Title: Four Queens
Notes: Done for the Teyla Ficathon (all for sjhwtolerance), with the prompt 'girls night out' and no Ronon/Teyla or femslash. Darn if I didn't kind of manage it.
Summary: Poker night with the girls.
If Teyla thinks about it very closely, she knows that this started with an argument. When she thinks closer, she knows that's wrong. It wasn't an argument exactly... It had been a discussion. A gentle reminder in a time of stress. That had been the spark.
The gentle burn had started with a question.
"Would you like to come to my quarters and have a cup of tea?"
The question had been abrupt and more than a little tentative, uttered moments after she'd watched the people she'd grown and learned and loved leave her behind. Yes, it had been her own choice to stay, but making that decision was different than living with it.
Elizabeth's face, as she waited for an answer, had been careful. Looking back, Teyla knew that there had been hope in her eyes and sincerity. She'd only seen the sincerity, but it had been enough. Mostly.
"Is there a... specific reason?" Only said because the previous days had been hard. Trust had been a tender and abused thing... on both sides.
Elizabeth had shrugged, hugging herself a little with her crossed arms. "Because you were right when we said we needed to get to know each other better. A journey starts with a single step, right? Why not start with tea?"
And then she'd shuffled her feet. Although Teyla had not known the woman long, or well, she'd observed how poised Elizabeth had always strove to be. Even earlier when Halling and the rest of the Athosians had informed her of their wishes to leave, she'd not broken composure. The shuffling was a break. It had meant that this offer wasn't one sided. Was genuine.
But the real reason, the very selfish reason that she only admitted to herself when she was feeling particularly honest, was simply that they had been alone. Just Teyla and Elizabeth on a balcony and a quiet question. Woman to woman. There was nothing to gain from the offer outside a few minutes respite and contact. Maybe, Teyla had thought, someone with whom she has things in common. Maybe they could find the common ground they were looking for.
That had been worth the risk. She'd been taking quite a few of them at the time, and one more had seemed reasonable.
"Yes, Elizabeth," she'd said, smiling because the pit in her stomach was just a little less hungry. "I think that it is time that you and I got to know each other better."
And so they had.
Two years later, Teyla smiled serenely at her friend across a battlefield, sure in her abilities. Sure that she would win. After all, she'd had more than enough time to watch and learn.
Nodding, Teyla set down her cards. Two pair, threes and sixes with a jack thrown in for good measure.
Elizabeth smiled back, face calm as the ocean on a clear day... and showed her three aces, queen high.
Then again, maybe there was still more to learn
"Damn, girl, I'm glad you're on our side with that poker face." Across from Teyla, Laura Cadman grinned at Elizabeth and took a long sip of the fruit wine she'd somehow managed to pick up on her last mission. At least, that's what she'd said when Elizabeth had raised her eyebrow at her. Normally an effective inquisition technique, inside these four walls they were not always quite as effective.
"So am I." Kate Heightmeyer flicked a loose tuber chip from her pile at Laura. "Even if it's a pain in my professional ass."
"You're just mad I'm freakishly well adjusted." Elizabeth collected the loose cards - Kate and Laura had both folded – and mixed them in with the discard pile before shuffling them all together. Her hands were quick and competent at the task. Almost beautiful in their efficiency.
"Because yelling at John Sheppard for half an hour last week is so well-adjusted."
"Actually, I think that's rather sane."
"Teyla, you only say that because you have to spend time with him."
Teyla raised her eyebrow over all the snorting and snickering and picked up the new cards. "Yeees..."
"Hell, yelling at John Sheppard probably is well-adjusted." Kate stared at her own cards and shrugged. "He did kind of blow up part of the city."
"No, that was Laura." Elizabeth dealt her own replacement cards and shot a quick glare over at the other woman. The younger woman hunched down and tried to hide behind her cards. Not exactly a successful camouflage.
"It wasn't my fault!"
Kate reached over and whacked Laura in the arm. "How is you setting the charges that blew off part of pier four 'not your fault'?"
"You were so much cooler when you didn't pick on me," Laura sulked.
"Okay, I don't remember that time at all."
Teyla laughed deeply at the faces both women pulled and leaned back to enjoy the banter. Kate's head was back and she was laughing up into the small rec room's ceiling. How different she was now than the way she had been. It was hard to look at this bright, laughing woman and not see her friend.
They had not started that way, of course. No, like with Elizabeth, the friendship between she and Kate had been a series of small steps. A hello in the hallway after things had continued to escalate with the Wraith. A smile here and there when things had started to settle down after the siege.
