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13 August 2011 @ 03:21 pm
[Teyla thing-a-thon fic] The Eyes in the Forest  
Title: The Eyes in the Forest (for teylafen )
Recipient:  chokolattejedi  
Prompt used: Bars can’t hold us
Word count: 3200 words
Pairing: Gen, Teyla and Jennifer friendship
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Some violence

Summary: The gaolers are the least of their worries, now that night has fallen.




The night sky was a rich dark green, deep as the heart of a forest. The Pegasus galaxy was dusted across it like a mist, and stars glittered in unfamiliar constellations. A pale glow above the trees suggested that a moon was soon to rise.

Teyla rolled slowly over on the damp grass, and pushed herself to her knees. Her head ached, but her strength was returning. They had been taken completely by surprise, served drugged tea with every appearance of friendliness.

None of her captors acknowledged her. They stood sentinel, dull shapes without a light between them. Beyond them, around the clearing, the forest stood darker still. Even the bars of the cage had been blackened, only visible where they sliced across the alien sky.

“Teyla?” Jennifer whispered, and began to sit up herself on the other side of the partition.

“I’m here,” Teyla replied quietly. Jennifer’s face was the palest thing in the glade. “Are you alright? Were you hurt?”

“No, I’m fine. Well, relatively speaking. How about you?”

“Also fine.”

“Do you know where we are?”

“No,” Teyla said grimly. She finished checking her pockets – all empty. Her weapons were gone, of course, as was her tac vest. Her BDUs were soaked with dew.

The figures guarding them were facing outwards from the divided cage. “Hey!” Teyla called. No one moved. The black trees seemed to swallow the sound.

“Hey!” she shouted, loudly this time. Her voice echoed slightly from the edge of the trees.

This produced a response. The man who reached her first at a run shoved the butt of his weapon through the bars, slamming it into her knee with a thud. She clutched at the gun instinctively, found a grip with her fingers, and hung on. (Metal and wood. Nowhere near Earth standard; a little less than Genii, but clearly projectile-firing.)

The blow to her head came from behind, unwarned-for, and the jolt knocked her hands loose even as the pain momentarily stunned her. She heard Jennifer cry out.

“Get back to the perimeter,” the man who’d hit her barked at the other. “And you, look at me. Yes, you.”

Teyla turned reluctantly.

“Keep quiet,” he said roughly. Some sort of paint was daubed across his skin, darkening and obscured his features.

“Why are you holding us?” she demanded. “Are you after ransom?” Trying to send a message?”

He just looked at her.

You won’t get information, if that’s what you’re after. And if you’re looking for help you’re going about it the wrong way.”

He continued to give her the same steady look. She couldn’t make out any expression on his face.

“Tell me! Equipment? Gate codes?”

She suspected that she’d found her mark with her last guess. “You’ll find out in time, if you keep quiet,” he said finally.

Jennifer spoke up, her voice determined but underlain with fear. “And if we don’t keep quiet?”

“Then we’ll all be dead by morning.”

“You have enemies here?” Teyla asked. She was already turning this new fact over in her head for any advantage to them.

Their guard hefted his rifle. “Don’t bother thinking you can take your chances,” he said. He lowered his voice. “We’re not watching for people. The animals on this planet hate humans, so if you try and draw their attention you’ll be dead too. Think on that before you do anything stupid.”

“Can’t you just tell us what you want? Please?” Jennifer asked.

The man stalked around the cage and bent down next to Jennifer. She flinched away.

“Leave her alone,” Teyla said.

“You both seem a little slow understanding,” the man said. “Keep quiet. We’ve treated you well so far – does that need to change?” He shot a hand through the bars and grabbed Jennifer’s wrist, twisting it. “Well, does it?”

“No,” Teyla said quickly. “We’ll keep quiet, just let her go.”

“We’ll be quiet,” Jennifer insisted. “Please stop, please.”

He let her go, and she gasped in relief. “See that you do,” he said.

Teyla stayed still as he looked them over, praying that Jennifer would do the same. None of the other guards had moved from their posts to watch the show, which wasn’t something she would have expected. They were frightened, either of their leader, or… of something else. She didn’t much like either idea.

The man turned and walked back into the ring, staring into the depths of the forest.

Teyla crawled to the bars partitioning the cage. “Jennifer?” she whispered.

Jennifer shuffled close to her. She was biting her lip and rubbing her arm. “I’m okay,” she whispered back. “Are you?” Her face glowed unreally beneath the strange green sky.

“Yes, I’m fine. Let me see.”

“It’s not bad, really,” Jennifer said, but obediently passed her hand through the bars. Teyla rubbed it gently, feeling the other woman trembling, but she said nothing about that.

