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(consolidated and x-posted from [livejournal.com profile] age)

Title: Proposition+Espousal
Fandom: SGA
Characters/Pairings: Sheppard/Teyla
Word Count: 4,320
Rating: PG-13 (one itty bitty swear word)
Summary: With the return of the Athosians comes a deeper grief for one of Sheppard's team, and after lots (and lots!) of reflection, he decides to do something about it.
Author's Notes: Jag wrote me a John-proposes-to-Inara fic and demanded I do the same. Or Teyla. She said it could be Teyla. Bastard Lt.-Colonel got me out of bed early in the morning just to write down one damned line (THE line), and then 3 hours later we had the fic to go with it. I've also been randomly making up Athosian courtship rites as a matter of course for Sheppard and Inara (don't ask) so it's only fitting that I attempt to make up something....wedding-y. Oh-so not canon, and if any of my speculation ends up being even remotely close I will be....something. Speechless, maybe. You never know with this show. Or with Athosians. Or with Sheppard, for that matter.

Written to cross off #21 of our Big Damn SGA List.

Warning: Spoilers for SGA 04x04 (Doppelganger) through SGA 04x07 (Missing), SGA 04x10 and 04x11 (This Mortal Coil and BAMSR), along with the assumption of when and how the particular story-arc that began in "Missing" actually ends. Because I can. And I did. :p

Takes place sometime after 04x11 (Be All My Sins Remember'd)

----------

There were very few things in life that could erase jealousy. Time was the main one, but John knew that not nearly enough of it had passed to have that sort of effect on him. Seeing the one you cared about happy with the one that caused the jealousy was the other, but some odd twist of fate had ensured that the Lieutenant-Colonel would never get the chance to see that sight, that he'd never meet the man who had captured his teammate's heart. He supposed it was ironic, in a way, but mostly he supposed it was just business as usual in Pegasus. It was as if even this small scrap of joy was too much for it to handle at the moment, and the added exuberance at finding the Athosians safe and whole was the limit and anything else would be exceeding the Lanteans' expectations for life. Because yes, the Athosians had been found, and safely, too. But the word "whole" was a mockery to at least one Athosian, and she had spent many days curled around a pillow, lost in extraordinary grief.

John could never erase the image of Teyla's smile faltering and then failing as Halling had approached her, the only words from the exchange etched in his memory being "Teyla, I'm so very sorry" and "Kanaan was among them." He could still feel the warmth of her tears on his uniform as she had clutched the nearest body to keep from collapsing on the spot. Of course, John had been the one at her side the instant he saw her falter, and for once he had wrapped his arms around her without awkwardness. He had noted, idly, that whenever something occurred and Teyla needed someone to latch on to, she had always gone to him. When Heightmeyer had died, she had come to him, regardless of the fact that it was indirectly his fault that the psychologist was dead. When her people had gone missing, she had saved her most impassioned missives for him, as if he alone held the power to carry her to them so they could be rescued.

It was like he had become her hero, and ever since the day they had met - nearly four and a half years ago, now - she had worn an invisible "John Sheppard Fan Club" button on her shirt. Even when he was being the biggest ass in the universe, she would always smile at him in that fondly exasperated way after telling him very politely to fuck off and mind his own business. It was always a no harm, no foul deal with her, and he supposed that was one of the things he loved about her. They fought like the scrappiest pups in the litter, which amused everyone - especially Ronon - to no end, but it all boiled down to mutual respect and affection.

He felt like an ass now, for being jealous when she had finally told him of the pregnancy and that she had been seeing someone. Of course she had never told him about the relationship. Who the hell was he, that he had every right to her private life? Hell, he should be one to talk, when one considered the innumerable skeletons in his own closet. He knew something about intensely private information and now...now he could hardly fault her for keeping the relationship a secret. In light of the fact that he had just found out how new the whole thing had been for her and Kanaan, he would have expected nothing less. Hell, it had taken him six months to tell his own brother about the girlfriend who would eventually become his wife all those years ago.

