Characters/Pairings: Teyla and Bates friendship (UST if you squint), plus Sheppard/Teyla friendship (and again, maybe a little UST)
Summary: She hoped - but never truly believed – things could be different between them. But for all good things there comes a sacrifice, and it is not just his to give – they are both to be tested in their own way.
Words: 2132 words
Spoilers: Up to Season 2 - Intruder
Author's Notes: Written for agriope23 using the prompts "Stick-fighting, peace offering, command." Kindly betaread by fanwoman. :)
The weeks have gone by fast, her life busy but strangely emptier while sharing command with Radek. She missed the missions more than a little, and her time off world. She also missed sparring with John – few others made it such a challenge. Plenty of those on Atlantis were formidable opponents, especially after her tutelage, but most concentrated purely on their own actions - they did not engage her quite the same way. That was why, showing more eagerness than she was prone to, her pace towards the gym was hastened today.
The journey seems longer than normal – longer than she would like, at least. It seems almost childish to her, to be thinking like this, as if anticipating her favourite tale would be told at dinner.
The doors of the gym swish open, and she glances up, just containing her smile as she thinks of how to adequately bait John this time. Her playful taunts about his lack of skill – or more accurately, lack of serious practice, unlike her other sparring partners – are one of the most enjoyable aspects of their sessions. On occasion that saddens her, stirring up memories of long gone friends, but right now she blesses the ancestors that she has met these good people. Her life has a purpose, but it is not devoid of joy, as it could well have been. Though, had she not been so fortunate, that would not change where she has put herself today; she simply has more than she has asked for.
Walking in, her smile falters, her expression becoming more guarded by instinct, as if sensing they are not alone before her eyes truly register it. The atmosphere is different, and so is John’s tone as he greets her. He does not greet her with the casual camaraderie of a friend or teammate, but merely welcomes her with formality, offering an introduction, one given with stiff discern.
“Sergeant Bates, this is Teyla Emmagan.”
Bates looks at her plainly, devoid of the rawness she is used to associating with his presence, and he speaks calmly, sincerely, instead the forced politeness he has so often employed against her.
“Pleased to meet you, Ma'am. I've heard a lot about you from the Colonel.”
Though intrigued by the Sergeant’s changed demeanour, she is further caught off-guard by his statement, finding herself tilting her head, curious, and questioning that last detail.
“I got a promotion,” John says casually, as he leans against one of the new target dummies, shrugging it off as nothing much.
“And Sergeant Bates, has he been reassigned here?”
“I'm quite well, Ma'am, with exception of my memory. Good enough for duty, I assure you.”
“You do not recall me?” she asks ponderously, vaguely offended she would be one of the few things he cannot remember, but she accepts the situation.
Memory loss is a rare occurrence without emotional trauma - namely the grief that she herself knows of, of cherished ones snatched away in the blink of an eye - but still she has heard of it on many worlds. Those who wake up from their deep dreamings sometimes do not see everything the same, nor know all they once did. The elders occasionally discussed such things, believing them journeys of the spirit - time to heal body and soul – and that those who did not wake had not found their way back, but would be embraced by the ancestors. Having experienced the medical knowledge of the people of Earth, she can only imagine such a traditional view would be considered naïve, yet she cannot help wondering if the wisdom of the elders has some merit in this regard.
“To be honest, Ma'am, I don't feel like I've ever met you before, despite what the Colonel says.”
For a man like him it must be hard to not know what he once did – the details vital to his understanding of the situation, and so to carrying out his role here, making him for the time being ineffectual at the job that he takes so very seriously. She imagines he feels as if he should know but nevertheless, for all his efforts, he cannot, and in fact may never remember. He must relearn all that he has forgotten, and doubt will seep into his consciousness about that which he may never know everything, with parts of himself lost forever. The thought of it scares her deeply.
“Please, call me Teyla,” she says, attempting to allay his discomfort or frustration at the inequality of their second meeting.
“Whatever you'd prefer. I apologise for any offence - I'm not exactly up to standards on your culture.”
Teyla blinked at the admission. She'd never heard him express such care for cultural differences before. Though, unlike Halling - who had accompanied Bates on the few missions he undertook with the Sergeant Stackhouse's team - she had not been privy to his negotiations off-world. Perhaps he had simply not held back on her previously, wanting to cause offence, to goad her into making a mistake. He had succeeded not long before he had been injured, she had eventually uncharacteristically given in to her anger, losing control at the deliberate and most serious slur against her name – that she would help the Wraith. She doubted he could have known the significance, the depth of that insult, but it had still gotten to her, breaking her resolve just as intended.
Yes, she was more than used to him practically plotting her downfall in regards to her place here, but this sensitivity he showed was a new, and hence strange, side of him to be seeing. However, it would be pointless to deny how pleased she was a the development, as she most definitely preferred it, no matter the circumstances that had created this view she had.
“That is quite alright Sergeant, no offence is taken. However, I must enquire, what exactly did Colonel Sheppard tell you about me?”
“Oh...just everything he needs to know,” John replied, snappily – eager to quell her curiosity it seemed.
