Thin as tissue paper
John lifted his chin. Ronon was leaning against the door frame of his SGC assigned room.
“Ronon,” he returned blankly. He thought that Ronon had said that he was heading back to Atlantis. “You’ve been waiting for me?”
Ronon shrugged even though his presence was answer enough. “You get done what you wanted to get done?”
John glanced sideways, trying to figure out if he had. He had talked with Dave – the prodigal son had returned and while welcomed wasn’t the right word, a laying down of arms had been observed.
“It’s late.” Ronon reached back and opened John’s door. “Go.”
“Yeah.” John stumbled past him. The room was bare and drab. “I… did you?”
“I phoned home across the galaxies. Everyone’s okay.”
“We make you watch far too much television.”
“Some of it’s okay.” Ronon pointed at the bed. “Go. We’ll go to the Baby Gap place that Teyla had the catalogues from tomorrow, before we go home.”
Obediently, John staggered forward until his shins hit the mattress. The sheets were crisp and cold. He didn’t remember flopping onto the bed. There was a pillow under his face.
The light went out and he thought that he slept.
They had probably gone overboard. The pair of them in Baby Gap had been a little surreal. Who knew that Ronon favoured bright colours? The bags and boxes were the only pinprick of colour in the whole SGC embarkation room.
The ensign cataloguing their exports before they returned to Atlantis didn’t bat an eyelash at the array of professionally gift wrapped boxes. Teyla’s kid was going to be the trendiest on Atlantis. The only one on Atlantis, actually. John hefted the teddy bear under his arm. The subterranean coldness of the SGC seeped further into his bones.
John blinked from his vague contemplation of nothing. A young lieutenant held a clipboard and proffered an envelope.
“Yes?” John asked without reaching.
“The envelope is marked urgent.”
And private, John noticed as he finally took it. He felt a cold wash over his skin. Turning towards the Stargate, away from the lieutenant, he broke the seal. Dave had moved fast. The papers were in order, he guessed. Documenting his inheritance, documenting material things that meant nothing. What he needed was unobtainable, he now knew. Death had brought that realisation. No forgiveness. No going back. Funny how finality brought realisation. A long shiver walked along his back.
“Everything okay?” Ronon rumbled.
“Sir, you need to sign, accepting the documents.” She handed over the clipboard. Unconsciously, she looked upwards towards the surface. “A courier is waiting for your acknowledgement.”
He had told his lawyers that he wanted this sorted out asap. Holding the teddy bear made scribbling his signature a messy affair, but he didn’t want to put it down. The floor looked cold.
“Thank you, Lieutenant.” He didn’t watch her leave.
“What’s that?” Ronon asked.
“Just stuff.” He wedged them into his back pocket. “We done?” he asked the export and customs officer.
“Yes, sir.” The kid stood, leaving the case of St. Ambroise Pale Ale alone.
McKay would probably bitch about sending beer through the wormhole affecting its specific gravity or something.
“Atlantis personnel,” came over the P.A. system, “outgoing wormhole.”
Even as the chevrons began to encode, Ronon set himself up behind their wheeled trolley.
It was cold in the wormhole.
Rodney and Teyla were waiting on the sunlit Atlantean embarkation platform. Rodney was doing his impression of a psychotic rabbit, paws tucked up against his chest, eyes worried and nose twitching.
Teyla promenaded over, wielding her tummy like a weapon. John froze as she stopped before him and rose up on her toes. She raised an eyebrow, and automatically, he bent so that she could bestow an Athosian welcome.
“You are chilled.”
“Cold? Cold? You’ve probably picked up Bird Flu or something!” the voice was strangely comforting.
“Atlantis would have quarantined us,” John derailed Rodney before he could get started. “We brought presents.”
“Presents?” His eyes gleamed.
“Presents can wait,” Teyla said serenely.
“They can?” Rodney protested.
“Yes,” John agreed, rubbing at the knot between his eyebrows. “But here,” he held out the three foot teddy bear. “For… uhm… uhmmm.” He looked at the bump.
