person, was held at the ready. Teyla was a little slower to rise; she surveyed the room, frowning thoughtfully. Rodney just looked around bewildered, his mouth full.
"What is this?" Teyla asked the elder she was sitting next to carefully, her voice neutral.
"You are the heroes of Atlantis," the woman said as if that should explain it all. She was a wizened woman shrunken and stooped with age; she was even smaller than Teyla, if that was possible. Her face was seamed with lines, but her eyes twinkled. John really didn't want to think that those eyes would deceive them.
The room began to fill. They had thought that the entire population was enjoying the repast with them. They had been wrong.
The hall was spacious with a lot of room around the walls behind the tables where they were seated. As the hall filled, it became crowded. There was no pushing or shoving, just people filing in in an orderly fashion. Some of them smiled shyly at John and the team.
John didn't let down his guard, but he began to think that maybe they weren't going to be reviled as 'wraith bringers,' or something else as bad.
At last it seemed that everyone who was coming had arrived. The elder nodded and the gong sounded again. There was a reverent hush over the whole room as they all waited for whatever was going to happen next.
Rodney's eyes were as big as they were going to get and the food dropped from his fingers forgotten. Ronon glanced over at John, making a silent request, "What do we do?"
John shrugged, "Hell if I know."
Teyla slid a glance in their direction, "All will be well."
Rodney just blinked, "What?"
The elder held up her hand and a little girl emerged from the crowd. She was no more than three or four, her hair fell in brown curls around her face. She smiled shyly at the team as she carried a small box to the elder. The elder took the box. She kissed the girl on the top of her head, then she turned to face John and his team.
"Heroes of Atlantis," she intoned, "We wish to thank you for your sacrifice and the service that you have given for the peoples of Pegasus. I know that we are not always grateful, I know that we are not always welcoming and hospitable,"
"You can say that again," Rodney mumbled, "I got shot in the ass once."
John elbowed him, but the elder just smiled at him.
"So instead of reviling you, we wish to thank you for what you have done. Without you, many are alive who might now be dead, wives are happy who would be mourning their husbands and children, those children play in the sunshine – still with the threat of the Wraith, but also with the hope that you have given them. I wish to bestow upon you the blessing of the Ancients." She opened the box and took out a device. She held it up so everyone could see it. It looked a lot like the life signs detector, but there was a palm on the screen. It wasn't hard to tell what she wanted them to do.
The team had exchanged uneasy glances. John had read Dune when he was a kid. He recalled the gom jabbar and its test of humanity. Was this something like that? It would be just like the ancients to call something like that a gift.
John would have liked to talk about it first. But Teyla was too fast. She stepped to the Elder's side. Ancient devices needed someone with the ATA gene to activate them, but this one seemed to be the exception. It flashed with golden light when Teyla pressed her hand to the screen. It enveloped all of her for a brief eternity, searing itself into John's retinas before it faded.
The elder smiled approvingly.
John stepped to her side, "You alright?" he whispered.
She blinked up at him. She appeared a bit dazed, but otherwise unharmed. She shook her head a little, "I am well," she said.
The elder held out the screen to John. All of his instincts screamed at him that this was dangerous. But the little girl who had brought out the device still stood next to the elder. John noticed for the first time they had an uncanny resemblance to one another – they had the same brown eyes and a little dimple in their cheek when they smiled. The little girl smiled at him, and he could see her dimple.
Without thinking about it further, he placed his hand on the screen. For a moment it was like standing in the sun on one of the balconies in Atlantis. He could feel it warm and gentle on his skin. He could almost hear the breaking of the waves far below on the cities walls. Then it faded and he was standing in the feasting hall Y32-910 with his team watching him anxiously.
Rodney scowled at him. "Who do you think you are, Paul Atreides?" He stepped forward placing his hand defiantly on the screen. The light enveloped him just like it had Teyla. When it faded he swayed.
"You okay?" John steadied him with a hand on his shoulder.
Rodney blinked at him, glancing around at the hall. "Huh," was all he said.
They all turned to look at Ronon. The big guy was watching them warily like he expected them to turn into wild beasts and attack him at any moment.
"Maybe one of us shouldn't do this, Sheppard," he swallowed. "I mean one of us needs to stay uncompromised if we're going to get home."
"Ronon, we are not compromised," Teyla said gently. "I am not sure what the device does, but it did not hurt us."
"Oh, no," the Elder was quick to assure them, "The device is not to hurt. It is to give you a gift." She held out the device to Ronon, smiling at him encouragingly.
"If you're giving gifts, I'd just as soon have more of those little pastries. They taste just like ones that..." he swallowed again painfully, looking away from them. "Well, they were good."
The Elder went to him. She placed her hand on his arm. "You are a warrior, Ronon Dex, we know that. We know that you do not trust easily. Please let us give you this gift." She held the device out to him.
Ronon stared into her eyes for a second. Then he placed his hand gently on the screen.
