Title: The Apprehension of Commitment
Summary: “The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it's not without doubt but in spite of doubt.”
Author's Note: Many, many thanks to those who have read this series of fic and especially those who took time to review. Your kind and generous comments were much appreciated.
John had spent the best part of fifteen minutes pacing restlessly around Rodney’s lab almost like an expectant father. So much like it in fact that when Rodney had cracked, asked what the hell the matter was, and John had replied ‘It’s Evie’, Rodney’s first response was, ‘Oh my god, you didn’t get her pregnant, did you?’
“No,” John dismissed almost irritably with a frown and a distracted wave of his hand, “It’s nothing like that.”
“Well what then?” Rodney pressed and, when John didn’t continue, he added, “Look, you’re driving me insane. You’re either going to have to tell me or leave.”
John looked at him, letting out something that was part huff, part sigh, obviously deciding which of those options he preferred before he seemed to surrender. He finally stopped moving, leaning back against one of the desks instead, arms folded across his chest. All defensive posture and unbreakable walls despite the fact he had actually come here to talk about it. He knew he had to, he was getting nowhere on his own, but it didn’t mean he had to like the idea.
“So,” Rodney probed when nothing was forthcoming, “did you have an argument or something?”
John scowled. “No. No, things are going great. That’s kind of the problem.”
Rodney just looked perplexed at that and John, realising that being cryptic was helping no one, decided to relent and confess.
“I’m thinking about asking her to marry me.”
John arched an eyebrow at the other man.
“That’s all you can say? ‘Oh’?”
“Well, what do you want me to say?” Rodney replied, almost defensively, “‘Go for it’? ‘What the hell are you thinking?’ ‘Congratulations?’ ‘Are you crazy?’ I don’t exactly know what you’re looking for here.”
What he was looking for was an honest opinion, but all Rodney was apparently interested in was in giving John whatever answer he wanted to hear. Which, comforting as it might turn out to be, wasn’t really that helpful. Especially when John didn’t exactly know what he wanted the other man to say. Would it really kill him just to say what he truthfully thought? Rodney wasn’t usually one to mince his words. The fact that he chose now, of all times, to be a people pleaser made John a little pissed off. It had taken a lot to confess what was going on and he would have liked some pay off from it.
“Some advice would be nice,” he pointed out, a slight snap of irritation in his voice.
Rodney didn’t seem to take offence.
“You know what the best advice I can give you is?”
“Go and talk to Teyla.”
“Gee, thanks, Rodney.”
“I’m serious!” Rodney protested, “I tried to propose to a woman once and look how that turned out. Honestly, I’m not the best person to be asking for advice on this.”
John supposed that much was true. When it came to relationships Rodney was even worse than him. Even though it would be kind of weird asking for a woman’s advice on this – it was a guy thing after all – Teyla was the one most likely to give a level headed and sage opinion, he had to agree with Rodney on that.
And he had to talk to someone before he went completely crazy.
John had once told Ronon that he was no good at marriage and, as far as he was concerned, he was totally right. Things had been great between him and Nancy until marriage had come in to the equation. Then everything had changed; there’d been fresh expectations and more things to argue about. It had started with buying a house, neither of them able to decide upon a ‘where’ that they were both totally happy with. Then she’d brought up the matter of starting a family, something he wasn’t keen on when he was still being posted all over the world at short notice. Fine, she’d said, she’d concentrate on her career instead and they’d forget kids. But he hadn’t wanted that either. She’d said he’d better make up his damn mind because she didn’t want to put her life on hold for his career. It wasn’t the only thing they’d failed to reach a compromise on but it was one of the big deal breakers.
Thinking about it, he wasn’t exactly in a better position now. If he couldn’t hold down a marriage on Earth how was he supposed to do it in a whole other galaxy with all the problems and dangers that came with it? And the matter of a family was bound to come up again sooner or later. He really wasn’t comfortable with the idea of kids whilst the Wraith were still such a threat but what if they were always a threat? Would that be it then? And did she feel the same way? He supposed he should ask her but he was frozen by the idea that she might not agree with him. What the hell would they do then?
