"Nepenthe's Kiss"

by Grey Lupous

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

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When McKay's unnaturally calm and threatening voice drifted out into the deserted hallway, John knew he had pinpointed the right location. He listened for a minute, trying to decide what to do. He couldn't risk calling for backup out loud. In a deserted part of the city such as this any voices would carry, as evidenced by McKay. Even possessed by an alien plant the man couldn't shut up.

He lightly patted himself down, once again cursing the fact that, yes, he was running around in Atlantis in only his underwear. He'd have to wing it then. He turned down the volume of his radio, just in case, before wrapping the radio's strap around the talk button. That would have to do. He could handle McKay for a few minutes as they tracked down his signal.

Silence suddenly descended and Sheppard felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. Slowly he slipped closer to the doorway, straining his ears for a hint of what was going on. He'd been as quiet as possible, but that still didn't mean McKay hadn't heard his footsteps, or seen a flicker of his shadow...

He held his breath as he noticed the dim lighting in the hallway toss his elongated shadow across the doorframe. He waited, ears straining to hear anything. The only audible noise was what sounded like someone tinkering with something. Probably Zelenka if he had heard the conversation right.

Carefully he set the radio down right outside the doorway. He was sure they'd hear everything and track it easily enough to his location. Next, he removed the P-90. He liked the feel of that weapon more, but right now he needed a single clean shot. The thought almost made him sick to his stomach, but did his best to shove the feeling to the side. He needed to be concerned about Beckett and Zelenka's safety.

Taking in a deep breath, he made a mental note to strangle McKay for all of this later. With that final assurance to himself, he swung out into the doorway, gun drawn. His training took over, as he immediately identified the locations of everyone in the room. Zelenka was in the corner, fiddling with something electronic. McKay was almost dead-center to the doorway, with an iron-clad grip on Beckett.

He watched as McKay's gaze swung over to him, he could see the gun retake its place up against the doctor's temple. Beckett closed his eyes, looking like he was barely managing control of his panic.

"What are you doing here? I said no military!"

"Rodney," John started soothingly, trying to find a non-vital area to aim at, "I know you're not exactly thinking straight, so it's probably a good idea to put the gun down..."

"I'll shoot him!" McKay jerked Beckett closer, and Sheppard automatically tightened his grip on the pistol.

"You don't want to do that."

"Seeing as how he was going to cut me open and so callously murder my plant – yes I am. I don't have tocophobia like the rest of you!"

"McKay!"

"I mean it!"

The muzzle dug further into Beckett's temple, causing the doctor to visibly wince.

Sheppard felt his stomach clench as he realized he really was going to have to go through with it. He was going to have to shoot a member of his team, one of his friends. With the way he was positioned and holding his gun, he'd have to go for a kill shot to stop the gun from going off.

"Don't make me do this, Rodney."

All of the sudden he was brought back to eleventh grade English class, hearing his teacher talk about the significance of George shooting Lenny. He mentally shook the image away. He was not living in a Steinbeck novel, and McKay wasn't Lenny. If only he could talk to the real McKay, not Mommy Rodney—

McKay's finger tightened around the trigger an inch further. As John tightened his grip in response, he could see McKay "listening for coherent thoughts" with Beckett's stethoscope and Rodney ruffling John's hair just to get a rise out of him. That's when it struck him that he had been talking to McKay the whole time.

"Wait!"

The finger paused, and McKay watched warily as Sheppard slowly dropped his aim.

"What are you doing?" Zelenka asked nervously.

"Now don't shoot anyone, I'm just going to put this on the floor," John said as he carefully set down the gun. Beckett had opened his eyes and was watching Sheppard with confusion.

McKay watched him suspiciously. "I don't get it."

"Well, I can't let you shoot Beckett, and if I shot you, I'd get blood all over the walls." John raised up his arms in the universal sign of surrender. "You know how bad it stains. Impossible to get out."

"How kind," McKay said drolly.

"That's me, Mr. Sunshine."

McKay snorted derisively. "Sunshine?"