They were all familiar with the flash of light now and knew to cover their eyes. When they took their hands down the feasting hall was gone and so were all of the people of Y32-910. The team was standing right beside the gate and there was nothing for as far as the eye could see.
They all stared in shock. Rodney pulled out his equipment and started taking readings.
"What was that?" Ronon glared down at his gun as if it had let him down somehow.
"Perhaps it is like the mist people we encountered your first year in Atlantis?" Teyla said.
"We were all sharing the same dream?" Rodney asked, rolling his eyes. "Sorry, but I'm not buying it a second time."
"So what was it?" Sheppard demanded.
"Just give me some time to take some readings and I'll tell you," Rodney snapped back.
But John had had enough. "Sorry, Rodney, this time you're going to have to just deal. We're going home. "
"Now." John went to the gate to dial himself.
"Sheppard's right," Ronon said. "That was freaky and we need to leave now."
"Freaky? Is that even a Satedan word?" Rodney snapped. He was seriously unhappy that he didn't get to do his scientist thing and prove that they hadn't just been touched by an angel or an Ancient or something worse.
"It's a good word," Ronon said. The wormhole opened. "I like it." He looked around behind them to make sure that there weren't any natives waiting with weapons raised ready to chase them through the gate. When he found there wasn't anything there, he stepped through.
"I agree," Teyla said. "It is the appropriate word for this situation." She followed Ronon through the gate.
John put his glasses on so Rodney couldn't see the laughter in his eyes. "Come on, McKay, let's get out of Planet Freaky before something else can happen."
The corner of Rodney's mouth tilted down from his absolute ferocious glare at John. "I'll tell you what's freaky. You are freaky. With your hair and your glasses. Yeah, yeah, I'm going." He waved a hand at John as he stepped by him to step to the gate. But then he turned anxiously to make sure that John was following.
"Well, are you coming?" he snapped impatiently.
John didn't even bother to hide the smirk, "Right behind you, McKay," he said. He and Rodney stepped through the gate together.
Carson ran every test he could think of and invented a few new ones. Rodney puzzled over the readings he'd managed to get while seated on the gurney in the infirmary.
"Yes, yes, yes," he snapped at the nurse who was trying to insert an IV. "Must you do that now? I'm trying to work here."
"Relax, McKay," John said from his gurney. He had his gameboy out and was poking at it in a desultory manner. "They're just trying to make sure that we don't die anytime soon from some new kind of Pegasus plague."
Rodney frowned like that possibility hadn't occurred to him. "Oh," he frowned at the nurse, extending his arm reluctantly. "Okay."
Teyla and Ronon didn't appear to be any happier about the poking and the prodding than Rodney, but at least they weren't actively interfering, so it was all good. John leaned back with a friendly smile for the nurse coming to insert his IV. The problem with being the leader was that he had to submit to the poking and prodding with good grace, or at least better grace than Rodney.
They spent Christmas day in the infirmary while Carson ran tests. The upside to that was, the infirmary got first dibbs on the pudding cups for the patients. So they had chocolate pudding cups for Christmas dinner. Once Carson released them, they went to John's quarters where they watched " The Nightmare before Christmas" and exchanged small presents, silly things like socks and ties. Jeannie had sent them all really ugly sweaters that Rodney insisted she had knitted herself. She also included a tin of home-baked cookies that they managed to devour in record time.
All in all John had known worse holidays.
"So, what you're saying is that I spent my afternoon being cooped up in the infirmary, poked and prodded to within an inch of my life, you drained me of most of bodily fluids and you found absolutely nothing wrong?" Rodney's voice rose to a screech that John was sure could be heard by dogs on Earth. He glared at the people sitting around the table for the debrief.
Elizabeth folded her hands calmly before frowning at him – exactly like a mom would frown at her kid if he was acting out, was John's thought. "Rodney, we had to be sure that your experience on Y32-910 didn't harm you in some way."
"Yeah, McKay, it's not every day we have a shared hallucination," John slid a glance sideways at him to make sure he was doing okay. Rodney didn't like it when his brain was messed with. He said there was too much chance for things getting put back wrong. Having seen Rodney in an altered state too many times, John privately agreed with him. But he knew better than to say anything to Rodney because the man didn't need any encouragement to fan the flames of his paranoia.
"Actually it is once we came to the Pegasus Galaxy," Rodney grumped. But he slumped down over his computer, his attention drawn to the next emergency.
All in all John thought that they'd gotten lucky with this one. Everyone was okay and life was as normal as it could be. He was going to make this one in the 'win' column.
That is until three days later when the team was sitting down at breakfast before a mission briefing for which Rodney was late to again. John had just about decided to go drag him out of the lab when he received a call from Carson.
"Colonel," the doctor said by way of the comm, "if your team is available, I think you should come to the infirmary."
John didn't even need to ask, he just knew. "Rodney?"
"Aye, lad. I've called Elizabeth, too. Can you be here soon?"