Head hurting, brain considering too many possibilities and situations, he knocked on Teyla’s door, utterly willing to throw himself at the mercy of her advice.
She looked a little bleary eyed when she answered.
“Were you asleep?” he asked apologetically.
She smiled wanly, hands resting on her pregnant stomach. “Hardly. My son seems very interested in practising somersaults today. It makes rest rather difficult.”
“I can come back later if you like.”
“No, believe me, the distraction is welcome.” She stood aside to let him in. “So,” she continued, indicating that he should sit on the low, comfortable chair whilst she returned to the edge of her bed, “I assume from the look on your face that this is not a simple social call.”
John wondered if Teyla really was that astute or if he was just that obvious.
“I was just wondering if I could talk to you about something, that’s all,” he said in a non-committal manner, trying to make it not sound like a big deal.
Her unchanging expression didn’t give away whether or not she believed that.
“Of course. What is it?”
“Well, I’m very flattered but...”
He looked up to see her smiling at him, amusement dancing in her eyes.
“Pregnancy is making you more flippant, you know?” he pointed out, giving her a wry look.
Her smile stayed but she relented her teasing, taking pity on him. Maybe, unlike Rodney, she had an understanding of how difficult it was for him to openly talk about these sorts of things.
“You are contemplating getting married,” she correctly surmised.
“Yeah,” he admitted, before feeling oddly embarrassed at the confession and needing to make it more vague, “Maybe. Of asking her at least.”
Teyla nodded, taking that in.
“Well, if you are asking for my opinion, I think Dr Jones is a fine choice and it is very clear that she loves you greatly. I assume you feel the same for her.”
He knew the hand rubbing the back of his neck and his eyes glued to his feet were obvious sign of nervousness but he still couldn’t help it.
“Then,” she continued, drawing her thoughts to a logical conclusion, “since that is the case, and I doubt you feel the need to ask for my blessing, what exactly is it that you wish to talk about?”
He had a feeling that she somehow knew, or at least had an inkling, but wanted him to admit it all the same.
“Tell me what to do?” he suggested with a wan smile, only half joking. He knew that she never would but it sure would make his life a lot easier.
She smiled understandingly, looking as though she took pity on him but that she would do nothing of the sort.
“You should do whatever you think is right.”
She was probably well aware that wasn’t the answer he was looking for, nor was it particularly helpful but, he grudgingly supposed, it was the ‘right’ answer all the same.
“That’s just the thing,” he explained with a weary sigh, sinking back into the chair, thoughts and decisions having weighed heavily upon him for the past few weeks and feeling more and more like a burden, “I have no idea. And I don’t want to be one of those guys who keeps saying over and over again ‘yeah it’ll happen, I’ll do it’ and never actually gets round to it, you know? If you’ve got to keep promising something you can’t be very serious about it.”
Teyla seemed a little impressed by his reasoning and eyed him curiously for a moment, contemplating something before she spoke.
“Are you considering asking her because you think you ought to? Or because you want to?”
She always was very good at getting him to think about the pertinent points of any situation.
“I want to,” he said without hesitation, that small confession somehow making him feel a little better and his mind clearer, “I really do. I guess I’m just kinda...”
Her words were blunt and without compromise, with no attempt to pander to a male ego. Perhaps in her culture men weren’t so conditioned to shy away from those kind of feelings. Or perhaps hormones were just making her more blunt.
“Maybe,” he admitted, meaning ‘yes’ and assuming she knew enough about him by now to realise that.
“Some of the strongest marriages I have seen had a basis in fear,” she reasoned gently, “The fear of losing someone, the fear of never having expressed true devotion, the fear of being alone. Often it was enough to drive people into taking action, into being with the one they loved. Hope made them promise a future together but fear made them act upon it.”
A nice sentiment and, as usual, she seemed to have sound advice for every situation. It didn’t quite settle his doubts though.
“Which is all very nice,” he said, trying to sound like he was joking when he was in fact utterly serious, “but you don’t know how much I suck at marriage. I mean, you didn’t see my first. Really, it wasn’t pretty.”
