Busy is the word to normally describe the Infirmary when one of the flagship team’s members was in here, it usually meant some calamity had befallen the city or some mission had gone horribly wrong. Today is not a busy day. Oh sure there are plenty of people in here with the frequent issues, burns from straying just a little too close to a lit Bunsen burner or sprained ankles from tripping over their own shoes while going up or down the city’s many stairs or bumps, bruises, and cuts from training sessions that got a little out of hand. Speaking of which…Doctor Jennifer Keller, Atlantis’ Chief Medical Officer, looks over at Ronon Dex, now wearing white patient scrubs, still staring straight ahead of himself, stewing in his medical bed a short distance away, then she returns to looking back at her computer screen at her pub height rolling metal table that she uses as her desk. Her computer’s screen has two windows on it: a digital copy of the x-ray of Ronon’s wrist and the security camera footage from the training room. It’s unusual for her to have security footage on her computer, but she thinks her explanation requires it. She points to the x-ray.
“This is the damage done to Ronon’s wrist. It’s broken here, here, and here. He won’t be able to use it for a few weeks.”
Ronon, with a bandage stretching round and round from the bottom of his chin, up one cheek, over the top of his head, down his other cheek, and looping under his chin and heading up again, shifts his casted and slung arm a little. His pride is still a little sore. And he’s mindful of his injured knee propped up on a trio of fluffy pillows. Even while moving, as few and slight as the movements are, he makes sure to keep his blankets up over his midriff…to keep the giant bag of ice in between his legs successfully and thoroughly hidden from view.
It’s a sad sight, John Sheppard returns his attention to Keller’s computer as well. He leans over Jennifer’s shoulder, puts a hand on the top of her desk beside her arms, and stares at her screen too. Rodney speaks up from just behind and on the other side of his girlfriend’s tall stool.
“So she broke his wrist,” he says.
Keller shakes her head, “No.”
“What do you mean,” Sheppard asks.
Jennifer brings the security footage window to the foreground and lets it play, picking up from where she had paused it just after the moment of Sheppard’s final loss. He had had to swallow down his own pride for that one. The training room’s door opens, Ronon, wearing a dark brown, textured linen, sleeveless, V-neck shirt with dark brown leather trim and strips for a collar complemented by large, dark orange, yarn stitching and a frayed bottom hem, and a pair of greenish brown cotton pants with old brass button and buckle closures, and a pair of brown boots, takes one look at Kenmore and Sheppard, and his attack begins. Keller pauses the footage at the moment when Kenmore’s bantos rod shatters against Ronon’s wrist.
She points, “There. Look at that.”
“What,” Rodney leans in, “She’s breaking his wrist.”
“No actually,” Jennifer looks over at her boyfriend, “she’s not.”
Jennifer zooms in on the rod and wrist area. As soon as the pixels adjust to the appropriate refinement, she points at the angle of Kenmore’s wrist, “Look at that. Look at how she’s holding the stick.”
Teyla, almost at the end of Keller’s desk, peers in from Rodney’s right, “She is holding it incorrectly,” she announces.
“She’s holding it with resistance,” Keller corrects.
Sheppard and Teyla re-examine the image. Low and behold, Doctor Jennifer Keller is right. Kenmore’s hand is gripping the rod seemingly somewhat loosely, but it’s deceptive at first appearance. Her fingers are pink with the strength of the grip, just barely on the peak of turning white; she was holding back…again. But Ronon’s wrist…it gives all the blunt first appearance of exactly what he was intending to do. Just exactly how Ronon is on first appearance. His wound tight fist is all searing white knuckles as it attempted to plow right through to Kenmore. Her blow, a defensive use of her rod, and it’s halting just before the point of contact only served to take his velocity down a peg or two. What really saved her the hit was the time she had saved slowing him slightly enough allowing her to be able to send in her other strike Sheppard remembered her making in that moment.
“You mean he broke his own wrist?” Sheppard says.