But it hadn't been until most of the Atlantis leadership had traveled to Earth that Teyla got a chance to push the idea of more. And it had not been entirely intentional.
Teyla had almost literally run into the woman while getting her midday meal. It had been a week after the Daedalus had departed with its crew and most of the higher level staff. Elizabeth had nominally left Teyla in charge, stating in private that she was the only one Elizabeth trusted to ride herd on the motley lot left behind.
Kate had been distracted. Teyla remembers that more than anything else about that encounter. Face drawn and hair tied hastily back, there had obviously been something besides food on the other woman's mind. Perhaps too much on her mind.
"Are you all right, Doctor Heightmeyer?" The words had been more out of shock than true concern. After all, while certainly not inhospitable, their last lengthy encounters had been under rather tainted circumstances.
"Oh, Teyla! Hi! Um. Yeah, I'm sorry. Just a bit. Er, it's nothing." But it had not been 'nothing'.
"I was just about to eat... would you like to join me?" Again, Teyla's reasoning had been a bit selfish. With Elizabeth gone she had been eating mostly with Ronon or a few of the marines from other teams. Female companionship outside of Elizabeth on Atlantis had been somewhat problematic. It was not as though she lacked students who would sit with her if asked, but it was not exactly welcomed either.
She, like Elizabeth, was apart from the other women in very visible ways.
But from the conversations she and Kate had managed before everything had gone quite badly, she had liked the woman.
"Yes. You know what? Yes." Kate had clutched her tray and eyed the room at large. "Preferences?"
"The windows? The view sooths me."
"Yeah. It is pretty."
So they had settled on a table and made light conversation about how empty the city felt, and how quiet everything was without Rodney. Unsurprisingly, the conversation had ground to a stop and Kate's distraction had returned.
"Is something wrong, Doctor Heightmeyer?"
"Kate, Teyla. Please. Call me Kate." A mild sort of desperation had crossed the other woman's face, making Teyla pause.
"Of course. Kate. Are you well?"
Kate shrugged and sighed before leaning back in her chair. "Yeah, I'm okay. Just. Really, really glad that they'll probably be bringing back a few more psychologists on the trip back. Things have been pretty intense lately."
"It has been a stressful time."
Kate's laugh had been short and soft in the way that indicated irony rather than humor. "You are preaching to the choir, Teyla. Work has just been so. Well. It's been work."
"This work..." Teyla had stopped, eyeing the other woman carefully. Yes, there were marks of quiet on the other woman. The way she tilted her head down and kept her face intently neutral. "This work makes you lonely, does it not, Kate?"
Kate had smiled, the emotion barely traveling into her eyes. "You could say that. People are generally a little weirded out talking to someone who knows everyone's secrets. Even if they know I'm not going to talk about them... well. They know I know. And with everything so crazy. Well. I'm just glad that they are telling me their secrets. It's okay, I guess."
Teyla had reached out then, taking the other woman's hand. "But hard, I think. I know how that feels."
Tilting her head, Kate had eyed her, measured her. Teyla had waited, letting the other woman make her decision.
"Yes. You do, don't you?"
"Join me for a midday meal again tomorrow." Teyla had squeezed the other woman's hand, holding on just a little before letting go. "I'm not that intimidating, I promise."
"Oh, I don't know about that," Kate had said, but she was smiling again. A real, somewhat bright smile. "You're the woman who can drop just about any guy here on his head."
"If you are interested, I could always teach you? I do hold classes, you know."
And again, that had been the instigation. A conversation and an invitation. By the time Elizabeth returned, Teyla and Kate were eating together regularly. And when Elizabeth had joined them for lunch after her return... Well. It had been another beginning.
"No fair being my boss and my friend!" Laura's mock-screech broke Teyla from her line of thought and brought her back to the present.
Smirking, Elizabeth nudged another vanilla pudding cup into the center of the table. "Life's a bitch, marine."
Teyla laughed and pushed a chocolate and a butterscotch into the growing pyramid of snack food. Her cards were indeed worthy.
"And then you die, boss. I'm in."
"C'mon, Laura," Kate needled. "You know you have to share the accidental explosions. It's in the friend contract. And fold. I want to keep my chocolate pudding."
Laura pulled another face and then leaned back into her chair. "Okay, okay. It's a bit of a story. It seems Alan from agriculture had this bet..."
Laura Cadman had been a bit of a surprise addition. Slow, like Kate, in that it was only after a great event that she'd joined them, but strangely faster in her adaptation to this joined friendship. Instead of cautiously becoming friendly, Laura had embraced them wholeheartedly, taking each woman in stride and drawing them out.
