FIC: The Althosian Bath (Stargate: Atlantis)

Sep. 18th, 2006 | 11:46 pm
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Title: The Athosian Bath
Author: rysler
Date: September 18, 2006
Source: Stargate: Atlantis, Weir/Teyla pre-slash
Notes: For geonncannon's A Nice and Clean Ficathon. I had to do so much research it's ridiculous.

Summary: Elizabeth had been in Atlantis for three days before she realized she hadn't showered. No one had. The faint smell of body odor as she walked into command that alerted her to the problem.

* * *
Elizabeth had been in Atlantis for three days before she realized she hadn't showered. No one had. The faint smell of body odor as she walked into command alerted her to the hygiene problem. If she could consider it a problem. People hadn't really bathed for the first four thousand years of Earth civilization and with the efforts of raising Atlantis from its watery grave, fighting off terrifying aliens, and unpacking, it had just slipped her mind.

No one was going to die from a little B.O. Elizabeth's parents had been liberated people and they'd tried to raise her with an open mind toward the unwashed. She'd become a peace activist, and then a diplomat, and then she'd been about to crash through the glass ceiling and win her Nobel Prize when the military came and got her.

The military, of all things.

She'd slept in huts in Africa. She'd stayed for months in cities with no water or sewage. She'd stood by her principles, despite her love of a bubble bath by candlelight and scented deodorant and freshly laundered sheets.

Still, the smell...

The bathrooms, they'd figured out mercifully quickly. Even Ancient enlightened God-figures needed to relieve themselves now and then. The toilets reminded her of airplane toilets, all hissing air and strange disinfectant. McKay had mentioned something about recycling that she'd done her best to block out.

Now, leaning on the railing and looking down at the Stargate, she wrinkled her nose.

Sheppard, coming up the stairs for a debriefing, noticed her. He wrinkled his nose too.

She squinted, and said, "Major, have you noticed any, hm, smell?"

Sheppard raised his eyebrows. "Like what?"

"Body odor."

Sheppard grimaced. He said, "We've kept our eyes out, on patrols. Nothing seems to be connected to the bathrooms. And of course, Googling--Or whatever Doctor McKay does to the Ancient computers--doesn't produce relevant results. Maybe the Ancients had some completely alien way of keeping clean. Like, those sonic things on Star Trek. Which McKay tells me aren't scientifically feasible, but whatever. Who knows? Ancients."

Elizabeth sighed. "Ancients," she echoed.

He nodded curtly.

She turned her back to the Stargate and gave him her full attention. "What do you have to report, Major?"

"We've been checking some of the coordinates Teyla's people gave us. And for the record, Doctor Weir, I smell like body odor and Old Spice. I'm not putting that on for nothing."

* * *

"Teyla," Elizabeth called to the alien soldier--warrior, she supposed--sitting on open ramp of a puddle jumper. She'd sought Teyla out, having realized Teyla didn't smell like the others did. Oh, she smelled. Musky and earthy with hints of leather and oil. But she didn't stink, and after a week and a half, Elizabeth sought out that kind of company. Maybe Teyla had a secret she'd be willing to share. A Pegasus bathing technique. Maybe Teyla's alien pheromones were simply more attractive than human ones.

Wouldn't that be rich.

Teyla had looked up at her call, and was now waiting with serene patience for Elizabeth to speak. Elizabeth's face felt hot. She was embarrassed to ask a question about basic hygiene. She was an adult, for heaven's sake. Still, it had to be done, for the sake of the expedition. She took a deep breath and said, "I have a question about your culture, Teyla. And bathing."

"Bathing?" Teyla stood up. She wiped her hands on her skirt, and said, "You wish me to bathe you, Dr. Weir? Because among my people, that is not something done as equals, and I had thought--"

"No, no," Elizabeth said as what Teyla was suggesting sent images flooding through her mind. She felt a twinge of heat between her legs at the thought of Teyla stroking her skin with a wet sponge, and her protests nearly caught in her chest. She cleared her throat and wet her lips. "No."

Teyla pursed her lips, but offered no more speculation. Elizabeth was forced to continue. She said, "We just haven't found a way to bathe, here on Atlantis. And I know you're not very familiar with Atlantis, either, but surely your people have a way of doing things, without soap, maybe, and--" Teyla's laughter cut her off. Elizabeth braced herself against the coming humiliation, and even from the noble and unflappable Teyla, it came quickly.

Trained as a diplomat and negotiator, Elizabeth knew how to handle knowledge transfer. That's why the military had appointed her for a first contact mission--First contact was all about these moments of shock, and the little things mattered. How people ate, how people greeted each other, and most of all, grooming.

"Your people don't have soap?" Teyla laughed. The sound was merry, rather than scornful, as if Teyla had discovered she could trade worthless beads for ownership of Atlantis.

Elizabeth frowned. She said, "We do. We even brought some. We just haven't found any..." She felt completely stupid. "Anywhere to use it."

