"Nepenthe's Kiss"

by Grey Lupous

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

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The first thing that came around was a distinct fuzzy feeling, like everything from his head to his insides were wrapped in cotton. It was comforting, so much so that he almost let himself slide back into the feeling. He almost did too, except there came this incoherent mumbling that drew him back to the edge of awareness. It was the unexpected poke breaking through the warm fuzzy shield that brought him awake.

"Yep, that's it, no more sleeping. Time to be a big boy and face the music."

Rodney frowned, eyes still shut, trying to pinpoint the voice as the words didn't make much sense either.

"C'mon, McKay, I've been watching you sleep all day. It's boring in here!"

That petulant whining could only come from one person. He managed to open his eyes a little to see Sheppard leaning forward, finger edging dangerously close to his ear. He hadn't had to endure a Wet Willie since high school, and he didn't intend to now. Breaking through the cotton-like haze that he had now concluded was due to pain killers, he tried to grab the hand, but it jerked back, as if it were tied down.

With physical restraint off the table, that left him with one option.

"Don't even think about it."

He meant for it to come out intimidating and haughty, but instead it came out scratchy and hoarse. However it gained the desired effect and the finger halted its progress.

"Oh good, you're awake." Sheppard grinned.

"I can't move my hands," Rodney muttered hoarsely, licking his dry lips. "Why am I here?"

"One thing at a time," Sheppard promised, leaning back in his chair. "He's awake!"

"Good," came the Scottish brogue. Carson walked into the curtained cubicle with a chart in hand. "How are you feeling, Rodney?"

"Thirsty. Confused. Irritated."

"Aye, that's good." The Scot nodded as he jotted down some notes.

"Good? What kind of sheep-herding excuse for a medical practitioner—"

"Ah ah," Sheppard cut him off, shaking a finger. "You have to be real nice to Beckett."

Anger flashed in McKay's eyes and he lifted his lip into a snarl. "Why on Earth—"

"Good enough for you, Doc?" Sheppard tossed a measured look at the doctor.

"Aye," Carson set down the clipboard and reached for the straps, "the tests show it's all out of his system. By his cheery demeanor, seems like he's back to normal."

Rodney glared at both of his friends as the straps holding him down were undone. As soon as his hands were free he rubbed his wrists, watching Sheppard and Beckett with no small amount of suspicion. "What are you two yammering about?"

"Some water, Rodney?" Carson ignored him, propping the bed up. Sheppard magically produced a small cup of water with a flourish.

Rodney bristled at being dismissed, but his throat was dry. After a moment's hesitation he accepted the glass, but didn't hide his irritation. He drank greedily, ignoring Beckett's warnings to take it slow. Two could play at this game. He gulped a bit too much, and wound up sputtering.

Carson rolled his eyes, and took the glass away. He raised an eyebrow at Rodney, his expression one of mild irritation, while Sheppard just sat back in his little chair, grinning stupidly. As McKay got his coughing under control he flopped back into bed, glaring petulantly at both of them.

"Fine, sorry," he muttered.

"An apology?" Sheppard shook his head gravely. "You sure he's still not high, Doc?"

"High?" Rodney squeaked. "I do not get high!"

That just caused Sheppard to grin wider, which was an annoyance in itself. "Never mind, looks like it was just one of those occasional slip ups he makes."

Carson couldn't help but smile at that. He picked up his clipboard again, trying to resume a modicum of professionalism. "So Rodney, are you feeling any pain?"

Rodney could feel his eye twitch, which made Sheppard snicker a little. He turned the full force of his fury on the soldier, sick of being ignored. "What's up, Chuckles?"

"Sorry." Sheppard sounded anything but contrite, but did try to cover up his grin. "Maybe we ought to fill him in, Doc. Looks like he's about to have a stroke."

Carson lightly thwacked the officer on the head. "What did I say about bad jokes, Major?"