Secretly, Teyla almost wished that the girl had never been put in a position to be included in these little gatherings, in this friendship. Teyla knows that they are the women apart from Atlantis, and until her consciousness had been forced into Rodney's body, Laura had not been a part of that distance.
No, Teyla'd seen her laughing and joking with several other female soldiers in the mess during lunch. Had heard stories from the members of her team about the 'infamous' poker games and strange feminine rituals. Laura had been well liked and well included in the subculture of Atlantis women.
But it seemed that on Atlantis, once you were touched by 'the weird', there was no going back. Lena Toddworth, one of the general nurses had apparently explained it to Kate, who had passed it on with the woman's rather embarrassed permission.
Elizabeth was the leader, Teyla the alien, Kate the secret keeper, and Laura the different one. Elizabeth had just smiled sadly at the theory and pointed out that the politics among women had always been more complex and shifting than any man had ever realized. Teyla and Kate, both nodding along.
It had been a truth. One not comfortable to carry or witness, but one none the less. Women nurtured, but no one and nothing could cut as deeply as a majority of women.
And so after the fourth day of watching Laura pick half-heartedly at her food by herself, Teyla had set her lunch tray in front of the woman and smiled.
"Would you like some company, Laura?"
Surprised, Laura had straightened up in her seat and blinked. "Uh. Sure? I mean, I apparently caught some kind of heinous Rodney plague, so be warned, but sure."
"I very much doubt there is anything about Rodney that could shock me at this point."
"He stares at your chest when you're not looking."
"I am not surprised. A little bit annoyed, but not surprised."
"And likes to picture you stick fighting while covered in butter."
And that had been that.
Later in the week on a night Laura had mentioned she had off, Teyla had walked them up to Elizabeth's quarters. Normal enough for Teyla, but this time... This time, Laura was there. Teyla's hand on her shoulder and spine straight, she'd walked through the door, stopped cold and stared.
"Damn, Doctor Weir, who else on this level do I have to kill for this view?" Just like that this thing that had started with two, and then grown to three expanded again.
And it had been better.
"...and that's how it exploded."
"You know, it scares me that the US military trusts you with high explosives."
"I think it scares a lot of people. This is why I'm so effective."
"No, Laura, I believe the reason you 'scare a lot of people' is because you are a strong and competent warrior."
Laura made a face and stole some of Kate's tuber chips, deftly avoiding the slapping hand and annoyed expression. "Oh, stop smirking at me like that. I know, I know, you dropped my ass like a hot potato."
"SIX times. Geez, do you have to point it out all night?"
Kate snickered and gestured at Elizabeth for two cards. "If she doesn't we'd be disappointed. Six times? Some big strong marine YOU are. Bet it's my CHIPS making you all slow..."
Tuning out the escalating chatter, Teyla reviewed her cards. Not a great hand, but she'd won larger stakes on less. It was true that these card games were friendly and the winning somewhat superfluous. Still, she liked winning. Then again, so did everyone else.
It really was strange how much they all had in common despite such different backgrounds and origins. It warmed Teyla to know what a solid bond they'd started and nursed. It had grown and bloomed in these last months, solid and necessary. She did not know how she would have made it through the last few months without them.
Laura had been the one who'd found her after the last of the evacuation shuttles had departed, returning her village back to the mainland after Charin's ring ceremony. Laura who had actively looked for and found her in the gardens, then sat quietly with her, letting Teyla grieve. Laura hadn't spoken or pushed, but she'd been there. A warm shoulder to lean into with nothing asked in return.
Hours later, it had been Elizabeth - frazzled and exhausted from her day - who'd found them and dragged them to the mess for food and tea, and Kate who'd been there waiting with everything ready.
She had these women. No, they weren't her 'people'. They didn't know everything about her and who she'd been. They had no memory of childhood embarrassments or stories of her former home. She could say the exact same thing in reverse. But they were the ones who knew her now, this new person she had become and was evolving in to.
It was more than she'd ever thought would come of that long ago conversation on a balcony, watching her people leave.
Teyla allowed the pleased little smirk to cross her face, sure that the others would interpret it to be at the cards in her hand. She was not disappointed.
"Oh, no way. I fold." Cadman tossed her cards into the center of the table and stuck her tongue out at Teyla before grabbing one of Elizabeth's sticks of licorice. "Everyone knows when you smirk like that I'm toast, so forget it."
"If you think that is the truth, Laura, I will not try and change your mind." Teyla tilted her head at the younger woman and watched as Elizabeth and Kate giggled.
There was laughter in her life. Friends.
That was everything.