Originally Posted: Dec. 10th, 2007
Length/Rating: 312 words, PG, Gen
Summary: Written for sga_flashfic Culture Clash challenge.
“STARGATE ATLANTIS”, “STARGATE SG-1” and other related entities are owned, (TM) and © by MGM TELEVISION and DOUBLE SECRET PRODUCTION in association with GEKKO FILMS and THE SCIFI CHANNEL. All rights reserved. No copyright infringement is intended nor implied.
Customs are never just customs, and Atlantis is awash in tradition. Military, Civilian; Hard Science, Soft Science; Russian, Australian, Japanese; Native, Exiles… There are layers over layers, until even the simplest infraction has them snapping and snarling over the breakwaters.
It’s Ronon who cuts through the arguments to point out the obvious. There are too many cultures here, too many hidden edges that they stumble into on an almost daily basis. With every thing stretched so tight, so thin, it doesn’t take much to send them screaming at each other across tables or benches or gate rooms. The city is deluged in a hundred versions of ‘But I didn’t do anything!’ and it’s tearing them apart.
If they had time for classes, Elizabeth would run them — guiding everyone through the maze of coral and shale of how close is too close to stand, how often you need to meet someone’s eyes, how a gift is a gift is a gift and each one requires a different reply — but they don’t.
Instead she pulls in the sociologists and anthropologists, and gives them the task of creating a hand signal that means ‘please stop; cultural violation.’ Only they can’t use something that might be insulting and the number of existing insulting hand signals is awe-inspiring. Still, something is cobbled together that’s quick and easy to understand. It’s not ‘talk to the hand’ so much as ‘talk to the heart’ and she puts it into use immediately.
Tempers cool, somewhat, and it’s enough for now. Another patch on a leaking hull, but all they have to do is weather the storms a bit longer. When they have time, she’ll fix it.
And later, when Woosley asks in confused tones why people keep flashing him what he’s assuming are some sort of gang signs, Elizabeth realizes the patches have become part of the hull.