John grinned. "Yep, and rainbows."

Zelenka had stopped tinkering and was staring at the exchange with his jaw agape. Beckett was eyeing Sheppard curiously. He gave the doctor a quick wink.

"Since when has anyone with a gun been all sunshine and rainbows?" McKay shot back, missing the silent exchange.

"Well it is hard to pull off one of those show-stopping numbers you're so fond of when you're trying to juggle a gun."

"Perhaps it is good he has gun then," Zelenka put in.

McKay's eyebrow twitched at that.

"Now, Doc," Sheppard interrupted, "that's not fair."

"Thank you, Major," McKay sniffed.

"The tone deafness makes up for his lack of dancing skills." John smirked.

The other eyebrow twitched. "You do realize I have a gun here?"

"Yes, Rodney, it's the reason Keith Richards isn't rolling in his grave right now."

"He's not dead!"

"You sure? I'm pretty sure your version of 'Satisfaction' may have finished him off."

McKay dropped the gun arm, throwing his other up in the air in frustration. "That's just ridiculous! Karaoke bars would've killed off anyone with an ounce of musical talent the first night some idiot put a microphone to his mouth!"

"They did not funky chicken." Zelenka shook his head gravely.

Beckett cautiously edged away from McKay as he entered rant mode. "It was not the funky chicken!"

"You're right, Rodney." With Beckett out of danger, John started inching towards McKay. "That would be an insult to chickens everywhere."

"Thank you—hey!"

Sheppard stilled immediately as McKay glared at him. Even though he maintained the façade of a man deep into a snark fest, he caught himself holding his breath. Good thing this wasn't a round of poker. Forcing the flutter in his stomach to die down, he just raised an eyebrow at McKay in challenge.

"You're one to talk! Trying to explain the meaning of life with football analogies!"

"Football is life, everything else is just details."

"Please, you got that off of a t-shirt!"

By now Beckett had managed to get completely behind McKay. He had been watching the exchange with trepidation up to this point, but seemed to sense an opening. He bent down to scoop up a larger piece of discarded equipment. Sheppard saw the movement but tried not to give away Beckett's plan, although he was silently pleading for the doctor not do anything stupid. He was almost there—

"The world's greatest philosophers these days make witty slogans for clothing." John grinned as McKay took the bait, completely oblivious to the large Ancient Toaster Oven Beckett was heaving up from the floor.

"Yeah, I bet your philosophic hero came up with 'I'm With Stu—"

McKay was interrupted by a large crash as Beckett lost his grip on the Ancient whatever, and it smashed into the floor. Instantly the real Rodney vanished and the gun snapped back up on Beckett.

"Screw subtle," John muttered, launching himself at McKay. "Move it, Doc!"

Carson quickly scrambled away as McKay and Sheppard went down in a tumble. The gun went off with a deafening boom, the sound amplified by the small space. Beckett looked over to see a hole in the wall where he had just been, and felt his knees go weak. He turned his attention back to the two men on the ground who were scrambling for control of one gun.

"Damn it, McKay! Why don't you try not being stubborn just once and give me the damn gun!" Sheppard growled as he tried to pull the gun out of the astrophysicist's hands.

"If you would butt out for one time—!" Rodney spat back, lashing out with a leg at Sheppard.

The pilot grunted as McKay's boot collided with his bare shin. This was the last time he tried to take on any opponent in his underwear. He grit his teeth past the pain and twisted, trying to get a better grip on the gun to no avail.

"I should've just shot you when I had the chance," Sheppard muttered foully, giving up on grabbing the gun and just latched onto McKay's wrists.

"Back at you!" The scientist snarled in return as he tried to twist the aim of the muzzle over to Sheppard.

Visibly straining himself, Sheppard used his grip to bang McKay's hands into the junk littered floor, succeeding in knocking his grip loose. Rodney surged forward trying to get a hold of the weapon again. Sheppard twisted again, shifting his center of gravity so that he had more leverage, and yanked the scientist back with all his might.

"Any help would be nice!" John shouted at the two bystanders, barely dodging an elbow that was meant for his face. "All right, that's it!"