“Thank you.” She poked its button nose, perplexed.
“It’s a teddy bear. Kids have them,” Rodney explained without prompting. “They’re for hugging and telling secrets to.”
Her smile was as warm as the sun.
“So presents?” Rodney inserted hopefully.
“They can wait,” Teyla said again. “We asked and the commissary staff have prepared your favourite, steak and potatoes.”
“We can bring the presents, right?” Ronon lumbered past them, trolley wheels squeaking.
“Great.” Rodney scurried after him.
John pushed his congealed steak around his plate as conversation ranged around him. Ronon painted a picture of Earth for Teyla, which had rhyme and reason unfamiliar to John but made it more real for Teyla. He would forget that they were not of Earth. The horses at the estate had been a great hit with Ronon. Three times Ronon had visited earth: funeral; rescue and a funeral. It wasn’t a good pattern. Teyla had only seen John’s imaginings of Earth: shopping malls and bachelor pads. It didn’t seem fair to either of them.
“Horses, eh?” Rodney’s words were softly spoken.
John shrugged. His father had liked -- loved -- horses.
“You going to eat that?” Rodney asked, fingers creeping towards his plate.
“Nah.” John wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. It was stone cold.
“Here.” The mess was drawn back and a pot of blue jello was pushed into his line of sight. Rodney’s favourite, hoarded jello.
The lid had been peeled off and spoon carefully stuck in the centre to break the perfectly smooth meniscus.
“Sugar. Good for you. Easy to digest,” Rodney pointed out.
John dug in. It wasn’t every day that Rodney passed up on blue jello. He lifted his head as he sucked on the spoon. Rodney, sitting opposite, suddenly found Teyla very interesting.
“Here,” Ronon said gruffly, handing the first of the gift wrapped presents over. It was the one that John had picked. Teyla’s smile as she plucked the black, newborn baby bodysuit from the tissue was incandescent.
“I picked that,” John said.
“The black kind of gave it away.” Rodney’s eagle eye was on the largest crate.
“I like black.”
“Very appropriate,” Rodney said, and then blushed to the tips of his ears. “I… uhm--”
“It’s okay, Rodney,” he said quietly.
“Thank you, John. Your gifts are very thoughtful.” She brushed a hand over her stomach. “We thank you. You have been very generous.”
“It’s… it’s…” he managed. Swallowing, he tried again. “It’s for your… our kid. The--” He drew a circle in the air, encompassing them all. “You know.”
“Yes, we all know.” And Teyla smiled softly. “Family always knows.”
Family. His thoughts sort of avalanched. He had been on Earth burying his father. There were regrets that inactivity on his part meant that they would be never now reconciled. But why, if his father regretted their estrangement, had he never tried to contact him – not even a birthday card. Two men cut from the same cloth, was the answer.
“John?” Rodney said quietly. “You okay?”
“What?” John snapped his focus on him.
“Uhm… your jello. You’re going to spill it.”
He had frozen mid-thought, jello covered spoon halfway to his mouth. In answer, he thrust the spoon through partly opened lips, rattling against his teeth. Rodney flinched.
“Here.” Ronon offered deliberate distraction, thumping three bottles of beer on their table. “We got beer.”
“Oooh.” Rodney lit up.
Ronon flipped off the cap and gave John a bottle. Setting down his spoon he automatically took it. The beer was on the left side of cold, a little warm, but it brought out the flavours against his tongue. There were three people within touching distance who he would die for. They knew that. And he knew that they would step in front of any bullet aimed at him, (although Teyla would probably end up with three people in front of her, regardless). He had a godson (or the Athosian equivalent) on his way. He was overlooking an ocean on an alien planet from the City of Atlantis.
“I picked this one,” Ronon boomed passing over another bodysuit. It had a ‘as cool as a cucumber’ logo. “It’s an Earth joke.”
As Teyla held it up to better admire it, John set his beer down and toyed with the spoon digging it back in the jello.
“Are you okay?” Rodney asked lowly.
“Yeah,” John returned equally quietly, although he knew Ronon and Teyla could hear. “I am.”