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SGA fic: Identity - PG-13 [Week 16: Memory]

Title: Identity
Summary: Who she was, and is, and will be.
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Gen.
Prompt: Memory.
Word Count: 2,250
Notes: This was going to be longer. Then it was going to be shorter. Then I ran out of time... Uh, and it got more complicated than I expected.

Identity


She rides on the back of a cart in the last lazy days of summer and the joybirds ring out their calls, each to each in the glittering leaf canopy above.

Close by in the cart bed, her brothers and cousins fuss with their toys, oblivious to the day that passes around them. They are young and childish, and she is old enough to walk, but the weather is good and her father wishes to make a timely pace along the road.

Oh, for the Ancestors live in their cities,
And the villagen live in their towns,
But give me a road that leads through and beyond,
Past the fields and the cattle, past the river and pond.
We will always return to the place we call home,
But until hearts grow weary, our feet long to roam.


On the driving seat, her mother laughs, bright hair bound up in silken strips. "So when will we return to Athos next, Jaken?"

"When the time is right and the trading's done, Lilit."

She turns her head and watches them share a smile, her father's hand on the oxen's back, the warmth in his eyes for his wife alone.

It is a perfect moment; a perfect memory.

She does not recall what comes next.

--

Teyla comes awake in a tent of canvas on the banks of the river. Her heart pounds against her ribs as she lies there, trying to determine what is wrong.

Is it the Wraith? No. Her Gift is silent. Something else? A child's cry or a sharp word? No. Just the murmur of the morning and the sound of people moving about the camp in their morning's chores, humming as they go.

Humming.

It is not the song of her dream - but it's close. Butchered by time and worn down by generational memory, but the same song that the man - Jaken - sang in the dream. That is all that woke her - the confluence of dream and reality, what her mind imagined and what is now.

She allows herself to relax back in the cushions and pillows of her bed. They have made summer camp down in the midland hills by the river, and the children are often down by the water in the morning, being warned from the deeps and the rapids by the more responsible of their number and the adults who come to fetch water or wash clothes.

So goes the life of Athos, since time immemorial.

Teyla closes her eyes and lets herself think back on the dream - so real as it was! Sunlight on her skin, on her hair, and the smell of the oxen and the cart, the man's voice singing of the road that led down to the Ring of the Ancestors and beyond, out through the stars and the planets, to peoples yet unmet.

It has been many years since the Ancestors lived in their cities. And yet with the turning of the seasons, the Athosians hold out hope that someday they will return.

This winter, Teyla thinks, we should go back to the Ring of the Ancestors and the ruins of the old city and start telling the old stories again. We must remember who we were.

Once upon a time, when the Ancestors lived in their cities...

--

This is not the city of the Ancestors.

White, white, white, everything cold and white, blank and sterile. No more does she see the blue sky and the verdant forest; no more does she smell the rich scents of dirt and leaf-mould, stagnant water and fragrant blossom.

The man and the woman are gone. The cart and the girl who sat in it as it rolled along the path are mere memory. There are no songs here, no tender looks, no sunshine, and little laughter.

Yet those who come in to see her in her sickbed are undoubtedly Ancestors. There are human assistants who look her over and check her charts, but the ones who come and look her over, who speak clinically and smile impersonally, they are Ancestors.

She drifts in and out of consciousness, like a leaf on the wind. Too weak to speak, to ask what is wrong, she barely has the strength to wonder what has happened that she is here, being cared for by the Ancestors. To wonder why her arm hurts, why her body feels strange - too cold, too hot, prickling aches, nagging pain.

And the whispering in her head, a near-constant murmur, like the Athosian camp at sunset.

...seems to be affecting the females more than the males...

...the adjustments to allow cell regeneration have been wildly successful - of course, the physiological changes are unavoidable...

...not so sure this is a wise course of action...

...Sister...


Her eyes open and the room is empty. She lies in a bed and feels a little tired, but otherwise fine. Perhaps even better than fine, although a little hungry. And the palm of her left hand itches.

She lifts her hands, the right to scratch the itchy palm of the left, and stops, shocked.

Her skin is mottled brown and green - the nails thickened and claw-like at the end of swollen joints that move without pain. Her skin is like shiny leather, hairless and well-veined, and in the centre of her left palm, right where the itch is, a slit gapes like an open mouth.

She screams, and her horror reflect back at her from the empty walls, a cacophony of loss.

--

In a city humming with personnel newly-arrived from Earth, Teyla is relieved to find silence on the balcony out from the control room.