John shared a look with his team mates, "Yeah, we'll be right down," he answered.
He felt the familiar flutter in his gut he got every time the natives went from being too friendly to chasing them to the gate with pitchforks.
He wasn't surprised at all to see Rodney sitting on a gurney when they arrived. He scowled at his teammates as they came through the door. He gave them a dispirited wave, but he didn't say anything.
John jumped up on the gurney next to Rodney, bumping their shoulders together.
"How you doing?" John asked.
Rodney waved a hand back and forth with a soulful sigh.
"That good?" John quirked an eyebrow.
"Is this related to what happened on Y32-910?" Teyla asked as she slid onto a gurney across from the one that John and Rodney sat on.
Carson and Elizabeth entered the infirmary in time to hear Teyla's question.
"That's as good a theory as any I suppose," Carson said. He moved to Rodney while Elizabeth moved to stand next to Ronon who was leaning against the wall next to Rodney's gurney.
"Theory?" Elizabeth asked. She turned to look at Rodney. He sat with his head hanging down. His outward stillness was belied by his hands. They were folded in his lap, but they weren't still, they were constantly wrapping around and around one another.
"Can McKay talk?" Ronon asked abruptly. John agreed, he was kind of freaked out by Rodney's silence. Rodney was never silent. He was loud and boisterous, he was often unapologetically rude. He could sometimes be unexpectedly perceptive. But he was never quiet.
"That's the thing," Carson said. There was a pause until Rodney pinched him. "Ow, there was no call for that."
"Rodney can't talk?" John asked as the last piece of the puzzle fell into place for him.
They all turned to stare him. Rodney refused to meet their eyes; he just gave a little shrug.
"There's nothing physically wrong with him," Carson said. "He's perfectly fine."
Rodney glared at him. His, "except I can't talk," was perfectly obvious to all of them. He shifted like he was going to leave.
John put a hand on Rodney's shoulder. He could feel Rodney vibrating under his hand like a live wire. "Hey, buddy," he said softly, "it's going to be okay."
Rodney didn't revile him, didn't scornfully inform him all the reasons he was wrong, wrong, wrong. But he did turn to look at John with narrowed-eyed contempt.
"Carson, is there anything we can do?" Elizabeth asked.
"I'd like to run some more tests," Carson answered her. "But I don't think there's really anything I can do for him. I'd say he should see the new psychiatrist, but he can't say anything so that would be a little difficult."
"You think this is something in his mind?" Teyla leaned forward from where she was sitting, her eyes intent on Carson.
"Well, now, the mind is a funny thing. It can be responsible for any number of things." Carson shrugged ruefully. He didn't like not knowing the answers. "Now, I want all of you out here now, Rodney needs to rest."
Rodney's crossed arms and glare at Carson seemed to disagree. But they all cleared out anyway, hoping that Carson would find something to explain the strangeness of Rodney's silence.
Carson released him by lunch. John went to the infirmary to meet him. Carson instructed Rodney to come back if he experienced any further symptoms. Rodney waved a hand at him, disappearing from sight before Carson could change his mind.
"He'll be fine, lad," Carson told John in response to John's worried glance at Rodney's departing back.
Lunch was a quiet affair with no one knowing what to say in the face of Rodney's silence.
It was Ronon who broke the silence, "I kind of like it," he said at last.
Rodney glared at him, but Ronon only guffawed. "Oh, come on," Ronon appealed to Teyla and John, "you have to admit it's kind of restful."
There was a suspicious curling to Teyla's lips and John had to bite his lip to keep from grinning. At last Rodney grinned, his lips tilted down at one corner. He shrugged a little.
"Is this Rodney's gift?" Teyla asked chewing on her apple thoughtfully.
"I'd rather have more of those little pastry things," Ronon said. He shoved himself away from the table. "See you later in the gym?" he slapped Rodney on a shoulder.
Rodney turned a scowl in his direction, but then he nodded.
"Good, maybe we can get some work done if you're not talking all the time."
John was going to walk Rodney to his lab until Rodney turned to him with his arms on his hips. He made a shooing gesture with a hand.
John laughed. "Yeah, yeah, I get it. You're okay, You can take care of yourself." John started to turn away, but then he called over his shoulder, "Give me a yell if you need anything."
John could hear the eye roll with his back turned.
The first day was really weird. No one knew what to say to Rodney to not make things worse, but Rodney was an excellent communicator even without his voice: his eye roll was the most expressive John had ever seen, he could spend hours talking with just his hands, and he also had incredibly expressive eyes.
And then there was the computer. By the time dinner rolled around, John had received 342 emails from Rodney, most were no more than "I work with idiots."
He didn't know what to expect from Rodney at dinner, but rather than being more tense, Rodney looked more relaxed. He took in the people around him and paid attention to what other people were saying. And, the most amazing thing of all, he ate slower than his normal mad rush to shovel the food in and get back to the lab. He slowed down and enjoyed his food. He punctuated bits of conversation with a stab of his fork and stole John's fries when he wasn't looking.
