Title: "Without Sight Or Sound"
Genre: Action/Drama/Humor...a bit of everything
Characters: John and Teyla
Summary: Only one of them can hear; only one can see. John and Teyla learn a whole new level about team work.
Thank you to Frisco for the wonderful beta!
The wind is refreshingly cool, but it carries the scent of yuta flowers, spreading what smells like rotting crops. The odor fills Teyla's nostrils, combating the sweeter aroma of the pulps overhead. The abundance of fruit is a source of food that will attract predators once night falls.
The sun here is a vibrant orange with a reddish hue that she forgot to ask Rodney about. Right now, all she knows is darkness; even the blackest night on Athos could not compare.
This is nothingness, no shapes, no color at all. She digs her fingers harder into the fabric of John's bicep. The muscles beneath her nails tighten and bulge. He breathes in harsh gasps near her right ear.
"The ground's more saturated ahead!"
Teyla cringes at his booming words and replies by squeezing his arm once.
The heavy, sticky air clings to her skin. The colonel's arm is slick with sweat under the shirt sleeve. Teyla puts one foot in front of the other, imagining the path she draws. The waterlogged ground soaks her shoes and tries to twist her ankles in the unstable mush. The roots are the worst, some of the twisty growth knee high.
Only her natural sense of balance and the colonel's steady arm keep the darkness from claiming her.
The tribesman's voice still echoes in her ears. "Teyla Emmagan, you will lose something most precious and gain something more in the journey. Will you place your whole trust in your teammate?"
This is a test of fear, an enemy she has faced before – alone, side by side with family, friends, and comrades. It whispers evil things in her ears, attempts to win with doubt. Today she's handed over her faith to another, someone Teyla has always trusted explicitly. She follows John's lead like countless other times. Her only lifeline is five curled fingers on a damp cotton t-shirt.
The place swarms with millions of creepy things: tiny legs crawl up her bare arms and legs, hard shells crush under her feet, and thousands of fluttering wings buzz in the air. She must keep her mouth closed to keep from swallowing any bugs. The noise from the foliage is the worst – from various animal caws to all the chirping and humming of insects.
Something sharp hits her in the face, and Teyla slaps it away with her free hand, sucking in a startled breath.
"Sorry!" John yells.
More things get tangled in her hair – vines maybe – clinging and scratching her cheeks. She despises these, these things all over her! Fighting and pulling only causes them to multiply. She snaps the plants sticky with sap between her fingers. They continue to fall and dangle from low-hanging limbs. John's arm twists away from hers, severing their only connection. Something laughs in the darkness, and her heart-rate triples.
Warm, sweaty hands brush the foreign objects from her face. Teyla grabs them both and presses John's fingers along the sides of her head. She wants to apologize for this uncharacteristic behavior. This is not who she is, but Teyla has never been blind before.
John cards his fingers through her hair until she releases his wrists. He rarely acts with physical forms of reassurance, and she appreciates this sign of affection.
Teyla purses her lips to thank him, forgetting that John won't hear her.
"We make quite the pair, don't we?" The colonel tries for humor.
Even without her sight, Teyla knows exactly the type of expression John wears. She doesn't need her eyes to know he's sporting a half-cocked grin meant to ease the tension, and, underneath it all, he hides the exact same emotions.
Teyla tentatively touches the scruff of his chin, thumb stroking a tiny white scar and feeling the clenched muscles maintaining the facade. She lets her hand fall to his shoulder and squeezes it once.
"We should get going!" he shouts.
John guides her hand to his arm, and she takes it. Teyla urges the colonel on, letting him know they can do this.
Silence is a wall that Sheppard keeps waiting to walk into. At any moment, someone or something is going to blindside him. Colors move and jump, his eyes tracking every single movement, bouncing around the inside of his skull like a pinball machine. Who knows when the next disturbance in the air will be the barrel of a weapon or snapping jaws of a beast.
His head pivots left, up, right, then back down and repeats.
He has to take it all in. Anticipate visually any danger ahead. Teyla digs into his arm hard enough to bruise. Sweat mixes with the scented oils of her skin that are sweet and potent. It's the complete opposite of the overheated decay of rotting fruits. Plants and flowers congeal into the thick sludge beneath his boots. He keeps waiting on the slurping noise that never comes from treading through it.