“Do you know what they’re afraid of?” Jennifer asked.

“No. I’ve never been to or heard about this world. But these men are clearly not from here either, so perhaps it’s no more than a local superstition.”

Jennifer didn’t ask Teyla if she believed that, which Teyla was grateful for. She wouldn’t have known what to say.

They sat in silence for a while, hands finding each others’ for comfort. The night was growing colder and soon they were leaning against each other for warmth – as close as they could with the barrier between them. After a while the sound of Jennifer’s breathing changed slightly, her forehead pressed between the bars against Teyla’s shoulder, asleep or at least dozing.

Teyla doubted that she would be able to do either. She watched the twelve figures ringed around them for a while, but they were obviously well disciplined and neither moved nor spoke. The forest around the grassy clearing was as dark and impenetrable as ever, without any obvious paths leading into it. Even if by some miracle they were able to escape from the cage, finding the Gate looked as if it would be an impossible task.

She watched the stars instead. Aside from their unfamiliarity they did not seek to remind her of the hopelessness of their situation. They were beautiful, clear white against the misted emerald of the sky. Despite everything, she smiled as she imagined Rodney explaining the strange colouring, so intent on scientifically dissecting the phenomenon that he completely missed the wonder of it.

Time passed.

Teyla jerked her eyes open, surprised to realise that she must have slept after all. Jennifer was moving too.

They had been roused by screams.

A moon had risen, large and white, but it gave only contrasts, not colour, and against the black backdrop of the forest there were still no details to be made out. There was screaming and shouting and gunfire, and confused movements of dark shapes near the edge of the trees. Gunpowder flash-ignited but didn’t illuminate. Sinuous shadows coiled and leapt and were driven back and flowed forward again.

Jennifer’s hands were clenching and Teyla squeezed them back. Hear heart was pounding in her throat and her muscles wanted to fling her into action but she had to sit still inside the dark cage and could do nothing.

One by one, the roaring guns fell silent. So did the men who had been wielding them. Muted snarling sounded across the glade, and then sounds of cracking and gnawing that Teyla recognised and hoped that Jennifer would not. She squeezed Jennifer’s hands again and leaned close against her, hoping to provide reassurance. They were sitting cross-legged, hands and knees and now foreheads touching through the bars. Jennifer’s breathing was fast and shallow, her eyes wide and terrified, and Teyla worked to hide her own sharp fear from showing. She didn’t dare to speak, or to move, in case she drew the attention of whatever had come from the forest.

Eventually, the sound of the creatures feeding also fell quiet.

Teyla waited a while, and then turned slowly. She froze.

Eyes stared back at her – wild eyes, animal eyes, alien eyes. She felt Jennifer’s head also turn, and then also lock with instinctive rigidity.

On Earth once, Teyla’s teammates had taken her to a zoo and she had stood for a very long time listening to Rodney rattle off facts about creatures which were apparently cats but orders of magnitude larger and more ferocious-looking than his pet. Just as the animals surrounding them now were to those. They were somewhat like the panthers in appearance, but huge, their smooth pelts apparently black, their eyes luminous, the same deep green as the sky. Teyla guessed that if she were to stand facing one of them her head would only be a very little higher. She had already learned what their jaws were capable of.

Teyla could hardly breathe as the strength of the bars was tested, first by one and then by several – butting with their heads, attempting to lock their jaws around them, attempting to force forelimbs through them, claws extended – each the length of a human finger and wickedly sharp.

They couldn’t reach. The bars walling and roofing them were too narrow for the panthers to fit their limbs or jaws within. Their prison was well constructed, at least.

Hours or minutes later the panther-like being animals retreated, milling sinuously a little distance off. One remained. It hunkered down and stared at them, its tail flicking lazily, its emerald eyes glowing.

“Teyla?” Jennifer whispered.

Teyla looked at her. Jennifer appeared composed, with only a slight trembling in her hands betraying her.

“I did this in Kenya once,” she said softly. “The lions came right up to our truck and they could probably have rushed us and overturned it, but – aren’t they beautiful?”

“They are.” She forced herself to focus on that, beyond the immediate threats of tooth and claw. “I’m sad to have never known of them before today. They are… magnificent.”

The one watching them did not stir at their voices. It continued to silently stare.

“I don’t think they’ll be able to get through the cage.”

“I believe you are right. Meanwhile, Atlantis will be searching for us. We’ll be rescued soon enough and all the biologists will be deeply jealous.”

