blue flamingos

5 meetings Teyla has as leader of the Athosians

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Gen, PG

Year/Length: 2008/ ~4356 words

Pairing: Teyla Emmagan

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Though no two days are the same, there are many things that repeat; life before the expedition shows up to change it forever.

Author's Notes: For [info]14valentines Day 11: Voting

Beta: by [info]domtheknight

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

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1.

It has never been within the powers of the leader of the Athosian people to conduct a joining ceremony, that place instead being set aside for the spiritual leader, currently Halling. Instead, Teyla, as leader, gets to deal with couples only when their relationship is going badly.

She tries, of course, to do so in a casual manner when she sees signs of trouble, as part of her daily interactions with all of her people, but she is not always successful, either in noticing the developing problems or in resolving them.

Even so, it is rarely a surprise when, as Rathel and Freena have, a couple asks for her intervention in their relationship.

It is convention for the leader to see each member of the disputing party individually before meeting with them together, but Teyla found swiftly that this served only to increase animosity between them, and rarely helped her to understand the situation well. Instead, she invited Rathel and Freena to join her in her tent when morning tea is done and the others have left to begin work for the day.

"Tell me of the cause of your dissatisfactions," she says, as she always does. Freena has not met her eyes once since she walked into the tent a few moments before Rathel, but her expression is worn and tired. Teyla has heard nothing of problems between the two of them and finds she cannot guess at what they might be, though she does not know either of them well.

Rathel looks similarly tired, but he meets her eyes almost confrontationally when she looks to him, his arms folded over his chest in defense. Teyla suspects that this visit was not his choice but Freena's, though they made the request together, as couples typically do.

"Either of you may begin," she says gently, "Or speak once the other has begun. I may also ask questions as you speak."

Freena's eyes flicker across to Rathel, who continues to look ahead of himself. Teyla has never been sure, in her five years as leader, whether she prefers those who speak loudly and argue or those who say nothing at all. Whichever it is, she often wishes this were a role she could hand over to another.

"Rathel, perhaps you would care to begin," she says finally. Normally, she would ask Freena first, since the young woman seems too shy to counter anything Rathel may say with which she disagrees, but Rathel seems only to be waiting for an excuse to take offense and leave.

Rathel huffs out a breath, but turns slightly so as to face both Teyla, on one side of the table, and Freena beside him on the other. "We have been joined for two years," he says.

"I remember well the ceremony," Teyla assures him. She remembers it best for thinking that they were young to be joining in these times of relative peace, but it would hardly be wise to say so.

"We have been trying to conceive a child," Rathel continues. "For many months now, and with great vigor."

To Teyla's surprise, Freena looks up with a smile. "Great vigor," she agrees. "And great frequency."

"You are blessed to have such an enthusiastic expression of your love," Teyla says, fighting not to smile.

"Not so blessed," Rathel says dourly. "Nothing has come of our efforts."

"Well, not nothing," Freena says. "They have given us great pleasure."

Rathel's face turns a pale shade of red. "Nothing in the way of a child," he amends. "Though she denies it, I believe that Freena continues to drink the contraceptive tea." He finishes with a glare that includes both Freena and Teyla, as though he suspects her of some part in this.

"Freena?" Teyla asks. "Have you anything to add?"

"Only that Rathel knows not what he speaks of. I have not drunk the tea since the day of our ceremony, long before we spoke of conceiving a child. Perhaps he is the one taking something to ensure that we do not conceive."

"I would do no such thing, even if one existed," Rathel declares. "I have said often how badly I wish for us to have a child."

"And I have not? Perhaps you have forgotten all the time I spend counting the days between full moons, but I have not."

Teyla allows them to shout at each other for a while, making increasingly ridiculous accusations, before calling a firm halt. Both of them subside into staring at their hands in their laps. "Clearly you are at an impasse here," she says diplomatically, though she is tempted to suggest only that they have patience. "Each of you tell me what you wish for as a solution, what I or the others can do to help you. Freena, I believe it is your turn to begin."

