DISCLAIMER: Stargate Atlantis and its characters are the property of MGM, Showtime, Gekko etc. No infringement intended.
CHALLENGE: Written as part of the 24 Hours Challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
First Line of Defence
By Lesley Mitchell
The rich voice echoed down the corridor from an indeterminate point behind the Athosian. Recognising it at once, she had paused, allowing the owner to catch up with her. She was more than a little surprised to see Elizabeth, knowing the human took her responsibilities as the leader of the outpost extremely seriously and well aware that she had been scheduled to spend the rest of the day in a technical briefing from several groups in Rodney's science section.
"Elizabeth," she greeted the slightly flushed woman. "It is good to see you. Is there something that I can do for you?"
"You're on your way to the mainland, I think?"
"I am. I try to make some time to see my people as often as I can."
"I'm sorry that it's not as often as you'd like."
"That is not your fault, Elizabeth. After all, if it were not for you, my people would not exist at all."
"I came down... er. May I join you?"
"But, of course, Elizabeth. You are always welcome among the Athosians."
Trips between the city and the mainland had become so frequent over the period of the the human and Athosian occupation of the planet, that a puddle jumper was not only permanently assigned to the duty, but made regularly scheduled flights. The Athosians, themselves, generally preferred to remain on the mainland, however, their settlement was augmented by the human geologists and xenobiologists who had been rotated out to study the new land and its exotic flora and fauna. Many supplies were flown out to the Athosians, but Elizabeth had been surprised and extremely impressed to receive a share of the bounteous first harvest that they had coaxed from the planet in less than a year's occupation. These days, a good proportion of the fresh fruit and vegetables on Atlantis were provided from the farms of Teyla's people.
The young pilot was a scientist by training and an early recipient of the Ancient gene therapy. Teyla's frequent visits and friendly disposition had made her a favourite with the non-military pilots and this boy was no different. He had greeted her effusively, until Elizabeth had followed her into the jumper's small but spacious cockpit.
"Ma'am!" he squeaked, coming to a passable imitation of attention.
"At ease, Sully. You've been spending too much time with the fly boys," said Elizabeth, smiling at the suddenly nervous young man. "I'm not here to rate your performance, just playing a little hooky, tagging along with Teyla to the mainland."
"Yes, ma'am. Sorry," he said, before turning away and attempting to sooth his frayed nerves with the routine of pre-takeoff checks.
The day was warm and clear, and the ocean stretched around them placidly. Another perfect Atlantean day. The flight itself soon proved to be uneventful.
"So, Elizabeth," asked Teyla, pitching her voice to keep the conversation between them, "how is it that you've managed to escape Rodney's big update meeting?"
"Ah, yes. Rodney's pet 'let's try and bamboozle Elizabeth' meeting."
Teyla smiled, knowing that it was only the scientist's enormous respect for the diplomat that allowed him to feel it was in the least bit worthwhile providing her with updates from his department.
"It seems that being the conscientious bunch they are, many of them stayed up late to put the finishing touches to the presentations, last night. One bright spark got food circulated from the mess hall, to keep them going. However, with it being late, there wasn't much available, and it appears that the crab salad sandwiches had been out a little long, yesterday."
Teyla raised an eyebrow.
Elizabeth smiled ruefully back. "It seems that it's a good job that it's stayed quiet, today. Two thirds of my science team have food poisoning."
"Are they all right?"
"One of the physics team is in the infirmary. I checked with Carson, though. She's just a bit dehydrated. He's only keeping her in because she was so determined to go back to work.
"The others are just... confined to quarters."
When Rodney had put a frantic call through before breakfast, she had felt sure the station was about to be under attack or something equally bad. However, once he had explained, she was left only with an overwhelming feeling that it was a very good job that the city was able to provide separate quarters for every member of the team. That, and an urge to ignore the paperwork that she wouldn't have been able to do if the meeting had gone ahead and spend time with one of the few people she felt able to consider a friend.
"Dr. Weir, Teyla? We'll be touching down on the mainland in two minutes."
"Thank you, Sully."
Whilst Teyla had attended to the business the Athosians felt most needed the attention of the leader, Elizabeth took the time to visit with the human science teams, feeling that it was only fair that she allow someone to blind her with science that day, given her narrow escape. The geologists had made particularly good progress in determining the age and nature of the planet and had made several apparent fossil discoveries that suggested a need for more intensive archaeological studies to be carried out at a later date. One of the zoologists had also, with the help of several Athosians, managed to capture a fluffy bundle of ears and legs, that strongly resembled a Terran kitten, though he was quick to point out that this was the very youngest stage of development and the adults were considerably closer in nature to panthers or mountain lions than the average house cat.