This was so stupid! The Freniiri Tribe holds the only lead to a missing off-world team taken by pirates or marauders or whatever bad guys roamed this planet. Of course mix in aliens, suspicions, and folklore, and you get mistrust.
The only way to find out the whereabouts of Lt. Groskin's men was to follow a simple ritual. Right, sure. No problem. Sounded like another teambuilding exercise. Piece of cake.
But it ended up more like see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil via Ancient tech turned into nifty tribal jewelry. Rodney had gotten off easy... well, okay, maybe they were all thinking a few hours of not having to hear McKay was a gift to the rest of them.
A head pops out from between two branches; the flash of fur and two beady eyes cause him to pull out his gun. He freezes, forgetting to shout a warning. Teyla collides into him, and they both fall to the ground while the frightened animal scurries away.
"Sorry!" he says... or, Sheppard thinks, he shouts.
Teyla flails about wildly, one hand capturing a fistful of BDUs, the other… WHOA!
Fingers grab an area much lower than they should have, and both their cheeks turn a dark shade, even though he is the only one to see it.
He's sure Teyla's apologizing, but it's pointless.
"It's okay!" Sheppard shouts. Whispers?
Her lips move. Eyes panic, plea forgiveness, and smirk all in seconds.
"If you need my gun, just let me know another way next time," he jokes.
The smack to his arm hurts, and he's sure his skin is gonna be black and blue later on. But it makes Teyla smile and laugh. Or it looks like a chuckle.
They both get to their feet, her hand steel around his arm. "We're gonna be fine," he reassures her.
She quirks an eyebrow.
"Okay, so we'll stumble and fall flat on our faces a lot. But we'll make it!"
Teyla loses a bit of that earlier shell-shocked expression. It's good to see her familiar confidence replace the foreign expressions from before.
"It could be worse! You could be stuck with McKay."
This was supposed to be an easy stroll through the jungle. No radio, no P-90s. Just up and down a trail, bumbling with a voiceless guide and as sightless and deaf companions.
Too bad the Freniiri have enemies just like everyone else. The attack from the rival tribe had come from nowhere. So, they were being forced to flee in the opposite direction of the nice, safe 'trail'.
Lord knows Rodney McKay might stroke out from not being able to flap his gums before conveying the needed information for a rescue with charades. That is if he was safe. Ronon would protect him. Lucky Satedan got left out of the three monkeys thing.
Of course all of 'this' was supposed to be just temporary. If they can get to their destination.
"You will be changed but the same when you complete the task," the Elder tribesman says.
Right now his job is leading Teyla to safety through a world of oil paintings and Charlie Chaplin. Sheppard can't hear his heart pound, but he can sure as hell feel it slam against his ribcage. He knows he won't notice the exhale of an enemy or the rustle of the jungle floor. He grips his .45 even tighter.
Up in the sky not hidden by green canopy are weird, dark moving clouds. They're not storms or plumes of smoke but swarms of insects.
Silence has never felt so deadly.
He's so detached—so freaking lost among the images from a movie theater with busted speakers. Subconsciously he wants to stick his finger in his ear and wiggle it until the sound returns.
He feels like he's underwater, swimming towards the surface.
And look. It's raining right on cue, water droplets pelting his face.
Teyla squeezes his arm.
"It's just a passing shower."
He recalls staring out the windows at home as a kid, thunderstorms raging overhead, and the sounds it makes on the roof. It was so cool and one of the few nice memories form childhood. Sheppard closes his eyes, allowing wetness to leave trails down his face.
Teyla takes her other hand and rubs her thumb across the back of his neck in reassurance, and he swallows, nodding his thanks.
The smell of rain saturates the air before the first splash on her cheek. Even though she'd been aware of the change, the rain startles her. Teyla reaches out to John the only way she knows how. His worry and fear that he tries so hard to hide is palpable by bunched muscles and bouts of rapid-fire breathing.
She's always known what he's thinking by the things he never shows. For once, her eyes do not matter.
Teyla speaks to him without words, using her other hand to rub the knots away as they march forward.
They've probably lost their pursuers; even the bravest tribal warriors avoid the western edge of the jungle. There are rumors that a Svengal hunts nearby, having wandered away from its normal killing grounds much further north where no tribe lives. The elder leader had warned them about staying away from this dangerous area, describing the feared beast.
"John," she says and realizes her folly.