It was almost relaxing, except John couldn't relax with Rodney so silent. What if there was an emergency and they needed Rodney? Would he be as effective if he couldn't communicate? Maybe it just hadn't occurred to Rodney because he was the most relaxed John had ever seen him, outside of those times he'd been drugged to the gills with the good drugs.
John stopped by the infirmary the next day.
"Carson, seriously, how long is this going to last?"
Carson shrugged. "To be honest, I do not know. I can find absolutely nothing wrong with him to cause it, so I can nae give you an idea of how or when it will be fixed." He looked as frustrated as John felt. He was a doctor. It was hard for him to admit that there was nothing he could do for Rodney except let the thing, whatever was causing Rodney's silence, run its course.
"Teyla thinks this is his gift," John said. He was beginning to think she was right, and he didn't like it all. How permanent was the gift?
"Aye, lad, I know. She came and talked to me, too. We'll just have to... wait and see."
And that sucked.
That night the team gathered in John's room for a movie. John put in "Back to the Future," just to be contrary. He figured if it was something psychological that was wrong with Rodney's voice, that he'd be so pissed by the movie choice that he'd get his voice back just to tell John all the reasons the movie was wrong.
It didn't work, but John was sure his ribs were bruised by the end of the movie from all the times that Rodney had jabbed him with his elbow. Rodney really didn't have to speak. John had heard it all before. And the elbow jabs were very well timed to punctuate Rodney's point.
Rodney was smiling when he left John's room at the end of the movie.
John went to the lab the next day to check on his friend. He found Rodney and Zelenka bent over an Ancient doohickey working intently. He stood in the door and watched as they handed things back and forth with never a word said between them.
He was actually kind of frightened by how well they worked together, as if they could read each other's minds. He left before either one of them saw him, he didn't want to harsh their squee or anything over their latest discovery.
Rodney found he had his voice back almost by accident.
They were at breakfast three days later. Things were pretty normal with Rodney and Ronon stealing food off each others' plates. John was eating his breakfast with one arm around his tray trying to protect his own food. When Teyla slid her tray onto the table Ronon and Rodney spied the fresh muffin she had there at the same time.
Rodney was the first to reach for it, but Teyla was too fast for him, she smacked his hand with her spoon.
"Hey," Rodney shrieked. "That hurt!"
They all turned to stare at him.
Rodney's face broke out in a grin. "Hey, I can talk again!" There was a lull in the din of the mess hall as Rodney's voice rose above it, but then it returned to its previous muted roar as they realized that everyone was alright.
John felt the tightness inside himself loosen now that Rodney was restored to himself. A silent Rodney was just creepy and wrong. Even if he hadn't seemed to mind it all that much.
Teyla graciously gave over her muffin to Rodney to celebrate the return of his voice.
"Was it a gift?" she asked.
Rodney paused to consider the matter, or to chew the muffin since he'd crammed nearly the whole thing into his mouth in order to keep Ronon from stealing it from him, it was difficult to tell.
"I had to look at everything," he said at last. "I couldn't just yell at someone to hand me something and take it without even seeing who it was that did it. I had to look around and see who was there. I had to get their attention and then get it through to them what I needed. It was a little frustrating, yeah, but it was also..." Rodney searched a moment for the right word, "kind of nice. Now if they'd just bothered to ask me for what I wanted, I would have told them some of those little pastry things." Ronon and Rodney groaned together. And life went back to normal for the team.
John couldn't forget the fact that his team was owed three more gifts.
He wasn't really all that surprised a few days later to look up and see Teyla making her way across the mess hall towards their table and something was... off. He couldn't put his finger on it until she approached the table. It was like she had aged decades overnight. She had gone from the beautiful, graceful, strong young woman they all knew to a stately, elegant woman whose face was now lined with age. Although she moved slowly, she still stood proudly, her back straight, her hair solid white. She moved slowly, deliberately.
Ronon stood to go to her. He offered his arm for her to lean on. She took it with a sigh. Pullng out a chair, he helped her to sit.
John and Rodney stared aghast, not knowing what to say, what to do.
"Teyla, should we call Carson?" John asked cautiously.
She smiled at him, "I have informed Carson of my condition, but there is nothing he can do. Old age is not a disease that can be cured, it must just be enjoyed."
"Enjoyed?" Rodney's voice rose in sheer horror. "Teyla, this, this," he waved a hand at her, "this is not something you enjoy. You fight it tooth and nail, stave it off for all your worth. You don't enjoy it."
John knew how his knees were beginning to feel in the morning when he got up, especially after a hard day of hiking across alien landscapes. He agreed completely with Rodney.
"Among the Satedans it is an honor," Ronon scowled at them. "I've seen your world and I get that you guys think it's the end of the world to grow old. But here it's different. Not many of us get to grow old, it's considered a privilege. And those who are old are honored for their wisdom."
