Remix of: Black Light in a Shady Alien Motel Room by raisintorte
Characters: Teyla-centric. Also Kanan, Ronon, John, Rodney
Timeline: Say six months to a year after episode 5.3, Broken Ties
Word count: ~2,000
Summary: Their trading partners made them pretend to do it. Again.
Teyla feigned sex for the first time at 17, a year before she had sex in truth. She was a trader and a trader's daughter: consummation ceremonies were relatively uncommon but not unknown. They came with the territory.
"Pudding night!" Rodney exclaimed on their way to the village. "I adore pudding night!"
"Mmm, yeah," Ronon agreed. Teyla, walking side by side with John, exchanged an amused glance with him. The amusement had understanding in it, though. Teyla herself was looking forward to pudding. She thought she could snag a few bowls and bring them back to eat with Kanan and Torren--Torren was on soft foods now, and Teyla wanted to introduce him to pudding, to see if he liked it, to unwind with her lover and her son.
When the requirement of a consummation ceremony came up unexpectedly, she saw her own feelings of tired irritation reflected on the faces of her team. But this now, this right here, was the job. It might do Rodney good to vent about it, but complaining tended to make Teyla feel more sullen rather than relieved.
Teyla took a breath, locked the irritation away. She would be home soon enough.
She and Elizabeth had discussed the matter about a week after the Earthers arrival in Atlantis, in a conversation about what they might expect when venturing forth in the galaxy. They had still been building their friendship then, and Elizabeth had been cautious and careful, trying so hard not to overstep the boundaries of privacy even while she collected information that her people would need to know.
"It must be startling sometimes," Elizabeth said with a rueful laugh. "Some of the requests you've told me about--they must be startling."
"My people have been traders for a long time. And very little is new," Teyla said. She gave her own laugh. "Startling when I was younger and in training, though, yes. But my teachers did prepare me well."
Know first: the counsel that had been passed on to her by her father, by Charin, by her mentors Meleha and Kiran.
One's body, and the fruits of one's body, and the bodies of one's people, could be used in trade. To engage in field work, fighting, sex for pleasure, sex to replace children lost to the Wraith. To be a wet nurse, an artist's model, living pornography, an experimental test subject, a scapegoat.
To be a sacrifice to the Wraith.
Even when one was trading goods: One's body, and the fruits of one's body, and the bodies of one's people, could be part of the bartering process before the official trade, as a sign of trust or unity, or as a way of gauging truthfulness and flexibility, and sometimes as a way of judging desperation. Requests of blood, saliva, semen, skin, symbolic or actual, were not unknown.
Know first, she had been taught, what you would and would not barter, what could be given or lent with honor, what could be given or lent without destruction, and most of all, what was yours to give or lend.
Know first, they had all said, and Meleha had added as they trained, bruises from the bantos rods on both their bodies because Teyla had been good enough for that by then, "And be prepared to defend those boundaries--your own and those of the people you protect."
"Some of the situations have actually come up with the SG-C," Elizabeth had mused in that first discussion. "Some of the others we'll have to discuss guidelines for…"
They were beginning to be friends, and so Teyla did not put as much edge in her voice as she could have when she said, "And please understand that when you have laid out your guidelines and limits to your people--ours may be different from yours. And though we are happy to guide you in your missions, to further your negotiations, we will be constrained in our actions by our limits, not yours."
Elizabeth was a smart woman, she plainly understood that even as Teyla spoke of negotiations, they were in the middle of one: Teyla's offering the services of her people as guides and liaisons, but on their own terms. The Athosians owed John and the Earthers a great deal, but she was a leader and a leader's daughter; she would not serve her people's interests ill, would not sell them for cheap, would not sell what was not hers to give.
"Of course," Elizabeth said, with gravity, without hesitation, and Teyla nodded.
There were no peepholes in the room to which they were led, which made Teyla sigh in relief: symbolism only was being requested today. From the stains on the sheets, actual sex would also be acceptable, but Teyla thought very few people would go to those lengths: you didn’t give trading partners more than they asked for straight off, and the lack of observers was a clear indication that a symbolic offering was sufficient. (Sometimes Teyla got the impression that John and Rodney didn’t quite understand the distinction, that they thought they were actually getting away with something in the places where they weren't being watched and so feigned sex, but she was never sure.)
Rodney groused a bit until John cut him off. "Alright already. McKay, quit complaining. Everyone else? You know the drill. Teyla?"
Teyla exchanged the barest hint of an eye roll with Ronon--somehow she and Ronon always went first--and sat down on the bed. She closed her eyes and began: "Oh Ronon, please come here and worship at my altar…"
"There's really no need in those situations," Meleha had advised dryly, "to be particularly accurate to what you would and wouldn't say yourself."
"I would say the further away the better, really," Kiran had said, and he and Meleha had exchanged a look full of laughter and understanding: they had been trading partners for seven years at that point, were the best of friends. "It's a lot more fun that way."