Teyla laughed harder, doubling over, trying to cover her mouth with her hand.

Elizabeth sighed.

Tears streamed down Teyla's face.

"Leader of your people?" Elizabeth asked.

"Yes. Yes." Teyla straightened and her countenance became solemn. Demurely, Teyla said, "You need something to rinse the dirt and soap from your clothes, once the alkali has taken effect."

God bless universal translators, Elizabeth thought. "From our bodies, too," she said.

The corners of Teyla's eyes crinkled slightly, the only indication to Elizabeth that she was once again amused by Elizabeth's apparent backwardness.

"Doctor Weir," Teyla said quietly. "Have you found no place to submerge yourself? Look around you. The ocean."

"I can't--We can't just go in the water. Can we?"

Teyla tilted her head and tentatively asked, "Can't you swim, Doctor Weir?"

"Yes, of course I can swim," said Elizabeth, feeling relieved as the words left her mouth. A negative answer might have sent Teyla into convulsions, and she was a bit rusty in her mouth-to-mouth. Her lips tingled at the thought of touching Teyla's. No, she told herself. Being attracted to an exotic and friendly and powerful alien was perfectly natural, but Teyla was barely an ally, much less anyone to be trusted with something so intimate. Something that could so easily turn into a method of control. Elizabeth tried to quell her quickening feelings.

Teyla smiled, and said, "I could show you. We are more used to rivers and lakes, and not the ocean, but we are a trading people, and have participated in many cultural exchanges. If, as you say, you have soap, for we have not made much tallow since the evacuation."

"Yes. Soap," Elizabeth said, reaching for her earpiece. "Doctor McKay?"

"Yes?" Came his annoyed and harried voice buzzing in her ear.

"Is the ocean safe?"

"Safe to drink? Of course not. It's salt water."

Elizabeth felt her cheeks redden. "What about to swim in?"

McKay said, "I--guess. Beckett hasn't found any major contaminants or toxins, and we do plan to start treating to use on Atlantis. There's always the possibility of a smallpox blanket effect, but it's remote."

"Thank you, Doctor McKay," Elizabeth said. She smiled at Teyla. "We're good to go."

"Excellent. Let us gather our things, and I will meet you at the platform you call B-6. There is a piling there that juts appropriately away from Atlantis."

Elizabeth nodded, and went to requisition soap.

* * *

Elizabeth stood on the edge of a metallic ramp that sloped downward to end just below the surface of the water. She had taken off her shoes and socks, and the water lapped against her toes.The sensation made the rest of her body ache to be submerged. So much had happened since stepping through the Stargate that she couldn't remember the last time she'd been clean. This swim would be her first in Atlantis. Tears stung her eyes as she felt herself longing to give into the ocean and be truly part of her new world.

Teyla said, "We are far from the inhabited portions of the station. I doubt anyone will watch us."

"Doctor McKay informed me that no security cameras are activated yet. If there are any visual scanners here. Of course, he could be lying, but he seemed more annoyed by my question than interested in what I was doing."

"Your people work so hard," Teyla said, smiling. "But you--"

"They have their skills and are doing the tasks suited to them. I can't hack into an Ancient computer system, or pilot a puddle jumper, or even coordinate supplies for your people. My gift is negotiation," said Elizabeth.

Teyla nodded. "Then as leader of my people, I am just whom you must negotiate with. To show our friendship, first, we should swim together."

Elizabeth laughed. Teyla had a calm lightness around her that was so different from the warlords on Earth she'd dealt with. But perhaps appearing innocuous was part of Teyla's defense against the Wraith. Elizabeth felt she shouldn't put too much faith in Teyla's seeming kindness, but she relaxed in Teyla's presence. Now or never, she thought. Too much hesitation and Teyla would probably push her in. She pulled her shirt over her head and dropped it to the deck.

Teyla looked askance at Elizabeth's crumpled shirt and carefully folded her own clothes as she removed them. Elizabeth unzipped and opened her pants and grinned. "My mother made that same expression every time she saw clothes on the floor of my room."

"As did mine," said Teyla, smiling.

Elizabeth kicked off her pants. She considered leaving on her underwear, but Teyla had no bra and her breasts were already bared. She was beginning to remove her last bit of clothing. Elizabeth turned away and stripped. The underwear, she kicked pushed underneath her shirt with a wet toe. She glanced at Teyla out of the corner of her eye. Teyla looked unabashedly at her body.

Cultural exchange, Elizabeth thought. Nothing else. She slipped into the water, a bit too timid about Atlantis to just dive in. The water touched her everywhere--between her legs, under her arms, under her breasts. Her body tingled with the salt and the pressure. She groaned.

Splashing alerted her to Teyla's submergence. She tilted her head back, though, and closed her eyes, letting the moment wash over her. Only when she had to be attentive to treading water so that her head would not drop under the surface did she open her eyes and seek Teyla. Teyla seemed to be taking the same pleasure. Elizabeth smiled.