"I want him to stop accusing me of drinking the tea," she says immediately. "And for us to conceive."

"And Rathel?"

"If she is drinking the tea, I want her to stop," he says. There's a pause, then he adds, "And also for us to conceive."

"For the first, then, Rathel, you must refrain from making these accusations. Freena, you must refrain from consuming the tea, if you have not already done so. I hope that I can trust the two of you to uphold this without supervision. If this remains a problem, you may return to me after the next full moon to discuss other solutions." Teyla waits for them both to nod their agreement – few people question her rulings in these meetings, and Rathel and Freena are young enough that her say so should suffice.

"Your conception is a more difficult matter," she says. "I believe you have not visited either of the healers for a draft to increase your fertility?" They both shake their heads. "Then you will do this first. It has been known to resolve many such problems. If this is not successful within three full moons, you will return to me and we will discuss possible alternatives to conception. Do you both agree to hold to the terms of this agreement?"

They both mutter agreement.

"That is well. Go now to the healer and follow his suggestions."

Rathel holds the flap of the tent for Freena to leave before him, an old-fashioned gesture now on Athos, and Teyla thinks she sees, before the flap closes again, Freena reach for his hand. If only all dispute between partners could be resolved so easily.

When the Wraith come to Athos again, both Rathel and Freena, still childless despite many interventions from the healers and prayers to the Ancestors, survive. On the mainland of their new world, they adopt two children orphaned by the culling. Teyla takes great joy in watching the small family grow closer, one of the few good things to have come from what happened.

 

2.

As leader of her people, Teyla rarely visits the worlds on which they have well established trading links, instead leaving them to other traders while she spends her time amongst those with whom they are still building relations, who need to see that the Athosians respect them.

Of course, there are always exceptions, and Arlong is one such.

Though they are well established trading partners, the Arlongese have only traded with the Athosians for only a small number of years, less than Teyla's life-time; they are renowned across many worlds as fair and accommodating traders, but also known for being suspicious of new people on their world, even from amongst worlds they know well.

Teyla's first visit to Arlong is as leader of her people, which is an unfortunate state of affairs. It would have been better, Arten says many times, if she had visited with Kerran when he was leader. Teyla patiently agrees with him every time and refrains from observing that, had she known Kerran would die and she would be chosen to take on the role, she would surely have done so.

They step through the ring on the most beautiful mid-summer day that Teyla has seen in many years, though she has seen midsummer on several worlds; she suspects it is made more beautiful by Athos being still only in early spring, and quite chill in the morning.

"Merry day, friends," says an older woman dressed in a flowing white dress as the ring closes behind them.

"Merry day," Arten says, stepping forward to touch his palms to hers in the Arlongese greeting, then his forehead to hers in the Athosian way. "It is good to see you well once again, Astni."

"And you also," Astni says. She looks around their small group – Arten has come as the officially recognized trading representative from Athos to Arlong, and each of the three younger traders who sometimes accompany him have come as well – and nods to each of them until her eyes light on Teyla. "We have not met before," she says.

"I have not had the honor of visiting Arlong until today," Teyla says, stepping forward. "Arten has spoken of your world and your people many times, and I am greatly favored to be able to join him this day." Flattery, Teyla has discovered, is always a good introduction.

Astni sniffs in disdain. "I was not aware, Arten, that you intended to introduce another trader to us, particularly one of this age. Unless you are intending to release your duty as the Athosian representative in Arlong?"

"I have misrepresented the situation," Arten says apologetically, despite having said nothing of who Teyla is. "Teyla Emmagan accompanies us today as the new leader of the Athosian people. It is with great sadness that I must report of Kerran's passing."

"That is indeed a sad event to hear on such a day as this, or any other," Astni says solemnly. "Please send our most sincere condolences to all of your people. Kerran was a great and fair leader to you all."

