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Fanfiction: In Defence of Self

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Summary: Elizabeth discusses self-defence with Teyla in the wake of the Genii invasion. 
Rating: PG-13
Author's Notes: Written for Women of the Gate Ficathon 2011.  Gen.  Prompts: Elizabeth & Teyla friendship. Season 1, trust. Gen./Elizabeth & Teyla friendship. Teyla gives Elizabeth self-defense lessons after the events of The Eye/Storm. Thanks to Sky for the beta.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.


In Defence of Self

Everything around her was grey.  The sky churned with black heavy clouds; the dark sea rocked under the heavy rush of rain and wind. All she could feel was the cold wet seeping in through her uniform, biting into her skin.

Everything in the gym room gleamed under the swathe of light from the large window. Golden sunshine warmed the springy wooden floor and gilded the walls. There was a hushed quiet as though the room was a temple, a place for spiritual absolution rather than physical exertion. Elizabeth hesitated on the threshold.

"Doctor Weir." Teyla stood barefoot in the centre of the gym, the light bathing her, turning her skin to honeyed bronze and highlighting the definition of her muscled arms gleaming with well-earned sweat. She was dressed in her usual workout clothing of a split skirt that revealed shapely legs, and a tight top that left a section of her toned midriff bare.

Ignoring the unsettling notion she'd like to flee, Elizabeth had never felt dowdier in her own clothing; black pants, the ubiquitous red top she had taken to wearing and sensible shoes that were supposed to give her proper arch support and which she ditched as soon as she entered her quarters every night.

Realising Teyla was still waiting for a response, Elizabeth wished inwardly she'd brought something to occupy her hands as they twisted together giving away her nerves. She gave a hesitant smile. "Do you have a moment?"

"Of course." Teyla beckoned her inside with a sweep of a bantos rod, retreating to the steps in front of the window. She reached for her towel.

Elizabeth took a deep breath and stepped into the room; the door whispering shut behind her. "Major Sheppard thought it would be a good idea after…" she gestured vaguely towards the window, "what happened last week for me to renew my self-defence training, and I agreed with him."

Elizabeth attempted to project confidence in her decision as though her agreement hadn't been forced upon her by circumstances and John's quiet but firm insistence in that morning's meeting. Elizabeth wanted to pretend that the Genii invasion hadn't happened, that it was all some nightmare that she could dismiss in the light of day. But she couldn't – and she knew that even if she didn't want to face the truth of it just then.

The sense of disbelief as her eyes took in the invading group of uniformed men in Operations and the leader looking at her with nothing but calculation; similar and yet not to the Goa'uld she had once verbally feinted with over a polished conference table. She was nothing to him except something to be used.

"So," Elizabeth smiled politely at the other woman, "he also suggested that it might be better for me to work one to one with you if you were agreeable?"

John had commented that other people might be uncomfortable in front of their boss if Elizabeth joined the main group, and possibly John understood that Elizabeth herself didn't want to look incompetent and awkward in front of her staff. She didn't really want to look incompetent and awkward in front of Teyla.

Teyla lifted an eyebrow. "Are you agreeable to his suggestion?"

"I am if you are." Elizabeth tried to hide her unease behind a diplomatic smile.

She liked Teyla but she didn't know her that well. What little she knew filled her with admiration on one hand, and confusion on the other. The younger woman was a leader of her people, and on that level she and Teyla were equals; had dealt with each other as equals for the most part (even if the negotiator in Elizabeth acknowledged that she held the balance of power in terms of the relationship between the expedition and the Athosians). Yet Teyla was also part of John's team; a member of the expedition by extension, and Elizabeth hadn't quite gotten a handle on how to deal with Teyla as such.

Teyla nodded and gestured; a silent invitation to sit and talk about Elizabeth's request. Elizabeth breathed in deeply and centred herself, just as she did before any negotiation, before she made her way over to sit in the sunlight.

Water was running everywhere; down the back of her neck, trickling down her spine. Her face was numb, barely feeling anymore the freezing needles of rain as they bombarded her pale skin. She couldn't feel her fingers, they were so pruned and damp, as she tried to grab Kolya, get him away from Rodney, the railing the only barrier between the scientist and death.

"I admit…I am surprised." Teyla murmured, sitting down with an innate elegance that Elizabeth envied.

Elizabeth wondered how to answer that; if she was expected to. She examined Teyla's expression and realised she was – except Elizabeth wasn't certain she knew what the question was. "You're surprised the Major suggested you?"

"No." Teyla brushed a lock of her hair back from her face. "I know Major Sheppard respects my abilities as a fighter and as a teacher."

The statement was so matter of fact that Elizabeth found herself thrown off-balance. "Okay," she drawled out, "so you're surprised at…"

"At your acquiescence to his suggestion." Teyla confirmed. "Would you not be more comfortable with someone from Earth?"

