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Episode 6: Box of Dreams

BOX OF DREAMS: Part I

Writer: Anuna

 

It had been a good day so far. Teyla walked through the gate and into the gateroom of Atlantis wearing a contented expression on her face. It was a trading mission done right, and she had even managed to broker more food than she had hoped. Rodney and Ronon walked lazily behind her. Rodney was trying to explain some physics theory to Ronon, who benevolently ignored the scientist. If they hadn’t been served such a hearty meal before they left the planet, Teyla suspected Rodney’s monologue would meet one of Ronon’s deeply discouraging glares, or perhaps a louder form of disapproval. Right now, Ronon was content just to ask questions to get Rodney into loops of explanation, and Teyla wondered when he would figure out Ronon’s new form of teasing. 

 

Teyla spotted Richard Woolsey standing next to Sergeant Chuck Campbell, who sat at his usual place behind the control console. She noticed an odd detail — Mister Woolsey wasn’t wearing his usual uniform, but an Earth suit. He said to her once that suits made him feel good, and she assumed dressing like this was a form of self-encouragement for the man. Ronon and Rodney passed her on their way out of the gateroom and toward the infirmary, but Teyla’s gaze lingered on Woolsey’s face even after he gave her a short, welcome-home-and-job-well-done nod. She caught a glimpse of something unsettling in his expression, when he waved. 

 

“Teyla! Would you be so kind as to come up for a moment?”

 

“Certainly,” she said. In front of her, Ronon and Rodney paused. “Go ahead,” she told them and the two men continued on their way.

 

“Teyla,” Woolsey had that pleasant, but well-rehearsed expression that served to hide whatever was on his mind. “Glad to see you’re back after a successful trading mission.”

 

She nodded, offering a pleasant smile of her own. “It is good to be back. The mission was a success indeed,” she said, adding with polite concern. “You seem preoccupied, Mister Woolsey.”

 

“Indeed I am, Teyla,” he said, starting to walk toward his office and gesturing for her to follow him. Teyla walked behind him, making a mental note of the office’s appearance. It had changed several times, and it was a thought that came with a sting. Teyla could still vividly remember packing the belongings of Elizabeth Weir, the expedition’s first leader, into boxes. She pondered the symbolism of that for a moment, wondering if there was something big enough, to pack an entire life within, everything a certain person meant or was. “In fact I was planning to ask if you could help me organize something.”

 

Richard gestured with his hand towards the chair on the opposite side of his desk. Teyla took a seat after she placed her data pad with the list of all traded resources on the table. Richard was oddly quiet for several moments, and it seemed he was thinking about something that saddened him deeply. Teyla was patient; she had plenty of negotiating experience to know that in moments like these one had to respect the other person’s timing and readiness to begin the conversation.

 

Finally he began, looking at an unspecific spot on his desk. “I talked to General Landry today and received… the news about Destiny.” He paused, averting his gaze further, and then looked back at Teyla. He began to explain what happened to the ship and its crew. As he told her about the decision of the crew to put themselves into stasis, Teyla shared the same grave feeling that was hanging over the expedition leader. “General Landry said that they had a service for each and every member of the Destiny’s crew,” continued Richard.

 

“A service?” asked Teyla, unsure how to interpret this. She was familiar with some Earth customs, and she knew services were held for the dead. She remembered mourning Carson. She remembered Elizabeth’s speech and the Scottish flag and how various members of the expedition had told her about different ways of facing their sorrow, lighting candles or putting flowers into the water. There were many ways, like her people’s prayers or the Tea Ceremony, which was a symbol of shared grief; but at the end the sorrow was the same, mutual and universal, and it didn’t differ at all from the feeling known to her and the people of this galaxy. 

 

“A ceremony, a prayer,” Richard explained. “A prayer for all of them to return safely.” His voice trailed off. Teyla observed his expression, saddened and upset. It reminded her of the story about the boy who held his own hand in the dark while he was scared and pretended someone was there to protect him. Most people didn’t expect Destiny to ever come home. 

 

Teyla clasped her hands on her lap, carefully arranging her thoughts before she spoke. “My people have a prayer for the missing.” She looked up and Richard met her gaze. “We have lost many. On most occasions we did not know what happened to them. You never know with certainty that the Wraith —”

 

“I understand.” Richard nodded slowly. 