Jennifer nods, “Yes. She dislocated his knee and his jaw, we’ve reset both, and…,” she trails off considerately and turns her chair to look back at Ronon still brooding in his own little world of fury at the Lieutenant, they all turn to look at him, “But he broke his own wrist.”
There’s a moment of observant silence. Then Richard Woolsey, the Atlantis Expedition’s leader, closing out the rest of the little assembly taking up the same sort of position Teyla had, except on Keller’s left side, looks down the line at the doctor.
“I think we better keep those two apart for the time being,” he tells her.
Keller nods. He looks over at Sheppard, whose eyes were already waiting there to meet his commander’s, Sheppard nods. And having the acknowledgments of his two primary officers in this situation, Richard Woolsey leaves the Infirmary. With Woolsey gone…
“His wrist is broken and all he can do is hobble around here in pain at best. What the hell does he expect him to do to her,” Rodney complains.
They look back at their bedridden friend again. They don’t know, but they’re sure Ronon’ll find a way.
* * *
The room is tall, with an extraordinary cathedral ceiling. Its basic ceiling has become known as sort of an ornament of the space, there are no triangular shaped glowing ceiling tiles. It’s not tiled at all, just the same sort of turquoise patina coloring as most of the walls in the Lost City of the Ancients. Large, elegant, simple copper anchor lights dangle from the ceiling by long poles, illuminating the 900 plus square foot windowless rectangular room more than adequately. When the Expedition personnel first stepped foot in Atlantis, this room, adjoining the common area they’d found and dubbed the mess hall, was devoid of anything. No storage units, no means of cooking any food. Oh there had been heating units discovered here, but they were not meant to be used for preparing food, but the people of the Expedition had found a way of attaching the equipment they had brought with them and later the more heavy duty equipment that the Daedalus had brought them in order to cook their food. Aside from the industrial ovens and stoves had come a trough-like sink with a steaming unit for cleaning dishes, dishes themselves, massive wheeled metal tables used as kitchen islands, freezing units, refrigeration units, and metal grated shelving units to act as a pantry. Now many people didn’t know that this room had never been a kitchen, or at least not one the Ancients had ever used. It was believed that that room had been removed of all its equipment and was closer to the central tower. There was another common area, far less beautiful than the mess hall area the Expedition uses, with another adjoining room; both far smaller than the locations the Expedition had designated. And that other common area and adjoining room are now believed to have been the Ancients’ original cafeteria and kitchen. But they’re far too small to accommodate the amount of people currently residing in the city. Making many of the anthropologists and archeologists of the science departments come to the conclusion that although Atlantis was perhaps built to house a great many people, she was not actually meant to.
Teyla Emmagan, the five-foot four-inch tall, shoulder length straight amber banged and haired, espresso-eyed, and tan skinned leader of the Athosian people and friend and member of the Atlantis Expedition let alone a resident of the city for a little into six years now, steps into the entrance to the kitchens of Atlantis’ Mess Hall, or at least the massive room the Expedition’s scientists and researchers believed to be the city’s original ‘town hall’ meeting area before the Ancients’ evacuation at the end of their war with the Wraith and the city’s siege during. Silently she watches Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore work for a moment at one of the cleaning basins, washing a large bowl. The Lieutenant, still wearing the same green BDU uniform pants, black combat boots, and black t-shirt, and green BDU uniform shirt, unbuttoned and left to hang open on her, as she had been this morning, rinses the metal dish then sets it up to dry for a moment next to the large trough-like cleaning basin. Then the Lieutenant turns around, walks over to the large central island that the Expedition members had placed in the middle of the room, grabs an armful of dishes from its surface, returns to the basin, dumps them in, and begins to wash those as well. While she’s cleaning a shiny metal measuring cup, Kenmore looks over at Teyla, and it suddenly dawns on Teyla that she has never seen the Lieutenant’s long hair down before.
“I’ll be finished in a moment then the place is all yours.” Kenmore goes back to her cleaning.