Of course, in true John Sheppard fashion, it had taken him the two months since the Athosian's return to figure all this out, which now left him propped up in bed during an all-too-infrequent down-time, clothing crumpled from sitting so long, and Johnny Cash singing through round number three of the playlist on his laptop. He had seen a lot of Teyla during the waking hours of the last several weeks, holding her hand through her visits with Jennifer in the infirmary, making her smile as he made a big deal of feeling the first kicks from her belly. Ronon took over when John was needed elsewhere, and together they mitigated Rodney's crass personality, dragging him out of the room when either sensed he might say something unfortunate. Both John and Ronon pretended it was for Rodney's safety and that, pregnant or not, Teyla would kick his ass if the astrophysicist stepped out of line, but really they knew it was to protect Teyla and her fragile feelings. Hormones wreaked havoc with most women, but when added to the grief of losing the father of the child...yep, that right there would ensure that no Wraith would be left living once Teyla had that baby, and John planned to be beside her the whole time.

Tthat realization had him blinking. A comment made by Ronon nearly a year previous began bouncing around his head. (...It was funny how they never got a chance to finish that conversation.) He took a moment to really think about it now. How the hell would he even go about asking her such a thing? He figured the Athosians had some sort of cultural way of popping the question, but really that wasn't the point. Would he really be doing him or Teyla any favours with this? The last time he had tried, it didn't work too well, and could he really do that to Teyla? Or perhaps the problem with his previous marriage wasn't that he wasn't good at it? Maybe there was something else that he didn't quite pick up on? Either way, was his mind tripping down this line of thinking because he felt he somehow maybe owed it to Teyla? Or was this some whacked-out sense of duty to her and her unborn child that the military part of his mind was projecting?

Maybe it's just the fact that you have yet to really admit to yourself that you love her, you idiot, and that in spite of everything that's happened, you still want to take care of her and don't care that the kid's not yours. Okay, now he was really sitting up and blinking. Kid's gotta have a father, right? So it doesn't grow up with some sort of psychological complex? ...Then again, she has a village of male role-models that are possibly a lot more qualified than I am.

How his thoughts were getting so out of hand, he didn't know. That he was even contemplating...

He scrambled off the bed and headed to Teyla's room. One part of him hoped she was napping and wouldn't answer, another part hoped she wasn't napping because he didn't want to wake her if she was, and still another hoped she'd answer. He could question the sanity of this idea later, once Teyla had laughed at him and he had sufficient time to feel like an idiot. They'd move past this with grace and aplomb like they did that kiss way back when and nothing would change between them. (Except, then, everything would change between them, but he wouldn't let himself think of that just yet, either.)

He wrung his hands gently as he waited for an answer to the door chime, and he began to seriously question his state of mind as the seconds dragged on. Just as he was coming to the conclusion that yes, Teyla was napping and no, she wasn't getting up to answer, he turned on his heel to run back to the safety of other people. He got two steps away from her door, two steps towards the freedom of the mess hall, when the door slid open with a gentle hiss of hydraulics. The curious sounding "John?" had him stopping and turning back to take in the puffy eyes and the red and watery gaze of his dearest and best friend.

"Teyla, I...are you okay?" he asked, closing the distance between them and reaching out to her. Relief coursed through him when she didn't pull away.

"I'm fine," she lied, leaning into his touch. He smiled ruefully, letting her have that one tiny lie. Of course she wasn't fine. How could she be when she was reminded every day of the man she had loved by the gentle swell of her belly?

"Is this a bad time?" She shook her head and invited him inside silently. Of course, now that he was here, he had no idea what he was doing. Moron, you had no idea what you were doing before you got here. "Listen, I was thinking, and...and I don't think it's really fair that you have to go through all this alone."

She gave him the look she always gave him when she thought he was being nutty. "But I am not alone, John. I have my people, and I have you and Rodney and Ronon..."

He waved a dismissive hand, cutting her off. "That's not what I mean. What I mean is...hell, I don't know what I mean, but the thing is you and Kanaan would have eventually been married, and now you won't and that's just...not fair."

She smiled ruefully. "It is life. And life goes on. I cannot change what happened, though I wish with all my being that I could..."