How much further to the trading post? Time has lost all meaning without the ability to judge distance or notice the change of day.
There's no telling how long they've been running. They had no choice when an entire enemy tribe had attacked. The high pitched war cries still echo in her ears. At least John had been spared the screeching sounds of warriors and the shouts of horror from their victims.
Oh, the Ancestors; she prays for Rodney and Ronon.
"We need to--" Again, how easy it is to forget.
The world cracks apart with thunder, the rumbling quieting the rest of the jungle. Her imagination fills in the missing pieces. She remembers the lush greens, the purple dots on the things John called weird versions of mon-keys. The colonel is very unnerved; she can feel him hesitate, jerking his head in one direction then another, searching for things he can not hear.
John curses loudly. "Watch out for all these roots!"
Teyla almost twists an ankle, falling and falling again. A whoosh of air and hands keep her from hitting the ground.
"Maybe I should --"
"No! I don't need to be carried!"
Her face must reflect the sharpness of her retort because John doesn't complete his sentence. Teyla tilts her head, knowing exactly how to glare at him with an 'I'm fine' expression.
"I know you can do whatever you set your mind to but... maybe just this once... I mean..."
His voice is going to lead every hostile enemy, be it beast or man, right to them. Teyla presses a finger towards mouth but ends up hitting his nose.
"I take it that I'm being loud again?"
She runs her finger over the stumble of his upper lip and taps him there.
"This reminds me how McKay treated his cat back on Earth when it needed to be disciplined."
"We should..." And Teyla pauses. The storm has died down; the rain no longer falls. Yet everything is still... still and soundless.
"What?" John asks, seeing her lips move.
The insects are not chirping—they are not even buzzing around her face. Something has driven them all away.
"It's the Svengal," she hisses pointlessly. It has to be; nothing else could scare away everything.
There's no time to answer.
Where is it? She turns her head, straining for sounds.
Plants snap. Teyla pulls out her knife.
John's .45 clicks when the safety is thumbed off.
"Where?" John queries, voice sharp, scared.
At their three o'clock.
Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!
Sheppard squeezes the trigger three times in the direction Teyla aims. There's no questioning her; he knows they are in danger; he's felt it for a while. All he knows is the air puffing out of his lungs and the kickback of the .45.
After the first shots, he sees only miles of giant leaves, spiderwebs of vines, and a low rolling mist settle in over the treetops.
Teyla's hand darts in the opposite direction, and he reacts, firing into the foliage.
His eyes ping-pong between all the shades of green. Movement, he must watch for movement. His hands shake with over-pumped adrenaline, waiting to flick his wrist at the next sign of danger.
"Where?" he hisses.
Teyla is crouched, head tilted, knife glinting in the air. Her eyes are closed unnecessarily, waiting, waiting... then her face flashes in horror. Her mouth opens in a silent scream.
A weight crashes into him from behind, the ground racing up to smash him in the face. He breathes in muck, his wrist jarring from slamming against the jungle floor.
Sheppard rolls onto his back, eyes blinking out the dirt, swinging his weapon around. Teyla is over him, blade dripping red, head scanning for noise like a cat.
The Svengal is gone, but from Teyla's intent, it's nearby. Stalking, watching.
She holds out her hand to silence him, and Sheppard waits, sweat pooling down his back.
He stands at her signal, scanning for a flash or change in the forest. The only sounds are the vibration of the blood pumping in his veins and ears. It's like reliving a blown eardrum at Mach four except he had computers to guide him back then.
Teyla waves him over, and he gently touches her arm, not risking a word. She wants to tell him a plan, to communicate the frantic thoughts written all over her face.
"We'll do this together," he whispers in her ear.
They're a team, the two of them. Teyla understands, slipping behind him, left hand on his shoulder. Right one with her knife, barely touching the other.
They will become one.
His eyes, her ears.
When the beast barreled into John, Teyla was there, weapon bearing down on the hidden danger. Steel slashed flesh, and the wind followed the creature's swift retreat.
John will follow the sun, observe which direction the flora blooms and get them to the trading post. Hopefully the other Freniiri will be there waiting with Ronon and Rodney, and they will all get back what was taken.
The insects still do not bite her skin or fly around her face. The Svengal is still out there, claiming its right on the highest place on the food chain. She listens for the crack of plants under its taloned feet or the rush of moving air that signals the next attack.