In spite of the situation, Jennifer laughed. Apparently at that, the creature got to its feet and padded silently towards them over the grass. Its slitted pupils narrowed and it pressed its muzzle against the bars at the closest point to Jennifer, who shrank away from it, although Teyla thought that she was trying not to. There was a smooth ripple of movement from the pack beyond. They came no closer but Teyla was sure that their attention was fixed on the two of them.

“It’s okay,” Teyla said. “They’re just watching us, they’ll look for easier prey soon. It’s going to be okay.”

The animal turned towards her. It left Jennifer and stalked slowly around the cage until it was on Teyla’s side instead. Then it began to dig.

Teyla heard herself gasp in fear, and the echo of the sound came from Jennifer. She released Jennifer’s hands and turned towards the panther, bringing up her knees in front of her. Her booted feet might serve as some sort of defence, she thought desperately, but didn’t really believe it. Not against incisors as long and thick as her thumb. Jennifer was clutching at the hem of her jacket from behind, and Teyla was absurdly grateful for the contact.

The beast’s paws were not shaped for burrowing, but they were broad and the muscles driving them were fearsomely powerful. Claws ripped the grasses from the soil, dew glinting as it was shaken off. Clods of the dark dirt followed and the rim around the bottom of the bars was revealed over a growing space beneath it. Teyla found herself praying that the gap through with the creature clearly intended to crawl would widen faster, that the terrible waiting for the end could at least be done with. She reached a hand behind her – she had nothing to defend herself with, there was nothing she could do – and Jennifer clasped it tightly. She wondered which of them was shaking. Probably they both were.

And then the passage was dug and the panther slid itself gracefully down and up again, pulling itself into the cage in one fluid motion. It had to crouch to fit, its huge body filling what seemed like most of the space inside. It had moved too fast for Teyla to try and beat it back while it was still in the gap, where its jaws would be unable to open and its claws to reach out. She could feel the heat from it, her nose thick with its wild musky scent. She lifted her head, preparing for its strike towards her which would be her end.

It didn’t come. The huge cat stared levelly at her, and made no move. Its emerald eyes were fixed on hers.

She understood. All at once, she understood.

“You aren’t going to hurt me,” she said calmly, stating a fact. She moved slowly, shifting into a kneeling position with a boots tucked away beneath her. She had no idea what body language to use, settling for folding her arms against her chest. If her fingers had claws this would effectively put them out of easy use. She hoped it would convey her message.

The panther leaned its head forward and bent it. Teyla hesitated, then leaned forward herself and touched her brow to the creature’s. It was warm and soft, and yet she could feel the stirring power it possessed. It shifted their position slightly so that they were breathing the same air and the rich scent of it filled her airways.

Then it broke away. Its muzzle nudged at her knee, her shoulder, her hair. Teyla cautiously put out a hand and ran it over the thick soft pelt. The cat made a sound that seemed approving.

“You’re intelligent,” Teyla said, and the wonder of it filled her voice.

The panther turned, slightly awkward in the low space, and slid itself out of the gap behind the bars it had dug. Teyla hesitated, but it jerked its head towards her in a way which she felt was chiding her for her slowness. She followed it, flat on her stomach and using her feet to push her forwards, the damp earth clinging to her, and sat then stood on the grass, in the dark-and-light of the moon and under the green sky. Free.

“Thank you,” Teyla said, and then turned to Jennifer, who was staring at her in shock.

“They’re – helping us?”

“So it would seem.”

The huge cat which had freed Teyla made a sound in its throat and two others loped from the watching pack to begin digging away at the ground beneath Jennifer’s inside of the bars.

“But why?”

“Would we not do the same?”

“Yes, but…”

“These creatures seem capable of reasoning and empathy,” Teyla said. “They must have been watching us all for a while before deciding to rescue us. We should be grateful.”

Jennifer nodded her head a few times as a way out from the cage was opened for her. She appeared relieved when, instead of entering through it, the panthers who had been digging simply moved away to allow her to crawl out. She quickly made her way to Teyla’s side, rubbing her stiff legs.

The cat which clearly was the leader bent its head to her, and Jennifer leaned her forehead against it as Teyla had done.

Some sort of signal must have been given. The pack surged forward to surround the two humans, pressing against and around them. Teyla stood irresolute for several moments, hoping that none of the fearsomely strong creatures would knock her down, and then reached out her hands, letting her fingers touch and stroke the thick dark pelts, letting them smell her. It seemed likely to be their primary mode of communication. Certainly, they were mostly silent.

She had lost her fear of them completely now, and became aware that she was smiling broadly – not in a response to some strange alien beauty, but with the warm familiar joy of meeting new people. She caught a glimpse of Jennifer through a brief gap in the crowd and even in the dim light happiness was visible on her face too.