 

Teyla held his gaze, guessing correctly what was going through his mind. Just as she had been upset over her own people being lost like this, over Elizabeth and Aiden Ford being lost to them, over their uncertain and unpredictable fates, he was upset in much the same way. Teyla had seen many planets and met many races but one thing seemed universal — a heart needed closure to safely mourn a loss. 

 

“I pray to the Ancestors watching over us all, that your body finds rest and your soul peace.” She quoted the final line of the lengthy prayer, to which Richard responded with a sad smile. Teyla regarded him thoughtfully. At first he seemed like a kind of man John would call ‘a politician’, but as she got to know him better, Teyla learned that he had kindness and a deep, thoughtful view of the world and the people around him. He was certainly an honorable man.

 

I was wondering if we could organize something like — like what they did, at Stargate Command,” Richard said, “if I understand well, there was never a commemoration for most members of this expedition, and we’ve lost so many over the years.”

 

Teyla nodded, looking into her inner catalog of memories. Elizabeth, Aiden, Kate… there had been so many.

 

“I think each and every member of the expedition that we have lost… deserves that we remember them and celebrate their lives,” Teyla said, nodding slowly. “Is this what you need my assistance with?”

 

Richard nodded, clasping his hands on the smooth surface of his desk.

 

“I think nobody could help me better than you could,” he said.

 

*

 

The chatter in the infirmary was lively and joyful when Teyla finally walked inside. John and Doctor Zelenka were keeping company with Rodney and Ronon.

 

“Hey, there you are,” John smiled easily in Teyla’s direction. She returned the smile, even as she felt exhausted and heavy after the conversation she had just had with Richard Woolsey. “What kept you so long?”

 

“I was discussing a matter with Mister Woolsey,” she said, deciding to inform them on the plan at some later point. She didn’t want to keep it secret, but she did need some time to sit in silence and think about this on her own. There had been so many things that added to her own sadness in recent months, and Teyla found she needed a quiet moment or two. 

 

“I see you are in a good mood?” Teyla addressed all of them. 

 

“We’ve just been telling Rodney about this new lab we discovered on lower decks,” Radek said. “It looks really interesting.”

 

John nodded eagerly.  ”It looks crazy.” He accentuated his statement with a grimace that made them all laugh a little.

 

Teyla took a seat on one of the nearby gurneys knowing that either Jennifer or Carson would soon be there to perform the regular post-mission examination.

 

“Does that not mean this lab could make you insane?” Teyla quirked her lips. John grinned, waving his finger in her direction.

 

“That was a good one. And to answer your question, almost.” He nodded excitedly, and Radek nodded along. Teyla couldn’t help but latch onto their enthusiasm and excitement, it certainly felt better than the heavy, empty feeling she had carried within herself when she walked inside.

 

“You should see it,” Radek continued. “It is like a science lab <i>and</i> a library. And there are writings and schematics all over the walls.”

 

John nodded dramatically. “Every wall.”

 

“You’re joking, right?” Rodney looked nothing if not excited. “When do I get to see it?”

 

“Not before I am done with everything I need to do.” Carson’s accent carried toward them as the doctor walked into the room. “Ah, Teyla. Welcome back, love,” he smiled, standing in front of Rodney, preparing to measure the scientist’s blood pressure.

 

“Hurry up, Carson, will you?” Rodney said, to which the Doctor glared at the scientist, then looked at the other men in the room, who, save for Ronon, sported the same child-like excitement.

 

“I swear you are all like children! Next thing, one of you will burn your fingers when you touch something you shouldn’t in that lab.” Carson glanced toward Teyla, and she gave him an amused smile.

 

“If it helps, I shall watch over them,” Teyla offered.

 

“Aye. I’ll rest assured you’ll keep an eye on them,” said Carson. 

 

 

*

 

 

John jogged down the stairs and walked briskly through the corridor that led him into the gateroom. He was busy with a load of paperwork in his office when a call from Richard Woolsey came through. 

 

John Sheppard did have an office. It wasn’t just a myth; it was a fact, although every surface was covered with dust, until paperwork simply had to be done. John didn’t like spending time in there, he preferred other, less isolated areas of the city, but sometimes calm and quiet were a necessity. John wondered what this sudden call could be about; they had no meeting scheduled for the afternoon. Even though both Rodney and Zelenka had been eager to take a better look at the newly found lab, John knew it would have to wait at least another day, until the inspection of the lab would be officially permitted. The nanovirus incident from their first year taught them all a bitter lesson — when you find a lab, don’t just go bursting through the door before you figure out if there’s something dangerous inside. 

