Summary: They thought in human, not in Wraith. That was their downfall.
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Original Story: They Are Wraith | shusu
There is nothing in the mess hall that she wants; yet her feet draw her onwards. Hunger gnaws at her, centred in her stomach, although she ate when the sun was high in the sky and it is barely two hours past zenith.
Cool fingers on her arm jerk her out of reverie like a slap across the face. There's a humming in her head - has been from the moment Michael's hiveship (it is not Michael's ship but Kate would say she needs a reference with which to personalise it, and the Wraith she knew as Michael is all the reference she has) began orbiting the planet.
"I'm sorry, Teyla. Are you feeling okay?"
'Okay' is an inadequate descriptor, but she cannot explain the wrongness (hunger satisfaction aridity tension) that permeates her. Easier to simply smile and lie. "I am fine. How does everything go?"
Eyebrows rise and fall in what she has come to know as a facial shrug. "It...goes. Rodney's on the Daedelus working on the Wraith jamming systems, Carson's working on a delivery system with Radek. John..."
"Is making contingency plans should the Wraith prove untrustworthy." She saw him briefly, in the mess hall, during lunch.
...should the Wraith prove untrustworthy. The phrase is incongruous, redundant in her mind. Teyla's voice betrays her. Elizabeth's expression is sympathetic.
"So far, they've upheld their end of the bargain."
So far. Teyla does not voice her doubt - not aloud, not to Elizabeth. What could Teyla say that would change their minds? She is just one more voice in their council, one more person amidst their ranks. Ronon approved it, and he distrusts the Wraith, but Teyla is not Ronon and this rings false. And even to John, who confronted her, inquired of her, she cannot speak the entirety of her doubts.
Beneath the surface of her thought, something struggles - the sensation that there is something she cannot quite see, cannot quite sense. It eludes her, flitting through shadows, like the phantoms that come with the Wraith and turn their prey about.
Elizabeth is waiting for a response.
"I am...unaccustomed to trusting the Wraith," she says after only a moment's hesitation. "This co-operation is nothing that we have ever known among my people."
"Well, it's not familiar ground to us, either. Maybe it's just the unfamiliarity." But that's not the thing that Elizabeth came to say. Teyla senses it in the abstraction of the other woman, the many splintered thoughts that press on the city's leader. It is a relief to have something of which she is sure, comfort in certainty.
The other woman looks her in the eye. "Michael wishes to speak with you."
The humming in her head recedes only a little as John comes jogging up alongside her as she reaches the 'jumper bay.
He looks flushed, his cheeks reddened as though from exertion.
"Is everything okay?"
She hears the questions behind the question. The plea for assurance, for the pat on the cheek that will make everything okay. John is more like a child than he knows, but Athosian children grow up fast. With the threat of the Wraith, they have no choice. Atlantis has no choice, now.
"I am going to my people."
"Yeah, I got that from Elizabeth. Why?"
Behind her, Sergeant Dexter pokes his head out of the 'jumper to see if she's ready to go. He retreats when he sees John.. "The Wraith. They are...very close. It makes things difficult."
"So it's not this situation? I mean..."
Teyla is without words. It is this situation and yet it is not. Going back to her people...it is what Kate Heightmeyer would call 'returning to a comfort-zone'. This close to the Wraith, she is losing the edges that define her, like old fabric, crumbling at the touch of the Wraith hivemind. It is too close, too much presence, too much in the present, and her dreams are...
She has slept little.
Thoughts swirl, twisting like leaves in the wind, dust and leaves and twigs in her mind. She has been scattered like debris across a path this last day, but when Michael asked to meet her...
It was almost an apology. (Not choice...instinct...) And the debris shifted and tangled again. (And still I would do what I have to do. But what you did to me...) Confusion and disbelief.
She would not have apologised for shooting him. Befriending him was what she did when there was hope that he might be human - but he was not, is not. What he is, he cannot help - what they did to him cannot be undone. She held hope that the Lanteans might make humans of the Wraith - but it is only a semblance. The Wraith are what they are. Teyla is what she is. She cannot be more.
And she cannot stay in Atlantis.
John is watching her, anxiously, still the child waiting for an elder's approval.
"I will be back."
"You have no need of me," she said. "And the Wraith..."
"It's hard on you." He does not phrase it as a question.
He nods, almost to himself. "All right. Check in every second day, okay?"
Teyla acquiesces and goes along to the 'jumper, only to turn when he calls her name. His hands are on his hips, his hair black against the overhead lights. "Say hi to Jinto for me."
It is not what he meant to say.
Michael's last words ring in her ears this morning as she watches Hisha at her loom.
She thought she had successfully banished it, these last few days.
We will not meet again...