"He was, and he is greatly missed," Teyla says. "But he was blessed in knowing the time of his passing, and undertaking it in peace, surrounded by those he loved." She pauses, in case Astni has anything further to say, then continues. "I have had, as Arten said, the honor of being chosen by our people to lead them."

"A great honor," Astni murmurs. "Especially for one so young."

A moment ago she was bemoaning Teyla's age – the change makes Teyla's lips twitch, but she suppresses her smile. This is not the moment, though she is sure Charrin will find it equally as amusing when Teyla returns. "An honor, and a source of many additional responsibilities." Teyla lets a different smile come through, warm and pleasant. "But also many pleasures, of which the opportunity to visit your beautiful world on such a joyous occasion as midsummer day is one of the greatest."

Astni holds her haughty look for another moment, then gives Teyla a reluctant smile. "We are greatly pleased by your decision to join us today, and hope that the bond between the Arlongese and the Athosians will continue for many years under your gracious leadership," she says, sounding close to genuine as she recites the official words of welcome to a new leader.

"As do I," Teyla returns. "I am confident that it will be so under your wise guidance."

It takes another two years before Teyla is welcome to Arlong with genuine pleasure by Astni, but she feels that only makes it more worthwhile. Dr Weir asks her many times about arranging an introduction to the Arlongese for the Atlanteans, but Teyla remains silent on the subject, holding their trust and alliance to her people as a warm secret. Particularly after the revelations of the Genii.

 

3.

The Athosian day begins with a stout tea to brace them for the coming day and ends with a light infusion to induce them to sleep. There are teas for healing, for fertility, for sharing with friends and for offering to honored guests. Many of them are enjoyable, for either the taste or the event associated with them.

Teyla's least favorite is the mourning tea, drunk once a year on the darkest day of winter as the sun sets, in memory of those who have passed since the last midwinter day. The taste is not unpleasant, unlike the naming tea, which is drunk from very small cups so as not to offend the new parents by disposing of it in a nearby bush. It is merely the occasion that Teyla finds unpleasant, even more so since she has been called upon to lead it.

The ceremony is always held outside, in a circle in the center of the village, and it is not uncommon for many to come, as they have tonight, wrapped in blankets against the chill. Teyla take a moment to be thankful that, this year at least, it is not raining.

The fire has been burning all day, though more wood has recently been added to warm them as they form a circle around it. The rest of the village is dark, every light extinguished in the houses, every Athosian gathered. Though there is no requirement that the hunters return for the ceremony, it is traditional that they do so; often, it is they who come to mourn the most losses.

Teyla takes her place at the north corner of the circle, in the space left for her. Halling stands opposite her, holding the south corner, with Ethna, currently their youngest, holding the east and Pak, the oldest since her partner's death three days after the last ceremony, holding the west.

"We stand here tonight," Teyla begins, speaking the words of the ceremony clearly from memory; though she likes it the least, much preferring the individual memorial tea services, this is the easiest of all the ceremonies to remember. "In memory of all those who have passed from amongst us since we were last in this place. In their memory, we drink of the mourning tea, with prayers for their safe passage beyond our sight, and for their blessing on us in the time to come."

The large clay tea pot is heavy enough that Teyla needs both hands to lift it at first. Every person brings their own ceremonial cup, each of them small and intricately carved with memories of importance to its bearer, and they are produced now from within pockets, unwrapped from shawls, and handed to children by their parents.

Teyla pours for Ethna first, steadying his tiny hands under the cup and only filling it halfway, to be sure it does not spill. He watches her, wide-eyed and nervous, even when she offers him a small smile.

She moves slowly round the circle, passing by Halling as she goes. The tea, once she has completed the circuit, will be cool, but the taste is barely diminished by that, and it would be unseemly to hurry in this.

When the circle is complete, Teyla moves to stand in front of Halling, who offers his cup solemnly. Beside him, Jinto is a silent presence, his hands tight on his own cup, similarly half-filled to Ethna's. It is considered the height of disrespect to spill a drop of the mourning tea, and Teyla always takes care to give less to those who are mourning the most and least likely to retain steady hands.