The tentative question was like a slap in the face. Elizabeth knew she and the Athosians hadn't had the best of starts, although she had also believed Teyla understood why Elizabeth had taken the measures she had. The words felt like a reprimand and Elizabeth could hear the echo of Kolya's voice mocking her arrogance.

"Well," Elizabeth attempted to regroup and treat Teyla's comment lightly, "I also respect your abilities as a fighter and as a…leader."

Teyla gave her a measuring look. "You would not prefer someone who already knows your self-defence techniques such as Major Sheppard or Aiden?"

Elizabeth let out a relieved breath as she realised where Teyla's concern had originated; that it had nothing to do with Elizabeth herself. She felt a twinge of discomfort at her previous thoughts and wondered if they were not an indication of her own dissatisfaction with how she had handled the Athosians. She shifted position; the steps were hard and unyielding.

"I would prefer someone who won't go easy on me because I'm Doctor Weir," Elizabeth saw that Teyla knew she was referring to Lieutenant Ford with that statement, "and the Major…" she paused, struggling to put into words the myriad of difficulties about that idea. "I'm not sure he's comfortable with training me." She said eventually, leaving out her own reticence.

On an intellectual level, she knew John was military but she had somehow forgotten the reality of his training and competence, lulled by his easy-going and charming nature. The events of the past week had shifted her perception of him. She knew she needed some space to adjust her thinking; to process that John was more military than he appeared, that perhaps he wore a mask better than anyone she had ever met.

Teyla tilted her head, her eyes soft and thoughtful. She clasped her hands in her lap. "The Major trains one to one with Doctor McKay."

The gun was pointed at her and her mouth was dry; her mind leaping, scrabbling for an argument, any argument, to save herself…and Rodney was already there, moving in front of her, shielding her with his own body; talking, talking, talking until she calmed him, a thank you in her gentle touch and heartfelt words as Kolya moved away.

"Yes, but they're equals in terms of rank within the expedition hierarchy." Elizabeth answered without thinking.

Teyla's expression cleared. "Ah. And our training together would be another meeting of equals?"

"Yes?" Elizabeth confirmed tentatively. She waved at Teyla. "We are equals and yet…"

"We are not at the same time in regards to our relative positions." Teyla agreed with a bright melodic laugh. She nodded. "I have often thought the same."

And just like that the tension in Elizabeth's gut was gone; dissipating away in a rush of gratitude and companionship.

"Perhaps we can negotiate boundaries." Elizabeth suggested impulsively. "You know in regards to the missions that you perform as part of the Major's team or any other, we agree that I'm in charge, but outside of that we're both the leaders of our people and are equals?"

Teyla regarded her with a smile. "I believe that would be acceptable to me."

"To me too." Elizabeth smiled; really smiled for the first time since they'd survived the storm and the invasion.

There was an awkward pause.

"So, if we are to train together, I must know what you have already learned." Teyla said seriously, shifting them back to safe ground with consummate ease.

Elizabeth sighed and smoothed the pristine surface of her pants. "I've taken several self-defence classes and I've received hostage training."

"Hostage training?" Teyla frowned.

"It's precautionary," Elizabeth pressed a hand to her chest as her heart sped up, "for when, if, you become a hostage. They effectively tell you how to act in the event of a kidnapping so you can stay alive for a rescue." She informed her, folding her arms over her chest. "They include some basic survival skills; that kind of thing."

"You expected to be taken hostage?" Teyla asked, evidently confused.

Elizabeth shook her head. "My work involved negotiating major treaties between different countries. Some of the face to face negotiations took place in dangerous parts of our world. We always had protection but there was always the chance that something would go wrong and so…they trained you for that contingency." She laughed humourlessly turning away from Teyla's knowing eyes to stare out of the window. "I never needed it until…" her throat closed up.

His arm was clamped tightly around her; his breath sour and warm against her cheek; the gun in his hand too close but she was more scared of the blue horizon behind him; the wormhole waiting to swallow them up. John was in front of her; his gun aimed steadily. There was something she should do; her training whispering but it couldn't get past the fear in her mind…she couldn't move to help John or herself…could barely remember to breathe…

"You did not remember the moves you were taught during what occurred with the Genii." Teyla surmised briskly.

"What?" Elizabeth blinked at her, guilt swarming into her belly. Was her poor performance that obvious? Or was her guilt about it just written all over her face? "How did you…"

"Defensive moves are only useful if they are practiced until they are second nature." Teyla said dryly. "If you have not practiced, your body and mind would not automatically follow when they were required."

"I remembered the day after." Elizabeth quipped.

Teyla cocked her head again. "Rodney and the Major both praised your conduct when they spoke to me about what happened."

"They did?" Elizabeth wondered – both at the concept of the men sharing anything (and she couldn't believe they had beyond the factual events that had taken place) and at the idea that she had evoked some kind of praise from them.

"I believe Rodney used the word incredible." One corner of Teyla's mouth lifted up, inviting Elizabeth to share in the wonder of that since it was Rodney and he rarely used such words to describe the behaviour of others, but Elizabeth couldn't.