"Neither can I, as much as I'd like to," he said as she trailed off. "Listen, what I'm trying to say is, I don't know how the Athosians do this sort of thing, but on Earth we have a custom that involves knees and rings and, well...I suppose what I'm ultimately getting at is that I'd be honoured if you would, um...you know..." it was his turn to trail off, and again with a weak wave of his hand, denoting that she should be able to inference the rest of the sentence from the conversation as a whole.

It took her several seconds to ponder his words when the meaning of them became clear. Her expression turned bemused and a little awestruck. "You would do such a thing? For me?" She took a step towards him.

He scrubbed a hand through his hair, noting with slight horror that he was a little shaky. "I...yeah. Yeah, I would." He shrugged as casually as he could, stuffing his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels as his head dipped shyly. "I mean, I care about you. And not just because I have to, being a part of my team, and all. I just think it would be nice to know that you'll have someone to take care of you."

Her smile widened. It had to be the most off-handed and round-about proposal that she had ever heard. And somehow, coming from John Sheppard, she expected no less. She snorted softly in amusement, and he looked up at her with his hopeful-sixteen-year-old expression.

She closed the distance and slid her arms around his waist and hugged him tight, resting her cheek against his chest and soaking in the warmth of his body as his arms wrapped around her, awkward as ever. They would have to work on that, she thought with a grin. She tilted her head up to look at him, catching his eye. With a happy sigh, she settled back into the embrace.

"I would have no other father for my child," she said finally, giving him a gentle squeeze. "I accept your proposal."

She managed to contain her giggle as she felt his shoulders slump a little in relief and his hold on her became a little less awkward. He dropped a kiss on the crown of her head before sighing.

Yeah, that hadn't gone too badly. Now they just had to tell everyone else...

---

It had started off as a recon mission, a quick jaunt to verify the conflicting rumours of Wraith and Replicator activity. One source said Replicators, another said Wraith, and yet another said both. Atlantis eliminated the Replicators option, since they were now able to track them - with help from the Replicators themselves, no less - and there was no indication of any of the Aurora-class ships near the planet. John Sheppard knew that going on assumptions was the worst thing one could do in a situation like this, but he had no over-ruling gut-instinct on the subject and that worried him.

When the first team had called in for reinforcements so they could appropriate the abandoned camp, two more teams were sent with supplies and other assorted gear so the area could be surveyed properly. Everything had pointed to a serendipitous discovery of a possible beta-site on a world looted and picked clean by the Wraith. The location was prime, a world off the beaten path, as it were, as well as a place in which provisions could be naturally supplied in abundance for the length of time it would take a society to set down roots and rebuild or find better lodgings elsewhere.

John knew it was too good to be true, as did everyone else on the expedition, and it was with bated breath that they waited for the other shoe to drop. When nothing was forthcoming after several days, and those days turned into a week, everyone's heightened sense of doom began to abate ever so slightly. If they could make it from a week to two, they could convert the site into a slightly more substantial camp, and if two morphed into three...well, after three weeks they'd be golden and the newly dubbed beta-site would go operational. But they needed to get past one, first, and the senior officers of Atlantis stalked the control tower restlessly, waiting for reports to come in. It was telling, how much this meant to the expedition, when John's team stopped going on missions so they could be on-hand when the call came through.

When he wasn't on duty, John spent his time with Teyla, as they made preparations for their impending nuptials. While the idea of getting married again terrified him, he knew this time would be different; he and Teyla had worked and played together for a long time, and nothing would be changing between them, really. They would merely be bound in a different way; a way that would allow them to bring comfort and companionship to the other in a way that was wholly complicated outside of the bounds of marriage.

The reaction of their friends had been a mixture between shock and good-natured teasing, but in the end they had all agreed that a better union could not be made. The Athosians had expressed their gratitude and support in ways too numerous to count, and it ensured that John and Teyla's wedding would be done to Athosian standards. John, strangely enough, had no issues with that. He was never one for traditional Earth ceremonies, anyway, as he found them trite and empty. At least the traditions of the Athosians felt alive and sacred, simply because the ceremonies were living and breathing entities, steeped in beliefs handed down from generation to generation. In a galaxy where life was precious, and nothing was taken for granted, the little things that celebrated being alive and together became all the more beloved and priceless.

