~2300 words, PG. For anna_luna. Prompt: "1) Teyla and Rodney and music. (Them bonding over music. Rodney rediscovering his love for music. Teyla singing. Cultural background. Anything. I love it all.) 2) Rodney, Teyla and the baby. Because I'm sappy like that." Beta'd by the lovely dogeared
They're knee-deep in wildflowers and exotic grasses, trudging across the plains to another godforsaken village when Rodney hears it, the faint curl of a melody he almost knows. He's been paying close attention to the energy signatures on his hand-held sensor, so he has no idea how long the melody's been there, hovering at the periphery of his thoughts, coaxing him to listen despite the interesting, rhythmic rise and fall of power differentials beyond the horizon. The cadence is frustrating, just one note, one legato phrase here and there out of step with the pattern he expects. "What – what is that?" he asks of himself more than anyone else, looking up at his team – but no one else has noticed anything out of the ordinary if the easy pace of Sheppard's stride is anything to go by, the lackadaisical way Ronon's trailing along at the rear.
"Is something the matter?" Teyla asks beside him. When she speaks, the music stops.
Rodney blinks at her, trying to order his thoughts, to compel the calculations he's been running about the probable cause of the energy spikes to run parallel to, not haphazardly through, his curiosity about the music. "Were you humming?" he asks, confused.
She smiles at him – a sudden lift to her mouth. "I am sorry – I did not mean to disturb you . . ."
"No! No, no, no – I was – " He brushes her apology away with a wave of his hand. "What was it?"
"A lullaby." Teyla rests her hand atop her swollen belly. "Something from my childhood that I thought I had mostly forgotten."
"Are there words?"
Teyla shakes her head. "It was played on a dashin'as," she offers. "A small instrument, perhaps – " she sketches out its size with her hands "– this big? There were strings, seven or eight of them, and a small pick with which they were plucked."
"Hmm. Like Sheppard's guitar, then."
"No . . . more delicate," Teyla says, thoughtfully. "A lighter sound. Soothing." She arches an eyebrow. "Mr. Cash would not have played his music upon such a thing."
"Would you . . ." Rodney rubs the fingers of his right hand together, gesturing awkwardly. "I mean, I'd like to hear it again if you – "
Teyla smiles. "I would be glad to. Truthfully, the melody is stuck inside my head and it gives me some relief to – "
"Earworm," Rodney nods.
"A worm in the ear?"
"No, no." He grins at her. "Um – just a . . . a phrase. When something gets stuck inside your head, a piece of music. Earworm."
"Ahh." And if Teyla's nod of understanding is more generous than indicative of real comprehension, she goes back to humming her tune, and Rodney goes back to his energy readings, buoyed by the company of friendship and music.
He shows up at her door that night, bouncing on the tips of his toes, a data pad in one hand and a small set of speakers in another. "I have something you'll want to hear," he says, feeling triumphant, stalking into her room and setting everything down on one of the low benches against the wall. "I was thinking about your lullaby, you see, and how the phrasing is – well, it's just – " He looks over his shoulder as he plugs the speakers into the datapad. "You know I used to play the piano?"
Teyla is watching him, bemused, bracing herself with one hand at the small of her back, still standing by the door. "The large wooden instrument? You have shown me pictures."
"Yes, well, this was – I was maybe, eight? Nine when I first learned how to – it's . . . anyway." And he taps at the datapad, smiles gleefully as music begins to play.
Teyla stays where she is for a moment, head tilted to one side, then drifts closer, sitting cautiously on the end of her bed. She frowns, paying close attention. "This is almost the song I was humming."
"Exactly!" Rodney grins, stabbing the air with one finger. "This is earth music - Clair de Lune. This version is played on a piano, obviously, but you can play it other ways. Orchestras, single instruments . . ."
Teyla smiles – she looks enchanted, captivated by the similarity woven between two galaxies in a simple arrangement of notes. "This is beautiful. How is it possible that . . ."
"I don't know – I mean, I could ask the anthropologists if not for the fact that it would make me break out in hives, but I imagine that the Ancients must have had musical traditions that they took with them to Earth. If those got passed down as folk music, as tradition, they could have influenced the composer who wrote this, and he could have replicated – " he winces " – bad choice of words, there, but mimicked? Perhaps? Music that had come from Athos without having the slightest idea of the origins of what he was doing. It would have seemed . . . natural?"
Teyla shakes her head in wonder. "That is quite astonishing."
"Isn't it?" Rodney grins even wider. "I can leave this with you if you like – I made a folder on the shared server with some other things you might like and you can listen any time you want? And the speakers are – or you could use headphones if that's better, do you have headphones? Anyway, I just thought you might find it . . . soothing," he finishes, flushing slightly.
"Thank you," Teyla says softly, and leans forward to kiss the top of his head. "It will help greatly in the hours when I cannot sleep.'
"Oh, well. Excellent," Rodney says, and feels his blush creep down his throat.
But none of them are destined to sleep much, or to mend broken hours with music. Teyla's taken, and the world shrinks to a frantic search to find her, to pull her back from whatever end Michael has planned, the ticking clock of her pregnancy pulling everyone's skin taut across their hands, their cheekbones, worry stealing sleep and invention from them when they need it most. John's lost for twelve days, and Rodney thinks he might lose it completely around day six, aimless save for Ronon, his only anchor now, and if they both gravitate to Teyla's quarters, if Rodney shows up one morning to run when John would have done the same, neither of them says anything about the fact that they're drowning in helplessness and routine's all they have.
