Title: Noble Form
Spoilers: Underground, The Storm/The Eye, Coup d’Etat
Word Count: 2500
Written For: million_moments
Prompt: Teyla/Sora, childhood memories, learning to love, learning to forgive
Author's Notes/Summary: Teyla runs into a familiar face on an off-world trip.
As a child, Teyla accompanied her father on many trips through the ring of the Ancestors, to many different worlds, where she was introduced in many different ways: as his daughter, as a member of his family, as a member of the Athosian tribe and finally, as the future leader of the Athosians. She was ten the first time he said this, and did not fully comprehend what he meant by it. Within two years, she would comprehend more than she could ever have wished to, though it would be many years after that before she would take on the role.
The first time she met Sora, she was introduced as, “Teyla Emmagan, my daughter,” with a hand on her head, holding her back.
The man her father was introducing her to nodded in greeting. “A pleasure to meet you, Teyla Emmagan. And you must meet my own daughter, Sora Rallidae.” A red-headed girl stepped away from him, moving towards Teyla to touch their foreheads in greeting.
Teyla opened her eyes as Sora made the gesture, even though this was considered rude at a first meeting, and found dark, smiling eyes looking back at her.
“A pleasure to meet you,” she said, careful to use her father’s own formal words, and squeezed Sora’s hand in her own, just for a moment.
Umnai is one of the few places Teyla still visits alone, on behalf of the Athosians, and this visit is like any other, a chance to visit long-standing trading contacts and discuss possible ventures to happen once the harvest is complete. Ewa is as friendly and accommodating as ever, and they reach an agreement swiftly, leaving Teyla free for the afternoon. She is not expected back in Atlantis until the evening, and has little trouble justifying to herself remaining in Umnai for the rest of the day, exploring the large market that has sprung up in the outer fields as a consequence of the number of people coming through the ring for the same purposes as Teyla.
Many of the people wandering the stalls are familiar faces: the Umnaians hold strongly to tradition, and take many seasons to recognize someone as a trading partner. John has asked often about bringing their team to Umnai and Teyla has refused as many times, sure that the Lanteans do not have the patience for such negotiating.
Teyla is studying an Ancient translation of the Fable of Allucard, wondering if it would interest Elizabeth, when she hears a familiar accent. Her first thought is to wonder what has brought the Genii to Umnai when they ceased trading there many years ago; her second thought is that the voice speaks with an accent that is no longer true Genii, and she looks across the market to see a figure she thought never to see again.
Sora has her back to Teyla, leaning over the table of a metal merchant, her voice raised in clear disagreement, though Teyla cannot hear the words. Her clothing is not much changed in style from when Teyla walked through the gate with her to an abandoned planet and left her there, though she no longer wears the Genii uniform. Her familiar red hair is cut much shorter, barely as long as John’s, and Teyla wonders if this can mean what it seems to. The Genii women have always worn their hair long, a part of their disguise, Teyla now knows, but also a tradition, a symbol of their femininity.
The metal merchant shakes his head firmly and Sora throws down the knife in her hand, turning angrily away. Teyla thinks for only a moment before dropping the book and ducking between two stalls to follow her.
Sora is not difficult to track, even before she stops at another of the metal work stalls and begins to look through the merchandise on offer. Teyla moves up to her slowly, from the side, feeling for her own knife; not that she believes she will need it, but she knows well that there is no such thing as being overly prepared.
“Sora Rallidae,” she says quietly, in greeting, and Sora starts, turns to her with eyes wide and surprised.
“Teyla Emmagan,” she says, and Teyla feels her own eyes widen in matching surprise at the low rasp of Sora’s voice, the obvious evidence of pain turning her pale face whiter than usual, none of the mockery she was expecting from those weeks on Atlantis present in her voice. “This is unexpected.”
“Indeed,” Teyla says smoothly, trying not to show more of her shock. She remembers Sora as a child, playing Wraith with her in the forests of Athos and the Genii homeland, as a young adult, bright and healthy, familiar images laid over with her now, unusually thin beneath the loose clothes she wears, her short hair dull. “I was not aware the Genii had resumed trading here.”