"Hardee har har, you both should do stand up," McKay interrupted testily, "but do you hecklers have a point in being here, other than annoying me?"

"I apologize, Rodney, but you have to understand after the past few days, we're just relieved for a little normalcy here," Carson said as he checked the various machines that came with the territory of waking up in the infirmary.

"Hello, in the dark here!"

"Well, that's to be expected," Carson replied calmly, jotting down a few notes on the chart before gazing calmly at McKay. "What would you like to know?"

"I don't know... how about, um, everything? Starting with why I'm waking up in the infirmary!" He snapped.

"You got anything for the crankiness, Doc?" Sheppard asked, leaning back into the chair.

Beckett ignored him and focused on McKay. "Rodney, it's a long story, and I'm afraid I can't explain much if you don't calm yourself down. I understand that you're feeling out of sorts, but try and control yourself, hmm?"

Rodney glowered at Beckett, but settled back into his pillows, crossing his arms. "Fine, I'm calm."

Carson looked skeptical, but forged on. "Do you remember when you and Major Sheppard were exploring the city the other day?"

"Yes," he responded, being mindful to keep his annoyance down to a minimum.

"Well, you found a plant there—"

"I'm in here because of a ten thousand year old dead plant?" Rodney asked incredulously. "How?"

"Not dead," Sheppard corrected, "just almost."

McKay frowned. "You lost me."

"Remember playing tug-of-war with the spindly thing?" Sheppard asked.

"Unfortunately."

"We found a reference in the Ancient database on it." Carson took up the explanation. "Apparently they called it Nepenthias, not to be confused with the genus on Earth—"

"Do I look like a botanist?" Rodney snapped. He received warning glares from both Sheppard and Carson and backed down, albeit reluctantly.

"Each spine on the plant contains a strong psychoactive agent that the Ancients called 'Nepenthe', similar to the legendary drug of the Greeks. Probably another case of the Ancients passing things on after returning to the Milky Way."

Rodney wanted so badly to make a comment, but the tempering look the Major had fixed on him was keeping him in check... for the moment. He motioned for Carson to continue.

The doctor raised an eyebrow at the show of patience. "When you grabbed it the spines injected the drug into your body. Since you did not inject it directly into your blood stream, it took a while for it to take effect."

"Effect? What kind of effect?"

Sheppard and Carson exchanged glances but the doctor continued, not quite looking at Rodney.

"The drug triggers a response in your brain to create more and more serotonin, leading to a general feel of euphoria, loosens your inhibitions, and improves your general sense of well-being. Generally the effect is minimal, but since you pricked yourself with so many spines, you had a more severe reaction..."

"Severe?" Rodney noticed that both of them weren't looking him in the eye. "What does that mean?"

"Nothing bad. While similar to MDMA—"

"Ecstasy?" Rodney's voice climbed a pitch higher.

Carson ignored the interruption, continuing on, "Similar, as in the same effects and acts in a similar manner. However it is much slower acting, and does not put quite as much a strain on your system."

That seemed to appease Rodney, and he settled down. That was until Carson started up again. "Thankfully though, it does not cause any cell breakdown or brain damage."

"Brain damage?" McKay squeaked.

"Doesn't cause any," Carson stressed, annoyance creeping into his tone at the constant interruptions. "However, it just used up most of your body's reserves of serotonin, triggering a crash that resulted in the general irritable mood you're feeling right now."

"Think of it like a hangover without all the drinking and puking," Sheppard drawled lazily. "Lucky you."

McKay frowned, fuzzy memories resurfacing. "I remember feeling like this before. I went back to the storage room. I was attacked by this—" He frowned, trying to identify his attacker. The memory refused to budge. "Is that why I'm here? Did you catch the thing?"

Carson pursed his lips. "In a way."

He eyed the doctor suspiciously. "Why are you acting so dodgy?"

"As Major Sheppard said, the plant wasn't quite dead. It had managed to survive so long unattended because it was kept in an incubator in the wall."

