Author’s Note: Thanks again to Meg, both for beta-reading this and for just being so enthusiastic about the series. 🙂 Title is from the same Crystal Lewis song as the first one.
Teyla remembers the game from her own childhood. There were always two or three of them, never many more. There were never many children her age at all. The strongest child would wear the mask of the Wraith and count, and the others would hide as cleverly as they could in the meantime, hoping not to be found. Then, if they were found, they ran as fast as they could towards shelter, as if the Wraith truly pursued them.
None of the elders ever scolded her or her friends for playing the game, just as she and Halling had never spoken against it to Jinto or his friends. As morbid as it would probably seem to the Earth folk, the game had the potential to keep them alive, which was why each generation of Athosian children had taught it to each other. Better to learn to conceal yourself from a playmate, when it was indeed just a game, than when your very life might depend upon that ability to hide.
But this is not the game that she played as a girl. Halling asks Wex where Jinto hid, assuming that because he has the Wraith mask in his hand that Jinto finally granted him the upper hand in the game.
“He didn’t hide. I had to hide again,” Wex reveals in a bitter voice. “Jinto got to be Major Sheppard. I was just the stupid Wraith.”
Those simple words remind Teyla vividly why she is here. Why she chose to trust these strangers even against the wise words of some of her own people, and why she would do everything in her power to help them make the best of what they have found here. This is why she accepted Major Sheppard’s invitation to become a member of his team, and why she accepted on behalf of her people the invitation to stay in Atlantis.
The Atlanteans have given them hope.
Somehow it is not strange at all that this should manifest in a child’s game. For generations, her people have believed and seen that there was nothing more powerful in the galaxy than the Wraith. They have lived in fear, the prayers to the Ancestors for nothing greater than one more year, a little more time before the Wraith come again. Or–if one was truly daring–for the chance to die of old age or sickness or even an accident, rather than at the hands of the Wraith.
Suddenly, in the eyes of these two children, there is someone in the universe stronger than the Wraith. And he is human, which means he is something that they can aspire to become.
Teyla is a warrior. She has trained as one as long as she can remember, trained to use her gifts both of the mind and body to protect her people. She would die for them, as her father did. For most of her life, it has been an inevitable fact of her existence that one day she will make that sacrifice. It is the fate and duty of a leader, to sacrifice herself for her people.
Now, for the first time, she too sees an alternative. She no longer sees herself fighting a losing battle for one more life and living each day on what the Earth people call “borrowed time.” For the first time, she can allow herself to dream of a day when the Wraith’s tyranny over this galaxy will be no more.
Can a handful of strangers from a distant world truly make such a difference? Teyla doesn’t know. But what she does see is that they have not accepted their lot. They would rather fight until every single one of them is wiped out and then destroy the city behind them to protect the gateway back to their world, than ever accept that fate that her people take for granted. They also have technologies and gifts her people only whisper about in distant memories and stories.
There is much that the Earth people lack as well, things as essential to Teyla as liberty is to them, but which they take for granted.
Still…they have strength. Strength that she can only hope her people will learn to claim for their own.
If they do…perhaps there is a chance of actually winning the war.