“You have been married once,” she pointed out. “Hardly cause to dismiss your qualities as a husband.”
A small smile crept across his face.
“Oh, I have qualities, do I?” This time he was joking, trying to lighten the tone.
“Very few,” she teased.
There was silence for a moment and she looked at him expectantly, not prepared to let the matter just disappear into idle chat.
It drew a confession out of him.
“I just...I don’t want to make a massive mistake. Or the same mistakes I did last time.”
Teyla sighed, sounding a little weary herself now, likely thinking that she was talking to a particularly hard to get through to brick wall.
“You wish to commit yourself to her, yes?”
“But doubts still remain?”
“Yet, in spite of those doubts, your commitment to her stays strong and you still consider it?”
He looked at her carefully. She’d brought up something he honestly hadn’t realised before. “I guess so, yeah.”
“Then,” she concluded solemnly, “I would suggest that is all you need to know.” She smiled gently at him before she continued, trying to make him see her reasoning. “John, that you took the time to think so carefully about this, about whether it was the right thing to do, says much about you in my opinion. About your commitment and your determination. You shouldn’t hide from this any longer if it is what you truly want. And, for what it is worth, I think it is.”
He half smiled, getting what she was saying.
“I should just be a man, get out there and do it, shouldn’t I?”
She smiled too, pleased.
He stood up, satisfied with that before another thought struck his mind, one he hadn’t yet got around to considering, and he paused.
“Do you think she’ll say that?”
Teyla smiled warmly at him. “Why don’t you go and ask her and find out?”
Rodney accosted him in the corridor the next day, bounding up to him in a way he only did when he was particularly excited about something.
“So, you gonna ask her to marry you then?”
John shot a glance around, hoping that no one had been in earshot. Two scientists were walking the other way but they were so engrossed in conversation that he doubted they’d heard anything. At least he hoped they hadn’t. It would kind of ruin that element of surprise if Evie heard about it on the Atlantis gossip mill first.
“Would you keep your voice down!” he whispered harshly to Rodney, before answering his question, “I’m working on it, okay? She’s got some time off at the weekend, thought we could spend some time to together, lead up to it...”
“I just thought when you said you were going to ask her you meant, you know, soon...”
“It’s soon enough okay?” John reasoned, feeling uncomfortably like he was being interrogated, “Besides, do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a decent ring out here?”
“But you got one, right?”
“Yeah. Some trader Ronon knew,” John explained, glad to be steering the conversation away from doing the deed itself, “Did us a good deal. Although we’ve gotta teach Ronon about bartering. Saying ‘make it cheaper or I’ll punch you in the face’ isn’t really in the spirit of things.”
“You gonna have kids?”
The question was blunt and unexpected and it threw John for a moment.
“Well isn’t that what people do when they get married? And you’re not getting any younger...”
“Hey, I’m still in my prime,” John protested, “Besides, there’s no law that says you have to have kids straight off, is there? And living here we’ve got a few more things to consider than getting their name down for a good school.”
The whole issue was something he’d been trying to completely ignore for the last twenty four hours, deciding that he should go one step at a time and that they’d cross that hurdle when they came to it. He really didn’t need Rodney forcing him to think about it again.
It was hardly a word at all and still Rodney managed to make it annoyingly laced with hidden meaning.
“What?” John questioned, too curious about what the hell that was supposed to mean to just let the matter drop, even though a large part of him really wished he could.
“Nothing,” Rodney said nonchalantly, “I just think you’d make a good dad, that’s all.”
John didn’t mean to sound so surprised but he couldn’t help it. He’d always liked kids and had got on reasonably well with them but he’d never really contemplated what he might be like with one of his own. The fact that Rodney, of all people, had given it some thought and had come up positive on it was kind of encouraging. And strangely comforting.
“Yeah,” Rodney confirmed brightly, smiling.
He meant that very genuinely.
“And I’d make a great Uncle Rodney,” the other man continued, barely acknowledging John’s ‘thanks’ and sounding unreasonably excited about the idea. “Madison adores me, you know? And since I’m probably never going to have kids of my own it’d be nice to have more of them around to impart a little of my knowledge and life musing on to.”