Rodney's eyes widened. "The power readings!"

"Be quiet, Rodney, and let the man tell his story." Sheppard flicked McKay's ear, earning an annoyed glare.

"The incubator had been sustaining the plant since Atlantis's abandonment by tapping into the ZPM's power. When the city rose, the incubator shut off, and the plant was without a proper environment, and started to die."

"Apparently we reactivated the incubator by turning power back on in the area when we were exploring," Sheppard added.

Beckett nodded his thanks, taking the explanation back up. "When you returned to the room alone it found what it needed to germinate and start its life cycle again."

"Which almost serves you right for doing something so stupid," Sheppard added with a touch of annoyance.

"Wait," Rodney looked at Carson, eyebrows knitting together in concern, "are you trying to tell me..."

McKay trailed off, but Sheppard was glad to finish the thought. "Yep! You became a mommy to an invasive, personality-altering alien plant."

"Please tell me you got it out, that's why I'm here. Right?" Rodney looked sick while Sheppard beamed happily.

At the edge of panic in his voice Carson patted McKay's shoulder. "Yes, that is why you're here. We managed to extract it before it could..." He caught himself and stopped.

"Could what?" The panic climbed an octave higher.

"Do any permanent damage," Carson finished quickly, looking a little unsettled himself.

An awkward silence descended upon the cubicle, and Sheppard looked between his two friends, trying to figure out a way to rescue the situation. "You've got visitors, too."

He leaned back further in the chair, tipping it to an almost precarious position as he pulled the curtain back. Rodney blinked as he caught a flash of Sheppard's bandaged feet. He frowned, but before he could vocalize anything, Zelenka poked his head in. The Czech's wild hair looked even more untidy than usual, as if he had been dealing with much more than he was used to.

"Is it safe?" He asked cautiously.

"Yeah, come on and join the party, Dr. Z," Sheppard waved him in.

The engineer shuffled in nervously, eyeing McKay in the bed warily. "How are you feeling?"

"A little violated now," Rodney answered honestly. Something about Zelenka and a machine teased at his mind, but the memory drifted away the more he tried to concentrate on it. "I can almost remember something... but then it dances away."

Zelenka shuddered in revulsion at the mention of dancing. "Overdose of Nepenthe can cause memory blackout. You had more than simple overdose when Baby took up residence."

Rodney frowned. "How do you know that?"

"Dr. Z was the one who managed to find a reference to your plant daddy in the Ancient database," Sheppard put in.

"Which was extraordinarily helpful in extracting the bugger," Carson added.

"Really?" McKay was intrigued. "What did it say?"

"Reference said that use of the drug was frowned upon in Ancient society, but when plant's mode of reproduction was discovered it was banned. Many plant-impregnated Ancients would not be helpful in fighting off Wraith."

"Obviously," McKay muttered, and then frowned. "Wait, if they were banned, what was that one doing there? And why would it have an incubator."

"Well, much like modern teenagers and young people," Zelenka cleared his throat; "Ancient youth did not like to listen to their elders. Plant was very popular in Ancient youth subculture. So much, that when ban was implemented on plant and drug, they smuggled it back in, setting up areas to control its growth and distribution."

McKay's eyes widened. "No..."

"Yes!" Sheppard crowed excitedly. "We stumbled into the equivalent of an Ancient college pot farm, and you sampled the goodies!"

"You're enjoying this far too much," McKay grumbled miserably.

"Hard not to," Sheppard shrugged.

"Just tell me I didn't do anything I'd regret," McKay hid his face behind his hands. When his request was met with silence he peeked through his fingers. Carson was studying the ceiling with a keen interest, Zelenka had looked away in disgust, while Sheppard was grinning like an idiot. "Oh no. What was it? No wait! Don't tell me!"

"No need to tell," Sheppard was like the cat that ate the canary. "I managed to find a security feed from your lab."