The relief Rodney feels when John steps back through the stargate snaps into his spine, makes him straighten up, tip his chin, rediscover – ridiculous he tells himself – a sense of hope. John's cheeks are burned from sand and sun and his posture carries the secrets of another timeline, but suddenly it feels possible they can save the day, three searching for one, and Rodney snaps his gun to his tac vest, tells grief it can step off and quit bitching in the wee small hours of the morning – they've faced these odds before, and won; they'll do it again.
And it's never been easy; it isn't now, not with Michael's bombs shattering buildings above them; not with 'jumpers and pulleys and the barest pause for medical attention before they're off again. They're running on adrenaline, on slivers of information, and when they find Michael's hive, breach its defenses, begin their search fueled by absolute fury, Teyla's already laboring to bring her son into the world. Rodney stays with her – it makes a strangled kind of sense; his shooting isn't as straight as that of Ronon or John and he might be terrified, but his hands are large enough to catch the child who slides into the world on his mother's cry of pain. He's glad to provide this much, to wrap the baby in his jacket, to hold Teyla close as shivers wrack her body, to kiss her hair because she's stronger than any of them and they can finally take her home.
Kagaan, Teyla's son, is a healthy, strong-lunged boy with tiny fingernails and a dusting of sand-brown hair in a whirl at the crown of his head. Bathed and swaddled he's a wonder in Rodney's arms, bursting with smells and inquisitive noises, wrinkling his nose and yawning in turn. Rodney's fascinated by him – less by the content of his pants; he's happy to let Nathan, the on-duty nurse, deal with that – and the curl of his fingers over Rodney's own, the dimples at his elbows, the soft underside of his feet. When he hands the baby to John – John, who can't stand to be touched, but who gamely rocks Kagaan as if it's no big deal – he turns around and grins at Teyla, says, "You made that!" and grins wider when she laughs. She takes his hand and squeezes it tight. "And you welcomed him," she says softly, making Rodney's chest go tight with pride.
Something's changed since they returned, something small but significant, lodged right behind Rodney's breastbone. He's never paid attention to the strictures of medicine before – voodoo practitioners; he wants no part of that – but he pores over an online edition of some anatomy textbook, trying to work out if he injured something vital in the building's collapse, in the rescue, in the journey home. There's a restlessness in him, a strange sort of ache that doesn't make sense, but it keeps him up at night, distracts him from his work, and if everyone explains it as exhaustion and stress, the natural fallout of everything they've been through, it doesn't feel like anything of the sort – this is wholly, disturbingly new.
He can't concentrate on wormhole dynamics, not like he used to; can't figure out why it matters if they increase desalination efficiency by .325%. The things that have kept him company in the dead hours no longer feel fulfilling, and after walking, and writing emails home, and beating on a punching bag in the gym, and hacking John's video golf game so that he'll always, always lose, there's still no resolution to the displaced sense of something in Rodney's chest.
So he builds – an old habit; F-16 models made at 2am when he was nine years old; a replica of Apollo 11; his own schematic for a shuttle that could take them to the moon. He scours the database for whatever he can find about Athos; gets the botanists to find him wood; folds alloys with tiny hand-tools he hasn't used in years, having given them up for crystals and the efficacy of datapads. And when he's done – weeks into his work, concentration returning bit by bit the closer he is to finishing – he takes his creation to Teyla's room, swipes his hand over the sensor by her door, waits for her answer, hopes Kagaan is asleep.
"Rodney," Teyla says, smiling at him as the door slides open.
"I’m not – interrupting?" he asks, shifting from foot to foot.
"Not at all." She waves him inside. "Kagaan has just fed. My little man is in – " She paused. "I believe John calls it a milk coma?"
Rodney smiles, creeps over to Kagaan's cradle and peeks inside. "He looks happy enough," he agrees.
"Yes, and my discomfort is lessened too." Teyla sits on the bed. "Did you come simply to visit?'
"Yes! Well . . . not exactly. Somewhat. I mean." Rodney shuffles again.
"Rodney." She arches an eyebrow.
Rodney huffs out a breath and sits down at her side. "I made you something. Well – for Kagaan too, I suppose, but – I made you something." He offers her the box he's been carrying under his arm.
"A gift?" Teyla pries off the tape holding down the flaps of the cardboard box he passes her – a cast-off means of transporting copper wire between galaxies. "You have already been generous, there is no need for . . ."
"No, no, I just – " Rodney waves a hand. "It's just something."
There's tissue paper inside the box, to prevent everything from being jostled and scratched, and when Teyla pulls back the folds, lifts out the small wooden chest Rodney's crafted, she looks bemused. "It is very beautiful," she says warily, turning the box around in her hands. "The carvings, are these – "
"Athosian. At least I think so? I hope I got it right, I had to rely on the sociologist's sketches and . . ."
"They are right," Teyla smiles at him, obviously pleased.
"And if you open it . . ."
Teyla does so, the hinges lifting with a satisfying creak; as she props open the lid, music begins to play. Her mouth falls open just a fraction, breath escaping. "Rodney . . ."
"It's the tune – my tune, I mean, I couldn't find a record of the Athosian version, but I thought perhaps it was close enough, and it would be nice for him to learn a little about Earth?"
Teyla nods. "I believe so," she says in barely more than a whisper, watching as the steel drum rotates inside the box, tiny nicks of metal catching on a stave, coaxing notes into the quiet of the room. She smiles, shaking her head, then sets the box aside.
"If you don't like it . . . " Rodney begins.
But Teyla turns toward him, catches his face between her hands, and kisses him softly, right on the lips. "I like it very much," she whispers, leaning her forehead again his.
And Rodney thinks, oh, oh, this is the ache in his chest; this is the newness he couldn't name, and he tilts his head to kiss her back.
For a copy of the music Rodney plays to Teyla, go [here]; change the xx to tt.