After the siege and its aftermath, she finally has time to think.

She would usually seek solitude in meditation in the gym or her rooms, but when so many people are moving around, arranging the equipment from Earth, being given orientation tours through Atlantis, any solitude she finds will be temporary at best.

Then, too, she is avoiding the polite avidity of Lantean curiosity about her.

The city of Atlantis stands today because of her Gift - because the Wraith were deceived into believing it destroyed.

Standing out on one of the balconies of the bright, silvery city on the sea, Teyla wonders if her father suspected that the Gift which warned them of the Wraith's coming was not from the Ancestors but from the Wraith. It explains something of the legends of the Returned - the Athosian tales of those taken by the Wraith who were returned to live again among their loved ones.

Until the coming of John Sheppard, Teyla considered the story of the Returned little more than legends.

She knows better now.

Among her foremothers and forefathers is numbered at least one of the Returned. Taken in a culling, experimented upon by a Wraith scientist, and released when his experiments were done.

What she feels in her mind when the Wraith come is the Wraith themselves. What she hears in her head when the Wraith are near is their minds and their thoughts. And if she lets down her guard, they will take her over and make of her a weapon among those she has come to care for in this city.

Yet the sword's blade has two edges.

What they tried to use against Atlantis, she has used against them in Atlantis' defence. And she would do so another time without halt or hesitation.

The wind rises off the sea, and lifts the wisps of her hair around her face, and Teyla closes her eyes and lets the breeze bring her calm and cool.

She does not yet know if she will speak of the origin of the Gift to her people. Kanaan should know it, at least - but the others? She does not know if they are ready for such knowledge.

She does not know if she is ready to understand what it might mean for her.

--

Once there was a girl who rode in a summer's day to a song of home and heart.

That girl is long dead.

They are all dead - dead to the lives they lived before the Ancestors took them and made them what they are now - monstrous, twisted experiments that they kept like pets for curiosity. They call themselves the Returned - ghosts that walk like humans, that speak with the memories of who they were, but who are reviled and feared wherever they go. Every hand is against them, and every face is turned from them.

For that alone, she could hate the Ancestors.

Yet there is so much more to her bitterness. Now, they have become thieves - stealing life, clouding minds, and confusing thoughts. They travel through the Ring from planet to planet, feeding and breeding - and surviving. The most basic of instincts, and the strongest.

The girl is long dead, but a woman has risen in her place and thrives. If it is not the life she hoped to live, still, it is life.

She stands in the mists of an Athos winter, on a road that leads from the riverside city to the Ring of the Ancestors. The males have gone to pick off who they may find for food; but she has stayed back - to watch; if need be, to escape.

And in the clouded night, she wonders: what kind of people would think it right to twist a being so far from its natural course?

--

In the dark of the hiveship, swimming through stars, Teyla wakes in a bed fit for a Queen, her heart pounding beneath the bodice of the Wraith Queen disguise.

She slept when she did not mean to; let herself relax when she should have been alert.

That she has an alliance with Todd does not mean her trust comes unalloyed. Yet the hum of the ship was soothing against her, its thoughts simple as a beast of burden, that she fell asleep to its murmur, in the cool of the chamber and the darkness of the space within, held against the space without.

A touch, mind to mind, and she gives assent.

The doors hiss open and Todd enters and assays a bow, correct as Wraith male to Queen. For this charade, she is his Queen and he will show her the appropriate deference - because it suits his purposes. Teyla has little doubt that he will ignore it if he feels it suits his purposes, too. Todd is too old, has survived too much to be anything less than cunning.

"We approach the meeting place. Is there anything you require?"

"I am ready," Teyla answers as she rises from the bed. "How soon will we arrive?"

"Four hours." He tilts his head. "Will you feed?"

There is a gentle mockery in the question, but Teyla answers him without flinch of body or mind. "If there is opportunity, should it not be taken?"

Todd bares his teeth in appreciation of her answer. This throw of the dice - a Queen with which to figurehead his Wraith alliance - is nothing, if not an opportunity taken.

"Do Wraith dream?"

A movement of his forehead, as though one brow lifted - did the Wraith have eyebrows. "Of what have you dreamed?"

Teyla hesitates, then answers carelessly. "Of people I don't know and places I don't recognise."

Todd watches her, and she can feel him measuring her thoughts. But she keeps her mind closed and close, and he shrugs. "Some Queens have dreamed of their foremothers - of lives lived before they were born."

"Genetic memory."