John frowned, suddenly seeing what this was all about.
“Don’t be like that. Of course you’re gonna have kids someday.”
“No, it’s okay,” Rodney continued, still bright and, on the surface at least, totally at ease with the fact, “I’ve kind of accepted it. Besides, I think I’m better off as an uncle. I don’t think fatherhood would suit me.”
There was a slight pause.
“You’re supposed to argue with that,” Rodney pointed out, face falling.
“Sorry...” John mumbled, trying to find the words that would sound just the right side of sympathetic and understanding, “it’s just...well you and kids...you gotta admit, you’re not a natural, Rodney.”
“I’m getting better!” the other man protested.
“Oh, you’re not talking about golf again, are you?”
John certainly hadn’t seen Evie approach and a small shot of adrenaline seemed to fly through his veins at the realisation that he’d been so nearly caught out. That she could have easily walked up moments before and heard what they’d been talking about.
Years of practise allowed him to remain calm under pressure though.
“No,” he said smoothly, “we we’re talking about Rodney being a dad.”
Evie’s glance turned straight to him, eyes a little shocked. “Oh my god, did you get someone pregnant?”
“No!” Rodney immediately and vehemently denied.
“Well good...” she said, sounding relieved before realising that that likely didn’t come across very well. “Not that I think that you’d be horrible at it or anything.”
That didn’t quite sound right either.
“And by ‘at it’ I meant, fatherhood,” she explained, “not the pre-fatherhood activities... Not that I’ve thought about you doing that obviously...Not that the idea is abhorrent, I just don’t...”
At that point she gave up, looking imploringly at John.
“Oh for goodness sake, don’t just stand there, help me!”
He just grinned, amused.
“You’re on your own.”
“Look,” she said, with a calming breath, starting again, “all I mean is, this isn’t really a suitable place for children right now, is it? What with the Wraith and everything. I think Teyla’s very brave but I know I couldn’t do it.”
John quashed the sudden urge to kiss her for unwittingly lift such a weight off his shoulders.
Oblivious, she frowned, looking again at Rodney.
“Although come to think of it, you’re not really a natural with kids are you?”
Rodney simply rolled his eyes and walked away, muttering something under his breath.
“I’ve got to go too,” she said regrettably to John, pausing as they reached one of the transporters.
“We have an a million plus year old database of the whole Ancient civilisation to translate,” she reasoned, “I’m always busy.”
“But you’re off this weekend, right?”
He was impressed by his own ability to sound so casual about that even though his stomach was churning. A thrill of excitement laced with a healthy dose of fear.
“Good,” he announced, checking no one was watching before he moved closer, almost trapping her between him and the wall, “because I was thinking, dinner, my place, a movie...”
He indulged himself in a slow kiss and if she noticed how hard his heart was beating in anticipation, she said nothing.
“Mmm, sounds good,” she said with a lazy, contented smile as he pulled away, “It’ll be something nice to think about to keep me going.”
He grinned a little, “Aww, well isn’t that’s sweet?”
“Yes well, I tried imagining you naked and covered in banana ice cream,” she said brightly, “but I find it too distracting.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“I have a thing for it,” she admitted with a shrug.
“Well, I’ll see what I can do,” he promised with a grin, “There’s got to be some perks to being in charge here, right? Either way, I’ll still have a surprise for you.”
Part of him was screaming that he shouldn’t mention a thing, that he shouldn’t say a damn word in case she guessed, but he was somehow unable resist. Like a kid at Christmas who just had to rattle all those parcels.
She looked at him curiously. He knew how much she hated surprises or at least the anticipation of them. He said she was nosy. She said inquisitive. Whatever, it was probably going to drive her nuts for the next few days.
“Really?” she questioned, “Well, I’m not going to ask what it is. It rather defeats the object of it being a surprise and I know you won’t tell me. Although I reserve the right to be intrigued.”
“You do that.”
He kissed her quickly again before walking away, many of the more serious thoughts that had plagued his mind in the past few weeks having faded, leaving only one question behind.
Where the hell was he going to get banana ice cream from?