Her mouth opened slightly in surprise at his glib answer. Dreading what the Colonel might have decided to gloss over, she intended to set the matter straight.
From past experiences, the sergeant wasn't likely to appreciate being told half of the truth. Regardless of what position he found himself on Atlantis, she was certain he would wish to be availed of all relevant details. If he was going to object to her position once more, then she would rather it occur now, with open honesty, so she might defend her honor without any moral detractors.
But John was giving her that look, the one where he blatantly thought she was missing something that should be entirely obvious to anyone, at least to anyone from Earth. Patient as she was with Earthlings, she often ignored his specific, or perhaps intentional, ignorance over the difference between what was deemed acceptable by Earth standards and by his – she could tell well enough when it was simply his preference to not have her push a subject. He was quite naïve to think he could get away with doing so in this situation, and it served him right to have her “blunder on,” though this time he managed to cut her off before she could raise the issue.
“Well, that's enough for today. Don't want to overwhelm the poor guy now. Do we Teyla?”
The look intensified, and she wondered how seriously he intended to keep “her secret.”. Chances were that Rodney would thoughtlessly reveal it at some point in the future even if John managed to persuade others in the city to cooperate with his plan. She doubted Elizabeth would approve of this either and Teyla herself was also past hiding the truth from those around her. She was no longer ashamed of her heritage – John would get no appreciation from her for his attempts. Narrowing her eyes, she matched his look, a silent face off between them that was sure to catch the watchful eyes of the sergeant – or so she had thought.
The moment was broken by the young man, who had not even been paying any attention to them.
“Actually, I was wondering if I could join you two, if that's allowed.”
Looking up at his question, she saw his hands gliding over the smooth wood of John's bantos rods.
Seeing that John responded to the request with wariness, she agreed, but not merely to antagonize the Colonel for his presumption. While holding the rods, there had been a glint in the eyes of the Sergeant. Perhaps it had been recognition, a flash of the familiar. If so, was it not worth trying to tease this memory out through a memorable endeavour? He needed to remember to be himself. If that brought back things less fortunate for her, so be it – she could cope. Teyla was not about to accept a truce born of lies or disguised realities; that did not make for true acceptance of herself, even if appearances made it seem more acceptable. To make a true friend, she had to win out over any obstacles rather than bury them with falsehoods.
“I would be happy to teach you, Sergeant.” she said, studiously not phrasing it as “reteach,” not that he picked up on the fact. She found recalling that he had once commented knowing some type of martial art from his time at Stargate Command. Perhaps the forms she practised would be reminiscent of his time there, as well as his scrutiny of her during his months on Atlantis.
John scowled before heading for the door – practically sulking about both her choices to include Bates in their usually private sessions and to not heed his “subtle advice.” Annoyed as she was by his attitude, she gave it little thought, focusing on the other man. Bates grinned, his face lighting up more brightly than she had ever seen – not a hard thing to accomplish given their past.
“Teyla - ” he said almost flirtatiously, deliberately using her given name, “You might as well call me Eugene, since we're both off-duty.”
Having been strolling out slowly for dramatic effect, John was still in view when his eyes shot up in response to the comment. As surprised as she was at Bates' - Eugene's – differing behaviour towards her now, she found herself taking it graciously, as it deserved. Returning the smile warmly, she decided whatever risk it was to her to be honest - to possibly lose the start of an entirely new friendship - she would take it for the sake of her honour. Admittedly, she was also hoping he had, indeed, awakened with a new perspective, enlightened, unburdened by their shared mistakes.
With some trepidation, she announced, “I warn you, I do have an unfair advantage in such a fight.” Then she shook off that feeling of uncertainty, adding a comment more in tune with the setting. “Besides my superior skills that is.”
“I'll bet you do in that outfit.” He swirled a stick, showing off more than anything else, attempting to bait her. “But I would warn you, it might work on Sheppard but not on me.”
“Hey! I do not get distracted…much,” John said in a weak attempt to defend himself, knowing full well it did nothing to preserve his virtue. Yet he must have been aware that to bend the truth too far would be ridiculous. Of course, she doubted any one else could claim any better. Ease of movement and conditioning wasn't the only reason she preferred to use her formal clothing for training...
She decided she could do without a distraction from the task at hand and would take just one man, one friendship to make or mend, at a time.
“I believe you were just leaving, Colonel,” she called out, yet she kept her eyes on Eugene Bates. Her intuition told her that he would not play fair – he would use every advantage and opportunity available to him.
When she had first met him, she had never seen past his clear incredulity at her and her people's inclusion into the expedition. Personality had been obscured by circumstances for both of them, each concerned for their people and behaving like the fighters they were, willing to stick to their ground – giving up not one step's length to the other. There had been no compromise, no room for anything between them other than their conflicting agendas – ones which should never have been cause for trouble, had they taken any time to truly consider the other.
This time round, they would get a proper introduction; that might allow for a promising start to forge a relationship not marred by who they had to be for the sake of their people.
This time round, she saw him.