Spoilers: Just for Season one, I believe, as most is a complete fill of her history.
Summary: Written for heylittleriver as part of the Teyla ficathon with the request of Teyla, the child who became a leader.
A/N: Thanks to fififolle for betaing and a very very big thanks to fanwoman for her beta’s of this, which have much improved flow of the story. To the requestee - I must apologise for the delay on the story and I also hope I met the request okay.
Plus, I would like to praise tielan for running the dedicated ficathon for the character. It was a challenge for me - because my muses aren’t very cooperative right now - but still really fun, and more generally, it’s a great thing to see in the fandom because there’s a definite need for more Teyla fic. :)
She sits serenely, waiting for the movie to start. Around her, there are a few people squabbling in a friendly manner about what to watch – it's probably not going to start imminently, given they've yet to decide. She doesn't mind too much what they pick; everything is new to her, even this – time to relax.
She has always meditated and generally been well rested, but rarely has she had spare time with nothing to do. Ever since her childhood, she has been preparing, her day planned out with rigorous training for her role. It had been expected of her to learn their ways, and she phrases it their ways because, in the eyes of her people, she hadn't always been one of them. Her father’s family had been married in from the Kalin, new stock to keep the tribe going, something that happened a few times in a generation. For several generations after a new lineage was established, care would be taken to integrate the newcomers.
Even her father had not been considered fully Athosian - until he had been chosen to become the leader. Previous to that, it had been as if she and her mother were more important than him, for her mother had been a full Athosian by generational standards.
Back then, it had been harder for her father. She remembers, as a small child, noting how he had been treated differently – the memory still painfully clear in her mind. She could never forget the fragrant atmosphere of the herbs there, the heavy mix of scents which had mystified her, and allows her to recall vividly the scene. She would sit next to her mother obediently, like the other children did with their carer. The tent where her mother prepared the food had always been full of chatter. But the moment her father stepped in the noise would die, and all the other children would shy away from the stranger, hiding behind their relatives. Her father’s smile often continued past his entrance, as he would greet them both cheerfully. But it would lose it's sincerity and she would become aware of the hurt his eyes held. When she was older, the fear of that had scared her. Her mother would never be subject to that curious stare or suspicious hush.
She had almost been just another girl when she was very young, but it hadn’t taken long before the inheritance of her lineage caught up with her, as she feared it would. Her father's new role had proved his loyalty, his ties to the tribe, yet he was not the only one upon whom attention fell. While being mostly Athosian had been enough when she was just another girl, it had not been enough for a leader’s daughter. Suddenly, she had found herself selected for an honor that brought that distinction to bear. When life became easier for him, it signalled the start of a harder one for her.
The Athosians had not been a large society for several millennia. They had been whittled down by the Wraith, bit by bit, until there had been so little left that they’d had to be accepting of all for their survival. They had occasionally moved, as recounted in the sagas, but the last incarnation of Athos had been theirs for nearly a thousand years, judging by the cave paintings. Athosian history had been nearly all but lost. It had become her task, as one of the integrated lineages, and as the dominant lineage, to make certain the knowledge continued.
At seven years old, she had been taken from her mother's side and resituated with her mentor, Jarad. Though friendly, the he had been a total stranger who lived on the outskirts of the settlement, far from all that she had known or thought familiar. Her training had started so young because she had been fresh and impressionable – at nearly the perfect stage in life to take all of that in from the man who had been the last of the elders of the time.
Not long after the decision had been made and she had moved to live with Jarad, she had caught Divari fever and called out for mother in her delirium. Even in sleep, her dreams were fitful. She’d had nightmares of being taken that weren't too far from the truth – it wasn't the Wraith who ripped her from what she knew but her own people who had alienated her, denied who she was, made her prove her loyalty. Instead of her mother's touch, she had felt an unfamiliar, too large, hand compress the wet rag to her forehead. Jarad's whispers had comforted her some, but when ill, she had always longed to hear her mother’s sweet voice sing to her. She’d learnt those traditional songs perfectly, herself, but nothing could replace her memory of how her mother had sung them to her. Still, she had battled on, attempting to earn her right to be Athosian in the hope that would mean she could go back to live with her mother one day – learn from her instead.
