"Nepenthe's Kiss"

by Grey Lupous

Spoilers, summaries, and other author's notes available at the beginning of chapter one.


Barely taking time to strip out of his uniform and toss off his shoes once he'd reached his room, John Sheppard collapsed into his bed in a semi-conscience heap. It wasn't until he lay down on his cushy, wonderfully comfortable Atlantian bed that he realized that Beckett was pretty accurate on how much he had run around over the course of the day.

The lights automatically dimmed for him with a thought as he started to drift off. One of the perks of having one of the strongest ATA genes around was that most of the city responded to his thoughts and wants automatically. He was probably one of the few humans in the city who knew exactly how much control and comfort the Atlantians had over their environment.

He had almost drifted off into a light slumber when he heard a sound. The lights automatically brightened a few notches as his awareness perked up. He listened intently several moments, but heard nothing. Finally convincing himself that he had imagined it, he let the lights dim back down.

His thoughts started to drift into a dream, when he heard it again: the soft rustling of cloth on a hard surface.

His eyes snapped open, lights brightening automatically. He sat up, scanning the room for intruders, but there was no one there. Just him, the Johnny Cash poster, and his dirty clothes.

The sound came again, a soft "fruff". He shook his head, rubbing his eyes again. Still alone. That was it, he was going insane. Somehow he had gotten it from McKay by proxy. He ran a hand through his hair as he let out a sigh. If he couldn't sleep, there was no point in hanging out here when he could wait for more immediate news on McKay's condition in the infirmary.

He swung a leg over the side of the bed as whatever it was made itself known again.

"All right John, you're really losing it," he muttered to himself as he set a foot on the floor, searching for where he'd discarded his pants, and then frowned. They were several feet from where he'd discarded them along with his jacket.

Then he watched as his pants crept towards him a little more.

"Definitely losing it."

The pants inched closer.

"Stop that."

And closer.

"Bad pants!"

And closer still.

It was a dream, obviously. Despite the fact that he was in a different galaxy, with life-sucking aliens, some things had remained normal: like the fact that his pants could not move on their own accord. Slowly he reached over to his nightstand. His hand brushed against his nine millimeter, briefly resting on it. The grip felt reassuring, the barrel cool to the touch. Below his gun was his half-read copy of War and Peace. He opted for the book, bringing it up to bear.

"Damn realistic dream," John muttered, watching the pants intently as they continued their progress towards him.

When they were in range he lobbed the book at them, sending the pants sliding across the room. He spied a flash of green emerge from beneath the pants and immediately pulled his legs back onto the bed, practically diving for his gun. Some part of the plant must've stuck to his pant leg when he'd encountered the vine in McKay's room.

Now unhindered by the troublesome cloth, the vine very quickly slithered across the floor, straight for the body of heat in front of it.

"Oh hell no, I'm not playing Mommy!" He aimed, and fired off a single round at the vine. It split in half, stilling for a moment. John grinned, letting the gun drop to his side. "John Sheppard, one; Audrey, zero."

The two halves launched forward in a sudden burst of speed.

"Oh hell!"

He backed up to the other side of the bed, eyes scanning around for where he'd left his radio. It lay on the floor next to his jacket. He inwardly cursed his laziness, not that he would've predicted being attacked by his own pants... and he didn't think he was going to share that part with anyone.

The tip of one the vine pieces inched over the top of the bed. He couldn't see where the other one was.

"I am so investing in a can of Weed-B-Gone when all of this is over."

*          *          *          *          *

McKay was still in the small alcove of the infirmary when one of the nurses came by to check on him. He waved her off politely, which earned him a strange look. They were used to the old McKay, the one who preferred to berate and belittle everyone around him. That had changed over the past few days, he had changed.

He hadn't known the cause for the sudden shift in his own personality, something that would have alarmed the old Rodney. The new Rodney, however, had found the strength to not constantly question his feelings, and instead acted upon them. That these new feelings and impulses really weren't those of any sane person didn't bother him in the least. Rodney McKay had finally learned how to be free, and now he knew why.

It was all due to the life that he carried inside of him. His hand had kept drifting down to his stomach. There was no bulge, no feeling of discomfort either. Had he not seen the images for himself he would still be none the wiser.

It was strange, he had heard how people had changed when they had children, how the world looked different. The life inside him wasn't his child, he knew that, but still... it felt just as precious. It saddened him that he would have to be parted with it so soon after learning of its existence. However, Carson had said his body wouldn't be able to provide a good environment for it. Like any good caretaker, he only wanted what was best for his charge. Dr. Parrish was a brilliant botanist, and cared for every plant within the greenhouse the botany department had set up, so Rodney had no worries that it wouldn't be well taken care of.

He forced himself away from the images. It wasn't doing anyone any good for him to be moping around. He could at least get ready so they wouldn't have to waste any time with changing into scrubs or inserting IVs. He started to search out the nurse that he had shooed off.

He passed by the small partitioned area where Ford was reluctantly resting. He had tried to cheer the lieutenant up earlier, but for some reason he had kept staring at McKay like he had grown an extra head. Obviously he had no sense of rhythm or appreciation for the fine art of dance. Ford appeared to have drifted off to sleep, or at least he was pretending to.

He continued on, looking around the infirmary for anyone. It seemed most of the staff was busy preparing for the surgery. The sounds of a muted conversation drifted closer to Beckett's office, and he walked in that direction hoping to find someone. As he got closer, the conversation became more audible.

"What's wrong?" That was Carson, his Scottish brogue tinged with impatience and concern.

"I've run a few more simulations," and that was Parrish. "I thought it might be pertinent in case something came up during the surgery."

"And?" The question was quick, abrupt, completely unlike Carson Beckett. McKay frowned. Why was he acting like that?

"Any way I look at it, there's no way to safely remove the seedling from Dr. McKay."

A lead ball formed in Rodney's stomach at hearing those words. Footsteps sounded, and he quickly ducked behind a partition, trying to quiet his breathing. A nurse passed by with a tray of surgical instruments, all of which looked horrific and terrifying. The conversation continued, and he had to strain his ears as their voices hushed.

"It's unfortunate we can't study it further, but under the circumstances it's probably for the best," Carson said softly.

Rodney swallowed dryly, not believing his ears. Carson was the gentlest, most caring person he knew. There was no way he could be this cruel.

"I understand. I'll continue to study the specimen, but I thought it be best to let you know. There's no need to take extra care with the seedling itself when extracting it."

"Aye, thank you Dr. Parrish. It's one less thing to worry about. I better check up on the preparations. We're almost ready to begin."

The conversation seemed to have ended, but Rodney didn't need to hear anymore. Carson had lied to him. This surgery wasn't to help his ward, but to kill it. He swallowed past the lump in his throat. He couldn't let them do that.

He wouldn't let them.



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