That evening, Teyla had gone to Charin about the conversation she'd had with Meleha and Kirin. "They said you didn't have to be true to what you'd really say. Is that fair to do that, though?" she asked. She'd been very earnest, at sixteen. "Isn't that...paying in false coin, in a way?"
"Teyla, dear," Charin had said, reaching over to pat her elbow. "Either they are asking for a symbol--in which case symbolic language is more than appropriate, and in fact part of the entertainment value for them. Also it makes it less awkward for you and your partner, and less awkwardness is always a good thing in negotiations."
"You said either. What's the Or?" Teyla had asked, cocking up her chin.
"Or they're asking for intimacy," Charin had said gently. "No--demanding it as part of a trade."
"And?" Teyla had asked in a small voice, feeling herself young and in deep waters.
"And then you need to decide whether that's something you want to trade," Charin had said, eyes suddenly very serious. "And if you are the leader of the team, you also need to know whether it is something your partner is willing to give. Because my dear, our people's time and our labor and our words will be at your disposal, but our honesty in this matter: that is not something which will be yours to give without permission."
Rodney mumbled something about never getting used to Athosian euphemisms, and Teyla opened her eyes to give him a bit of an incredulous stare. Truly, she did not understand how he hadn't picked up the joke by now. She glanced at Ronon, who shrugged slightly and started to speak, "It is an honor to be a blessed visitor to your temple, Ms. Emmagan. Please accept my humble offering."
Teyla hastily shut her eyes again, the better to speak about Ronon's humble offering.
"Hey," Ronon had said, about six months into his stay on Atlantis, when they were scheduled for a visit with the Plenari. Teyla had planned to find and talk to him, since she didn't know what information John and Rodney might give him, but he'd tracked her down first. "I wasn't a trader among my people, but my cousin was, and I remember hearing something about the Plenari. Plus the reports I read here say we've met with the Plenari and go through some kind of ritual, but they don't say what. What's it about?"
She was grateful that the issue hadn't come up before that point; six months in, they were friends, and Ronon was capable of laughter again, so it was easy enough to work out a really quite remarkably flowery, overwritten script in advance. By the time they had the script worked out, they'd laughed themselves into limp heaps on the floor. "Anything else I need to know?" he'd asked once he'd peeled himself off the floor.
"No--oh, I'll probably have my eyes closed," Teyla had said.
"Okay," Ronon had said with a shrug.
"I know it's a little strange," Teyla said.
Ronon had grinned at her. "People have quirks in real sex--might as well in fake sex too. See you tomorrow, Ms. Emmagen."
Teyla kept her eyes closed for a few reasons:
It was another layer of distance between how she was in symbol and how she was in truth.
It let her know what the people with whom she was intending trade were hearing, making sure that they would be hearing enough, that she was not relying on heated looks or movements.
It meant that she was far less likely to burst into laughter at Rodney's disgruntled expression or John's pained blankness or the mischief on Ronon's face.
Laughter during sex was one of the better things in the world; laughter during symbolic sex was unfortunately not.
Truly, the most uncomfortable part of the symbolic ritual was not feigning sex, but listening to others feign sex, and perhaps especially John and Rodney. Glimpses of their feelings for each other would tend to leak around the edges in these situations, and it made Teyla feel discomfited and voyeuristic. But today for some reason John had decided--after four years--to follow the same sort of overdone script that Teyla and Ronon used, and it was both a surprise and a relief.
When they stepped out of the hut, the villagers were pleased. Teyla kept alert, just in case, but they made it back to the gate without incident.
"Anything special?" Kanan asked when she arrived at her quarters. He was sitting in the window seat, Torren in his lap. Teyla dropped her jacket on her chair, walked over to the window seat with pudding and spoons in her hand. She leaned over to kiss Torren on the forehead, Kanan on the mouth.
"It went smoothly." She kept her head tilted again Kanan's. "I was remembering Meleha and Kirin on the walk back." They had both taken by the Wraith, and Teyla always felt a pang when she remembered Kirin's wife Darin crying, and Meleha's wife Tara holding her up, her own face stoic. "I had such a crush on Meleha when I was thirteen or so," she went on, forcing herself to remember sweetness as well. "I remember I stayed out in the sun as much as I could in the hopes that my skin would grow as dark as hers. And of course I had a bit of a crush on Kiran as well."
"Everyone did. They were good people," Kanan agreed, reaching up one hand to rub her shoulders. He said after a moment, hint of a smile in his most solemn voice, "I'm sure they would be proud of how well their student learned to fake sex."
Teyla smiled. Let the pangs pass, and the sweetness settle in. "I brought pudding," she said, and reached down to take Torren out of Kanan's arms.
Later, when the pudding was gone, and she'd put Torren down in his crib, she returned to the room she shared with Kanan, letting him guide her down to the bed.
She did not stifle her laughter, and she kept her eyes open.