She’d had years to learn everything possible of Athosian culture and still not enough had been retained, despite all the time spent in the company of Jarad nearly every waking moment. He had been a kindly old man, much like her grandfather had been when he was alive, but Jarad had been unable to replace the family life she desired to experience.
Other children in the tribe would go to work with their relatives, learning trades from them while getting to spend what she thought of as precious time with them. Yet each day, she would hear them moan about chores and conspire to get out of their duties – to get away from their parents for even just a handful of minutes, as if that was a wondrous event. She‘d always had to turn away and try to refocus on the tale of the day, recounting the details over and over to obliterate the anger she felt. It had never worked. Nothing was that simple – there was no forgetting. The daily reminder would overrule any sense of reason. The jealousy festered because of the volatile combination with her disgust toward her peers for their lack of appreciation. How could they disregard their families when she was denied hers for their sakes? She would have given anything to be like them, and she gave everything of herself to complete the honor assigned to her.
When Jarad had died, nothing had changed about her life, apart from what she would be trained in and who trained her. Since she had been old enough to live on her own, she had continued to be kept separate from the others, living in Jarad’s hut as part of her inheritance. Her one consolation had been that her father had then become her new mentor for her physical schooling. Every day, for hours upon end, she had been in his presence – she had battled to be better than she was, taking criticism each and every hour from him. He had been her father, but by then he had become the leader - and she had been the next in line. There had been no room for failure, no time to waste. Her childhood had been long over in everything but her number of years.
By the time her father had officially become leader, she was ten, but she’d had no time for games, like the other children. She had known all of the games by heart, had committed them to memory because they were part of the traditions, but each she had played so few times under Jarad's mentorship because, ultimately, her goal had been to understand them, not to enjoy. She'd entertained the idea of sneaking out on a few occasions, but in her heart, she had known it would be bad to do so. Her restraint had not been simply because she should not, but because she should not bother – she was different from the other village children. By then, she had become more than aware of that fact, and, more importantly, so had they. Even if she had been able to remember how to play, she would have been shunned, excluded. There was had been no point risking punishment - and worse, her father's disappointment - for something she could not hope to obtain. The other children would carry on, carefree, and she would continue to study. That had been the way of things, what had been expected.
She had begun with the basic forms of Athosian the martial arts, rising early in the morning to take her stances. Two stances at a time, she had practised relentlessly until she had perfected them, progressing quickly from basic to advanced. After only a few months, she’d mastered all four hundred.
The next stage had required work with a partner, someone closer to her in age and experience. Onu was three years older than her, but he had been short for his age and, hence, roughly the right height to spar with her. He had been a true Athosian by lineage, and fortunate enough to have been trained by his relatives. He’d come to live with her, teaching her of medicines and woodcraft in the evenings while the other Athosians dined together. In their hut, they would speak quietly as they worked together, listening to the sound of music drifting from the other side of camp. She had learned everything she possibly could about being an Athosian, apart from what it was like to live as one. She could explain the festivities in great detail, identifying them from just the music specific to each one, but they’d still seemed like they were a world away from her life. All she had then was her hours of training and the long evenings by the fire with Onu, full of reflection. He had missed his family, too, but he had also been able to visit them often – his training had been less intense and her father would give him breaks she would never be allowed, during which he could sprint off to the other side of the encampment for a brief sojourn. Somehow, she had never felt resentful of that. Instead, she had empathised, and they would share stories about their families, though her memories of a normal life were few and far between compared to his.
Finally, they had reached the level where her father would let them use makeshift sticks in their practice – only one step away from true mastery. The sticks from the forest had been were weak and brittle, prone to breaking upon a strike, but that had been the point. Both she and Onu had acquired enough bruises made by them that they had understood why this was so. Not until both had learnt it well enough would they be able to use the proper weapon. The first time they’d done so had been shortly after her mother had been taken. Distracted, she had broken Onu's arm. From then on, she had faced her father as an opponent, and in Onu's absence, she had been taught other disciplines by Charin. Even after Onu had healed, he had not come back, and she’d wondered if it had been her father’s idea to have Charin, a motherly type, replace the young man. Perhaps it had not been just because she’d lacked a mother but because she had become a young woman.
