"Nepenthe's Kiss"

by Grey Lupous

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

This chapter comes with an additional warning. Put down your drink and any food. Do not pick up until done reading. I have absolved myself of any responsibility. Also, certain scenes have been known to scar the mentally weak. You've been warned.

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"What did you do this time?"

"Excuse me?" The tone was pleasant, but the beginnings of the trademark McKay scowl were present.

"This device's readings are all over the place. Tell me you did not initialize it." Zelenka stared hard at the unusually pleasant astrophysicist behind his glasses.

"Now why would I do that? We're not done translating the text that came with it. That would just be careless." McKay returned Zelenka's hard stare with his own unblinking version.

"I do not know. It would be rather stupid."

"Then why ask?"

"Because power levels should be minimal, not spiking all over map!"

"And you just assume that I have something to do with it?"

"Miko is only other person in this lab today, and it did not do this earlier. I cannot have started it without gene inoculation."

"You should really look into getting that done."

"Yes well, if I only had the time and—" he slipped off into his own native language, cursing the device and presumably McKay as well as his laptop beeped in defiance.

"Look, just run a diagnostic on all the equipment here and see what's wrong." McKay shrugged and turned back to his computer, humming softly to himself.

"Run a diagnostic? On everything? That will take all day!"

"Better hop to it then."

"No!"

McKay furrowed an eyebrow and turned back to the Czech. "No?"

"No, you have been acting strange all day, humming to yourself, ignoring experiments and—" He spun McKay's laptop around, letting out a triumphant shout, "—and playing Tetris while I do all the work!"

"Hey!" Rodney protested, taking his computer back. "I'm on a break."

"You don't take breaks!" Zelenka pointed out savagely. "I will not run diagnostic when you can't be bothered to send someone to check area on anomalies I pointed out yesterday."

"Well maybe I can't be bothered," Rodney sighed dramatically mid-sentence, "because I can't get any satisfaction from my work."

"What?" Radek asked flatly, not believing his ears.

McKay tapped a few keys and an electric guitar started blasting from the tiny laptop. Rodney grabbed the device from Zelenka and rose from his seat, staring off at the ceiling determinedly. "I can't get no—"

"What are you doing?" Zelenka eyed him warily.

"Satisfaction..." McKay took up vocals with the Rolling Stones.

"This has nothing to do with what we were discussing."

"I can't get no... satisfaction," Rodney took slow steps away from both of them in time to the beat, hands splaying out in what Zelenka knew to be termed "spirit fingers" from American cheerleader movies. "I can't get no satisfaction..."

"You are starting to frighten me."

"Cause I try—" He dramatically fell into one of the tables full of spare control crystals, "and I try" and flittered over to a column, grasping it desperately "and I try" and managed to perform a move from his non-existent days as a female stripper "and I tryyy!"

"Okay, stop now."

"I can't get no!" The astrophysicist started bobbing his head back and forth; presumably to follow in Mick Jagger's footsteps, but more resembled a drunken wedding guest doing the funky chicken. "I can't get no!"

"You make your point," Radek protested louder, but McKay was in the full throes of his Broadway re-enactment of the Rolling Stones at their highest, despite being completely tone deaf and having the dancing abilities of a dying fish.

"'Cause you see I'm on a losing streak, I can't get no! No no no—"

And on it went. Sheppard chose the opportune moment to walk in as Rodney hit the high note almost perfectly, doing a shimmy, and finished with a spin, holding the device out to Zelenka. Rodney's captive audience sat there slack-jawed, and silently took the proffered experiment.

"I will start work right away."

"Thank you." McKay straightened his shirt and ran a hand through his hair.

"Interesting managerial skills McKay," Sheppard drawled from the doorway. Both scientists whipped their heads to stare at him.

McKay, although still winded from his big show stopping number recovered first. "Thank you, Major."

"You're welcome."

"However we don't have anything for your super gene to activate tonight." McKay moved back towards his laptop where he'd been stationed before his Broadway performance. "So you can just keep going on by."

"Nope, this time I'm here for you." Sheppard still didn't move from his perch from the door.

"What for?"

"Beckett's been paging you for over five minutes on the radio."

"What? No, he hasn't!" McKay dismissed Sheppard with a wave of his hand and began absently typing on his laptop.

"Well, maybe you didn't hear him over your rousing rendition of 'Satisfaction'?"

McKay reluctantly spared the Major a glance. "I would have heard if he were calling."

"Actually," Zelenka cleared his throat and tapped his earpiece, "he has."

McKay wrinkled his brow. "Really?"

"You were too busy trying to convince me of your point with Rolling Stones and funky chicken to notice."

"I'm sure I would've heard—"

"You did not!" Zelenka insisted quickly.