Teyla nodded. "Among my people also. The old are no longer are required to go out and fight the Wraith simply because they can not. You body may not be as strong, but your mind is still strong, it must be if you have lived this long. You can sit with the children and play with them. You can gossip with the woman, you can encourage the men. It is good to grow old. And I intend to enjoy it," she said firmly. She looked at them each in the eye, "I did not think that I would get to enjoy this great of an age. It is a gift."
Ronon went to bring her breakfast. John and Rodney simply tried not to stare.
On the first day of her gift, Teyla retired to her quarters to nap. John was a little envious, but his work didn't stop because Teya was grounded.
On the second day, she called the team to her quarters.
They came running.
"She's old, she could be having a heart attack," Rodney huffed as he and John ran for her quarters.
"She's not having a heart attack," John said. He said it as forcefully as he could. There was no way that something like a heart attack could bring down someone as vital as Teyla.
They met Ronon at Teyla's door. It slid aside smoothly before any of them could signal their presence.
The room inside was dark and quiet.
"Teyla," John called quietly as he went inside. Ronon and Rodney followed him, and the door swished shut behind them.
The edge of the room was lined with lit candles, lighting it with a gentle glow that left most of the room in shadows. The candles filled the air with a woodsy scent that reminded John of Teyla. There were soft rugs and pillows scattered all over the floor. Teyla sat in the shadows, watching them.
"Hey, Teyla," Ronon said. "What's up?"
"Are you alright?" Rodney asked, the words tumbling out in his nervousness, "You're not having a heart attack are you? That would be bad for you to have a heart attack like this. We could call Carson, if you need us to."
"I believe I preferred it when you could not speak," Teyla mused. There was a shocked silence at her words. She laughed, "You know I do not really mean it. Sit," she swept out a hand to indicate the pillows scattered around.
Rodney sat with a disgruntled humph. "Fine," he muttered not-so under his breath.
John and Ronon sat, too, because it seemed like the thing to do.
"What's up, Teyla?" John asked.
"I wish to nap," she said.
"Okay, that's fine," John said. He had to consciously work to not use his calm-the-natives voice. He didn't know how successful he was when Rodney poked him in the ribs with an elbow.
Ronon began to rise, "We should leave you to it then."
"Ronon, sit." Teyla's voice cracked out in command.
"Teyla, is there something we can do for you?" John asked carefully.
"Yes, John there is," she said, the pleasure evident In her voice that he'd finally asked the correct question. "I wish you to nap here with me."
"Nap? What? No way! I don't have time for things like naps. Some of us can't just sit around doing nothing." Knowing at once that he'd said the wrong thing, Rodney tried to back pedal. "I mean not that there's anything wrong with you getting to do that. You've earned the right to sit around and do nothing if anyone has..." he glanced over at John beseechingly. When John just shrugged, Rodney scowled at him, "Oh, fine, I'll nap but I don't have to like it."
Teyla laughed merrily, the sound filling the room. "That is all I ask that you join me in my nap."
"Teyla, Rodney's right, we do have a lot of work to do. I..." John tried to protest.
She held up an imperious hand, "John, stop. You all work too hard. I have often thought this, but I did not say anything because I, too, felt that urge that we could not stop. But we can. We should. We will be better if we take the time to rest and refresh ourselves. Please just join me today, and I will not ask again."
Rodney flopped back onto the carpets that Teyla had scattered across the floor, he pulled a pillow over. Punching it once or twice, he stuffed it under his head. He laid there, nearly twitching in his effort to be still.
"Relax, Rodney," Teyla scolded fondly. She rose and pulled a blanket from a pile behind her. She shook out the brightly-woven blanket and laid it gently over Rodney.
"Oh," Rodney's hands smoothed over the blanket. "Thank you," he said softly.
"You are welcome," Teyla said gravely.
She handed a blanket to John and Ronon, leaving one for herself.
John didn't see that he had any other choice except to stretch out on a soft carpet, pulling a pillow over to rest his head on. He spread the blanket out. It really was as soft as it looked. It was warm, too.
John didn't really expect to sleep, but before he knew it, he floated off into a gentle darkness.
The next day they all three showed up at Teyla's door with their own pillows, Rodney had his iPod clutched in one hand.
"What?" he said to Ronon's glance. "I sleep better when I can listen to music."
Ronon smirked at him.
The door slid open and they went in to nap with Teyla.
Teyla enjoyed her days as an elder. She bullied John into flying her to the mainland whenever she wanted. She could no longer practice with the bantos rods with John, her hands were too bent with age to grasp them properly, but she would sit on the sidelines and instruct as John and Ronon sparred against each other. She was, if anything, even more merciless sitting serenely on the sidelines.
"John, if you are not going to pay attention, then you deserve it when Ronon 'whacks' you. Again."
She spent an entire day perfecting her recipe for Turtle Root Soup. Of course she made her team eat it. She had a big pot of it in the mess hall, and everyone was getting served.