Teyla mildly acknowledges her in silence. The Athosian woman had thought about shaking her head and telling the Lieutenant that she did not require this place, and that is true, but she does require the Lieutenant.
Kenmore continues cleaning and the sweet smell that had enticed Teyla’s nostrils from the end of the hallway outside gain in strength and salivating intensity. Whatever the Lieutenant had made in here, it is gloriously enticing…but Teyla has other concerns and channels her idling thoughts back to their original focus.
“So has Sheppard called off his guard dogs yet,” Kenmore asks.
For a moment Teyla is not catching on, Kenmore looks over at her again and sees the fleeting moment of confusion. She elaborates before Teyla can respond…
“Michaels and Artemenko, are they still out there?”
Teyla nods her understanding, “Yes, Sergeant Michaels and Lieutenant Artemenko were still out there, but I have sent them away.” Some things are meant to be talked of in private.
Kenmore nods. “Oh,” she says going back to her cleaning again.
A beat passes.
“Are you cooking something,” Teyla asks.
Kenmore looks at her with for once, and something Teyla had never seen from her before, a smile genuinely and kindly meant. Teyla wanted to respond with her own kind smile.
“Yeah, peach pie made from scratch. It’s just about done. Would you like some?”
Teyla nods and moves into the room, to the island as Lieutenant Kenmore abandons the second large bowl she had been wiping with a foamy blue sponge and takes up a thick white towel from the counter top beside her. That would be helpful to her, Teyla had often found in her many years among her own people as a trader that the breaking of bread or sharing of meals was a great, as many of the people of Earth called it, ‘ice breaker’. She hoped it would prove so here.
Kenmore walks over to one of the ovens that the Expedition had brought with them from Earth lining the far kitchen wall from the wall’s top to its bottom. The Lieutenant pulls it open and the billow of hot air and scent floods the room. Teyla’s nose leads her to try and peer at what the Lieutenant is doing. Kenmore bends down and, using the thick white towel folded lengthwise as a barrier between her hands and the hot pan, retrieves the steaming hot pie from the oven. Very carefully, Kenmore brings it over to the island and sets the golden-crusted, heavenly smelling item down in front of Teyla on another already folded towel as the Athosian gets herself settled on one of the stools stationed at the island. Teyla’s eyes widened at the sight and she cannot control her mouth’s watering now. Kenmore looks around the kitchen until she sees the metal shelving unit holding plates and forks. She gets a couple of the plates and forks along with a knife and an ice cream scoop. The Lieutenant sets them on the island beside the pie then goes to the stainless steel mobile freezer, opens it, reaches in, and comes out with a small unmarked cylindrical container of something. She returns to the kitchen island.
“It smells wonderful,” Teyla tells her.
Kenmore takes the odd wide and narrow triangle-shaped bladed knife, turns it on its side, and cuts into the pie then she slips the triangle blade in between two of the cuts she’s made, lifts, and slides out a slice of pie. Teyla watches eagerly as the Lieutenant deposits the slice of two layers of luscious crust sandwiching a syrupy, gooey thick center of wedges of golden fruit whose center edges seem to be colored an extraordinary shade of deep purple-red on the plate Teyla is holding up to meet it. As Teyla lowers her plate back down to the island’s stainless steel top, Kenmore dishes up a slice for herself then pops open the cylinder to reveal its contents of vanilla ice cream, one of Teyla’s favorites, frozen solid to the container’s brim. Kenmore takes up the ice cream scoop, she looks at Teyla.
“I like a scoop of ice cream with mine. Do you want one too,” Kenmore offers.
Teyla nods through a happy and hot mouthful of the golden food that she had already quickly stuffed into her mouth, to which her first thought had been Hot, hot, hot.
“Do you want it on top or on the side,” Kenmore asks.
