When John finally found Teyla, it was in a place he'd decided to look purely on a whim. She hadn't been in any of her usual haunts, but instead on the north pier of the city, sitting next to the water.
Although most of the city's edge protruded from the sea several meters before plateauing out to become piers, steps were dotted periodically along the city's coast, sloping down towards the water so that one could dip their fingers into the cool ocean. Teyla sat on the bottom step, her feet dangling in the water, a wicker basket by her side.
She was in a dress he'd never seen her wear before. It was similar to what she wore in the gym, in that the top contained embroidery over the bust and the skirt spit into four thick strips, connecting at a belt around her waist. The difference was that it was deep red. Pieces of gold material made a sort of slip underneath, but they too were slit, their purpose simply to flutter around behind the cover-skirt.
Half of her hair was tied back into a beautiful gold clip, so that it fell just below her shoulders. She hadn't turned, but she seemed to have noticed his presence.
"John." She looked at him over her shoulder, swiveling around slightly.
He walked towards her, sitting down a few steps behind her so that he could stretch his legs without going for an inadvertent swim. "What're you doing?" He nodded curiously at the basket, surprised to see that it had clothes in it. "Teyla, you're not washing clothes, are you? We have machines for that. McKay spent an hour interfacing them with the Ancient system. Proof that they're pains in the ass no matter what galaxy you're in."
Teyla lifted a shirt out, listening to him with one ear. "I know, John. Sometimes though, I feel like my life is being taken over by your technology. It is a simple task and I am able. Therefore, why should I not?"
"…because it's boring?" he ventured.
Teyla laughed. "You have little patience for such things." She shifted slightly, and a strip of material fell from the top of her thigh to between her legs, leaving her coffee brown skin open to the sun.
John slipped down a few steps, drawing his knees up. "Maybe not so boring," he said, surreptitiously looking to his right.
She smiled. "In some things, you are a mystery John Sheppard. In others, you are quite predictable."
He fingered a strip of skirt, picking it up to inspect the gold stitching on the end. If more of her leg was exposed, then that was a sacrifice that would have to be paid. "Bit fancy for housework, isn't it?"
She smiled again, though somewhat sadly. Reaching forward, she picked up a small wooden jug he hadn't noticed. Tipping it slightly, a translucent purple viscous liquid poured slowly out and into the palm of her hand. Even with the aroma of smells floating around the air, the sweet scent flowed instantly into him.
"It smells like your hair." He looked down at it sheepishly.
With her clean hand, she submerged the shirt into the water. "Hold that, please."
He reached forward and gripped the shirt. She pulled her legs out of the water, swinging around to kneel parallel with the steps. Again with her clean hand, she arranged her skirt so that it fell to the ground, leaving her legs bare. John's desire to reach forward and touch her skin was only trumped by his curiosity. She leaned sideways and took the shirt from his grip, pulling it out of the water. Deftly, with one hand, she rolled it up neatly against the step, wringing as much excess water out of it as possible, before laying it out on her lap. She moved her other hand over the shirt, tipping the purple liquid over it. With the tips of her fingers, she started to rub the sweet substance into the material.
When it was well lathered, she turned the shirt over and repeated the process on the other side. The smell was so sweet that John could barely stop touching her, slight, quick caresses against her legs, the hint of skin between her skirt and her top.
She turned and submerged the shirt back into the water, leaning over to rub the substance from the material. When she was satisfied, she pulled it out again and placed it neatly on the step above them.
"My mother gave me these clothes."
John was glad he hadn't acted on the impulse to push her playfully into the water.
"They are far too delicate for this sort of task, but it was my mother who developed the armae…" she trailed off, in search of a translation. "The purple liquid you saw. It is a mix of crushed herbs and a sweet tea from my village. Now that we cannot gather the ingredients from my planet freely, our supplies of it are dwindling. She was an expert on the plants of Athos. She said that, amidst all the fear of the Wraith, she found the act of cleaning to be calming. I must confess, I am usually too busy fighting, but every now and then, I like to clean, as she once did."
John didn't quite know what to say. "She must have been talented, because it smells great."
To his relief, Teyla smiled. "You should take off your shoes John. The water is warm and soothing."
He smiled crookedly. "Well, I could probably use some of that."
He reached forward to unlace his boots. Once they were off and he'd unzipped the sides of his pants at the ankles, he rolled them up to his knees and dangled his legs into the water. He sat for a minute, watching the current move past his calves, to go on to swirl around Teyla's. Suddenly, yet slowly, he reached over her, one hand on the small of her back, and plucked another shirt out of the wicker basket.
Dunking the shirt into the water, he made sure it was thoroughly wet before pulling it out and wringing it though.
"Your pants will get wet," Teyla observed.
"It's warm. As long as they're dry before I get inside and McKay sees me." He spread the shirt on his lap and reached for the jug, taking a minute to savor the smell as he inhaled deeply.