"To the memory of those we have lost," Teyla says softly, thinking of Halling's young wife, only two months gone.

"To their memory," Halling echoes. He takes the tea pot, now almost empty, from Teyla and fills her cup. All around them, clothes rustle as people raise their cups and drink.

The circle breaks up swiftly after, family groups returning to their homes for the night. There will be little noise and fewer lights, though the evening is still young; Teyla feels that even the air is heavier, pressing them to the ground and muffling their voices.

After she chooses to stay in the city as her people leave for the mainland, this is the one ceremony that Teyla never misses. John always takes great care to schedule a week of time in the city for the team right before the ceremony, and offers to fly her to the mainland while the Athosians are still living there. Pouring the tea and thinking, though she really should not, of the people in Atlantis whom she has lost since the last ceremony, Teyla feels, truly, that there is still a part of her belonging to Athos and her people.

The year they are missing is the only year she fails to conduct the ceremony, though John offers the team as willing substitutes should she choose to. Though it is, in many ways, a betrayal of those they have truly lost, Teyla finds she cannot imagine speaking the words and not thinking of those who are missing as also being truly gone.

 

4.

The Athosians and the Fremli have been friends for as long as either of their worlds have recorded the events of their lives. Frem is unlike Athos in every way, a world of tiny islands connected by long stone bridges and a complicated network of boats for traveling between the islands.

Teyla dislikes the boats intensely for the way they rock and tilt beneath her feet, for the way the water seems to creep up the edges and threaten to overwhelm them. One of the major social events in the Pegasus calendar is the annual Fremli boat race, for which it is a great honor to be chosen as a passenger; it is also one of the few occasions when Teyla is glad that her status as leader removes her from the possibility of being selected.

There is only a single bridge from the ring island to the next, a rope bridge which swings with the wind as she and her small party step onto it. Ethna whimpers , clutching at the handholds, and Teyla steps up behind him, laying her hands on his shoulders. "Do not fear. I will not allow you to fall."

The Fremli use the bridge as their first defense against the Wraith, one person always at watch with a long-distance viewer from the next island, so Teyla knows they will have been spotted, and the welcome boat sent out to meet them, in case of a fall. She chooses not to mention this to Ethna and the three other children accompanying her and Garrel.

"The sooner we begin the journey, the sooner it will be safely completed," she tells Ethna. The young boy loosens his grip on the rope a small amount and takes a cautious step forward, following his sister. "There. You are quite safe," Teyla tells him, keeping one hand resting on his shoulder. She is certain he will not fall, but the reassurance will help to distract him, she hopes.

They are almost within sight of the island when the welcome boat sails under the bridge and slows to drift alongside them. "Welcome, friends," Paret calls up to them and Ethna, concentrating on his steps, gives a squeak of alarm and loses his footing.

They are too far into the center of the bridge for him to fall off, but he lands on the wooden slats with a thump that shakes the entire structure and immediately bursts into shocked, frightened tears. Teyla crouches at his side, keeping a firm grip on the back of his shirt. "You are quite safe," she tells him calmly. "I have you."

Ethna sobs again, and twists round to burrow against Teyla's body, his arms tight around her waist. She hushes him quietly, listening to Paret's apologies and Garrel's low voice reassuring Ethna's sister and the other children that he is well.

In the end, Teyla carries Ethna to the end of the bridge, refusing Paret's offer to take them both the rest of the way in the boat. Ethna clings to her until long after they have stepped back onto the solid ground of the island; even then, it takes Teyla's assurances that she will remain close by before he will allow himself to be lowered to the ground.

"I am so terribly sorry," Paret says, watching Ethna and Rya, each of them holding one of Garrel's hands, cautiously move closer to the water's edge.

"You could not have known he would react as he did," Teyla says. "I am sure he will soon recover from the surprise."

"Perhaps we would be best, even so, to take the children to their guardians by boat rather than across the bridges," Paret muses. "So as not to alarm him further on such a day as this."