The creature uses stealth and deadly jaws and claws to rip apart its victims. It blends in with the rest of the jungle, using speed to outwit its prey. Teyla recalls hearing stories of them as a child, her people bringing back the tales from the Freniiri they used to visit.
The tips of her boots follow the heels of John's, trying to match the trail he makes. He smells of a long day at the gym, sharp and sour, mixed with rainwater and old grass.
She hears hundreds of flapping wings. John pivots right in the direction of the fleeing birds, but the bolva roots crunch to the left.
Teyla pats his left shoulder, and he spins that way. She holds her breath in anticipation. The ground in front of them rustles, and she taps his collarbone to signal the change.
John turns to face the threat; she's like another layer of his skin, molding with his movements.
The gunfire makes her jump though deep down she was expecting it.
She smells it now, a heavy stench of death and wet leather. Everything is stone silent before the beast prepares to rush. She digs her nails into the bony corner of John's shoulder, mapping the animal's whereabouts there.
He adjusts directions, the close proximity to the gunfire rattling Teyla's ears.
It doesn't matter; the beast howls. John screams for her to 'get down'.
Both of them are knocked over by scales and rippling muscle. She doesn't know what is up or down, only that she is on her side, fingers still clutching her knife.
The Svengal shrieks, belting out sharp bleating barks that are meant to terrify prey. It's a victory cry right before making a charge. Teyla stands, bent at the knees, left hand finding only empty air. John's not close enough to grab or touch.
His breathing is heavy and fast in front of her, but she isn't exactly sure if she'll strike him by accident with her blade. It's too late to think—the beast is on them, and John's yelling, his gun exploding then click… click… click.
He's out of ammo.
The Svengal circles and strikes. There are sounds of flesh hitting flesh, growls human and animal. Then the heat of the beast's body, the putrid smell of its skin is all Teyla needs to know it's inches away.
She recalls practicing with her banto sticks with one of her masters, blindfolded and spun around several times before being forced to defend herself.
The air moves, and Teyla lashes out, knife connecting and tearing. The thing screams, and her right arm explodes with three trails of fire from elbow to forearm. She loses feeling in her fingers, and the knife slips from her grasp.
The beast doesn't wait. Teyla drops to the ground and rolls out of the way from claws that miss her throat. She scrambles to hands and knees, pushing off the ground, leaping in a random direction.
The haphazardness of her jump is the only thing that saves her—hearing the beast pouncing on the spot where she once was.
She crabs backwards only to trip over roots, back bouncing against a large tree trunk and her arms getting twisted up in a maze of vines.
Where is he?
Her scream gives the predator a clear target, and the Svengal's shrieks are the only warning before it charges again.
Being deaf and concussed screws with his balance. Blood drips from a laceration to his head after being plowed to the ground for the second time. His vest protects him from being mauled, three razors foiled by the light Kevlar lining. Things are real fuzzy after smacking his skull against a rock.
Sheppard lurches to his knees; the world spins wildly, and he falls down. He's back in an aviation simulator without his G-suit, the pressure to his eardrums blocking all sound and gravity taking a vacation.
There are too many trees, too much damn green. Teyla's a blur of flailing limbs, and the beast rushing her is a freaking velociraptor from Jurassic Park.
"Hey Barney! Over here!" Sheppard shouts, pulling out his Gerber knife and launching himself at the animal.
It's like The Matrix, all slow-mo during the silent montage. The Svengal freezes, hesitates, yellow eyes darting from Teyla to him. The creature turns toward Sheppard's advance, and he aims for the giant lizard's throat.
They both joust, the beast's claws missing Sheppard's face and his Gerber nicking the Svengal's scaly neck. The thing uses powerful legs to slam him in the shoulder with its body; the beast's favorite form of attack seems to be knocking prey down to be sliced and diced.
He's on his back again, avoiding deadly snapping teeth, the creature's tiny arms too short to rake him good. Sheppard's glad he can't hear the noises coming out of the foul smelling mouth. Its skin morphs from plant green and tan to dark emerald with splotches of orange.
"Damn... freaky chameleon. Be still... so I... can make shoes outta ya," Sheppard grunts, missing with his Gerber.
The Svengal hops back once, twice. Then its jaw opens wide in a creepy pantomime. Sheppard knows this is it and lifts his Gerber as the creature charges and leaps.
Nothing is as surreal as screaming and not hearing it.
