NOTES: This story is something of a group effort. During a conversation in chat one day, one of the chat participants asked what was the best way to indicate to a guy that she wasn't romantically interested. The conversation began serious, then took a right turn into whacked-out...and someone suggested I turn it into a fic. The title is taken from the OK Go song 'A Million Ways' which I know about because it has the coolest video evah. Go look for it on Google and you'll get a good laugh out of it!

A Million Ways To Be Cruel

Teyla had considered the question for most of her lunch with Laura, happy enough to listen to the other woman ramble on about everything from the most recent group of arrivals from Earth to the state of her relationship with Carson. Usually, she was fascinated by the Lantean woman's take on the events of the city - the interpretation of the Lantean nuances that occasionally still confused Teyla. However, today, her thoughts were otherwise occupied.

It was not until she heard the words, "...and now that I'm five months pregant, I don't know what we're going to do about having the kid in Pegasus..." that Teyla realised she had not been listening to her friend's conversation.

"I am sorry," she said. "You are pregnant?" Then she caught the gleaming amusement in Laura's eyes. "Oh." She put her spoon down. "I am sorry, Laura. I have not been listening."

"I think that's pretty obvious," Laura commented, her dark eyes glinting with clear amusement. "So, since everything I say is going in one ear and out the other, what's on your mind?"

Teyla had not intended to share her dilemma with anyone, but the prospect of someone with whom to consult was...attractive. She had few close friends in Atlantis and those with whom she might have mentored among her people would have little idea of a solution to her dilemma. Laura might be able to offer advice.

"I am unfamiliar with your ways," she began. It stated the obvious, but would serve as a reason for her confusion. "How is it acceptable to...indicate to a man that you are not romantically interested in him?"

Laura's eyes widened, and a smile twinkled in her eyes as she opened her mouth to answer, but the response did not come from Laura.

"Mace."

Rodney planted his tray beside Teyla and pulled out the chair.

Embarrassed by the interruption, Teyla opened her mouth to dismiss the question before Rodney could take hold of the topic, only to be interrupted as Laura shot Rodney a frowning glare. "Who invited you to take part in this conversation?"

"You were discussing it openly, in the middle of the mess hall, where anyone could hear," commented Teyla's team-mate as he began adding condiments to his food. "I offered advice."

"Great advice it was, too," Laura commented. "Maybe Teyla should have specified with the modifier 'politely' at the end?"

"What? Mace isn't polite enough for you?"

Teyla did not know what 'mace' was, but from Laura's expression and Rodney's sarcasm, she imagined it was not a particularly nice thing.

John paused by the seat next to Laura. "I'm guessing this seat's not taken?"

Laura was looking at her for a cue. Teyla nodded at Rodney and stirred her spoon through the soup that was, apparently, not chicken. Since Rodney had already seated himself, there was little point in telling John he could not sit here.

"So, why would Teyla want to be maced?" John asked.

"It's not Teyla who's getting maced," said Rodney in tones that suggested he was privy to the whole conversation. "She wants the mace for someone who's pressuring her. Ow!" He glared at Teyla. "What was that for?"

She had only intended to nudge him with her knee, but he had spread his legs out and she had bumped him harder than expected. Her own knee was tingling a little.

"Who's pressuring you?"

Teyla exhaled slowly as Ronon sat down on her other side and decided she would never again ask a personal question in the mess hall. "No-one."

"Rodney said someone was."

"That is not your concern." She looked around at her other team-mates, "It is not a problem."

"Yet," rumbled Ronon.

Beside her, Rodney was still rubbing his knee. "That hurt," he whined.

"You were not hit that hard."

"Suck it up, Rodney." Laura said before turning back to Teyla. "It's probably best just to tell him," she said. "Say you want to be friends. Easy."

John snorted. "The kiss of relationship death: just friends." His voice held a touch of bitterness that Teyla had not expected, but when she met his gaze, he only shrugged and looked back down at his food.

The temptation to ask him about his experience was brief, and easily squashed. If he wished to tell it, he would not tell it here. John was an easy friend, but a private man.