"Sheppard, you have to do something," Rodney hissed.
"You know Teyla's Turtle Root soup," Ronon nodded his head in agreement, "we could send it to the Wraith and win the war."
"Guys, this is Teyla," John chided them. "Besides it's good." He took a spoonful and swallowed to show them.
"Really?" Rodney pulled his bowl to him, regarding it warily. Ronon lifted his bowl and drank the soup straight from the bowl.
Sometimes his team mates were too easy.
"You lied," Rodney spat at him after his first taste of the soup.
"No, I didn't," John gave a small nod of his head to let them know that Teyla was heading their way. "It's Teyla," he hissed at them. "Eat her soup, it makes her happy."
She paused next to Carson and poured him some of the soup. They could see Carson as he squirmed trying to keep her from giving him more. Unsuccessfully.
She was laughing as she sat down to join them. "Oh, do not eat it," she said as they manfully tried to eat the soup. "It is horrible."
"Teyla," John began.
She shook her head, "I know how bad it is, John. But it is so amusing to watch you all try to eat it."
Teyla relished every moment as an elder. John was never more relieved than when she joined them for breakfast with her hair its usual glorious caramel color, her back straight, her face unlined. She smiled at them gently as she slid into her place.
"It was good to enjoy my time as an elder, but I am ready to rejoin my life." She smacked Ronon's hand as he tried to steal her muffin without even looking at him. John was just sure they were both in for the smack down of their lives the next time they sparred with Teyla. Somehow he didn't even mind.
They met twice more that week to nap with Teyla in her quarters.
John had that bad feeling again the morning Ronon didn't show up for their early-morning jog. Ronon never missed their morning jogs unless he was in the infirmary sedated. John went straight to his room using his override to let himself into Ronon's room.
At first he thought the room was empty. Relief swept through him that maybe he had just missed Ronon somewhere along the way. Then the pile of covers shifted and a head poked out. Definitely not a Ronon-sized head however.
"Hello?" the person in the bed spoke, shifting the covers away. It was a boy, maybe 10 or so.
"Ronon?" John asked.
He regarded John with soulful brown eyes. "Do I know you?"
John didn't even know what to say. He went with, "Yeah, buddy, you do."
Ronon spent most of the morning with Carson. One of his team mates was always there with him. He was a little calmer with them there, although he said he didn't remember any of them.
"He remembers that he's from Sateda," Teyla supplied as they had a quick conference to compare notes.
"He says he's going to grow up to be a warrior," John said, "and kill the Wraith. That sounds like Ronon."
"He likes chocolate chip cookies and mac and cheese," was Rodney's offering. "What?" he glared back at John and Teyla. "We bond over food, okay?" That at least was kind of normal.
"So, what do we do with him?" Rodney demanded. "I'm not a baby sitting service, you know. I can't spend my precious time waiting for Ronon to finish his journey as a rug rat and grow up."
"Rodney," Teyla was using her patient tone, "we have all been supported by one another during our gifts. Now it is our turn to support Ronon."
Rodney opened his mouth to call her a dirty liar, but then he had to close it again. Ronon had spent the entire first day that Rodney was unable to talk growling at people who looked like they might want to take advantage of the situation. Of course Ronon had tormented him mercilessly that day, but that was different, they were team. It was expected that Ronon would take advantage of the situation. But this...
Rodney frowned, miserable. "I'm just no good with kids. I never have been."
"I don't know Rodney," John teased. "You're pretty good with the kids from M7G-677, they seemed to take a shine to you right off."
Rodney was horrified, "Don't say things like that. Zelenka will make me go in his place the next time their shield needs to be adjusted. Those kids are a nightmare, they *do* things to you." He shuddered. "No, no, putting all the kids in one place is a good idea. Then you know what planet to avoid."
"Rodney," Teyla scolded, "we can not avoid Ronon, he will be depending on us to take care of him. I think being a child will be good for him. He can forget his days spent as runner for a brief time and simply enjoy himself."
John nodded his agreement. "I'll take him down the to the gym and see if I can keep him busy for awhile, you guys see what you can come up with, okay?"
Ronon laughed as a kid the way he never had as an adult. Oh, sure, they'd all heard him guffaw and chuckle and maybe the occasional chortle, but Ronon laughed in sheer joy as he and John sparred. He wasn't as polished a fighter as the adult Ronon, but he was already showing signs of the deadly fighter that Ronon would be. Mostly it was just fun to swing the sticks and watch the boundless energy of the young Ronon.
"So, you are my friend?" Ronon asked as they slumped in the sunshine after they had sparred.
John handed him a bottle of water. "It's complicated," he hedged.
"Teyla says that I'm really an adult, but I needed a vacation so some Ancient people gave me a gift and made me a kid again for a while."
John almost choked on his water. "She did, did she?"
Ronon grinned at him, pleased at the response he'd garnered. "She did," he replied smugly, pure Ronon of any age. He watched the marines who had taken their place sparring, his head cocked to the side.