 

John’s wondering turned into a pleasant surprise when he entered Woolsey’s office. He was greeted with a cheerful smile on Mayel Serrana’s face — only to notice that her left arm was hanging in a sling.

 

“Colonel, I’m glad you could join us on such short notice,” Richard said. He gave John an amused look, and just then John realized he was smoothing his black shirt down. He straightened, assuming a casual stance and offered a grin on his part, which was nothing out of the ordinary for him, but there was something to be said about the way his heart was still beating. 

 

“You said I should come immediately, and I did.” John gave them his one shouldered shrug, then nodded at Mayel. She smiled but John noticed that she seemed shaken up. 

 

“Glad you did so,” Richard returned to his spot behind his desk. “Commander Serrana and  a few of her people ran into an ambush.”

 

John raised his eyebrows, turning toward her now and noticing the way her uniform looked — there were scratches and dirt, and it seemed that she had pulled up her hair in haste. The bandage carrying the weight of her arm didn’t look clean, either.

 

“We were ambushed by a group of Wraith,” she said, answering his unvoiced questions. “We managed to escape, gating to several different planets before we dialed Atlantis.”

 

“Good,” John nodded, his good mood growing grim. “What about your arm?”

 

“I was unfortunately caught in friendly fire, but it is nothing more than a scratch. One of my men sustained a more serious injury, and your doctors are taking care of him right now.”

 

John exchanged a glance with Richard, who correctly guessed John’s concerns.

 

“Before you arrived Commander Serrana told me that they were scouting for new training grounds.”

 

Mayel nodded. “It was on an unfamiliar planet. We’ve sent the scouts before, and there was no Wraith activity detected during our initial security sweeps. I am assuming they were in search of an uninhabited planet as well.”

 

“Looks like they’re branching out,” John said darkly. “Gotta wonder why.”

 

“I believe those were their scouts,” Mayel noted. “There were four of them and there was no sign of other Wraith present. But with them one can never be certain, and we surely did not have enough time to investigate.”

 

“Understandable,” John said. “Why didn’t you go to your homeworld?”

 

Mayel smirked. “Practical reasons — we had a wounded man with us, and it takes a walk that would be too long for him, to get him to a hospital. Here he could receive help more quickly.”

 

“Probably a smart decision,” Richard agreed. John wasn’t about to protest. He was beginning to think of the Genii as true allies, although cautiously. He didn’t forget the occasions when the Genii double-crossed them, but right now they were trying to achieve a common goal. 

 

John regarded Mayel and the way her shoulders sagged — she appeared tired, although she was trying to mask it. When she lowered her head, he touched her shoulder briefly, concern coloring his voice. “You should go see the doctor too,” he said, exchanging another look with Richard who only nodded.

 

“You could use a change of clothes as well,” supplied the other man.

 

“That is going to be difficult,” she mused, looking between the two. “I do not have a spare uniform.” 

 

“Well. I am sure we can find something that will suit you,” Richard assured. “You and your men are welcome to stay here until you feel well enough to make way to your homeworld.”

 

“Thank you,” she nodded to Richard, glancing toward John.

 

“You’re welcome, Commander,” Woolsey said pleasantly. “I believe the Colonel can escort you to the infirmary.” There was an amused tone in his voice, or John at least thought so.

 

“It won’t be a problem,” he said with a half smile, and after he nodded goodbye to Richard Woolsey, he gestured to Mayel to follow him.

 

Technically speaking, it was unnecessary for him to accompany her. She knew the way to the infirmary well, but allowing her to go there by herself, in the current circumstances wouldn’t be very polite. That, and he didn’t mind accompanying her in the slightest.

 

He slowed down his walk after they left the control room and the adjoining hallway, pushing his hands into his pockets and glancing toward her in a slightly awkward manner. Last time they spoke they’d gotten ... slightly carried away. In retrospect, it wasn’t unpleasant, but John wasn’t sure how to proceed and he opted to test the waters carefully. 

“So. How’ve you been?  Except the…”

 

Mayel glanced at him and smiled.

 

“Oh, I have been unusually occupied, but, uh, good,” she glanced back at him. “You?”