Teyla stretched and settled into a similar treading motion. She asked, "In your culture, do people normally bathe together?"

"Only--Only if they're lovers, usually. Or parents and children. Or Turkish."

Teyla furrowed her brow. "Turkish."

Elizabeth waved dismissively. "Nevermind. It's a--Well, a long time ago, they used to. But now, no. No, not really."

Teyla nodded.

"And your people?" Elizabeth asked.

"No. Bathing is a private matter. And rarely done. It is not ceremonial, but rather the opposite. We consider it somewhat distasteful, although necessary."


"Distasteful because we believe it is our scent, our blending with the world around us, that helps disguise us from the Wraith. If we are like the animals, like the trees, like the rocks, then they will not cull us. That is why our people moved form the ancient cities many generations ago. But it necessary for--" Teyla frowned, her mouth twitching, as if she were struggling for the word.

"Hygiene?" Elizabeth suggested.

Teyla broke into a smile. "Yes."

"Sometimes I think we take it a little too far in my culture," said Elizabeth, "But to me it feels wonderful." She tilted her head back, so her hair submerged in the ocean. The gentle current lapped at her neck. The salty water suspended her breasts and made it easy to tread. Atlantis, imposing and beautiful, rose up behind her, but in front of her all she could see was ocean and horizon. And Teyla. "Thank you," she said to Teyla.

Teyla swam to the edge of the dock and picked up the bar of soap. Dial brand, Elizabeth saw, reading the imprint. Her heart lurched with a longing for Earth, but the spicy clean scent of the soap as Teyla and the warmth of the water eased some of her homesickness.

"I will wash you," said Teyla, swimming close enough so that Elizabeth could feel the current by her legs as Teyla kicked underwater.

"You don't have to. We are equals."

Teyla smiled. She said, "I should show you how. And then you will wash me."

Elizabeth shuddered in anticipation. She said, "All right. I agree."

"Good." Teyla touched her shoulder, first with her bare hand, and then with the bar of soap that had been dipped into the ocean. She applied enough friction to leave a faint trail along Elizabeth's skin. Elizabeth closed her eyes. Teyla's hands grew more firm as they traveled over Elizabeth's body. Elizabeth was grateful. She knew the scrubbing would make her feel most clean. With each stroke across her skin, as the water chased Teyla's fingers, Elizabeth felt more refreshed.

The other sensations Teyla awakened, she tried to ignore. The pulsing heat between her legs--Surely Teyla wouldn't wash her there. The hardening of her nipples--Attributed to the cool water. The quiet sighs that escaped her lips--Well, Teyla wasn't asking, and Elizabeth wasn't telling. This had become the best bath of her life, and she had sat on heated Roman tile and had perfumed oil rubbed into her skin by lovers in Arabia.

The ocean, the waves, the woman. How had Elizabeth ever regretted coming here?

The ocean. Elizabeth began laughing.

"What is it?" Teyla asked.

Elizabeth tried to stop laughing so that water wouldn't splash in her mouth. She said, "On Earth, we would always bathe with fresh water immediately after an ocean swim. The ocean is considered unclean. And the salt will be grimy. It leaves residue that you're trying to scrub off of me. But it doesn't matter. This is better than the alternative. And I'll feel like a beach bum."

"This is a good thing?"

Elizabeth smiled. She said, "The tropics are revered. The sun, the ocean... These are luxuries for my people."


Elizabeth hesitated. She couldn't think of any answer beyond, "Because they're tropics," so she furrowed her brow.

Teyla looked around, at the horizon and at Atlantis, and then offered Elizabeth a faint smile, saying, "I guess it is a matter of beauty."

"Yes. You understand perfectly." With that, Elizabeth felt the tugging of a bond with Teyla that went beyond survival and curiosity. Common experience was a good beginning. She had wanted to love Atlantis and not be afraid. She'd wanted justification for giving up her career and her lover and her life. For saying goodbye to her parents and saying goodbye to Earth. She hadn't thought she'd miss Earth as much as she did.

Her work had involved nation-building and resource-sharing and philosophy, all things done better on paper than on popular television. But the second day she'd woken up in her strange bedroom and realized she'd never again be able to watch The Today Show. She had burst into tears, even though she couldn't remember actually ever seeing The Today Show.

She hadn't been ready for Atlantis.

Who would be? To give up so much was inhuman. Extraordinary. Though she'd pushed herself to achieve more than most women, this had been too much.

Floating in an ocean that felt almost like any other ocean, with the heat of the sun beating down her face, her body clean and scrubbed and new, she didn't feel so alienated. And Teyla, laughing near her ear, brought her home.


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Comments {1}

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From: elfcat255
Date: Sep. 19th, 2006 - 04:32 am

I wann go swimming now!..Loved this!..nice work!

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