After thanking them for their reports, Elizabeth made her way back to the village mulling over the similarities in evolution between Atlantis and Earth. It struck her, that where there were cats, there were quite probably dogs of one sort or another. Even with their increased ability to travel between the galaxies, with the arrival of a working ZPM, there never seemed to be enough time to get out and just take her beloved dog for a walk on the rare occasions that she was given the chance to visit home.
Caught up in a daydream of running along the waterfront of her home town with Sedge in tow, she failed to notice the two men until it was far too late.
The yell caught Teyla's attention. Though it mostly appeared to indicate surprise, there was an edge to it which made Teyla's skin crawl, almost as if a Wraith had appeared.
Having finished her meeting with the village council sooner than she had expected, she had set out towards the Terran camp, with the hope of meeting Elizabeth and extending the council's offer of dinner to her in a private setting, thus allowing her space to accept or decline without pressure. She was well aware that her friend would take the most diplomatic solution to any question, at the expense of her own free time and, occasionally, even her health.
While she would appreciate a homestyle meal prepared for her by one of the better cooks in the village, Teyla had spent much of the time prior to the council meeting obtaining various ingredients with the intent of inviting Elizabeth to join her in one of the Athosian's more indulgent rituals.
Shaking her daydreams aside, she turned a corner and found Elizabeth struggling in the arms of one man, while another advanced on her.
Teyla's voice was pitched to carry, and carried such a whip crack of command in it that the man holding Elizabeth loosened his grip minutely, just enough to allow the diplomat to struggle free. Having gained her freedom, she threw caution to the wind and set off in the direction she had come at a dead run, which was stopped almost immediately as she tripped over a tree root.
The man who had been detaining her moved to recover his prize, however, his companion stopped him. "This is the one we want. Our glorious leader, who's abandoned us to live in the mud, while she gets to play the hero star traveller!
"Come back to see us little people, have you? Grace us with your presence," he sneered.
"Is this what we have become?" Teyla shot back. "The Athosians I knew were a proud, peaceful people, who believe in justice and tolerance. But you have demeaned our guest and shown her violence and hatred."
"She was just a means to and end," continued the talkative attacker, as he moved towards Teyla, his friend trotting along behind, nodding sycophantically. "It was you we were after!"
As he finished this statement, he felt he had reached the point where he was at an advantage, and leapt forward to attack the small woman before him.
The fight was short and far from sweet. From the point on the path where Elizabeth sat nursing her ankle, it seemed that her friend and colleague became almost blurred with the speed of her movements, which left the two attackers laid out cold in the middle of the path.
"You really need to teach me how to do that," she said smiling down as Teyla checked the state of her ankle.
"Are you sure about that? John claims that I must be cheating when we spar."
Elizabeth laughed, and then gasped as her friend's probing fingers hit a sore spot.
"I'm guessing that you always beat him."
"On those occasions, he accuses me of letting him win."
"And do you?"
Teyla looked up at Elizabeth, brown eyes aglow with mirth.
"As a diplomat, I'm sure you know that it's bad for a man's ego to be beaten by a woman all of the time."
They shared a moment of laughter.
"Do not misunderstand. John is a very skilled fighter, with and without weapons. But, he has been trained to the skill." She paused, struggling to find the appropriate words. "It is different, I think, for us. Athosian fighters are... educated in fighting.
"Similarly to John, we are taught many different moves and methods, and spend long hours practising these."
She paused, to help Elizabeth to her feet and make a living crutch of herself for the taller woman. Elizabeth's arm rested across her shoulders, while Teyla steadied her with an arm wrapped firmly around her waist.
"The difference lies in the other things we learn. Meditation allows us to centre our bodies and minds and hone our senses to better anticipate and react to the opponent's move almost before he has thought of it, let alone made it."
Elizabeth grunted as her damaged limb touched the ground, for the first time, but continued forward.
They were more than halfway back to the main village, silently plodding onwards, listening to the sounds of the forest around them, when Elizabeth said, "I still want to learn, you know."
They had been fortunate. The puddle jumper had been delayed in returning to Atlantis by the need to fit in a particularly oddly shaped and delicate specimen. Sully rummaged through the med kit and came up with a pain killer and a sedative, and Teyla stayed with Elizabeth until they kicked in, and beyond, directing the Athosian authorities to collect the two attackers and hold them for trial.