Teyla does not know, she had never had anything like this before. The Expedition’s pies do not taste anywhere near this good and it usually only every served it’s ice cream in these small little cups that came with these very odd little thin pieces of wood cut in the shape of a spoon’s head’s silhouette, she supposed it was a spoon, the Earth personnel treated it like a spoon at least. Uncertain, the Athosian gives a sort of confused shrug. Kenmore opts to put a scoop of ice cream on the side as she did with her own scoop of the cold creamy stuff. Then sets the cylinder and ice cream scoop off to the side, sits down on her own stool beside Teyla, and picks up a fork. Teyla finally manages to swallow her first bite of homemade peach pie.
“It’s delicious,” she commends.
Kenmore smiles, sort of sheepishly, “Sorry, Michael isn’t due back from school for about nine more hours. I, uh…I don’t know what to do with myself when he’s not here.”
Teyla starts nodding, “I understand. I often feel the same when my own son and his father are away visiting our people and I cannot go with them…be with them.”
“Do you cook when they’re gone too?”
Teyla laughs a little and smiles remembering Charin and their conversation over a bowl of tuttleroot soup. It was not a conversations Teyla wanted to have with the old friend of her mother’s who had also, in Teyla’s mothers loss during a Wraith culling, become another mother to then orphaned Teyla. The old woman had been ailing at the time and Teyla had managed to convince the city’s chief doctor at the time, Carson, to come see Charin in her hut in the Athosian settlement on the Lantean main land. And while Carson was took a sample of Charin’s blood, Teyla informed her second mother that she had made tuttleroot soup for her. Teyla also informed Charin that she had been practicing in hopes of improving her extremely lacking cooking skills. And that was true, Teyla, ever since discovering how deeply Charin was ailing, had been practicing day and night in these kitchens as well as in her own modest hut in the settlement as much and often as she could till she felt comfortable enough with her soup to offer it to Charin. The Expedition’s chef had tiredly reprimanded Teyla for her using the kitchens all throughout the night without someone else there with her in case she hurt herself, but Teyla had not cared, she was practicing for Charin…her Charin…the last remnant of her mother left to Teyla. At Teyla’s offer, Charin had joked about the notion of Teyla cooking. And when Teyla feed the ailing Charin a modest spoonful of the soup, Charin had laughed that Teyla’s hope of a day when she made the soup as well as Charin did would be a day well into Teyla’s future. Both Carson and Charin shared a laugh at the joke while Teyla took it good naturedly enough, but feeling a personal sadness and anguish at not being able to cook at least a soup well enough for her dear Charin…Teyla plays with a wedge of peach that has fallen loose from her slice of pie.
“I believe that my family and my friends are happy that I do not,” Teyla tells her.
Kenmore smiles and gives a little laugh of her own, reminding Teyla even more of that moment with Charin, “Ah, not so good with the cooking, eh?”
Teyla shakes her head, still smiling at the bittersweet memory of the teasing, Charin passed away less than a few days later, “No, I am not.”
“Neither is my sister. She always took the directions for the recipes as more of suggestions then actual directions on how the food is made.”
“You have a sister?”
Teyla considers this as she continues to play with the loose piece of peach. She had secretly always dreamed of having a sister, older or younger than she regardless. Even when running from the potential of the Asgard following them on that return to Athosia from the Asgard outpost, she had been thinking about family. It was something she used to do in those moments as a child when running from a Wraith culling with her father and mother, then her mother, then just herself and Charin…she wished there was another family member running with them. A sister perhaps. Someone her own age or close to it to be with if ever the Wraith should manage to take one of her parents…or both…or Charin…and Teyla used to think that the Wraith had. But since the Lieutenant and Jennifer’s discovery of her father’s remains, Teyla now knew that the Wraith only took her mother, Tagan Emmagan, while the Asgard had taken her father, Torren. Either way, Teyla is still an orphan in this galaxy…like so many other children here, so many of the adults. It’s something she fears about for her son, Torren John Emmagan. Perhaps not the Wraith taking either she or Kanaan, but it is a daily chance on missions let alone in the city itself that Torren may go to bed one night without either one or both of his parents. It’s a common fear that keeps Teyla up at night lying beside Kanaan or in his arms wrapped around her, staring at the walls of their quarters…it’s ceiling…it’s windows. She finds it hard to breath those nights. Her mind wonders, jumps, from terrifying thought to terrifying thought.