"Yes." His eyes sharpen on her. "You have dreamed in this way?"

"Perhaps."

It is all the answer she is going to give him, but his words have confirmed what she has thought for several years now - since the revelation of the nature of her Gift. The dreams are not frequent, but in them, she sees what was - the memories of another woman who began her life human and became, like Teyla, more. Only what is willing charade for Teyla was unwilling reality for the woman of her dream.

She cannot examine it now, though; there is an alliance to make, a Queen to meet, and a ship full of Wraith to face. And at the end of this mission, she will return to the meeting point, she will take off the disguise, she will return home with John, Ronon, and Rodney.

All will be as it was.

Yet she is no longer the woman who guided the decision for the Athosian camp to move back to the city by the river.

She is no longer the woman who feared the origins of what lay within her.

At the door of the chamber, Todd offers his arm, Wraith male to Wraith Queen, an ancient courtesy to one who he might otherwise have slaughtered without a second thought.

Teyla regards it, and him, and who it must be that she is if she is here now, making the choices she makes.

She is Teyla Emmagan, now and always - even dressed like a Wraith Queen and in matching mind.

She is human and Wraith all in one - born so, not made so as was the girl of her dreams - as was Michael.

She is, and she was, and she will be.

And Teyla accepts that truth as she rests her hand atop Todd's with a smile to match the challenge in his own, and walks out to face what may come.

- fin -hits counter

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
crysothemis
Sep. 17th, 2011 02:20 pm (UTC)
Such a lovely character piece.

I really enjoyed the way you portrayed the ongoing process of Teyla's self-acceptance, and the little details, like her thinking that she should tell Kanaan, or the way the Ancestor-created Wraith are originally called The Returned as well.
tielan
Sep. 20th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
Thank you! I love the complexity of who and what Teyla is!
hoktauri
Sep. 17th, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, man, that was great. I love Teyla and I love seeing her explore her Wraith side. The way she interacts with Todd here is perfect, too.



He tilts his head. "Will you feed?"

There is a gentle mockery in the question, but Teyla answers him without flinch of body or mind. "If there is opportunity, should it not be taken?"


I loved this part, so Teyla, the way she parlays with Todd! I wish there had been more interaction b/t them on the show, but this makes up for the missing pieces. :-D

Go Teyla!! \o/
tielan
Sep. 20th, 2011 01:07 am (UTC)
There needs to be a lot more interaction between Teyla and Todd - after all, he trusted her enough to make her 'his Queen' which is a pretty big step for a Wraith, I'd imagine, even if it was just a fakeout.

And Teyla trusted him enough to pretend to be his Queen - and that can't have been an easy thing given the years of suffering she and her people have endured at the Wraith.

Thank you!
hoktauri
Sep. 20th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
Exactly! And you bring depth to those ideas so beautfully here. Thank you for writing this! (Forgot to say that in my first comment.)
enigmaticblues
Sep. 17th, 2011 11:53 pm (UTC)
Wow. This was intricate and lovely and so very deep.
tielan
Sep. 20th, 2011 01:07 am (UTC)
Thank you!
beatrice_otter
Sep. 18th, 2011 01:58 am (UTC)
Very nice.
tielan
Sep. 20th, 2011 01:08 am (UTC)
Thanks!
altyronsmaker
Sep. 19th, 2011 12:37 am (UTC)
I love the Teylas and Todd interaction here. And how she reads him so well. The exploration of how she is truly hybrid - born so, not made - was subtle and really well done.

Lovely.
tielan
Sep. 20th, 2011 01:09 am (UTC)
Thanks! I think it's a shame they didn't explore Teyla's existence between worlds - not just as a human and a Wraith, but as an Athosian living in Atlantis, or an alien woman living (mostly) among human males.

I find her life and existence full of fascinating contrasts and complications, and only wish there was more about her as a person and who she is and struggles to be.
shaddyr
Sep. 19th, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed that look into Teyla's psyche, and the history of the Wraith. It was sad and twisted and made me want to snarl and the STUPID ARROGANT ANCIENTS OMG rawr!

Lovely little bit between Teyla and Todd.

And how much do I love the song! I want to set it to music and write more verses!
astridv
Sep. 22nd, 2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
I like this look into Teyla's mind... it feels quite disturbing. The ancients really were bastards. (I don't even remember if it was cleared up in canon whether it was the Wraith or the Ancients who did this, but my money is on the Ancients anyway.)

I can never get enough of Teyla and Todd sharing scenes. They play off each other well!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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