“They haven’t,” Sora says shortly, and this too is something Teyla remembers from Atlantis, the way Sora rebuffed every overture of friendship Teyla attempted.
“I see,” she says calmly, because she does see, quite clearly, Sora refusing to return to the Genii, or being turned away by them, making her way alone in a world in which she was never intended to do so; the Genii, for all that they turned out not to be what Teyla thought, have long been an insular community, and raised their children accordingly.
“And I suppose you are still with the Atlanteans?” Sora asks, dark and angry, but there is something like longing in her eyes when she meets Teyla’s.
“I am,” Teyla says. She hesitates, unsure whether her offer will be rejected as it was before, unsure whether she should be making it to someone who helped take over her city, who was prepared to fight Teyla to the death, then draws a deep breath. “Perhaps we might –“
She never finishes the offer: Sora chokes, bending at the waist to rest her hands on her knees as a coughing fit overtakes her, her body shaking with the force of her coughs. Teyla moves to put an arm round her, feeling the shudders wracking the thin body of her friend, and when Sora finally straightens, limp against Teyla, her clothes are dotted with blood.
“You are not well,” Teyla says, shocked by just how unwell Sora clearly is.
“This is nothing,” Sora says, her voice hoarse. She tries to pull away from Teyla, but is too weak to manage it.
“Do not believe you know better than me,” Teyla says sternly, the way she did when they were children together, and gets a brief smile from Sora at the words. “You are not well, and you should not be out here like this. The weather is turning, and you do not have a coat.” She smiles at her own words, reminded of the way she spoke to the children on Athos. “How long have you had this cough?”
“A while,” Sora says. She covers her mouth and coughs again, her face twisting in pain.
“You must see a doctor,” Teyla says. “Come with me to Atlantis, and Dr Beckett will treat you.”
“No.” Sora makes another move to pull away, but once again falls back against Teyla. The coughing seems to have taken all of her energy. “Why would they even let me through the ring?”
“Dr Beckett has treated many of the Genii for illnesses,” Teyla says. She does not understand exactly the treatment they received, but she has seen Ladon’s sister on more than one occasion. “And you will be with me. You will go as my –“ she hesitates - “as my friend.”
Sora seems to take a long time to answer, and her nod is resigned, defeated.
Teyla leaves Sora seated on a bench at the edge of the market while she dials Atlantis and explains the situation to Elizabeth and then, after a brief pause while he is summoned, to John.
“Have you forgotten she tried to kill you last time she was on Atlantis?” John asks, sounding genuinely curious, though Teyla knows this is not the case.
“I have not,” Teyla assures him. “But we have allowed many people to visit Atlantis in order to be treated, many of them worse than Sora.” She does not mention the Wraith, because she does not need to. John will be thinking of Michael, she knows.
“Look, Teyla, I know you guys were friends when you were kids…”
“John,” Teyla says, cutting him off. “As you say, I was the one Sora attacked when she was last in the city. I do not believe she will do so again.” The pause on the other side of the gate draws out. “I will be responsible for her,” she says. “As you were for Ronon.” It is not an easy thing to do, to draw the line between the two of them, but she suspects it will be successful.
“All right, Teyla,” Elizabeth says. “Bring her through the gate.”
Dr Beckett pushes Teyla gently out of the infirmary, looking at her with the same sympathetic expression he used when John was turning into a bug, on the edge of death. She doesn’t feel comforted when he says, “We’ll take good care of her,” even less so when she passes two marines on guard as she leaves.
John falls into step beside her as she makes her way back to the control room. “Sora,” he says.
“Yes,” Teyla returns. John, she thinks, does not easily forgive offences against his people. “She is not well, and we did treat several of the other Genii.”
“They were already here,” John says. “And they hadn’t tried to kill you.”
“That was many years ago,” Teyla says sternly. It is not that she does not understand John’s reluctance to trust Sora, but if she can forgive an action made in grief against her, surely he should be able to do the same. She knows this is far from true.
