Disclaimer: These characters are not mine and never will be.
Notes: Yes, the school mentioned is the one I attended. No, this is not a particularly meaningful fic. It is more like an anti-smoking polemic. Yes, I occasionally smoke. No, I don't care.
When Teyla reached the balcony, she was not surprised to see someone leaning on the rail - this balcony in particular was favoured as a spot for private contemplation, somewhere near enough the centre of the city to be accessible while secluded enough to be quiet. The view, too, was stunning, with the north pier stretching off to one side and then a wide expanse of water, unsettled today, the wind pushing long lines of waves to crash against the walls.
Teyla would have been content to leave the other to his thoughts, and attend to her own contemplation, if not for the smell of smoke which assailed her on walking through the door. It was oddly sharp, and as she drew closer she saw Dr Beckett appear to exhale it.
"Doctor?" she asked, stepping to his side.
"Ah, Teyla, I didn't see you there." He smiled at her a little, then glanced down at the thin white thing in his hand, a frown passing over his face.
"If I could ask, Doctor..." She waited until he nodded at her. "What is that thing?"
"It's a cigarette," he said, and from the way he looked at her as he raised it to his lips and inhaled, he knew exactly how helpful that explanation had been. He exhaled slowly, watching the smoke curl away. "Your people don't have anything like this? Plant life, burned and inhaled, in pipes maybe?"
"One of the peoples we traded with had long pipes, with water in the bottom, but they were only used on, ah, ceremonial occasions."
"Sounds like the Native Americans with their peace pipes - a people on Earth, it's not relevant. This," he raised the cigarette and breathed through it again, "is dreadfully bad for you. It contains a stimulant, an addictive one, and a whole host of carcinogens and other wee nasties. And an awful lot of folk back home are addicted."
"If these things are so very bad for you..."
"Oh they are, lass, terrible things, kill you slowly."
"Why, then, does anyone use them?"
"At first, nobody knew they were so bad, but these days there's no real excuse. People do it because other people do, or to look grown-up, or whatever. Some girls do because it's an appetite suppressant - you'd be amazed the lengths girls will go to, trying to get thin. Folks are crazy."
"And your reasons, Dr Beckett?"
He shuffled his feet. "I suppose... it reminds me of home. My da smoked - of course, he died of lung cancer, so you'd think that would stop me, but it's not like one pack will make a difference, and I can't exactly go down the corner shoppie and get another... I didn't, all through high school, and that was really something, the school that I was at. These thirteen-year-olds, hanging around the shop trying to get seniors to buy them a pack. Uh, there's an age limit, you have to be sixteen to buy them, and they've got warnings all over..." Dr Beckett drew another breath through the cigarette. "I started in medical school, which is about as ironic as it gets, I suppose. Something to let me relax once in a while. But I stopped. Mostly. Just bought this pack when I went home last time."
Teyla was somewhat perplexed. "You brought these with you as your personal item?"
"Oh, hell no. I smuggled these." He grinned at her, all boyish delight at having broken the rules, an expression she had seen often on the faces of the children in her village, and would not have expected from the dedicated medical man.
She shook her head in disbelief. "Your people are very strange to me," she temporized, when he cocked an inquisitive eyebrow.
"I suppose we must be." He took one more breath through the thing and then squashed it against the railing.
"Dr Beckett?" she asked again. "Why were you... smoking?"
He sighed deeply. "Because, lass. It's been a hell of a day."