"I am sure that is a wise decision," Teyla says, silently grateful that those accompanying the children have always left them on this island, rather than taking them to their guardians.

"Then we shall do so. I am certain the children will enjoy the ride very much." Paret smiles at Teyla. "I have often thought it a shame that you were not one of the children who spent time here in your youth. Perhaps then you would be more comfortable in our boats."

"Sadly we cannot all have such a chance," Teyla says smoothly. She spent her six months away from Athos living with an elderly couple on Channo, in the mountains, learning to survive in the high terrain and being taught the more complex bantos forms that few on Athos knew. Over the years, she has found that knowledge to be of much greater value than losing her distrust of the boats.

"Sadly," Paret echoes. "I will go and arrange the two transport boats. The weather is looking likely to turn, and you would be best to have crossed the bridge before it does so."

Teyla returns his nod and calls the children back to her to say goodbye. "You have been given a great gift in being allowed to come and live among the Fremli for this time," she tells them, crouching to their level. "Take this opportunity to learn, to make new friends, and when you return to Athos, we will all look forward to the stories you will be able to tell us."

Ethna swallows hard, his eyes wide, but the tears that Teyla half-expected do not come. He returns her hug tightly instead, and takes Rya's hand when Teyla releases him, confirming the siblings' parents' decision that they should be allowed to remain together on the trip.

"We will see you again very soon," Teyla tells them.

Six months later, Ethna runs fearless across the bridge before her as they make their way back to the ring island, making Teyla smile.

When she brings her team to Frem, several years later, she is reminded of Ethna's first trip, not by Rodney, as she might have expected, but by Aiden, who turns pale when the rope bridge sways and gives her a grateful smile when she closes one hand tightly in the back of his vest.

 

5.

Over morning tea, Teyla and Arten discuss whether it will be prudent to attempt once more to develop trading relations with the deeply suspicious Quelani. Teyla is very much in favor of making another attempt, though their last few have been unsuccessful; Arten, for his part, counsels caution, as the Quelani have been known to be violent in their disapproval of an overly persistent trader. They need new materials, though, which only the Quelani can supply, and so Teyla suggests they put the suggestion to the traders.

She has agreed to take on a new pupil at bantos fighting, a young man who came to Athos seeking refuge a little more than a year ago, who has begun to settle into their way of life, though he still refuses to speak of his past, even the name of his world. Their first session is to be in the late afternoon, fitted between a visit to Madlin, who is still unwell, and a period with Wertin to discuss the visit she must make with him to Merthyr on his next trip, in order to reaffirm the trading relationship between their two worlds for the next year.

When she hears footsteps draw close to the tent, Teyla is distracted enough not to notice that they are unfamiliar footsteps, in heavier boots than the Athosians wear. Even when Halling calls, "I bring men from away," she does not feel anything more than a mild surprise that they would be receiving visitors so early in the day.

He steps into the tent, followed by three men in clothes that Teyla has never seen the like of, on any of the worlds on which they trade, mixed in age and clouded with an air of curiosity, uncertainty and, if Teyla reads the youngest correctly, worry.

"These men have come to trade," Halling says. He catches Teyla's eye, sharing her curiosity. Although the Athosians are known as fair and reliable traders, it is unusual for any to come to Athos in search of them.

"We do not trade with strangers," she says; though it is a lie, it is the type of lie that is sometimes called for in negotiation, placing them in a position of strength.

The middle of the three men steps forward with a smile that Teyla is sure he has used to charm many people, on many worlds. She is not so easily fooled. "Well then," he says, "We'll just have to get to know each other."

For many years to come, Teyla will remember that moment, of all the moments she had as leader of the Athosian people; though it will have been followed by many that she would have wished to avoid, it will have been followed by many more that she would not have wanted to miss, though she could not have imagined them, standing in her tent and being smiled at by John Sheppard.

It is rare, she will think later, for the moment where one's whole life changes to be so clearly signified. Particularly before the sun has even come up.


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