"You could slap him with a but-monkey."

From the other side of Teyla, Ronon nearly choked on his stroganoff. "A but-monkey?"

Rodney shrugged. "'You're a nice guy, but...'"

"You can't have ever heard that one before, Rodney," Laura said slyly. "Who'd call you 'nice'?"

Teyla bit back a smile. She liked her team-mate, but nobody in the city would say he was an easy person with which to interact - not even John.

"Oh, ha-ha." Rodney glared daggers at Laura.

"Just don't meet up with him," said Ronon. "Ignore him. He'll get the message after a while."

"The cold shoulder?" Laura shook her head. "Please, these are Earth males you're talking about."

John glanced sideways at her. "Isn't your next review coming up, Cadman?"

"Present company excepted, of course, Colonel."

"Of course." John glanced at Teyla with a 'see what I have to deal with' look?

Teyla bit back a smile as she lifted her cup to her lips. "Is it not rude to ignore someone like that?"

"Then tell him the truth," Ronon rumbled.

"The truth is usually the best," Laura said. "Easiest to remember. So how did we all end up talking about this anyway?"

"Misfortune," Teyla suggested. While the conversation had been amusing so far, she was a little wary of the looks she was receiving from her team-mates. She did not feel any particular need for embarrassment - the question had been a curious one and it was her fault that she had not asked it in a more private place. However, their curiosity regarding this was something else. The relationships she maintained in Atlantis were not exclusive to them, Elizabeth, and Carson; she need not apologise for them.

"So, what about my advice?" Rodney asked as he sat back in his chair.

Teyla considered the various ways she could tell Rodney that she did not think his advice was particularly helpful, but was beaten to it by John.

"We'll call your advice 'Plan B,'" he said.

Ronon shifted in his chair, pausing between the mouthfuls he was shovelling in. "Is there a Plan C?"

"Other than the domestic restraining order for freaky stalker dudes?" Rodney asked. "Nope."

"You could tell him you prefer women," Ronon suggested.

"Earth males," Laura repeated in a tone of reminder. "Sometimes that encourages them."

"Review upcoming."

Laura rolled her eyes and muttered something about superior officers while John smirked.

"Hey, I know," Rodney said. "You could introduce him to your boyfriend. Your incredibly cute, intelligent, witty, and talented boyfriend." He waggled his brows suggestively, making Ronon snort and Laura choke on her bread roll

"She's dating Zelenka?" John quipped with good-natured malice and a grin in Teyla's direction. She suspected that he was remembering a conversation of some months past during which he had joked that the Czech had a crush on her. Teyla had never seen anything to suggest such a situation, but John had made much of it all the same.

"You know," Laura said, "you could always tell him you're dying of cancer."

"You could be pregnant," said Ronon, his eyes twinkling wickedly.

Rodney waggled a finger in the air. "And the child's not his!"

"Tell him you have to leave the city on a mission of mercy," Laura said.

"The mercy part being that you're saving him from death by Ronon," John said while Ronon bared his teeth in a cheerful snarl.

"Hey, you could tell him you only have a year to live because you have consumption," Rodney began, only to be interrupted by Laura.

"Already done that with cancer. Get with the program, Rodney!" Suddenly, the blonde's face lit up with a wicked grin. "You know, you could always sleep with him, and right in the middle, start crying. It's painful, and humiliating, and unbelievably cruel, but apparently it works."

There was a moment of silence during which three men and Teyla stared at the marine in shocked silence.

Teyla presumed Laura was joking, because the other woman's suggestion was beyond compassionate comprehension. While she knew that individual Lanteans varied in their view of the permanency of sexual liaisons, most were respectful of the intimacy it engendered between two people.

And Laura had seemed far more thoughtful a person than her statement had suggested.

"You know," said Rodney to John, "I'm going to be soincredibly nice to Carson the next time I see him!"

"That's going on record, you know."

"Oh, please," Laura snorted. "Meredith Grey of Grey's Anatomy."