She had lived with Onu companionably for three years but their relationship had never been that of siblings, despite the rampant rivalry between them. Had her father had caught her blushing at an innocent comment Onu had made, or noted how she would laugh too often at Onu's jokes? She had been aware she did both. She had also liked to indulge the young man's artistic dreams, once pondering if, perhaps, she would someday be the subject of one of his poems. Whatever her father had sensed, it mattered little after the fact. Her father had worried about their friendship becoming more and had separated her from Onu. She‘d never known if her suspicions were true - if her father had acted upon anything in particular, or if it had merely been preventative, getting her away from any potential distraction. Either way, she ’d taken note of the possibility and avoided any distractions in order to please her father. After so many years, she’d grown accustomed to rarely thinking about herself; she would simply do what was expected of a leader-to-be. Despite having become acclimated to denying her own needs and wants, she suffered for the loss, as did Onu. In following the course that would lead her to who she had needed to become, she had lost a dear friend. Worse, she had also lost a part of herself - no longer would she consider who she wanted to become. Such notions could not bear the pressure of pleasing her father and wanting to be accepted by the tribe.
Under Charin’s tutelage, she’d soon found herself surpassing Onu’s teachings. Her progress had not only given her satisfaction, but she had found herself genuinely happy around Charin. Charin would tell her of her mother, and her mother's mother, and about all that she had missed during her seclusion. It may have been Charin’s knowledge of her loneliness that had led to efforts to convince her father, as the leader, to take his daughter, the future leader, on a trip off their world. Everyone was well aware of Charin’s meddling in village affairs, but she nevertheless tended to be successful, mainly because it was always with good intention and a careful, considered approach that won even the most resistant over. Her mission on Teyla’s behalf had been no exception.
Her first taste of alien culture, other than her father's past heritage, was of the Kelana upon a visit to Kelos for trade negotiations. She had been intoxicated by the marvels of another world, so much so she had let slip information that allowed the Kelana to gain the upperhand. Her father had been grim for days afterwards, but still he had come to her when the next trip arose, pausing only to impart to her the importance of patience and of speaking carefully to others before they left. Thus had she spent her the latter years of her adolesence. She would learn these lessons from her father during the day, and at night, she would return to the good food and company of Charin. The only times she had been nearly as happy had been her years with Onu and her childhood with her mother. Charin had replaced neither person, but she was warm and caring in her own unique way. Although she would not deny that the old woman had mothered her, other times Charin had merely been a good friend.
Teyla had always been aware of time, how little anyone might have, but she hadn't thought of it seriously. She'd continued studying what she had been required to learn because it made sense to put her all into it, completing the tasks as fast and with as much skill acquired as possible. She'd never wondered if her effort would ever matter other than the proud feeling of accomplishment it would provide. At seventeen, she’d found it did.
Her father had died and she had succeeded him as leader. A month after the event, she had still been in mourning for him, but she had also been expected to celebrate the succession. There she had been with the Athosians welcoming her as their new leader. The whole of the tribe had gathered in the main tent, smiling and toasting to the event. At last, she would be accepted as one of them, an occasion she had only dreamed of. She had spoken with precision the words she'd memorised as a child, drunk the tea and taken in the beauty of the melodies of the songs as they were performed. Despite presiding over the festivities she had always wished to experience, the knowledge that she had achieved her status through the harshest of misfortunes sapped any pleasure she might have felt. To be rewarded, she had to have first been deprived of her mother and her father, of Jarad, too. It had been then she’d realized she had truly lost Onu, as well. He would not look her way, not once, and later, she would learn it was because of years of her lack of attention. She had ignored him for her duty, for her father. Her father had passed on, and her duty had not only remained but grown.
She had worked so hard, missing the pleasures of childhood and of an average life. It had been for those privileges she had worked. Yet she would never have them, and nothing could ever make up for it. She had recognized what she had worked for was not for herself but for the others. The reward she had waited for had not come; the work had never ended because there was always a duty, a way of being that came with leadership.
Here, on Atlantis, she has a new duty as part of her old one, and it is one that does not strip her of who she is but lets her be. At times like these, she is Teyla, an Athosian, as well as the Athosian leader. She is allowed to be Teyla, rather than Teyla, daughter of Tagan. And Teyla, just Teyla, can sit at peace, doing nothing at all; waiting for someone else to do something, not worrying about the correct way of behaving, because, for a change, she has no clue what that might be.