Spoilers: Season 1 only
Summary: Sora gets some time alone with Teyla, or as alone as she'll ever get as a prisoner, and she comes to understand her former friend somewhat better, perhaps better than some of Atlantis' own.
Betaread by Iona, Littleknux and a very big thanks to Ellex for so much betareading of this as well. :)
Sticks and Stones
I watch her. Watch her flowing from one position to the next, always making the transition seem effortless. She makes it look so easy, with a grace emanating from her, an aura of calm amongst the swirling of the sticks and the heated dance of the sparring. I can see sweat beginning to form on her brow, but she is only just starting to weaken. Unlike me.
I try to move out of the way, or at least block each attack, but I find myself slowing; my breath becomes heavy and my movements blurred by a lack of stamina. It has been a long time since I have been able to practice my art against another. I had been surprised when Teyla had offered, and that she had obtained consent from both of the leaders of Atlantis.
Then again, I am not so surprised that Weir would give her permission; I know she wants to think good of me; but Sheppard doesn't trust anyone lightly and I would not have thought he would allow this out of concern for a possible security breach. Still, he has taken precautions. Johnson and Harris are outside, guarding the doors of the gym the same as they do my normal prison; except that Sergeant Bates stalks the hallway here, too. His footsteps can be heard each time the guards check in on the room, the doors opening, interrupting my concentration; and that is when I hear the telltale click of heels on the floor, some odd pattern he is used to walking. It amuses me that he trusts neither of us, and maybe that is why Sheppard put him on guard, too, as an extra measure. The man is paranoid, but it suits his job, and in this case, Sheppard's purpose. This is the first time I've been trusted by them to go past the point of being escorted to the necessary places like the infirmary.
Still, Teyla continues as normal, not distracted by the noises, barely registering the opening and closing of the doors. I feel my muscles aching and I'm surprised to stumble backwards as I move out of reach of her left-hand stick. I'm not the person I used to be: practised and determined. The months of rest and contemplation have weakened me. I used to be a fighter, but I've lost my instincts over all that time.
I try to push up all my emotions to use as my strength: my anger at all I've lost, my frustration at my situation, even my fear of what may become of me, whether at the hands of the Wraith or the Atlanteans. I think of my father, dead or worse, and my betrothed, who no doubt considers me dishonoured; and I wonder if I will waste away here, no longer accepted by my own people, not deemed worthy of rescue. I lash out with all the force I have, but my old strategy fails me, for all I can think of is that she has lost more than I and still she is here; and she is not relying on anger, not giving in to it. I remember our first meeting after her father was gone, how she held her head up high, with only the smallest glimmer of tears in her eyes. She took his place without complaint and stood up to those who would question her as a trading partner. Did my father see what I do now, that she is stronger than any normal person would be; that nothing breaks her, she keeps on going until there is nothing more left to achieve?
With a swift blow I am brought to my knees, body tilted back but unable to escape her other stick, which holds up my head uncomfortably as it presses on my throat. I am weak, I know. I should have known that before and trusted her words, then I would not be here; I would never have abandoned my commander for revenge and I would never have let my people overtake the city had I realised the truth. But I broke on the first strike, unable to handle my grief over my father's demise, and this is where fate delivered me because of my mistake. She is strong, wise and true, and unrelenting in whatever she deems worthy; and she deems Atlantis and its people so, no matter that they do not belong.
Removing the sticks and placing them under one arm, she then offers me a hand up, and I take it. Foolishly, it seems, as she swings round me, her feet almost dancing, moving my arm to pin my position before catching a stick under my chin. No doubt this is to illustrate that the fight is never over when you think it is, but she smiles at me over my shoulder, a large friendly grin like those I had known before all our troubles; and lets me go finally, bowing into the traditional Athosian pose, eyes closed and waiting for my forehead to touch hers. I acquiesce and move closer. It feels odd to do this with her again, as if she is a stranger despite the knowledge that my anger for her has waxed and waned since our bitter goodbye on my homeworld, the one time we chose to forego this formality. And with finality, she moves off to the side to pack away her equipment, slinging her bag over her arm and walking out the door. I follow, but unlike her, I pause at the doors, waiting for instruction, whilst Teyla walks on past Sergeant Bates, barely acknowledging his presence except to inform him that we are finished. Bates nods in return before focusing his attention back on me, admonishing my skills as if he wishes I would best Teyla; and yet I feel he fears me almost as much as he fears her, only a little less so because I am under his control.
I may be weak, brittle, and broken by every assault, but she is like stone. She is forever ready, never off guard, because she is always fighting. Perhaps that is what he fears, the same thing I wonder; what will become of Teyla when the fight is over?