Since Torren’s birth, since she found out she was carrying him, so many things frighten her. So many. And ideas were starting to come to her along with the fears. Born of them she is afraid to think. She had hoped when one of the ideas came to her that it might be due out of some other reason, but now it seems that it might be fear. The journey begins, were Charin’s last words to Teyla. At the time Teyla had taken that as a reference to the song to be sung over the body during the Ring Ceremony, but now she believes that it was Charin’s way of telling Teyla to conquer her fears. After all it was Charin who had pointed out to Teyla that death, especially a death of natural causes free of the Wraith, was not something to be feared. And here Teyla is. Afraid of death. With Teyla going out on missions with her team and Kanaan working here in the city, so many things could go wrong for either of them. Teyla could be captured by the Wraith, killed by the Genii, or come to harm some other unforeseen yet not unfamiliar way. A wayward thorn of a poisonous plant could prick Kanaan or scratch him and he might be lost…Teyla’s mind quickly darts away from those old demons, those fears, those haunts…Always running, always looking to the sky in fear…
“And has your sister’s cooking improved,” Teyla asks.
“No,” Kenmore answers bluntly, “she married rich, very rich. Now she has somebody else cook for her.”
An awkward silence falls between them as Kenmore takes up playing with her own piece of pie with her fork. Her own smile is gone now, replaced by something Teyla suspects is not a happy remembrance. Teyla feels her own discomfort rise at the sight and she too continues playing with her food until she feels it is a prudent time to give her reason for coming here…this is not to be feared…Her reason for coming to the Lieutenant specifically…
“How do you do it,” Teyla asks.
Kenmore looks at her funny, “I pay attention to the directions in the recipe.”
“No,” Teyla says soberly, still focusing on playing with the remnants of her pie slice, “I mean how do you go through the Stargate knowing you leave your son behind…and that one day that may become permanent?”
Teyla’s eyes finally lock with the Lieutenant’s. It is a tense moment, but not a hostile one.
“It’s pretty easy actually. I simply don’t want my son to ever be in a cage. I picture him in one and then try as hard as possible to keep that image as far away from becoming true as I can,” Ursula pauses. “I understand that the Wraith holding cells look an awful lot like cages and the smaller ones, they’re more like webs.”
Teyla nods. She has encountered more of either than any human in the Pegasus Galaxy should ever have to in their lifetime, perhaps more lifetimes than any human can live even in the Lieutenant’s own home Milky Way Galaxy.
“Then I’m in the right place then, huh,” Ursula says and finally takes a bite of pie.
Teyla does not.
“How can you do it knowing that if you do not return through the Stargate, he will be left with no one?” Teyla knows the Lieutenant is sensitive about the loss of her husband, but Teyla needs to know this. To understand it. She needs this…the journey begins…
“I just know that no matter what, I’m his mother and no matter what, no matter who, no one can protect him as good as I can. I am the only person that can protect him as much as I know he needs to be protected. So I keep those cages away from him. And if I have to die in the process, then I’ll take as many of them with me as I can. No one’s going to stop me from protecting my son. No one.”
They poke at their slices for a few more moments in silence. Teyla muses over the Lieutenant’s words and finds she believes the other woman is right. Teyla does believe that no one can protect Torren as well as she can, not even his own father…but Teyla also realizes that it is a very lonely thought. And that Kanaan would rather die, would rather hand himself over to the Wraith personally, would rather return to being a hybrid at the hands of Wraith hybrid Michael again than ever let Torren come to harm. Late at night, in their bed, especially after those terrifying thoughts have plagued her into exhaustion, it is a piece of knowledge that comforts Teyla, makes her roll over in the bed and wrap her arms around the warmth of Kanaan. Hold him closer to her and finally close her eyes and sleep somewhat peacefully…but the Lieutenant does not have that. Her husband, her life partner is gone. According to what she has said before, the Lieutenant views her empty bed as a fear she cannot get away from. But must come to terms with or her body passes out from exhaustion.