"Burn it!" Zelenka said venomously. "That is too horrible to watch, even for blackmail purposes!"

Rodney groaned, misery coursing through him. "This is so unfair!"

"Sorry, Rodney," Beckett tried to sound consoling, but there was a trace of amusement in tone. "If it makes you feel better, most of Atlantis doesn't even know about the incident in the lab."

"Unfortunately everyone knows about your kidnapping spree," Sheppard put in helpfully.

Carson sent him a scolding glare, but it didn't dissuade the major any from his amusement.

"Kidnapping?" Rodney squeaked. "Who did I kidnap?"

"That would be me. You were a touch out of sorts when you learned we had to remove the plant."

"And Stackhouse said he won't press any charges for the concussion you gave him."

Rodney's eyes widened.

"Ford decided to put those DDR lessons you gave him to some use at the next party Atlantis throws."

A strangled cry escaped the scientist.

"The nurses really enjoyed your rendition of 'Baby Got Back'." Sheppard was grinning wickedly.

"Stop," Rodney whimpered. "I don't think I want to know any more."

"But don't worry, your secret desire to be on Broadway is safe with us," he leaned back, looking immensely satisfied with himself.

"Are you done?" Beckett asked.

"For now."

A light knock on one of the rods holding up the curtains gained their attention, and everyone looked to see Teyla and Ford hanging back cautiously.

"I assume all the noise means Dr. McKay is now awake?" Teyla asked quietly.

"Exactly how many people do you have back there?" Rodney tossed Sheppard a look as Teyla and Ford joined them. Ford's skin was still slightly irritated from the rash, but the lieutenant was bandage free and up on his feet.

"Dr. Weir sends her regards. She will be down as soon as she finishes handling a small dispute."

"Kavanagh again?" Sheppard asked, amused.

"Apparently he's demanding the return of his stolen fire extinguisher, and a formal apology from Sergeant Bates for," she looked at Ford for confirmation, "military misconduct?"

The young soldier nodded with a grin. "If we didn't have Steve in the brig I think Dr. Weir would throw him in there just to shut him up."

"Charming," Rodney commented sourly, knowing he was going to be barraged with a thousand complaints from Kavanagh once he was released. He removed his hands from his face as he peered at Teyla and Ford. "So are you here to torture me too?"

"Torture?" Teyla asked, raising a disapproving eyebrow at Sheppard. "We are merely here to see how you are feeling and to wish you well."

"Nice to know someone cares," he smiled at her, before glaring daggers at Sheppard.

"Yes," she said, spearing the major with a look, "it would be highly inappropriate to harass you during your recovery."

"He's exaggerating!" Sheppard insisted, the eyebrow rose higher, and suddenly the prospect of torturing McKay became far less fun. "I've stopped."

Teyla nodded at him, sending him a look that promised many beatings the next time they sparred. Sheppard grimaced, giving McKay a sour look that translated into 'Look what you did'.

Rodney raised an eyebrow in return; motioning to the Major's bandaged feet. Sheppard flushed and quickly hid them under the chair and tried to busy himself with looking more interested in the various machines surrounding Rodney.

Rodney shrugged as he stifled a yawn, he'd find out about it later. Despite the company of his team and friends, he could feel sleep pulling at him. He closed his eyes and resettled himself into his pillows. Right as sleep approached another memory resurfaced. Brow wrinkling in confusion, he opened both of his eyes.

Pushing himself up, he addressed all the people gathered around him. "I have to ask something, though."

Teyla raised an eyebrow, Ford looked at him curiously, Sheppard glared petulantly, Zelenka's face was filled with trepidation, while Carson just paused in his chart scribbling.

"Why do I have this horrible image in my mind of Major Sheppard wrestling me in his underwear?"

All eyes turned to Sheppard. He cleared his throat uncomfortably as he sat up straighter. "So, um, who else likes Ferris wheels?"

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The End