Title: John Sheppard’s Reasons Why (Not)
Spoilers: Rising, Suspicion, The Gift, Conversion
Notes: Prompted by seldear's Apt Pupil to write a variation on a theme: "Why do you continue these lessons?" And yes, the title came from this very short-lived series. Hopefully there's no lingering bad karma *g*
In the beginning it was easy to answer the question “why do you keep volunteering to get your ass kicked”? Whether it came from Ford or McKay or any of the Marines – Ronon, when he came later, either understood or didn’t want to know – the reply was easy and a little impish: “It’s Teyla.” And the men glanced at each other and grinned and nodded, because anyone who had spent more than a few minutes with Teyla – and they’d made sure she’d made the rounds during the party their first night together – recognized her almost magnetic allure and exotic beauty that was, if not unique to the Pegasus Galaxy, at least unique to John Sheppard’s experience.
Later on, when he got to know her better, the reasons changed but were still easy to recognize. It was exercise, it was an interesting way to pass the time, and it was an excuse to pass it with an attractive woman. Elizabeth welcomed it as a cultural exchange between new allies and, wisely, left it at that.
When the other Athosians departed for the mainland it became not just a taking but a giving as well. He saw the look in her eyes their first lesson after they’d left; even if only a few of her people were interested in this form of hand-to-hand combat – at least he’d only seen her instructing a handful of young bucks who looked like their reasons might mirror his own – it was also something that she associated with her family, her history, her heritage, the home that was gone, and the security that living surrounded by her own people had provided. He felt like something of an anchor, her anchor, and while responsibility had previously rankled this time he welcomed it. Maybe he was growing up.
When he was the last student – the Marines having given up, tired of bumps and bruises and the ignominy of being beat up by a girl in a skirt, telling themselves that a single shot from a P90 would beat a couple of wooden sticks every day of the week and twice on Sundays – he stuck with it out of sheer stubbornness and the unwillingness to abandon her as her supposed family had. By that time it had become a ritual, a habit, and anyway she was still an attractive woman.
When she was troubled by dreams and strange visions he saw that their meetings were time for communication, if not a form of communication in themselves. He saw a part of her during training that he didn’t get to see as her superior in the field, and if he saw it merely as her friend he knew that his reaction would be different. In a perverse way, Teyla’s ability to bring him literally to his knees had become a reliable indicator of her psychological status, proving – if nothing else – that the fighting form she had adopted as her own had a hefty mental component. Not that that made him feel any better about the fact that she kept beating him.
When he was able to beat her, he was exhilarated… until he realized that it wasn’t really him anymore than it had really been him outracing Ronon across the city. But it wasn’t something he’d been able to give a lot of thought to until later, and when he had had that luxury he’d been thinking of other things that had happened during his ‘conversion’. It made him wonder a lot about his reasons. It made him ask himself questions that were difficult to contemplate, let alone answer. It made him wonder if things would ever be the same between the two of them again.
It made him wonder if he wanted things to stay the same, ad infinitum.
The truth was, he finally decided, that it didn’t really matter what he wanted. Well, it did, but only so far as he was willing to impose his will on her. And he’d done that, and while the experience hadn’t been unpleasant the recollection had been distasteful. What she wanted, he saw easily enough, was for things not to change.
And he had to respect that. For as long as he wanted to be her colleague, to be her friend, he would have to respect that.
Because if he didn’t, Ronon would find out about it and break his neck.
More to the point, he cared too much about her to let that happen.
So when things changed, life changed, Atlantis changed, death was faced, lives were dangled over the abyss, they stayed the same. He was still her only student. He wondered if she still enjoyed being his teacher. A part of him enjoyed ceding authority to her when they faced each other across the floor, something he would never admit to the Marines… or to Rodney, who would be only too happy to tell the Marines.
Although one day, after training, Teyla stopped him from leaving the gym with a sore tailbone and a rueful smile, stopped him with a simple, tentative “John?”
He looked back. “Yeah?”
She stood near the window, packing up her things. “I understand you have a great many responsibilities, especially since you resumed contact with Earth. You should know that I would not take offense if you did not want to continue this training.”
“No,” he said too quickly. “I mean, it’s a nice way to get my mind off… those kinds of things.”
“Oh,” she said, noncommittal. Great, John thought. Now she thinks I consider her a distraction.
“I enjoy it,” he promised her.
She did too; he could see in the detail to every movement, the practiced turns, the glow in her face that had nothing to do with physical exertion, her relaxed mood afterwards, as if all the strain and worry in her life had been temporarily leeched away. He sometimes wondered who had first taken her through these movements that she should practice the skills with such obvious reverence.
Yet she smiled at him, uncertainly, and asked him why.
In the beginning it had been easy to answer that question, but something easy is something shallow and inconsequential and so it wasn’t easy anymore. The reasons were many and varied, they were everything from the past and yet something else altogether, they were puerile and they were noble, and some would make her glow with pride and some would cause her to ask Ronon to break his neck.
But mostly it was because she was Teyla.
She smiled and shouldered her bag, and they walked together back to the living quarters, talking about silly, pointless, unexceptional things. It was only later, after they’d parted with plans to meet Ronon and Rodney for lunch, after he’d showered and dressed, that he realized he’d never answered her question.
*whackites seldear with the *