The pack began to move, the individuals behind her nudging her at first so that she was forced to take a step forward to remain upright, but as soon as she realised what was happening she walked with them, her fingers still entwined in the fur of the two on either side of her.

They guided her into the forest, and instantly she was almost blind. The canopy was thick enough to make it almost completely black on the forest floor. Her guides seemed not in the least perturbed by it and Teyla was heartily glad that they showed no indication of wanting her to let go of them. Each time she placed a foot it was with care, gingerly probing for fallen branches or uneven surfaces and stepping over or around such, but she was confident that she was not being allowed to walk right into any of the trees. She hoped that Jennifer was alright, but it felt rude to consider breaking the near-silence which the pack moved in, and she found that she trusted them. She had no idea where they were going, but it would have been difficult to become more lost than they already were.

So when they suddenly walked out of the darkness into the moonlight shining onto a bare and rocky hill, it was something of a shock to see a Stargate just above them. Jennifer emerged behind her and stopped short, with what was probably the same expression on her face. “Huh,” she said.

“Thank you,” Teyla said, to the faces which had all turned to the two of them. She looked around for the pack leader, and found that it was already approaching. She bowed her head and it once again pressed its soft fur against her skin.

She waited until it moved back to say formally, “We are most grateful for the assistance you have given us. May there be lasting friendship between your people and mine.” She knew they would not comprehend the words, but she meant the sentiment with all her heart and hoped that they would understand that.

“And my people too,” Jennifer said.

Teyla saw no signal, but a few seconds later the pack turned and were gone, their shadowy shapes almost instantly swallowed by the darker shadows beneath the trees. She watched, but there was no further sign of them.

“Well,” she said, and began to climb the hill.

They reached the Gate not long after and Teyla dialled, holding the connection open a while before shutting it down. “They’ll send a MALP to investigate,” she said. “Unless you’ve been hiding a radio somewhere.”

Jennifer shook her head. “Sorry, it was taken off me. How long, do you think?”

“Most people will be asleep, so a while. I’ve done this before.” Teyla sat down, and Jennifer followed suit. “How are you doing?”

“That was amazing,” Jennifer said softly.

“It was.”

“Do you think we’ll ever see them again?”

Teyla looked out over the enormous forest. It spread out in all directions, only occasionally broken by small rocky ridges like the one they were on. Above, the enormous moon gleamed down in the magnificent green sky. “If Atlantis tries to stop me I’ll stage a coup,” she said.

Jennifer burst out laughing. “I’ll join you,” she said, leaning into Teyla’s shoulder.

And behind them, the Gate opened.
 
 
 
michelel72: SGA-Teyla-Seriousmichelel72 on August 13th, 2011 04:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. This is really powerful, and I adore the way you evoke scenery.
Frithfrith_in_thorns on August 13th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I really enjoy coming up with alien planets :)
leesa_perrie: Cheetah - Loftyleesa_perrie on August 13th, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is lovely! The friendship between Teyla and Jennifer really shines through - and I love the panthers, especially when they help them escape! Cool!
Frithfrith_in_thorns on August 17th, 2011 02:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I love writing friendship fics for these two :)
quiescent: SGA - teyla 2tielan on August 20th, 2011 10:57 am (UTC)
Ooh, nice work - the opening scene is beautifully atmospheric, and the description of the planet, the men, the prison, and the creatures is wonderful!

I admit, I've always wanted to see an episode where the team came across some genetically modified creatures that Teyla could communicate with via the Wraith gene, so I was secretly hoping for that! But this is good, too! Alien cultures, ahoy!
Frith: SGA - Atlantis - moonfrith_in_thorns on August 23rd, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC)
Ooh, that's a cool idea :P

Thank you very much! I adore alien cultures, and I had a lot of fun writing this story. I'm glad that you liked the descriptions :)
schneefink: Teyla brownschneefink on August 21st, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC)
Intelligent panthers at night - wow, that's a beautiful image! Especially together with the scenery. I also liked the friendship between Teyla and Jennifer.
Frith: SGA - Jennifer+Teyla - chibisfrith_in_thorns on August 23rd, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm really glad that you enjoyed this :)
Annfitzwiggity on June 14th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
Found you through Sholio when leaving a comment about her latest meme! I'm glad, you have fanfiction!!! :D

I honestly haven't read SGA in what feels like AGES but I read this one, and it made me think somewhat of Sholio's fanfic "The Hunters" with the Teyla/Jennifer friendship, though shorter, and it didn't have McKay in it. I rather liked the prose of the story, and the way that it felt really realistic as I read this. I loved the description details, and the story itself was just PERFECT.

Glad to have meet yet another SGA writer whose good at writing SGA. :)