"My name is Teyla Emmagen, and you are an alien."
Looking out into the classroom, Teyla saw a few of the young SGC officers stir with surprise. Good. She knew the SGC had asked her to teach Introduction to First Contact more out of a sense that they owed her something to do than any real sense that they needed her services, but since they had, she intended to make them learn.
By the end of the class, half the class were still looking queasy from the umeboshi (the closest thing to Arranic pickled gingerfruit) she'd made them eat while keeping a smile on their faces, another quarter were bright red from her explanation of shipboard customs on MX-3183, and one of them was still rubbing his knee where she'd kicked him, but they were all rapt with attention. Fascination and horror were not the usual techniques of SGC training, she knew, but at least someone was listening to her. She concluded by asking for questions, and a figure who had slipped into the back near the end raised his hand.
"Yes, Dr. McKay?"
"So how do you say you're sorry to an alien when you screw things up, if you don't understand their culture?"
She frowned a little, wondering what he was doing, but it was an important point, after all. "Actions," she said. "It is always best to know the language or rituals of formal apology, but sincere efforts to make amends are rarely considered inadequate."
"Huh," he said, and leaned against the wall as someone else raised his hand.
When she followed the students out, he joined her. "So, your first day teaching," he said. "And you didn't even throw your chalk at the students once. Just so you know, you'll be tempted—it'll be totally justified—but they frown on that around here."
"I hope the class will be useful," she said, shortly.
"I'm sure it will be. Not that I had any problems without it, but—But, anyway! We should celebrate. Sheppard and I'll take you out for dinner."
Ronon was offworld. "I am tired, Rodney."
"Oh, come on. I came all the way out here to invite you, since you're not talking to Sheppard—"
"That is not true. I am speaking to John. I speak to John at least twice a week."
"Sure, if you count 'Hi' and 'Everything's fine' and 'No, I can't come to team movie night.' I personally don't."
She frowned. As was Rodney's way, he had run full-speed and with tact flapping in the breeze into a truth. She knew it was not John's fault, that the decision to keep Atlantis on Earth had not been his. But she also knew that, in his bones, he did not feel it as an abandonment, a theft, a betrayal, as she did. She had been stunned by how much that realization had hurt her, and how angry the apologies in his eyes that cost nothing and meant nothing made her. After that, conversation was pointless. They had thought themselves one, and learned that they were separate. What was there to say?
"Look, it'll only take a couple of hours. I'll fly us out and back. You'll like Vancouver, it'll remind you of home. Okay?"
He sounded impatient, but also plaintive, a tone she knew well from him. Even now, it tugged at her. She shrugged. "Very well. I will change clothing."
"No, this is perfect. Come on." Having gotten her to agree, he was, as usual, in a hurry to get it done. As he led her to the bay where one of the jumpers was kept, she hoped that she would not find herself outlandishly dressed wherever they were going. She could get away with Athosian garb in some parts of San Francisco, but not many places besides.
The flight—under cloak, of course—was uneventful. Teyla sank into the familiar seat next to the pilot's as if she was dropping into a memory. She closed her eyes and imagined green fields beneath them and a gate appearing over the horizon. After some time, she felt Rodney nudge her. "Hey. Wake up."
She had not been asleep, she wanted to protest, like a small child, but she only sat up straighter and rubbed her eyes. When she looked through the viewscreen, her heart stopped.
The jumper was settling into a small camp humming with activity. Everywhere she looked, people were preparing for a mission. Evan was talking earnestly to a group of young Marines with packs on their backs who she vaguely recognized. Zelenka was supervising the loading of equipment into another jumper. Ronon was lovingly field-stripping his gun. And John appeared to be in charge of all of it.
As she stepped out of the jumper, he looked across at her and said, almost shyly, "Hey."
"What is this—what are you--?"
But she already knew.
Rodney had been right. She was dressed perfectly.
"In sixteen hours," Rodney said behind her, "we should have retaken Atlantis and have it back on its way to Pegasus."
"Hope we can find a place to park," John added.
"But that is—"
"Good old-fashioned treason," he confirmed. "It'll cure what ails ya."
She stared. "Why didn't you tell me?"
John rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, we weren't sure we were going to be able to pull it off. We didn't want to get your hopes up and then have you be all disappointed in us."
"Any more than you were already, he means," Rodney said.
"I was not," she started to say, and had to stop to swallow. Faced with this scene, she was disappointed in herself—for having given up so easily on them, for having assumed they had given up so easily on her. For not having recognized the look in John's eyes that meant that it didn't matter if he didn't feel exactly the way she did. It only mattered that she felt it.
And now they were all standing and looking at her hopefully, as if her mistake wasn't important. But it was. Fortunately, she knew what to do. She squared her shoulders, feeling all her weariness fall away. "What do you need me to do?"