Title: Faith and Mountains
Word Count: 1700
Season: Season 3; contains S3 spoilers.
Summary: Sometimes you must place your faith in yourself.
There are sixteen steps across Teyla's cell in the doorward direction; the other way, twelve. On the smooth floor next to the door, there is a small scuff mark. It seems strangely important, but she cannot remember why. She chooses that as her focus for meditation, and proceeds to let her mind roam.
On the second day, as near as she can figure time in this place, she opens her eyes to see John, kneeling, his face on her own level behind the force shield. The green eyes seem, at first glance, impassive. Because she knows him so well, she can see the shattered edges of his soul underneath, and it threatens to break her as well.
Turning her eyes from his, Teyla stretches. Her muscles protest and her joints crack; she aches in new, unfamiliar ways, not all of them physical.
"Teyla, c'mon," John says, his voice strained. "All you have to do is tell us what happened, what that Wraith bitch did to you, and we can figure out how to fix this."
Teyla settles into a new position. Her mouth is so dry she cannot speak at first, and when she is able to moisten cracked lips, what emerges is a whisper that she barely recognizes. "I have not done anything."
"Teyla. I watched you." His voice cracks, but when she looks up again, his eyes are a blank window, revealing nothing. He has not been so distant from her since the early days on Atlantis, when she did not know the Atlanteans and they did not trust her. A voice within taunts her: Still an outsider, always an outsider. And John continues speaking; she wishes she did not have to hear him. "You broke Rodney's neck and set off a signaling device. We know the Wraith were controlling you; we know it wasn't your fault." His eyes drop instinctively; he cannot look at her when he says this, and she hears the gentle lie in the platitude. Still an outsider. "We need to know how far away they are. How many of them there are. How close they have to be to take you over."
"There are no Wraith," she says, settling into a new position and folding her hands in her lap. When she curves her fingers, she can still feel the flesh of Rodney's throat, his pulse fluttering wildly within the cage of her palms, until it stopped.
"You've got to have some idea," John presses on. "Do we have hours? Days? The shield's down, it was in the middle of a repair sequence when you -- and no one but Rodney knows how to -- I mean, knew how --" He breaks off and stands abruptly, turning his back, his shoulders rigid and unyielding as metal.
"I wish I could help you," Teyla says, and she does, so much. So very much. "But I will not play this game with you."
Still an outsider, never one of us.
She slips again into what peace she can find, beyond the reach of long white fingers and the dry, rattling Wraith-whisper at the edge of her mind. When she opens her eyes again, John has gone and Ronon is there, leaning on the wall and watching her.
"Sheppard says they're picking up two hiveships on the scanners, about a day out from Atlantis," he says without preamble. "How many more are there?"
Teyla blinks at him, coming slowly back from her dissociative place, until finally the question makes sense. "None."
Ronon's impassive facade crumbles and he crouches, slinging long arms across his knees. He is so young, so very young. She often feels protective of him, like the younger brother she always wished to have. They know this, of course; they know her so deeply; they think that she will talk to him, when she turned away John.
They do not know her as well as they think.
"Teyla." His voice is low. "If the Wraith didn't make you do it, then you killed McKay, in front of the whole gate room and everybody. And I know you didn't." The look in his eyes nearly cracks her, but not quite. Not quite. "I know you didn't, but I heard some people in the mess saying you're a traitor." A small smile -- forced, painful. "I showed 'em. Don't make me kick the butt of everyone in the city, Teyla."
She does not smile back, and Ronon's smile falls away. His lips tremble. "Teyla, they're Wraith. I don't know what they said or did to make you lie for 'em. C'mon, help us, please."
She looks at him, firmly holding the unshed tears behind her eyes. She will not give any of them the satisfaction of seeing her weep. They sent John to her to hurt her and make her feel like an alien; they have brought Ronon to lure her with the offer of comfort; and Rodney's death, she thinks, was necessary because in his utter lack of social skills he always cuts straight to the truth, and they are not strong enough to make her forget that.
She reminds herself that for all they know about her, they obviously do not know it all -- the most important secrets are still her own, or else they would not continue to plague her. Ronon's eyes are intent upon her, and reluctantly, she speaks.