Given the circumstances, the council were more than happy to extend their invitation until Elizabeth was fully well again. Teyla was quite sure she overheard a muttered conversation between a pair of the elders which implied that dinner might, given time, become a full blown feast befitting of the leader of the city of the Ancestors.
The ankle had been fractured, and it was several weeks before Carson would deign to allow Elizabeth to hobble around the city without a crutch, let alone clear her to learn any of the Athosian martial arts. The time was not wasted, however. Having entirely failed to reach a successful meditative state with Ronan or John, Teyla was pleased to find that Elizabeth took to the skill with ease.
"Aye," said the doctor, frowning intently at the x-ray film he had before him. "You'll be pleased to hear, no doubt, that the cast's ready to come off."
"That is excellent news, Carson. I was beginning to think I was going to be afflicted with this ball and chain forever!"
The cast cracked open easily enough, and Elizabeth peered at the pale skin of the foot she'd not seen in weeks.
"You'll need to spend some time building the muscles back up to full strength, though."
"No need to worry about that. Teyla's promised to teach me Athosian self-defence."
"Och! Good grief! Have you seen what that wee girlie can do to Sheppard and Ronan? Are you sure you really want to put yourself through that?"
Elizabeth just smiled as she pushed herself off the bed.
The mission had been routine, but quietly successful in its own way and she returned to Atlantis feeling energised. As usual, her first glance when she came through the 'gate was towards Ops, looking for the splash of red in grey, that would indicate Elizabeth's presence, quietly checking up on her troublesome flagship team's return. Today, however, she was surprised to find her friend making her way down the stairs to meet them at the gate.
"Elizabeth?" Sheppard frowned. "There something wrong?"
"Not at all, John," she replied, smiling.
"I believe," said Teyla, softly, matching the smile with a fond one of her own, "that Elizabeth may be enjoying her return to freedom."
"Huh?" Sheppard looked momentarily puzzled. "Oh! The leg. Doc gave you the all clear, while we were away."
"I'm so glad that the leader of my best team manages to remain quite so observant." Playful sarcasm laced her voice, and John suffered the amusement of his team in stoic silence.
"Debrief in the conference room in an hour," she said crisply, letting him off the hook. "Your report from the planet made it sound quite promising."
"Yes, ma'am," replied Sheppard, offering a lazy salute, before leading his team in the direction of the locker rooms.
Teyla watched the men leave, holding Elizabeth's attention purely with her presence. When she judged them sufficiently far way, and saw that Ronan's attention was focused on Rodney and John bickering, she asked in a voice still pitched to not travel, "Will you come to dinner, tonight? My quarters. A small celebration of your renewed health."
A second or two passed, before Elizabeth nodded her agreement.
"Good." Teyla nodded her own confirmation, then the two women parted, moving onwards to their separate destinations.
It wasn't the first time Elizabeth had spent an evening with Teyla in her quarters. When they had begin to meditate together, after her injury, it had quickly become clear that she was more able to take the first steps to full relaxation in the cosier environment of the Athosian's room, rather than the starker, more functional setting of her own. It also provided a certain level of protection from interruption by some of the more persistently workaholic members of the expedition. She was aware that the description could easily be used of herself, however, as she had also asked Teyla to give up some of her precious free time, she felt a debt to her friend that required her presence and full attention.
It helped that she had discovered the exercise to be rewarding both physically and mentally, leaving her refreshed and better able to sleep and concentrate.
She had discarded her uniform, and, rather than the loose sweats she used for meditation, had chosen a blouse and well cut jeans from her limited stock of civilian clothing. Low healed sandals and a leather jacket completed the outfit, though the jacket was unnecessary for the climate controlled environment of the city.
Walking to Teyla's door, she found herself uncharacteristically nervous, and remarkably grateful that the corridors were empty. The door swept silently open a moment before she knocked, she felt herself relax into the warm glow of her friend's personality that swept out of the room like a physical presence. She was reminded of a hugely soft and comforting duvet to wrap oneself in in front of a blazing fire on a stormy night.
"Come in. You are right on time."
"It was easy to hear your footsteps with no one else in the corridor," replied Teyla, pausing, to smile at her guest. "And, anyway... I was not expecting anyone else."
Elizabeth felt herself flush, as Teyla turned away to tend to the meal she was preparing.
"You look... nice," she stammered, her mouth suddenly dry, and cursed herself for acting like a teenager on a first date. "The food smells incredible, too."