 

“Oh, the same old. Staying away from snow beasts, keeping McKay from running into Hives —” 

 

She laughed quietly at that. They shared another glance, and the tension between them frustrated him slightly. The ease he always felt in Mayel’s company seemed ruined. John wasn’t an expert in clearing out emotional baggage, and Nancy used to say trees gave better hugs than he did. However, he certainly didn’t want to ruin his... friendship with Mayel. He stood just before they walked through the infirmary door, looking straight at her. Yes, it was only kissing, and then, it wasn’t just kissing. 

 

“Are we, uh, okay? I mean after—?”

 

She studied him for several moments. Her expression seemed distant but warm, but then she finally smiled.

 

“I do not resent what happened between us the last time. I also do not regret it,” she said, before she turned on her heel and walked into the infirmary.

 

Somehow, John didn’t feel easier at all.

 

*

 

When the evening finally settled, Rodney was able to leave his lab. It was time for dinner and he was eager to talk to John and Radek about the lab everyone was talking about, but the current work of his science team needed supervision and above all, guidance. There was an issue with the power conduits on the eastern pier and several experiments going on that he needed to check on, and now he was finally done. Nothing exploded and he didn’t need to yell much — all in all, Rodney deemed it was a good day.

 

The mess hall was halfway filled when he arrived. Rodney always loved this large room and wondered if Ancients used it as a dining area as well. The position was perfect when the city was rotated in a certain way, and what Rodney loved the most were the evenings and the light of the setting sun gleaming through the large windows — especially when the marvelous view was matched with delicious scents coming from the kitchen.

 

The alluring aroma certainly didn’t disappoint him this evening either. He walked toward the dining area where he spotted Teyla, Kanaan and Ronon sharing a table, waved at them and then went to grab a tray with food. He certainly felt hungry after all that work he had to do. There was a separate, specially made chair for Torren who mostly played with the food and made Ronon laugh. 

 

Rodney was slightly surprised when he walked back to the table and found John and Mayel Serrana sitting with the group. Rodney took a seat on the bench next to John, who was now seated between Rodney and the Genii. Rodney noted the distant, closed expression on his face, which, frankly, wasn’t usual when he got the chance to be around the Genii commander. The scientist exchanged greetings with everyone present, noticing a certain shift in the mood around the table.

 

“Did I interrupt something?” he asked, poking at mashed potatoes with his fork.

 

“We were discussing Mister Woolsey’s proposition,” supplied Kanaan.

 

“What kind of proposition?” asked Rodney over a mouthful of food.

 

“We’ve received news about Destiny,” said John. “It seems that... the entire crew had to put themselves in stasis, in order to survive long enough for the next jump.”

 

“They — what?”

 

Rodney set the fork aside and listened with dismay as John and Teyla explained what happened aboard the Destiny. Teyla told him the gist of the story, while John supplied technicalities, and for once they didn’t seem as important. Not immediately at least. Rodney remembered the Aurora with clarity, just as he remembered Destiny. Loss made him feel too helpless, and the best way to cope was more work. 

 

“The SGC will hold something like a memorial service for them, only not a memorial service as such. The news of what happened had shaken up everyone, and General Landry seems to think that something should be, you know, said about them.”

 

“Athosians have a prayer for the missing,” Kanaan continued after a heavy silence settled over the group.

 

“The missing?” Mayel inquired. Rodney was guessing what Kanaan had meant, but Mayel obviously wanted a straightforward explanation. 

 

“Those who were assumed to be taken by Wraith,” Teyla explained. 

 

“When members of our people went missing, on most of the times we could not be certain what happened to them,” Kanaan added. “We have a prayer that helps us bid them farewell in times like this.”

 

“You have ventured far away and you shall not return. I shall grieve for you until I can grieve no more. I shall thank the Ancestors for giving me the fortune of knowing you,” Kanaan recited quietly.

 

Silence fell over the small group. Mayel’s expression turned compassionate and somewhat painful, while Rodney stared at the tray of food in front of him. Suddenly the entire matter was becoming uncomfortably familiar. He noticed how Sheppard shifted, and if Rodney had any clue, then they were both bothered by the exact same things. Even Torren quieted down and observed the grownups, then reached out his little hand toward Ronon. 

 

“Ro!”

