Summary/Description: John spends time with Teyla's son, now five years old
Characters/Pairing: John, T.J. and Teyla
Word count: 2352
Spoilers: Teyla's son's canon name is mentioned, referred to as T.J.
Warnings: Season 5 spoiler, baby's name
Recipient: this was written for liviapenn who promted my muse for this one
Notes: for the JohnTeyla Thing-a-thon 2008, liviapenn's request for a J/T and/or baby telling stories story... Hope you like it.
"Where does snow come from?" asked the dark-haired boy holding John's hand as they walked out onto the south pier.
Sheppard looked down at the five year old and then up to the bright blue sky wondering what prompted the question as the air was warm and the sun shone brightly above. Torren had seen snow once very recently when he was allowed to join the team on an off-duty excursion to a planet during its winter season.
"Well, it comes from the sky," Sheppard replied simply. He often found it best to simply answer the question being asked and to not lead the boy's curiosity into other avenues. It eventually got there on its own anyway.
"I know that part," Torren remarked matter-of-factly with a bit of a tone. "But where in the sky? From the clouds?"
Sheppard had to grin though because Teyla's son had turned out to be quite bright and sometimes John had to remind himself that the child was only five years old... Earth time. It was difficult for some of the Earthers to use the 27 hour days to count off the years. The extra hours in each day were great in order to get more work done on a duty shift, but the shorter year would mean that the boy would actually be seven years according to the revolutions of the planet they currently called home for Atlantis. In Earth days, Torren John had just turned five years only three months ago.
"Uncle John?" the boy tugged on the colonel's hand and John shook himself back to the present and the child looking to him for answers. Teyla had taken a few hours for herself to join in on a girl's poker game. It was Sunday again so many of the expedition members were given their mandatory day of rest.
"Sorry," John offered with a grin. "Yeah, the clouds hold the moisture high above the planet---"
"Yeah, like rain. When the clouds get full of the rain and become too heavy... ya' know... like the sponge you play with in the tub...?"
"Uh huh," Torren nodded. "It fills with water and when it's really heavy I can squeeze it and all the water comes out."
"Right. Well... that's sort of how clouds work," John told him.
"Oh," the boy replied and then there was a long pause. Torren John Emmagen then looked up at the man whose name he carried and blinked wide brown eyes. "But who squeezes the clouds?" he asked.
"Umm... well... nobody, T.J.," Sheppard told him, calling the child by his given nickname. John was the only one on base who shared the special nickname with him and Torren accepted it as a sign of his special friendship with the man he knew as his Uncle John. Uncle Rodney called him Torren and Uncle Ronon called him one or the other depending if Uncle John was with them or not.
"Then how does the water come out if nobody squeezes it?" the boy asked again as if making a point that the previous answer had to be illogical.
"Ummm, it has something to do with the barometer... I think," Sheppard wiggled through and then had an epiphany. "You'll have to ask your mother."
"Oh... okay," Torren nodded.
It was always so easy to squirm out of the harder questions just by saying "ask your mother" and Sheppard was learning to use that escape a lot. He didn't know a whole lot about raising kids and he wasn't sure if it was always this easy and this much fun... or was it only so now because of who the child belonged to? All he knew was this entire experience, of being allowed to help raise this particular child, and to feel as though he was part of their little family unit, was about the best feeling and the most wonderous event that John Sheppard could've ever hoped to experience in his lifetime. Sometimes when he looked closely at T.J. he could almost convince himself of the "what if" part of the equation.
"Why do rainbows appear in the sky?" T.J. asked as if it was his simple duty to keep asking questions. This particular one caused John to look up into the sky again as they came up to the safety rail on the upper level of the pier. He smiled to see no rainbow and looked down to see Torren testing the lower ledge with his toe and John raised him up by the hand and guided him onto the small shelf so he could look over at the ocean too.
"Uncle John?" Torren said and as Sheppard looked down at him he said, "Rainbows?"
John smiled and explained, "Rainbows are formed because of drops of moisture in the air reflects the sun's rays. Each one depending on its angle to the solar beams creates a prism of different colors."
"A prism? Like the kaleidoscope you gave me?"
"Yes," Sheppard grinned, "just like that."
"Cool!" the boy smiled. He thought it was cool to use the word 'cool' just like Uncle John always did. He liked using words Uncle John used, he liked alot of things about his Uncle John. Torren often asked if he would one day be as tall as Uncle John. His mother would smile wide and say softly to him "with any luck". He would smile at that answer because he felt lucky all the time and the look on his mother's face when he'd ask always made him sleep better at night... but he didn't know why.
"Why does ice melt when you put it in your pocket?"
Sheppard smiled crookedly at that one. "Teej, did you leave a snowball in your pocket when we got back from Ulis the other day?"
"Yeah," the boy nodded vigorously.
"And what happened?" John asked him, trying to hide the bemused tone in his voice.
"Mama said 'where did this puddle come from?' and I told her my snowball must have pee'd on the carpet. But when I got out of bed to get dressed and bring my snowball to the breakfast table, it wasn't there. Mama said it melted."
"It was too warm in your pocket. You should have put it in the freezer," John informed him and T.J.'s eyes widened with realization and then he nodded, committing the information to his memory.
"What makes the night?"