"He needs to protect his face better," he whispered to John.
John nudged him with a shoulder, "Why don't you go show them how it's done, Rocky."
Ronon pushed himself to his feet willingly enough. He turned to John, "My name is Ronon, though, not Rocky, you know that right?"
John laughed and shooed him toward the marines.
Carson said he was probably about ten, but it was hard to tell because Ronon was already tall. His limbs were a little ungainly like a colt who wasn't sure of his legs yet, but he defended himself well. By the time he'd beaten up three marines, John decided to take pity on them and take Ronon to dinner. After dinner the team retired to John's room for a movie. He'd managed to find a copy of 'Rocky,'
"I like this popcorn," Ronon declared after the closing credits. He'd pretty much hogged the whole bowl to himself, refusing to relinquish it.
"Yeah," John drawled. "You can take the rest with you if you want."
Ronon bounced around the room, "Oh, come on, it's too early to sleep. We could go swimming. The marines said there was a place you could go swimming near the South pier."
"Not this late," Teyla told him gently. "Now you must sleep. Perhaps you can go swimming tomorrow."
"I don't want to sleep," Ronon grumbled. "I'm going to become an adult again and I'll have to go back to fighting and killing and I like being a kid." He sniffled, rubbing at eyes that were suspiciously bright. He'd gone from over-excited to over-tired in exactly 3.2 seconds. Rodney stared at John aghast before he made an excuse and fled.
"Coward," John yelled after him.
"Ronon," Teyla knelt down next to Ronon where he was huddled next to John's bed. "It is true that you are a warrior as an adult, but you fight for a worthy cause. And it is not all you are. You are a good man. We are honored to be your friends."
"Rodney doesn't like me," he snuffled.
"You wouldn't let him have any popcorn, of course he didn't like you tonight. But Rodney is much like a ten-year-old child himself. He will like you tomorrow, I assure you." Teyla held out her hand to the boy. Ronon reached out and took it, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet.
"I will take him to my rooms to spend the night. He should not be alone tonight," Teyla whispered to John as she helped him straighten the room.
John nodded. "That's a good idea. I don't think he should spend the nights alone."
Teyla smiled at him serenely, "Very good, then you will take him tomorrow night?"
John cursed himself for falling so neatly into her trap, but he gave his reluctant agreement.
The next day Teyla packed them lunch and John flew them to the mainland. There was a beach that had been deemed safe for swimming and John had been wanting to try his surf board on the waves.
As they sat around finishing off the remainder of lunch, thankfully no turtle root soup in sight, Rodney brought out a box. He thrust it at Ronon.
"Is this for me?" Ronon shook the box. Something rattled inside.
"Oh, for god's sake, it's not a tinker toy." Rodney grabbed the box and opened. Inside was a gun. It looked exactly like Ronon's blaster only it was smaller, better suited to Ronon's smaller hands.
"Rodney, you can not give him a gun." Teyla made a grab for it. But Ronon was faster.
"Cool, it's a gun." He pointed it at Rodney. John tackled him and pulled the gun from his grasp.
"Never point a gun at someone," John knew he was harsh as Ronon scooted away from him.
"I wasn't going to hurt him," Ronon protested.
"We know that," Teyla rushed to reassure him.
"Would you all calm down," Rodney roared to be heard over all of them. He took the blaster from John.
"It's not actually a gun. Like I would give a gun to a kid," he sneered at them. "This is for target practice." He pointed the gun at John's chest and pulled the trigger. A small red dot appeared there. "Surprise, you're dead." The red dot glowed for a moment, then it slowly faded away.
"See, target practice," Rodney insisted. He handed the gun back to Sheppard who promptly turned it and 'shot' Rodney in the head.
Ronon grabbed it from John and was off targeting everything on the beach from the trees and the jumpers to John and Teyla and Ronon. Soon enough he grew bored with it. He came back and threw himself on the blanket, kicking sand all over them.
"Hey," Rodney brushed the sand away from his computer, "delicate equipment."
"Do you always work?" Ronon asked curiously.
"I am a very important man," Rodney asserted. "It's only my constant vigilance that keeps the city afloat. I have saved your life many times."
"But don't you ever do anything fun?" Ronon tilted his head.
"I have something fun," John said. He jumped to his feet to retrieve the surf board.
Ronon's eyes lit up with excitement.
"I have seen this in your room and often wondered about it," Teyla eyed the board skeptically. "What does it do?"
"It doesn't do anything. You take it out on the water and you ride the waves on it." He held it out for them to inspect.
"I want to try it," Ronon immediately proclaimed.
"Of course you do," Rodney muttered. He bent over his computer ignoring his teammates.
John spent the afternoon teaching Ronon and Teyla to surf. By the time they all tumbled back into the jumper for the flight home the sun was going down. Ronon and Rodney fell asleep on the way back to the city.
Teyla carried Ronon to her room while John got Rodney back to his quarters.