Colors swirl and blood gushes like a fountain down the Svengal's chest. Sheppard blinks, sees the tip of a knife poking out of its skin. Teyla twists the weapon, the long blade sticking through from the back of the creature's neck and out its throat.
The thing convulses, little arms flailing, head jerking from side to side. Teyla pulls out the knife, stepping back, ready to jab it again.
"You killed it!" Sheppard shouts.
The scary mega lizard on steroids drops to the ground, red staining the lush grass below.
"Remind me never to piss you off," he says, or apparently yells, seeing her flinch.
The smell of blood is strong, and Teyla staggers, hands swiping the air in search of John. Her arm burns, but she needs an anchor.
Teyla smiles despite her pain; John does not have a quiet voice. She tells him things are fine by patting his shoulder.
"Yeah, that's why you have these gashes in your arm," he tells her, wrapping it up.
Teyla sits next to him, exhausted, hand reaching out to grab a knee. "And you?" She misses her intended target.
He yelps. She jumps.
It's not everyday that John Sheppard makes such an unmanly noise, and she actually giggles.
Teyla reaches out again, higher, much higher until she finds his face. She traces up his jaw and across his eyebrows, taking in every detail. There's no reason to do this, but it's a rarity with a man who is so sensitive to personal contact.
She comes across drying blood. John grabs her hand. "Don't worry," he says.
They take a moment to relax, the forest alive with noise. The moisture builds into a heavy wall, releasing another small shower and washing away some of the stress of the last few hours.
The low hum of a jumper is the most precious sound to her ears, and Teyla squeezes his shoulder and points upwards.
The canopy must be too thick to see anything. "What?" he asks, voice alarmed by a possible threat.
Teyla instructs pulls his chin towards her, allowing him to see the relief she feels.
"Thank goodness," he breathes, understanding the message.
"We would have made it. Of that I have no doubt," Teyla tells him, knowing he'll glean the meaning behind her voiceless lips.
John guides her hand to his arm; they rise together, and he sways slightly. "Just a little dizzy," he mumbles.
They lean on each other, John leading the way while she steadies his woozy steps. The darkness is less frightening than the beginning of their journey. They reach the jumper, John helping her maneuver the steps and cramped quarters.
"I was going to kill McKay if we didn't find you," Ronon's voice booms. "He's even more annoying when he can't talk."
His voice is music to her ears.
"Sorry it took so long. You guys went the other way during the attack. We got pinned down and everyone was scattered. Then the other tribe took hostages when reinforcements came through the 'gate."
"You found us now. That is all that matters," Teyla reassures him.
The trip back to the village is over in a flash, and once again Teyla stands before the tribal elder. The villagers have lost some in the swift attack, but reinforcements from Atlantis quickly quelled the rival tribe.
Rodney's receives his power of speech, testing out his voice by loudly complaining about being made to wait until the rest of his team came together to regain it.
Wrinkled fingers touch her forehead. Her eyes flutter; the gnarled face and braided silver hair of the Freniiri leader appears. He clasps the talisman around his neck, the jewelry glowing white, his other hand now resting on John's head.
The tribe elder steps back, bowing. "Colonel John Sheppard. Teyla Emmagan. Today you took part in a journey. Each relying on the other for what was missing. Your task was made harder without your other companion to complete the circle. You have proved worthy of our trust by showing how much you have of it in each other."
Lorne and Ronon follow the leader as he tells them where the missing team is being kept and what tribe took them off-world.
"Come on, John; we should get checked out," she tells him.
The colonel looks like he wants to go on the mission to retrieve his missing men but nods reluctantly and winces at the pain to his head. "Yeah, battling dinosaurs was not on the agenda today."
He offers his arm out of habit then quickly lowers it. Teyla walks up beside him and takes his elbow anyway. "It is good to see you again, John."
"It's good to hear your voice," he says in return, smiling.
She reaches out with a single finger and traces the curves of his cheek, noticing that he doesn't stiffen at the touch.
"Let's go home," he says.
Notes: For the John-And-Teyla Thing-A-Thon on Lj.
I'm never good with quotes so I hope my interpretation was okay.
"I confess I have urged you onward with me, and still urge you, without the least idea what is our destination, Or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quelled and defeated."
Two Things you'd like to see: trust/reliance on each other (as in, it's a two way street); Teyla and John and their sense of humor about/with each other.