Why did he say that? Why ask to meet? Why apologise for being what he is? It was an apology, although the too-human words of regret went unuttered. He made no apology for being what he was when he was in the city, hanging between humanity and inhumanity, aware of what he was and yet trying to find his way.
Why him? Why now? Why did he ask to see her? Why did she meet with him?
(Age-spotted hands slip the shuttle through the warp threads with a slick slide. The pedals click and the threads shift, and back slips the shuttle like a fish through threaded water.)
The Lanteans are suspicious by nature - it is what brought her people out here, to the mainland. Yet they trusted the Wraith so easily. Too easily.
The Wraith are deceitful in every breath they draw. They are thieves by their very nature - stealing the life of those they drain - deceitful and untrustworthy. Something in Teyla wishes to scream it aloud, to pound it into the heads of the Lanteans. Yet that is not how trust works.
She trusted John and his people.
(Hisha draws up some threads, draws down others, and the shuttle bounces gaily across the warp threads, leaving a trail of weft, unaware of the pattern it creates.)
The Lanteans will trust the Wraith because it serves a purpose, because they believe that they and the Wraith are working towards the same goal, because they believe that the Wraith are trustworthy in this endeavour, so far as it goes. And because - as much as she respects them, appreciates their work, cares for her friends - their fortunes have made them arrogant, assured of success in this endeavour.
Arrogance - their assurance, their belief that they are clever, that they are right - is the key.
You are a lot more like us than you allow yourselves to believe.
Teyla sees it, then - sees the outline of the pattern that she missed, the threads that could not be seen from within Atlantis. Her instincts knew what her consciousness could not express: the city invaded, her dreams invaded, her mind clouded - but not invaded. That was saved for others.
Thoughts scatter like people before a culling dart. Then her fingers spasm, and the convulsion drags her thoughts together, refitting the pieces.
There it lies, the finished product before her eyes, a tapestry of terrifying proportions. Warp and weft threads intertwine, weaving in and out of the design - a design that was planned by the Wraith, strung out with the care of a loom-threader, and bound together by Atlantis - all unaware of what they created.
The warp threads, rose and fell, knowing where they stood, what they wanted:
Wraith knowledge in Atlantis computers,Meanwhile, the weft threads tossed back and forth, running in and out of the warp, with no comprehension of the pattern they picked out:
so clever, so perfect, so much what the Lanteans wanted to have in their grasp,
The Queen surveying Atlantis' Gateroom and ignoring Elizabeth
until she turned with the eyes of a leader summing up a rival.
The Wraith scientist looking at the computer, and his hands going still
as though he'd trembled with something too dangerous to reveal.
Encountering Michael, We're not as different as you think,
and needing to be somewhere else - anywhere but Atlantis.
Rodney so gleeful at the Wraith systems,The Wraith are masters at coercion, control, confusion.
while John talked about 'good ideas'
as though trusting in the untrustworthy was ever a good idea.
Elizabeth being so polite and so civilised, and
the constant, unending, unstopping hum in Teyla's head
that blurred her thoughts and fragmented her perceptions
until she ran, ran, ran away,
back to her people and her safe spaces.
There were no choices in this alliance...
...and when there were no choices between allies...
...it was coercion - no matter what manner of name you called it...
And Teyla understands, then, the perfect coming-together of this double-cross. Humans are individual, complex, yet not a word was raised in defiance or doubt. They accepted and they acceded, and even Ronon agreed, while she struggled to voice her doubts to John - to John!
This is not human thinking, says her instinct within her - this is Wraith thinking: the good of the hive, the unquestioning acceptance, the interconnectedness of purpose - one mind, many units, not many minds coming together in harmony.
We thought in human, not in Wraith.
Teyla turns on her heel. Her toes pound dirt, her breath catches, she dodges the grasping hands, she ignores their cries of startlement. Her pack has a communicator with which she can reach Atlantis. And then...
And then what?
(It's an amazing opportunity, Elizabeth!) Convince them of what she can barely express herself? (But a good idea's still a good idea.) Tell them that their plans are in vain? (It would mean at least something good came of our experiment with Michael.) Bring down the cloak of doubt over the solutions on which they have laboured these last few days? (God, I hope we're doing the right thing.)
It leaves a bitter taste in her mouth. (We are Athosian, we run, we do not fight--) But she must try. (They are not the Ancestors, no matter how much you wish them to be.) Her tent is empty, her pack sits by her bed, in front pocket, the cool weight of the communicator in her hand, her thumb pressing down, hard enough to snap her nail--
"Atlantis? This is Teyla. I must speak with Colonel Sheppard."
Silence. "Uh, ma'am? He's gone. On the Daedelus. With Colonel Caldwell."
And although she does not know what has happened, she does not need to be told to know that she is too late.
- fin -