"The Wraith are not controlling me, and they have made me do nothing. I have done nothing. Kindly go away."
"McKay's dead, Teyla --"
"He is not, and go away!" Her voice emerges sharply, much too sharply. She cannot allow herself to be goaded, cannot lose that much control lest she lose it all. She closes her eyes, controlling her breathing, and opens them to find that Ronon has gone.
It is much more difficult to slip into meditation this time. She is very thirsty, but this should not be able to stop her; she has meditated through physical discomfort before. But each time she closes her eyes, Rodney's face drifts, ghostlike, before her: purple and contorted as her fingers press into his windpipe. His eyes are wide, so wide, so shocked and hurt. In her ear, the Wraith whisper to her, urging her to yield.
Teyla wipes her shaking hands on her pants, smoothing away the rattle of her friend's last breath. "The Wraith do not control me," she chants softly, aloud. "The Wraith are not here. The Wraith have never been here. I am myself. I am a free woman of Athos, a member of John Sheppard's team. I do not listen to lies."
The voice is Elizabeth's, and she is not surprised. She knows that she should not turn her head, but still she does. Elizabeth is slumped, exhausted, with bruise-colored crescents beneath her eyes.
Teyla feels pity well up in her, and she does not know whether to stifle it. Giving in to the emotion means giving them a small toehold in her heart; giving it up would do likewise.
"I don't know what to say to you, Teyla."
Teyla does not answer. Not knowing what they want, she dares not give away anything at all. Silence is the best answer, and she has allowed the other visitations to make her talk too much.
"Carson doesn't think the Wraith are still controlling you, but if that's so, then I don't understand why you won't help us. They're coming, Teyla. The Wraith you called. Do you mean to tell me you did it voluntarily?" Elizabeth's face contorts with anger before smoothing out again. "I know you. I don't believe that. Rodney is -- Rodney -- Teyla, you cannot make me believe that you'd ever hurt Rodney voluntarily."
The moment stretches between them, and finally Teyla breaks her own silence. "I do not believe it either." She smiles, just a bit. "That was your mistake."
Elizabeth's brows draw together, a crease appearing between them. "I don't understand what you mean."
Teyla draws herself straighter. From her crosslegged position on the floor, she looks up at the other woman through the bars. "I do not believe I would hurt Rodney, or anyone on Atlantis. I know that the fear of it waits inside me, and you must have found that and tried to use it against me, whoever you are. But my heart does not believe it."
"I don't know what you mean," Elizabeth repeats, but there is an ugly undercurrent to her voice. "We all saw what you did, Teyla. Denying it doesn't make it go away. At least Rodney's death won't be for nothing if you can tell us --"
The rest of Elizabeth's words are washed away in a red haze of anger. Teyla's hands clench into fists, nails biting into her palms, driving away the terrible sense-memory of Rodney's last breaths. The anger helps clear her head, leaving her more confident than ever that she is right, even if the whole world may tell her differently. "I would not. I have not. I will not believe that, I will never believe that, and you may as well give up now, for I will tell you nothing."
Elizabeth looks less tired now, and more furious. She stalks towards the bars, looking much less like Elizabeth now, and Teyla must resist the urge to lean back. Elizabeth, or the thing wearing Elizabeth's face, reaches through the bars, and Teyla has enough time to be startled that the forcefield does not seem to be active --
-- before she falls, and keeps falling, until she hits the floor with a gasp, and rolls over. Above her, she sees what appears to be a forest of legs, until it resolves itself into the brown and tan of Asuran uniforms. Oberoth is stepping over her, his trailing coat swishing across her face. Inches from her face is a small scuff mark on the floor, made by Ronon's boot as they were forced into the Asuran cell at gunpoint.
Trembling, Teyla can only lie still, until she hears Rodney's voice, not too far away. "They're not people, they're machines," he is saying, and there is more, but she loses it, loses all the rest of it. Her eyes close and the tears that she managed to suppress threaten her now, weighing her lashes and making her throat ache.
I was right.
I opted not to put a specific spoiler warning for "Progeny" at the beginning, because, well, that would sort of give away the game, wouldn't it....