"No," the word tore out of her mouth, "I was anything but incredible."

Elizabeth stood up swiftly and paced to the other end of the room, wanting to get away; to get out. She hugged her torso and tried to ignore the churn of nausea. She rolled her head back and closed her eyes against the push of tears.

"Why do you say that?" Teyla's voice carried over to her easily in the open space of the gym.

Blood seeped through Rodney's jacket; through his fingers. They'd cut his arm. Panic, shivery and sharp, washed over her at the sight of it; at the sight of Rodney after his initial outburst trying to pretend it was OK because he didn't want to worry her.

"Rodney…" Elizabeth's throat closed up and she had to swallow hard around the lump there to talk again. "They hurt Rodney."

And John had been hurt too.

Oh, he didn't say anything but she knew. He'd killed over fifty people, and that left a mark no matter how much John might brush off Elizabeth's concerns. It was apparent in the way he was carefully ignoring how everyone in the expedition was treating him; some talking about him with awe; some regarding him warily and with fear. It seemed only Rodney and Teyla didn't treat John any differently – and maybe Ford because the open hero-worship for his CO wasn't new.

She shook her head as though trying to dislodge the thought, her gaze on the floor, absently tracking scuff marks on the wood. "I couldn't protect them. I'm supposed to protect them. I'm their leader! But instead, Rodney protected me by shielding me from a gun and John…"

"The Major did what he needed to do to protect you, Doctor McKay and the city." Teyla filled in.

Elizabeth's head jerked up and over to the window. Teyla still sat serenely where she had before, swamped in sunlight.

Suddenly, Elizabeth was furious with herself. "Damn it." She snapped. "I acted like…I just stood there like some fragile flower! I let Rodney step in front of me! I didn't stop Kolya from trying to kill John! I even…God! I did nothing."

Across the gym, Teyla's eyes gleamed. She rose and walked over to Elizabeth. "I do not believe that is true, Doctor Weir." She held up a hand when Elizabeth went to deny it. "The Major said you kept a cool head and gave him the time to eliminate the enemy Kolya had sent after him. Rodney spoke of how you bluffed Kolya and how you tried to draw Kolya away when he attacked Rodney."

Elizabeth couldn't look away from Teyla's fierce gaze; compelled to feel the truth and the sincerity behind Teyla's words.

"These are not the actions of someone who did nothing." Teyla reached out and placed a hand on Elizabeth's arm. "You did everything you could."

Elizabeth's pain eased with the blunt honesty of Teyla's words and the warmth of her comfort. "Thank you." She said. She felt better. A weight lifting from her shoulders that she hadn't even realised she was carrying.

Teyla inclined her head.

"What about you?" Elizabeth asked impulsively. Her eyes suddenly catalogued the faint mark of bruises on Teyla's body.

"I am well." Teyla's smile lit up her face; she squeezed Elizabeth's arm and let go. "Spending time with my own people when we returned them to the mainland helped me regain my balance."

Elizabeth felt a rush of jealousy. She wished fervently she could pick up the phone and speak with her mother; hug her dog; take comfort in someone who she didn't lead, wasn't responsible for.

"Perhaps you could come with me the next time." Teyla invited softly.

"I'd like that." Elizabeth confirmed, smiling again.

"But first," Teyla continued, "we should begin your training."

Elizabeth winced. "Right. Training." She was setting an example, Elizabeth told herself briskly; plus, if she wanted to protect her people clearly she needed more in her arsenal than reasoned arguments and diplomatic double speak.

Teyla's lips twitched as though she had read Elizabeth's mind. "I believe it would be wise to leave behind that which you have previously learned and try something new."

She could do that; Elizabeth nodded.

"Then we will begin here tomorrow at six."

Elizabeth grimaced at the early hour.

"Wear comfortable clothing." Teyla instructed her.

"I can do that." Elizabeth said out loud. Her communicator chirped; Peter asking her to return to Operations for a scheduled meeting with the mess staff on the food situation. She tapped it and replied that she'd be right there. "I have to go." She told Teyla needlessly.

"Of course." Teyla said with understanding borne no doubt of her own experience as a leader. She reached out and Elizabeth allowed herself to be pulled into the Athosian farewell; their foreheads meeting with a brief gentle touch.

Elizabeth took a deep breath as she pulled back, nodding her appreciation for Teyla's gesture decisively. Perhaps one day, she considered as Teyla moved away, they could also negotiate a friendship in among the boundaries they had laid out. Elizabeth believed she would like that.

She looked around the room; felt the calm serenity of the space and the warm sunshine seep through her, chasing away the chill that had haunted her since the storm. She stepped out into the corridor, her mind already turning to her work and responsibilities.

"Sorry about that. I had to…you okay?"

Was she okay? Was he insane?

Hysteria bubbled up. "No!"

John was already reaching for her, turning towards the stairs. She almost missed his reply as his hand caught hers.

"You will be."



Jan. 31st, 2011 11:13 am (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you liked it.




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