He brought his knee up into Rodney's stomach, causing the scientist's eyes to water in pain. Sheppard used the moment to get to his knees, catching McKay in a choke hold and hauling him up as well.

"Now just calm down!" He growled into McKay's ear.

"Bastard," McKay muttered, chest heaving deeply with the exertion of the fight.

"I didn't hear that," Sheppard tightened the grip, hoping to break through the haze that was clouding Rodney's mind. He could feel McKay's fingers digging into his arm, trying to break away.

"I said," McKay paused, breathed deeply, "bad move."

John frowned at that, but didn't have time to answer as McKay slammed his head into Sheppard's face. The impact loosened his hold, giving Rodney enough time to drive his elbow into John's jaw, the force sending him sprawling on the floor.

He could see stars swimming in and out of his vision, but pushed himself back up just in time to come face to face with the wrong end of McKay's gun. He stared into the barrel, marveling at the turn of events.

"How'd you do that?"

"Ford taught me." With his free hand, McKay wiped a hand across his face, smearing sweat across his jacket sleeve. "Contrary to popular belief I do pay attention during those damnable sparring sessions."

"I'll have to talk to him about that," John breathed.

"Too bad you'll never get the chance." There was no remorse in McKay's eyes as his finger reached for the trigger.

Instead of the cold click of the trigger being cocked, a loud clang rang out. McKay's eyes rolled back as he sank to the floor bonelessly, revealing Beckett holding a dented piece of scrap metal.

"That's enough of that nonsense," the Scot said, discarding the metal without a thought as he bent down to examine his patient.

John shook his head, eyeing Carson warily. "I guess thanks are in order."

"Aye, but first let's make sure he doesn't wake up anywhere near a weapon."

"Good idea," Zelenka said as he tentatively approached from his corner.

Sheppard shuffled forward on all fours, peering down at the unconscious McKay. "He going to be all right?"

"Once we get that bloody plant out of him. Bugger has been allowed to play too long." Beckett rocked back to sit on his haunches and scrubbed a hand across his face. "I hope I didn't hit him too hard."

"He had it coming." John pushed himself to his feet and headed back to the entrance of the room to grab his radio. As he stepped he could feel pieces of shattered crystals poke and spear his feet. He really hated those things.

Sheppard quickly grabbed the radio and unwrapped the strap from the talk button as he ambled back into the room, being careful to step around the various objects and shards on the floor.

"Major Sheppard," Zelenka adjusted his glasses as he peered at the soldier, "I must ask you question."

He paused in turning up the volume as he looked at Zelenka. "Yeah?"

"What kind of crazy are you to put your gun away around deranged individual?"

Sheppard just grinned, and Beckett looked at him curiously. "Exactly how did you know that was going to work? He could've just shot you."

"He's McKay, despite being knocked up." John shrugged. "It goes against his very nature to let me have the last word in."

Carson cracked a small smile at that, while Zelenka shook his head and muttered to himself in his native language. With a relieved chuckle, Sheppard turned the volume on the radio back up and updated Weir and Bates on the situation. When he was finished he handed the radio over to Beckett, who ordered a medical team and a gurney, complete with straps, to their little remote room.

With the main action over Sheppard sidled down next to McKay to wait for the cavalry. He gave the unconscious scientist a sidelong glance as he idly picked out crystal shards from his feet.

"I promise you, I'm not going to let you live this down."

"Do not think you have monopoly on blackmail," Zelenka piped up as he returned to the device to finish disassembling it.

"Yeah, yeah, I'll let you guys have a few pot shots too," John flicked one of the tiny splinters away, wincing as he spotted a tiny fleck of red. He covered it up with a finger, hoping Beckett hadn't noticed. He had no desire to be carted across half of Atlantis in a wheelchair. Someone cleared their throat, and he looked up to see the Scot grinning at him.

"By the way, Major," Carson tried to hide a smile behind his hand, "where are your pants?"

John groaned miserably and glared at the slumbering scientist. "Never living this down!"


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