The call everyone had been waiting for came half-way through week two, while John and Teyla had been reviewing the particulars of the ceremony they were going to be following. After pressing a kiss to Teyla's temple and dropping a kiss on her belly for baby, he had headed down to the Control Room, where he came face-to-face with an impending crisis. The strike-force holding the camp was under attack by the Wraith, as was evidenced by the incoming fire dissipating on the raised shield. The reporting officer was abruptly cut off as the 'gate disengaged, and Carter began barking out orders. John geared up and led another three teams of Marines to extract their people. It was easily one of the worst battlegrounds John had ever stepped foot on, and he had been in-theatre in some pretty nasty ones in his lifetime.

It had started off as a recon mission. It was now a botched extraction and med-evac, which was quickly turning into a desperate fight for survival against an overwhelming force. John pushed all thoughts of Teyla and how he was going to fail extravagantly in his promise to take care of her if this went even further down the tubes, as it was threatening to. The rest of week two and the first days of week three were spent in trying to stay alive. No more reinforcements were coming from Atlantis, on John's orders; he didn't want to risk any more personnel, not when it was all the lot of them could do to keep hidden so they could rest. A quick raid of the Wraith guards at the 'Gate allowed a care package of rations and ammo to come through, and that went a long way to getting the entire group home.

One week of fighting and it was all over. John and his men were able to overcome enough Wraith to dial out and get everyone to safety.

They had lost two full Stargate teams and half-a-score of marines.

Teyla had clung to John tightly for a very long time. They moved into their new joint-quarters that very night, both afraid to sleep alone again. Everyone had thought that the wedding would be postponed, to let time pass after the tragedy, but John and Teyla had become dertermined. No more would the galaxy dictate when and how they celebrated or mourned. Life would go on and so would the wedding. John and Carter discussed the best way of approaching the situation, and with Teyla and Halling's help, they began the necessary preparations.

***

The day John and Teyla had originally set for the wedding ceremony dawned brightly, yet those in Atlantis wouldn't know it. All the windows had been covered with heavy cloths, and the lights had been dimmed. Thousands upon thousands of candles provided illumination for those gathered upon the stairs leading up from the embarkation floor, and for a brief moment, John wondered where they had all come from and how the Athosians had managed to accumulate them all in time for the memorial.

Carter and Halling stood before the group, the caskets for the fallen soldiers arrayed behind them. Around the caskets were the stones and bier of the Athosian Ring Ceremony. Though the Ceremony was used for those who had passed on naturally, it had been decided that the unity between the two groups of humans displayed by the symbolism of the elements joined with the Earth-style caskets was of greater importance. The eulogy had been divided between Carter and Halling, and once the words had been spoken, Teyla - resplendent in the gown she wore for the Ring Ceremony - stepped forward and sang, her voice washing over the mourners and bathing the walls of Atlantis with the hauntingly beautiful sound. The 'Gate was dialled so that the engaging wormhole coincided with the final notes of the song, punctuating the hall and the reverberating lyrics with its familiar kawhoosh, and all the candles went out, leaving them all in darkness save for the light from the 'Gate.

With that, those who had volunteered to carry their fallen friends and comrades back to Earth surrounded the caskets. John felt Teyla's hand slide into his and squeeze tight as he watched the procession disappear into the shimmering pool of iridescence. They were plunged into darkness as the wormhole disengaged, and John wrapped his arm around Teyla and held her close.



At sunset, just as the sun began to touch the horizon, the expedition gathered on one of the piers, each one holding an unlit candle. They formed a corridor along the pier's arm, the line unbroken around the curve of the platform. The entire line was four people deep. The Athosian elders stood in the center of the platform, with Halling once more presiding. John and Teyla walked the corridor of people together, he in his dress blues and she in her wedding gown of silk and gossamer. They did not touch as they walked, no hand-holding or arms hooked around each other. As they passed, the candles were lit, leaving a trail of fire behind them. They stopped in front of Halling and the elders just as the horizon cut the sun in half.