"It is an Athosian delicacy. I am not the most skilled of my people at making it, however, each family keeps its own version of the recipe, and my mother insisted that, as her only daughter, I should learn how to produce it in an acceptable manner."
Elizabeth nodded, mostly to herself, as Telya's back still faced her, while she remained engrossed by the pots that bubbled before her. The idea was familiar to her from the studies of tribal culture she had read and engaged in as a student.
Teyla turned back to her, gracing her with another of the warm smiles she had become fond of, and she cleared her throat, her agile mind suddenly bereft of anything to say.
"Please, sit," said Teyla. "Make yourself comfortable." She hardly required her empathic nature to sense the waves of emotion that flowed from her friend. "Can I offer you some water? Or would you prefer something a little stronger? Halling has set himself up as the village brewer. His ale was always good, but I think some of our colleagues have introduced him to some new methods."
"Should I be worried?"
"The output of his still is considerably smoother than that of the one in the back of the hydroponics lab."
"Ah. I wondered where they'd put it."
"I told them you would know."
"It wasn't hard to guess, when the requisitions all came through my office for approval. Even if they did come for four different departments. I had Carson check it out. Didn't want to have to send anyone home because they'd gone blind from rotgut. He claimed to have tasted more palatable things for instrument cleaning, but assured me it wasn't harmful. I'd be glad to find out how much better Halling can do."
The evening had progressed better from that point. The spirits had proved to be very palatable and had succeeded admirably in calming Elizabeth's nerves. For all Teyla's self-deprecation, dinner had been a thing of great beauty, and Elizabeth had not restrained the lavish praise she had heaped on the meal. They sat, now, in comfortable silence, drinking coffee. It wasn't quite the traditional end to the meal, but Teyla knew Elizabeth's fondness for the beverage, and was happy to accommodate it.
"Do you still wish to learn how to defend yourself?"
Elizabeth looked up. "I do," she affirmed, "though Carson tried to warm me away. Apparently, you're a little rough with the boys."
"John and Ronan give as good as they take. I merely choose to deal with the results myself, without bothering the good doctor."
"I want to learn. I can't afford to be that powerless, again." Her mind returning to the feeling of panic that had overwhelmed her in the mainland forest.
"You have already made a good start. Your focus while meditating is good, and I know you have the discipline to learn the forms."
"When can we start?"
"How about now?"
Elizabeth was a little surprised, but the alcohol in her system combined with her trust in the smaller woman and made her bold.
"Kick off your shoes, and stand in the middle of the rug. I will show you a simple technique for breaking away from an attacker."
Elizabeth did as she was told. Teyla played the part of the restraining attacker as well as the teacher, and Elizabeth marvelled, in a small corner of her mind that wasn't entirely focused on what she was being told, at the strength of the woman who could restrain her as effectively as metal cuffs, when she put her mind to it. If she had trusted Teyla less, she knew she would have been scared by that knowledge.
She was a quick study. However committing first to memory and, then more deeply into her subconscious, the movements her friend demonstrated required them to be performed repeatedly. As the lesson embedded itself, more of her mind became free to notice other things; the warmth of Teyla's skin against hers, the tickle of her breath against her neck as she explained something, the softness of her touches.
Suddenly, without quite realising how, she found herself flat on her back, staring up at Teyla, who wore a faintly smug grin.
"You made the mistake that John is particularly prone to," she explained. "You ceased paying full attention."
Teyla knelt and clasped her forearm as gently and firmly and her eyes held her attention. Elizabeth allowed herself to be drawn to a sitting position, which left their eyes level, faces inches apart.
"Where did you go?" Teyla asked softly, her warm, sweet breath washing over Elizabeth. "I felt you leave. But you were also still very much here."
"Tell me," Teyla asked. It was a plea, not a demand. Her grip on Elizabeth's arm remained firm as if she were scared the other woman might bolt. "Please. I need to hear it."
Elizabeth took a deep breath, and licked her lips. This close, staring deep into Teyla's bared soul, she found the words she needed. "You. I was thinking about you."
Teyla nodded, seeing the embers that smoldered in Elizabeth's gaze as clearly as the woman in front of her.
Neither woman could say who had moved first from that position on the floor, gazing deeply into each other, and drinking in what they found there.
Neither was sure how long it had been before the move came, either.
Both knew how right it was, however, from the core of their existence, when their lips finally met.
Return to Stargate Atlantis Fiction
Return to Main Page