"Do not think I do not know what you are doing, John Sheppard," Teyla whispered to him as they parted.
"What?" John asked, his tone as innocent as he could make it.
"It is your night to take care of Ronon," she informed him. She could have taken Ronon to John's room, he wouldn't have minded. But he when he arrived after making sure that Rodney was all tucked in for the night, there was no Ronon.
The next day Ronon wanted to go camping so they all piled into the jumper once more and headed for the main land.
"Some of us have work to do," Rodney moaned.
"Oh, come on, Rodney, it'll be fun," Ronon bounced in his seat, hardly able to stay still.
They found a camp site and had everything set up in record time. Ronon wanted to hike before lunch.
Unfortunately it had rained the night before and the ground was wet. Rodney slipped on the trail, tumbling down the hill. John went sliding down after him. He found Rodney at the bottom of hill, bruised and scratched, but conscious.
"There, are you happy?" Rodney demanded. "You've broken me now. Can I go home?"
"Oh, come on, Rodney," John gave him a hand. "It's not that bad."
By the time John got him to the top of the hill he was nearly white with pain. It turned out he'd broken an ankle.
Ronon squatted down next to Rodney, "I'm really sorry you got hurt, Rodney."
Rodney started to go into one of his rants, but then he took in Ronon's red, puffy eyes and the trembling of his lip, "Things happen," he said.
"You didn't even want to come here," Ronon persisted.
Rodney huffed. "You were listening to that? You never listened as an adult, why would you start as a kid?"
"But," Ronon's eyes were big and a little frightened, but he was determined to take the blame, "it's my fault you got hurt," he insisted.
"Listen." Rodney laid a gentle hand on Ronon's shoulder, "It wasn't your fault. It was raining last night and the ground was soft. It was an accident, that's all. It wasn't your fault. In fact if Sheppard hadn't been here to play hero this time, you would have figured out how to get me to the top of the hill. You've saved my bacon plenty of times."
"Really?" Ronon breathed.
"Really," Rodney said. He patted Ronon's shoulder awkwardly.
"Ronon," John called, "why don't you walk with me to get the jumper and we'll take Rodney back to the city."
Ronon was quiet all the way back to the jumper, but by the time they were back in the city he was back to his normally, for the 10-year-old Ronon, jubilant self.
Teyla took Ronon down for the marines to help him burn off some of his excess energy with PT while John got Rodney to the infirmary. He spent the night entertaining a surly Rodney McKay. He smiled innocently at Teyla when she brought Ronon by to say good night and took him to her rooms for the evening.
The next day Ronon was seven feet tall again. He came by the infirmary where Rodney was eating breakfast before Carson released him, John in the chair at his side.
"Hey," Ronon said.
Rodney stared at him, wide eyed, still unsure what the protocol was for the really weird things that were happening to them.
Ronon grinned at them. "Thanks." He pulled his blaster aiming it at Rodney and pulling the trigger.
Rodney let out a shriek that had every medic in the infirmary come running. He threw up his hands, dislodging his food tray all over the place, to protect his face.
There was just the red dot on Rodney's chest, it glowed for a moment and then faded.
"That was not funny." Rodney brushed at the remains of his breakfast that he was now wearing.
"Oh, it really was," Ronon assured him. "Anyway, I just wanted to say that I'm back to normal now. Thanks for.... You know thanks."
John smiled at him, "Any time, big guy."
"And I want to see the rest of the Rocky movies," Ronon said before he departed to do whatever it was that Ronon did when they weren't on missions. Probably beat up marines.
"Will you look at that?" Rodney brushed at the bits of his breakfast sadly.
"Here," John pushed his tray over, "You can have mine. I need to get out of here and get some work done. I haven't gotten much done what with you being silent and Teyla being old and Ronon enjoying his second childhood. You'll be okay?"
Rodney attacked the tray with renewed appetite. "Sure," he mumbled around the forkful of eggs. "Hey," he called after John. "What about your gift? Shouldn't you have one, too? You touched that device thingie back on the hallucination planet, just like the rest of us."
John had a theory that it wasn't a hallucination they'd all shared. The 'gifts' had certainly been real enough. He kind of thought that the people there had been Ancients. He didn't want to say it to Rodney, because then Rodney would want to go back. And once was enough. The gifts were cool and all, but there was only so many times he could deal with those kinds of gifts.
"I've already received my gift."
"What did you get?" Rodney scoffed. "Oh, oh, I know, your hair was extra perky for three days? No wait you were slouchier than usual. No wonder I missed it."
John rolled his eyes. "I got you, Rodney," John told him, "and Teyla and Ronon. I got Atlantis and puddle jumpers. I have paper work and people to yell at and someone to yell at me that I respect." He paused and took a deep breath. "I got everything I never even knew I wanted."
Rodney smiled at him, and that was John's gift, too.
Chapter End Notes:
With thanks to my beta chocolatephysicist for her eagle eye and her support. Any mistakes remaining are my own.