 

“That’s okay buddy,” Ronon said, turning his attention to the boy and giving him a reassuring smile. Rodney watched them; he didn’t consider himself very sentimental, but he couldn’t avoid thinking what it would be like to have Elizabeth here. Or Ford. Or Kate Heightmeyer. 

 

“That is both sad and beautiful,” Mayel said.

 

“Just as life itself is,” Teyla agreed, looking at Rodney and John. Rodney assumed that Ronon already had agreed to this, and Mayel didn’t really have any say in the matter. The scientist looked at his team leader, whose face seemed darker than the shirt he was wearing.

 

“What?” asked John.

 

Rodney sighed. He wasn’t really great with interpersonal matters, but John’s reaction reminded him of some things. He was like this after Ford; he reacted in a similar manner after every loss they experienced. Three years ago it was far worse than ever, and Rodney assumed that John still felt a distinct stab of guilt over losing Elizabeth Weir. Rodney knew he felt it – it never really ceased, and he doubted it ever would. 

 

The scientist glanced over at Teyla, wordlessly asking for assistance. She sighed. The help he was seeking came from a less expected source, though. Ronon shuffled, showing a slight discomfort before he began speaking.

 

“I think it’s a good idea,” said the Satedan, looking across the table at his team members as if he were challenging them to disagree. John shot him a heavy look, and it carried some meaning Rodney didn’t understand.

 

“Will you be able to help me, then?” asked Teyla.

 

Rodney swallowed a mouthful of food and nodded.

 

“Yes, certainly,” he agreed. Ronon and John were nodding. Teyla seemed to relax a little and Kanaan squeezed her hand. Mayel was quietly poking at her plate — it seemed like the entire group had lost their appetite.

 

 

*

 

 

Torren was an easy child. That was at least how John described him — he was usually calm or openly happy, he accepted new people around him and he wasn’t weepy. Teyla was thankful for her son’s nature, especially on days when she was feeling like this. Torren fell asleep easily enough, and her weary feet carried her to her room where Kanaan was sitting and reading the most recent reports from various off world teams. 

 

“I am not certain I recognize you,” she smiled tiredly. 

 

“The same could be said of you as well.” Kanaan put down the datapad he was holding in his hand. “You look preoccupied.”

 

“I am,” Teyla confessed quietly. It was difficult to even begin to describe everything that was troubling her mind. From ongoing concerns regarding the city, like food, trading, supplies and technical issues, to more personal ones. But Kanaan really knew her too well. 

 

“The ceremony,” he said, clasping his hands in his lap. “That is what is bothering you, but you are not talking about it. You are not even thinking about it,” he said and it was the truth. 

 

“Do you really want to know how I feel?” she asked and looked at him, wondering briefly if he could really endure the entire bitterness resting within her soul. 

 

“I always want to know that,” Kanaan said peacefully, and like always he was there, and he was willing to accept her, and everything good, or bad. Teyla took a deep breath and collected her thoughts. 

 

“Part of me does not want to be there,” she said, and it felt like a stone coming off her chest.   It still felt terrible and heavy in her chest, but the lack of judgment in Kanaan’s eyes made her feel stronger. “I —”  She clasped her hands together and did her best to focus her own thoughts. She searched her feelings and thought about everything that had happened in recent months, until her heart settled on one notion. “This is something I wish to think about on my own,” she said. 

 

“Perform an inventory of the mistakes you have made?” Kanaan asked softly. She looked at him, and had he been anyone else, she would already be busy explaining why she had done things, why she had to do them. “It is in order to make mistakes,” he said. “And to have regrets.”

 

“That is not very Athosian of you,” she said with a quiet smile in her voice. A sad smile, as she thought about her culture and one of its rules.  Live your life in a way that will not bring regrets, live by being true to your heart — had not she done just that? Had she not done all that her mind and her heart told her was right? Then how, and why had she come to this, and here? 

 

Kannan rose from his seat and walked over to her, then leaned down to kiss the top of her head. “Just do not let those regrets color the rest of your life.”

 

Teyla looked, as he left, in the direction of the bathroom, trying to accept his words. She could not — even if she knew he was right, the regrets that plagued her mind the most were too painful. And even though she would make her choices just the same — just the same — and end up feeling bitter and tossed aside as if she had stopped caring for them, stopped hoping and praying and waiting for the moment when she could be reunited with all of them — she wished she could have changed something. That little something that would mean all the difference. 

 

Continue Reading > Box of Dreams, Part II

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