"On this day of mourning, we celebrate the continuation of life," Halling began, once the flames had met in the middle of the line, behind him. "As the flame thrives from the unity of wick and wax, so to do our lives thrive from the unity of family and friends. Separation cannot douse the flame, nor can death douse hope, so long as there are those to pass on the torch. As we have said goodbye to those that were dear to us, we now pass on the light of their contributions to our society in the union of these two people." He spread his arms to indicate John and Teyla. After a moment, he turned his attention from the crowd to the bride and groom.

"Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Tagan," Halling began. The two old friends exchanged a tiny smile. "You have come through hardships many of us cannot imagine. You have been a wise leader of our people and have done much to keep our ways and our lives intact. You have proven yourself time and again to be a true friend and courageous warrior."

Halling turned to John. "Lieutenant-Colonel John Sheppard, from Earth. A leader in your own right, and the means through which the alliance of our two peoples was forged. While your acts of heroism during your service on this expedition cannot be shared among the people of your world, they are widely spread amongst the stars of the Pegasus Galaxy, and my people sing your praises the loudest. You have proven yourself trustworthy and as a loyal friend to the Athosian people."

A moment of silence followed as the words settled, and Halling regarded them with a sad smile playing over his lips. "You have both loved and lost, as have we all, in this conflict and elsewhere. Today, you have chosen to put that behind you and rekindle the dying flames within your beings. Today you have chosen life and together you shall forge new strengths, discover new paths, and bring our people together in way that mere alliances can never achieve." Halling reached out and placed Teyla's hand in John's, the pair turned to face each other.

John gave Teyla an encouraging smile, which widened as her cheeks flushed and she dropped her gaze shyly. Looking up at him, her eyes finding his and gazing deeply, Teyla spoke, her voice clear in the evening air. "Since the day we met, John Sheppard, you have always supported me in all things. You have gone above and beyond and broken the barriers of mistrust where others would have chosen ignorance and deceit. You have been a solid foundation when I have found myself on the verge of sinking into the mires of despair; you have been a source of joy during times of sorrow, a pillar of strength during times of weakness, and above all, you have been my greatest friend." Teyla paused to collect herself, and John gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "And now, in what I thought to be my most desperate hour, you have once more shown the depth of your love and care for me, and I am honoured to call you my own."

It was John's turn to drop his gaze shyly, before recapturing hers. "When I first saw you, Teyla Emmagan, I was struck by your beauty and strength. You have always been steady in your convictions, even when faced with the difficult choices needed to be made by you and your people. Your dedication to them and the sacrifices you have made speak of a deeper understanding of faith, that I'm sure a lot of folks back home would be envious of. You have shown me a side of life that I had never known to exist before; you, in your passions and through your caring, have shown me what it means to live, and for that I will always be grateful. You are, and have always been, my best friend and my greatest love. Even when the military conventions of my people forbade me to say anything, I carried the flame of that love in my heart like a beacon. You are my guiding star, and you've helped me navigate through territory I never thought I'd pass through ever again. With your love and care for me, I know that we can be that guiding light, as we stand together to usher in a new and better world for those that come after us, and for that I am honoured to call you my own."

Halling smiled and nodded in approval and mild surprise at John's words. "With this promise, you are both pledged to uphold the sacred laws of matrimony, until the day you depart from this life. And we, your friends and family, will hold you accountable to your vows for all time."

With those words, Halling stepped back, and John pulled Teyla close. The newly-weds regarded each other for several moments before John leaned down to whisper softly, "I love you, Teyla."

The Athosian woman smiled, bemused, and raised a hand to cup his cheek. "I love you, too, John," she whispered, then leaned up to seal the proclamation with a kiss.

Date: 2008-12-20 08:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 2bluaeryn.livejournal.com
I don't remember reading this, but in any case I'm glad I have now. I love your take on the ceremony and how John would have viewed it as more *solid* as compared to earth ceremonies.

Well done.

Date: 2008-12-21 05:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shepcrew.livejournal.com
Thank you :)

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