Vaguely, Teyla recalled the show - popular among a number of women in the city, and particularly among the younger ones, who watched it to sigh over 'Dr. McDreamy.'

"Does Carson know you watch Grey's Anatomy?" John asked.

"Yep. And, no, he won't watch it with me."

Considering what Teyla understood to be the rather questionable medical nature of the show, she could understand Carson's objections to it. She had watched a number of episodes, but it had not gained her interest in the same way that other shows form Earth had.

"I think we'll save that one for...uh...really dire circumstances," said John pointedly.

Teyla agreed. "I believe there are...more polite ways to indicate my distinterest."

"Like mace."

"Rodney..."

"Isn't it better than sex with crying?"

"Anything's better than sex with crying." John was very emphatic about it, and Ronon grunted in agreement.

"Not even happy tears? Wait," Laura interrupted herself. "I don't want to know, don't tell me."

Teyla set her elbows on the table and laughed in spite of herself.

"At least it's making you laugh," said John when she regained her composure and wiped her eyes.

"See," said Laura to John. "Happy tears!"

"Review," came the reminder. Laura rolled her eyes and spooned up a mouthful of soup as John gave Teyla a quirked smile. She suspected that John did not mind the teasing so much from Laura, allowing the young woman a longer leash than he would have with other military personnel. However, the threat of a review was always good for pulling her back in line.

"Tell him the voices in your head said you can't date him."

"The Wraith don't want Teyla to date someone?" Ronon just shrugged when Teyla turned on him. "Tell him you've taken a vow of celibacy." Then he grinned. "It's not like it would make any difference to your current love life."

Teyla elbowed him, upsetting the food on his fork, which landed in the loose sauce of the dish and splattered everywhere. Ronon jerked back as Teyla and Laura leaned away, but the splatter mostly hit the table, only one drop landing on Ronon's coat. He swiped at it with one large finger, then glanced at Teyla with a speculative look that had her hands up, ready to shield herself from whatever he was planning to do.

"Children." On the other end of the table, John was giving them 'the look'.

Ronon grinned and licked his finger, as if that had been his intention all along. Teyla narrowed her eyes at him before turning away. Ronon was entirely too proprietary about her personal life. Had it been possible, she would have suspected him of taking lessons from Halling, who had, in his time, been as annoyingly curious about the men who arrived on Athos to trade but made their interest in Teyla quite well-known.

"So how come Ronon knows so much about Teyla's love life, anyway?"

"How come you don't?"

"Because I don't notice that kind of thing," Rodney protested. "I mean, if you want to know the number of devices that are presently being studied by the scientists in the city, and the divisions of labour between each device, whose specialty is what and how far they've gotten, then I'm your man. Teyla's love life..." He paused and looked at Teyla. "Do you even have a love life? Or is all this a theoretical discussion. Oh, wait. That marine guy."

Teyla had often wondered how her team-mate had lived so many years, and yet did not seem capable of comprehending when to speak and when to remain silent.

Laura smacked her palm into the middle of her forehead, while John shook his head. "Never mind, Rodney."

"Nobody expects me to be Mister Tact," Rodney protested.

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, either," muttered Laura. "All right, have we exhausted the possibilities of this conversation now?"

"Well, I don't know, maybe she could say that Tom Cruise said she can't date him!"

"Or perhaps we could inquire after you and Katie Brown," suggested Laura maliciously.

"But...I guess we can leave it here," Rodney said with a hasty glance in Laura's direction before he turned to Teyla. "You've got more than enough ideas out of this."

"A million ways to be cruel," Teyla murmured.

"You can still tell him the truth," said John. "There's nothing wrong with that. I'd want to be told the truth if it were me."

"You know," Rodney muttered, not quite beneath his breath, "I still think mace says it best."

"That's Hallmark for you," Laura said wryly. "'Nothing says it like mace.'"

--

Six months later, Teyla recalled that conversation, and had a quiet word with various persons in Atlantis and on the Daedelus.

For his next birthday, Rodney received four canisters of mace.

- fin -