"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 watery murky depths swirled in a fury like never before, black liquid sloshing against its ceramic prison in angry protest. Rodney blew out a slow breath that was to replace a heavy sigh. He had to be quiet about it though, he'd earned a nasty glare from Bates when he let out the big sigh during his boring diatribe on security details. Seriously, who cared? Giant energy sucking creatures aside, nothing had jumped out and tried to eat them yet.

"It appears that we have an adequate amount of security during normal off-hours, but I think during unexpected gate..."

Was he really still on the gateroom personnel issue? This was going to take forever. He did his best to be discreet, because it seemed every time he looked up Sheppard was staring at him. It wasn't that 'stop fidgeting and pretend to be interested' stare he was used to, no, it was a suspicious kind of stare. Not that that mattered anyway either. For a laid-back pilot, the major sure seemed to get his panties in a wad a lot.

He inched a finger to one of the several bright blue packets he had snatched from the mess before leaving breakfast. The coffee tasted like old grinds this morning, and nothing better to sweeten it up than a little bit of aspartame.

As if he were on a secret mission Rodney tore off the top of the package, watching the rest of the table to see if they noticed. They all seemed focused on Bates, even Sheppard, thank god. Mission accomplished, he poured a small amount of sweetener into the black liquid.

Curiously enough, a small wisp of white powdered smoke drifted up from the cup, hanging in the air for a moment, before it was whisked away by Atlantis's air cycling system.

Cool.

Another glance around the table ensured that no one else had seen him, and he poured the rest of the packet out in his hand. With another soft breath, he sent the tiny white particles flying everywhere. It was like a miniature snow fall to brighten up their meeting.

His eyes fell on the rest of the blue packets, and he looked at the somber faces lining the table. Carson looked as if he wanted to be elsewhere, while Teyla watched her 'arch nemesis' Bates with annoyance. Sheppard seemed to be equally as bored with Bates' ideas to improve on response times to gate alerts. Elizabeth, for all her patience and compassion, was practically falling asleep.

They needed more snow.

Not bothering to be discreet this time he ripped off the top of five packages at once, feeling a thrill run through him. As he poured the contents all of packages into his hand he saw both Bates and Sheppard glance at him. Bates seemed to dismiss it as McKay's usual meeting behavior, while Sheppard looked at him like he had just cut off his own ear.

Yes, the Major definitely needed some snow.

Heaving a deep breath he blew with all his might, sending the tiny sugar particles flying all over Sheppard.

"McKay!" He jumped up, roughly scrubbing at his hair to dislodge the sugar that had landed there. "What the hell is your problem?"

Rodney glanced around the rest of the table to see them looking at him incredulously. "What?"

They all blinked.

"He's been crabby all morning. A little sweetness wouldn't hurt him!"

Sheppard continued his cleansing efforts as he brushed off his shoulders. "What's wrong with you? First it's the hair, and now this!"

McKay had the grace to look genuinely hurt by the comment. "Now Major, I was just trying to be friendly. You know, camaraderie and all that?"

"So you throw sweetener at me?"

"Gentlemen," Elizabeth cleared her throat from the other end of the table, and she clearly was puzzled by the sugar incident, but seemed to dismiss it as another Sheppard-McKay antic. "Can we please get back to the meeting?"

Sheppard glared at McKay as he sat down, brushing at a sleeve.

"And Rodney, please try to refrain from picking on Major Sheppard for the rest of the meeting," she added.

"Picking?" Sheppard grit his teeth. "Picking?"

"I'm sorry Elizabeth," McKay said in the most sugar-sweet voice possible, "I promise I'll stop."

As Sheppard scrubbed a hand across his face to wipe off some of the gunk there, he looked over at Beckett, as if to say 'See what I mean?'. Beckett shook his head at Sheppard and turned his attention back to the meeting. Suppressing a groan, he resigned himself to the rest of the meeting, with only being able to glare at McKay.

*          *          *          *          *

Sheppard's plan to throttle McKay was foiled by Grodin dragging him off to look over some malfunction in the control room. So he settled for ambling up to Beckett, who was currently engrossed in a conversation with Elizabeth. As he stepped up, the conversation hushed, making him suspicious for a second that they were talking about him. Their amused grins did nothing to dissuade him from that theory.

"What?" He asked defensively.

"Uh, you have a little something," Weir mimed rubbing her nose.

Sheppard took a quick swipe, his hand coming away with more bits of sugar. With a growl he clenched a fist and turned to glare at McKay, still cheerfully helping Grodin diagnose his problem.

"Now, now Major, temper temper," Beckett chuckled.

He turned back to the doctor, annoyance still simmering under the surface. "Now do you see what I mean?"

"Mean what?" Elizabeth asked curiously, noting Sheppard's twitching brow.

"Major Sheppard seems to think there's something wrong with Rodney," Carson explained oh so helpfully.

"It was just a little sugar," Elizabeth defended, but her eyes were still sparkling with amusement.

"He touched Teyla's hair this morning too!"

"Well that is serious," she smirked and crossed her arms. "Are you sure you're feeling well John?"

"I'm fine!" He snapped, a little too loud. He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "I mean it's just not normal. The McKay I know is grouchy, surly, whiny, can't shut up for the life of him—"

"We get the picture," Elizabeth cut him off quickly. "People can change though. Maybe Atlantis has been a good influence on him."

He snorted. "Please."

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow, as if challenging him to do it again.

Sheppard gulped nervously. "I mean yeah, why not?"

"That's the spirit," she smiled and turned to Carson, who had been watching the exchange with amusement. "Carson, I look forward to that report. Sounds fascinating."

"Thank you Elizabeth," he smarmed right back.

Sheppard resisted gagging. God, could they get any more pleasant? He waited until Beckett finished up the chitchat and started back towards the med lab. He kept in even stride next to the doctor, waiting for an opportune moment to speak.

"Major," Carson acknowledged finally, "is there any particular reason we're walking together, or do you just enjoy my company that much?"

"You really don't see anything wrong?"

Beckett heaved a sigh. "Yes, he's acting a wee bit out of character, but there could be a number of reasons, including, once again sleep deprivation. Which if you remember correctly seems to be something else Rodney excels at."

"He's acting like he's on crack and you think he's just not sleeping well?"

"Major, personally I don't see anything to get worked up about just yet. It looks like Rodney's just found a new way to irritate you. You have to admit, you two are worse than a couple of four year olds at times."

"Hey!"

"Tell you what, if it gets worse then we'll do something about it."

"But—"

"If he's just simply in a good mood, why spoil it? Think of it as a blessing."

"Sure," he said, letting Beckett go on his way. He spied another white particle on his uniform and savagely brushed it away. A blessing... right.

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