"When the sun moves to the other side of the planet, it gets dark on this side and we have night for a few hours until the sun rotates around to our side again."
"Where do stars come from?"
"Stars are formed from giant balls of gas," Sheppard told him and T.J. giggled with that answer.
"Then Uncle Rodney must have a lot of stars in his belly!" the boy crowed and then laughed a brilliant child's laugh that actually made John chuckle whenever he heard it. So the two stood side by side chuckling and giggling at the stars in McKay's belly that produced balls of gas.
The two buddies poked and prodded each other in taunting play as they enjoyed the day's warmth and the fresh air out on the pier. Torren's giggles and screeches reverberated off the walls and echoed up the sides of the tall spires of the Ancient city as Uncle John tickled him and teased to toss him into the ocean so he can play with the whales.
As the two finally quieted down, Sheppard simply stood at the rail contemplating the twists and turns his life had taken to bring him to this point. The silence stretched out and the sun had moved a good distance in the alien sky when Torren leaned back and rested his weight against his Uncle John. He lolled his head from side to side as he daydreamed a child's fantasies, standing on the safety rail his head rested against John's chest.
Sheppard looked down at the crown of dark hair as T.J. hummed a quiet child's song he'd learned in classes with Halling and the other Athosian children. John smiled and dropped a soft kiss on top of the boy's head.
"Uncle John?" came Torren's tiny voice as his contact triggered another set of questions from the toddler.
"Where does love come from?"
Wow. That one brought John up short. He straightened and caught his breath with the realization that he had no idea where it comes from. He could feel it inside him though, a weighty sensation that seemed to fill him up and made his heart beat with more purpose than just keeping him alive. Torren waited silently for the answer as if he knew the depth of his question. Finally Sheppard could only tell him the truth.
"I don't know, T.J." Sheppard told him sincerely and the young Athosian child tilted his head to look up at him.
"Do you know what love is, Uncle John?" he asked and Colonel Sheppard took a deep breath and the expansion of his chest lifted the boy gently forward before settling him again.
Sheppard wrapped one arm lightly around the boy's belly as if to keep him safely on this side of the rail but, in truth, it was an embrace John suddenly felt compelled to offer. His touch now mirrored the slight touch he'd often given Teyla, unsure of how to hold her in her times of need. Not knowing if his touch would reveal too much to her. Not knowing if his touch would betray him and convey to her what his words could not.
"I have an idea, T.J," he finally whispered, not looking into those big dark eyes. Trying to defer the boy's apparent scrutiny up close, Sheppard rerouted the question back to the boy. "Do you know what love is?" he asked, quite curious as to what a five year old would come up with as an answer.
"Yes," Torren replied solidly, without reservation and his decisive answer made Sheppard turn to meet the boy's gaze.
"Yeah," T.J. repeated.
"What is love, T.J?" John asked sincerely this time.
"Love is...." he paused as he tried to think of an example to give his uncle. "Remember when you came over on Christmas morning to open presents with me and Mama?"
"Yes," Sheppard whispered. He remembered. It was one of the most incredible experiences he could've hoped for. A sense of true family, sharing around the tree on Christmas morn. "I remember."
"Well... " Torren paused for a moment and John stared at him deeply as if willing the boy to give him the answer to the universe itself. T.J. had a way about him like that. A special way. Sometimes he was just a regular little boy wondering where rainbows come from and other times... he was much more than that. This felt like one of those times.
"... love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and just listen..."
And there it was. John stared at his namesake and Torren slowly raised his soft pudgy child-hands and laid them on John's cheeks.
"Love is... the way Mama's voice changes when she says your name," he told John.
"What?" Sheppard asked.
"Mama's voice changes when she says your name. Just like it does when she says my name. It becomes softer... like she just breathed out a feather. She only does it when she says my name... or yours. The way she says it... lets you know that your name is always safe coming out of her mouth."
John blinked. He finally remembered how to move and he swallowed hard and shook himself from that revelation. He kept his hand on the boy to keep him safely steady, but he had to turn away to collect himself. Could a child so young be so perceptive?
"It's the same sound your voice has when you ask Mama if she's all right," Torren informed him and Sheppard's chest hitched tight.
"I asked Mama if you could be my Daddy..." Torren confided and John slowly turned to look at the small boy.
"What did she say?" he whispered, barely able to move air through his larynx.
"She said... in a way, you are my daddy."
Sheppard's expression broke and he almost lost it right there. What he wouldn't give to have a son. What he'd give to have this boy for a son. His eyes welled up and threatened to overflow but he fought to keep the churning emotions at bay.
"Can I call you daddy? Just once?" T.J. asked, looking at John with a spark in his eyes that held onto a hope that one day he would be able to call someone "daddy".
John had promised Teyla that he wouldn't stop searching for Kanaan, the man she believed to be the boy's father. Estranged from his own father at a relatively young age, John understood too deeply the need to call someone daddy. Just one time.... just this one time.....
"Just this once," John assented, but truth be told, he wasn't sure if he permitted it for the boy's sake, or his own.
Torren threw himself against Sheppard with his tiny arms outstretched as if trying to wrap around him. "I love you, daddy."
John embraced the tiny boy and held him tight to him, holding him there for a long time so the child couldn't witness his tears as he whispered, "I love you too...... son."
~ End ~