Teyla drags the tips of the prongs of her fork through the puddle of her melting ice cream. Some of her own old fears resurface again…
“Is it…easy,” she asks tentatively, not looking up.
“No,” Kenmore answers bluntly.
That does not make Teyla feel better. One of the overwhelming fears she had had when she was pregnant with Torren was that she would be someone standing and looking down at a cold, empty bed while her son slept soundly nearby. Her fear of being alone with Torren had been great…and yet she had told no one of it. Not Jennifer, whom she had become extremely close to during that time, mostly because of the circumstances they had found each other in when they had discovered that the Athosians had been taken and, later, that Kanaan and Teyla’s union had created Torren. And not Samantha Carter, whom she had likewise become close to let alone because of Samantha’s role in Atlantis as the Expedition’s then leader but also because when John had found out that Teyla was pregnant, he had removed Teyla from his team as well as any other duties or responsibilities in Atlantis, rendering her an inactive member. Alone and left to roam the city with nothing to do, she often found herself wandering into Samantha’s office and talking with her. She knew that Samantha sensed that she was lonely, but it was more than that, Teyla was frightened and wanted someone to tell her everything was going to be okay and she trusted Samantha to do that. For someone to somehow understand every feeling she was having and even then tell her that all would be well…it was what Kanaan would normally do in that sort of a situation…she would have confided everything to Kanaan.
“But, I know Woolsey wouldn’t stand a chance against my son’s Godfather,” Kenmore says, “Not a prayer.”
Teyla smiles, when she was pregnant and Kanaan as well as the rest of her people had gone missing, John had told her something similar. You have to understand. Your child has a family here, in case anything ever happens. It had a been a nice sentiment from him, a nice sort of an apology for removing Teyla from the team, but although John could say he understood, that he could empathize with what she was going through…in truth, he could not. Did not. Even telling her about a friend of his from college, it was not anything near what Teyla had been dealing with at the time. She had taken the statement for what it had been worth back then, which was considerable to her in her distress, but it was still not enough. And now that she is here with Lieutenant Kenmore, the only other woman in the whole of the city to be raising her child here in the city with her and to be doing so without a life partner to help…the very notion terrifies Teyla to her very core. Even now. But hearing the woman express the same sentiments John had reported his friend having, it is something. Yes, it is something. It is still not enough, but it is something more than was there before.
With less tension than previously, they return to eating their pie and ice cream; although Teyla is now realizing that her favorite frozen Earth treat is now a warm puddle surrounding the crusty remnants of her slice of peach pie. As Kenmore lowers her head to receive her dripping upcoming bite, the wall—no, the space in front of the wall opposite her—suddenly distorts as though something is trying to suck it back through a vacuum. She gasps. Her dropped fork clangs on her plate. Teyla instantly tenses.
“What is it,” she asks.
Kenmore keeps staring in front of her. But nothing’s happening. It’s like as soon as Kenmore noticed the distortion and chose to look it head on, it vanished. But Kenmore has learned in her long time at the SGC that that is simply not what happens.
“You didn’t see that,” Kenmore asks, “Didn’t you see that?”
“No, what?” Teyla looks around. Waiting for whatever Lieutenant Kenmore had seen to reveal itself to her.
Kenmore immediately reaches up and presses her earpiece, “Lieutenant Kenmore to the Command Center.”
A technician’s voice comes over the communication device’s line, “Command Center here, Lieutenant, what do you need?”
“There’s an intruder in Atlantis,” she announces.
Without another word, Kenmore bolts out of the room. Teyla follows her. Abandoning their meal together…and the rest of its conversation yet to be had.