“I know.” John sighs, his face suddenly drawn and tired. “Just, you know – I don’t want you to be disappointed.”
Teyla finds herself lost for a suitable response. Instead, she touches her forehead briefly to John’s, her hands gentle on his shoulders. “I will not be,” she says, and she knows it sounds like confidence in Sora, when really it is only that she has learnt never to expect enough from the Genii for them to disappoint her.
Dr Beckett explains everything very carefully to her before allowing her to visit Sora, and Teyla does not understand most of it, only that Sora will need an operation. She is not, Dr Beckett assures her, ill in the same way as the Genii they treated, but with something similar.
“And the operation will resolve this?” Teyla asks.
“Aye, that’s the idea,” Dr Beckett says. “There’s no guarantees, not with a tumor like your friend has, but we’re optimistic.”
“I am pleased to hear that,” Teyla says. “May I see her?”
Sora seems to fade into the white bedding of the infirmary cot, her skin pale like the gown she has been dressed in, her short hair and large eyes the only hints of color. She looks at Teyla and manages a small smile before she starts coughing again.
Teyla waits for the fit to be over and hands her a cup of water to sip, carefully cleaning the blood from her hands with a medical wipe. “Has Dr Beckett explained what he will do for you?” she asks.
Sora nods, leaning back into her pillows. She says nothing, only reaches hesitantly for Teyla’s hand. Teyla folds both her hands around Sora’s and leans close. “I wish you to know,” she says, “something that you did not want to know before.” Sora’s eyes are wide and frightened, as Teyla remembers feeling the first time she was alone in the infirmary, waiting for a doctor to do something strange that she did not understand, but was assured would help her recover. “I forgive you, Sora Rallidae, for your actions when we last met.”
Sora nods, her teeth grazing her lower lip. “On Umnai,” she whispers, so low Teyla can barely hear her. “I knew what day it was. I hoped you would be there.”
Teyla was nineteen when Sora came to Athos for their harvest celebration, along with many other Genii, and traders from other worlds. The celebration was not worthy of note above any other, but for the way Sora caught her hand as they danced, spinning her amongst the other couples, both of them laughing, light-headed.
The same light-headed feeling seemed to follow Teyla all night, until she was leading Sora to her home, to her bed, floating in the golden light of her candles, breathless as they touched.
“As friends,” she said in the cool morning light, pressing her lips to Sora’s.
“As friends, of course,” Sora agreed. An alliance between the Genii and the Athosians would be highly valuable to Athos, but one would never come from a relationship between that would not bear children. This kind of friendship would be all they were permitted.
“You are not yet well enough for this,” Teyla says firmly as Sora places her bag on the bench beneath the window and begins to remove her shoes.
Sora throws a mocking glare over her shoulder. “Even your Dr Beckett has agreed that I am well enough for exercise. Or are you afraid that I will best you?”
“You have never yet done so,” Teyla says, turning away to conceal her smile, for it seems that Dr Beckett’s caution was misplaced, that Sora is indeed healed, no longer so pale, or wracked with an unpleasant cough. It has been several weeks since her operation, and even John has agreed that the marine guard is not necessary as she has regained her strength. Teyla has more than once seen him sitting by her bedside – she is unsure what they speak of, and neither will say, but they seem to grow at ease with each other with the passage of time.
“That was before I was the recipient of Lantean medicine.” Sora tosses her head as though to flick her hair from her eyes, but her hair remains too short – a statement of secession from the Genii, Teyla believes. Instead, she takes up a fighting stance, her hands empty, waiting for Teyla to mirror it.
For a moment, Teyla sees Sora, knife held high, face twisted in anger; Sora, curled small and defiant in a guarded room in the depths of Atlantis; Sora, alone on a world as Teyla stepped back through the gate; all of these overlaid on this Sora, no longer constrained by the future Cowen and the Genii saw for her.
“Are you ready?” Sora asks, breaking the spell, and Teyla takes up her own stance, firm and balanced against anything Sora can send her way.