"C'mon McKay," Sheppard finally strode forward and grabbed the scientist's arm, starting to drag him out of the lab. "Best not keep the doctor waiting."

"I've got a lot of work, I'm sure it can wait, especially—"

Sheppard shared a quick glance with Zelenka, who was struck somewhere between concern, fear, and horror at the degradation of a rock and roll classic. Or maybe that was just Sheppard. Zelenka probably was just going to give up the ghost and schedule an appointment with Heightmeyer.

"Let Zelenka handle it." Sheppard patted McKay on the shoulder.

"But Johnny Cash was next on my playlist!"

Dear God, can we get there before McKay ruins all of classic rock? Sheppard thought to himself, and had to dig in his heels and tighten his grip as McKay started to tug back towards his laptop-turned-karaoke-machine.

"Just something for the road!" Rodney's hands latched onto the doorframe, forcing John to grasp the scientist around the chest to pry him off.

I better get hazard pay for this! He thought sourly as McKay lost his grip and they both flew into the wall. If they didn't get to the infirmary soon Beckett wasn't going to need to examine Rodney, because John was going to kill him.

*          *          *          *          *

Sheppard cringed as McKay merrily hummed the Rolling Stones, absent-mindedly swinging his feet from his perch at the edge of the examination table.

"What's wrong, Sir?"

Ford's voice gave him a slight start, but he tried not to show it, clearing his throat abruptly. "McKay's acting strange."

"Isn't that normal though?" The young lieutenant shifted on his cot, trying to scratch through the bandages on his arms.

"No, this is McKay weird, meaning it's far from normal."

"Uh, right," Ford sighed as he finally conquered the bandage problem and soothed the itch that had been plaguing him for the past five minutes. At his CO's raised eyebrow he tried to appear less concerned with his own personal comfort and more into his teammate's mental health. "I mean, what happened?"

"I caught him trying to explain wormhole physics to Zelenka with song and dance." Well, Sheppard wasn't exactly sure what that entire display had meant to prove, other than Atlantis' chief scientist had gone out of his mind.

Ford chuckled. "I would have liked to see that."

"No Lieutenant," Sheppard shook his head emphatically, trying to contain the shudder of revulsion, "trust me, you wouldn't."

"I'm sure he's got a lovely singing voice, Major."

Sheppard jumped again. "For crying out loud—will you people knock it off?"

Beckett raised his eyebrows. "And you're sure you're feeling fine Major?"

"It's not me who's acting crazy," John lowered his voice so that McKay wouldn't hear. "Now what have you got?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?" Sheppard looked back over at McKay, who was now dancing with his fingers as he hummed a little diddy that sounded suspiciously like Queen.

"Other than slightly raised levels of endorphins? Nothing." Carson pinned him with a look. "You're going to need to let this go. There's nothing medically wrong with him."

Sheppard pursed his lips. "So what you're saying is...?"

"If there's anything wrong with him, it's more up Dr. Heightmeyer's alley than mine."

John let out a ragged sigh. "All right, all right... you sure there's nothing? Not even a tiny blip somewhere that would turn on the desire to suddenly break out tap dancing in the middle of the Gateroom?"

Beckett just stared at him.

"Okay! I give up!" Sheppard crossed his arms, almost petulantly. "There's nothing medically wrong with him."

Beckett rolled his eyes, thankful he had finally driven the point home. "Don't feel bad, Major. He's probably just yanking your chain, again."

"I wasn't what prompted the assassination of a classic. That was all Zelenka."

Beckett tapped his chin. "Curious—"

"Carsonnn," McKay sang, "are we done yeeeet?"

Carson heaved in a deep breath, letting it out slowly, before plastering on the biggest smile he could muster. He walked over to Rodney, noting that Sheppard trailed behind almost absently.

"Yes Rodney, all done. I do thank you for your patience, as unexpected as it was."

"Yes well, wouldn't want me running around with a deadly contagion that could spread to the rest of the population, can we?"

Normally, that statement would have been pure Rodney McKay, had it been spoken sarcastically. However it seemed that he had meant every word he said. He hopped down from the table and clapped Beckett on the shoulder. "Keep up the good work, Carson."

Beckett watched with wide eyes as McKay turned and left the infirmary. As soon as the scientist had disappeared through the doors the Scot turned to Sheppard. "You better schedule an appointment with Dr. Heightmeyer. He's definitely not himself."

"You think he's fine when he starts karaokeing to other scientists, but the moment he doesn't insult your medical degree you get concerned?" Sheppard asked plaintively.

"He's not Rodney if he isn't," Beckett shrugged.

"He's not Rodney if he's... never mind!" John threw his hands up in the air. "I'll go talk to Heightmeyer as soon as I'm sure he's not going to start torturing Zelenka again."

"Aye, you do that."

Next Chapter

Nepenthe's Kiss