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Test Drives And Tea

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Colonel Carter eases down into a cross-legged position on the cushions without protest, although Teyla notices the woman's hip is a little stiff.

She is not entirely sure what to make of the new commander of Atlantis. Oh, there is no doubt that Colonel Carter is competent to take command of Atlantis, and very capable in her duties. It cannot have been easy to come to another galaxy to lead the Atlantis expedition - especially not given the fate of the last expedition leader.

Teyla swallows down the pang when she thinks of Elizabeth and indicates the set table before them. "Will you take tea with me?"

"Thank you."

Steam rises from the spout of the pot, and the air is filled with the fragrant curl of tea, warm and comforting by the golden candlelight.

Carter looks around the room briefly, her eyes flicking over the hangings and the blankets, the Athosian keepsakes and the books from Earth that Teyla has acquired. Then she turns her gaze to the glazed pot and cups before her. "I appreciate the invitation to drink tea, Teyla. We haven't had much time to speak yet."

"Atlantis is rarely still. Although it sometimes grows quiet." Elizabeth had said that, and Teyla fights back a grimace as she begins to pour the tea.

Atlantis is full of Elizabeth's absent presence, her friend's loss like a scrape one does not realise one has sustained until it begins to ache and then does not stop.

"I'm sorry." Teyla glances up, surprised, and sees Colonel Carter looking back at her with sympathy. "I know Dr. Weir was your friend. I never knew her well, but she was a good negotiator and diplomat. We didn't agree on a lot of points, but she was a good person. Everything I've seen of her work - here and in Atlantis - attests to that."

"She taught me much about your people. Your world."

That is not the whole of it, of course. She and Elizabeth were two women from very different places, having lived very different lives. Elizabeth's safe and privileged upbringing in 'the north-east USA', daughter of learned people, destined to become a learned person herself, bore no resemblance to the life of Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Tagan and Torran, Teyla who was both speaker and trader for Athos, who walked through gates and lived under the threat of death all her life.

Yet both had desired knowledge and understanding. They had been alike in that.

And they had become friends.

"She ran the SGC for a while, back on Earth." Colonel Carter offers. "I got to know her a little then. Mostly in a professional dimension, though. Not like here."

"Living in Atlantis is...different," Teyla says, remembering a conversation with John. She puts the teapot down. "There is less division between work and personal life."

"It's a bit like a military posting, I suppose. You're always on duty, even when you're not."

Teyla sees Colonel Carter watching her as she sips the well-steeped tea from the cup. Then Carter takes up her own cup with the same pose and sips it before putting it back down. Perhaps she is not so subtle about her observation of Teyla as Elizabeth was the first time they drank tea, but then, the Colonel is a soldier as well as a leader, and Teyla noted Elizabeth's imitation, too.

She appreciates the courtesy implicit in Colonel Carter's observances.

"I know some people in Atlantis find the lack of balance...tiring." She offers. "Elizabeth found it difficult to maintain a balance between her personal time and the time for the city."

"I think many people would. Less so for the people used to living on a military base somewhere. Or for people used to community living, I imagine."

"Yes. And to those who have nowhere else to go," Teyla says after a moment. "There are always those who do not hold the distinctions between work life and home life - or who cannot. Elizabeth was one such."

Colonel Carter puts her cup down, folds her hands in her lap. "Teyla... I'm not going to be the leader Dr. Weir was. I can't. This is a posting for me, not a life."

"You are not, as they say, a 'lifer'."

"No. I'll do my best by Atlantis for as long as I'm here, but it won't be forever."

Teyla nods. "I do not ask other of you."

"I know." And now Carter smiles as she lets out a long breath. "I needed to say it out loud though."

"For yourself."

"Yeah." A wry smile crosses Colonel Carter's face. "And to test-drive it on someone from the expedition."

Teyla smiles back, amused. "Are you satisfied with the way it handles?"

This time Carter laughs. "On this road, yes. I guess I'll have to wait and see how the rest of the expedition takes it."

"I heard John brought you a basket of fruit?"

"Yes. Although I understand McKay had a hand in it?"

Teyla's mouth twitches. "So I heard at great length. You have a history with Rodney?"

"Only in his dreams," comes the answer, part amusement, part exasperation. And Teyla draws out the story of Colonel Carter's adversarial history with an infatuated Rodney as the fragrant tea is poured out between them.

She is glad of Carter's acknowledgement that this is a gating to another planet in her life's journey, not the destination. A leader who knows her own heart is a good thing, even if she is not the leader Teyla has known these last few years.

Yes, she will miss Elizabeth as both her friend and the leader of the expedition. She cannot replace one friend with another - as though the two women were interchangeable, or as though she must be friends with the expedition leader.

Yet as she sits back and drink her tea, Teyla knows Atlantis is in good hands.