"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 next morning found Atlantis's chief scientist nursing an abnormally large cup of coffee as he glared daggers at the read-outs he was getting from his laptop. His eyes drifted from the laptop to the hallway as someone tried to dart by.

"Zaluski!"

Radek halted mid-step, turning to face McKay with trepidation. He had tried to breeze by the physicist's lab on his way to the mess, but apparently he hadn't been fast enough. Nervously he pushed up his glasses. "It's Zelenka."

"Zimbabwe?"
 

"Zel-EEN-KAH."

"I don't care." Rodney massaged his forehead as he spun the read-out on his laptop to face the man in the hall. Unfortunately Radek had not mastered the power of super-sight, so he had to venture into the Den of Insanity to see the text.

"Very nice."

"Why thank you, I spent all night typing it up," McKay ground out, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Did you run the diagnostic like I asked you to?"

"Diagnostic?"

"Is there an echo in here, or is it just the merciless pounding in my head? YES, diagnostic. Don't you remember me asking you to run a full diagnostic on the equipment in here?"

"How could I forget," Radek muttered, trying to banish the image of McKay sliding up and down the column on the far side of his lab.

"What was that?" Rodney growled.

"I mean no, I did not."

"And why not?"


Well, there had been the whole shell shocked thing that Zelenka had been feeling as Sheppard had forcibly dragged the yodeling McKay out of the lab. Or the very intense urge to shower after witnessing what had to be one of the most grotesque displays in human history. Somehow, he didn't think that Rodney would go for either of those, so he went with the easier explanation.

"Dr. Grodin asked me to help him with a problem they were experiencing with consoles in the Gateroom. It took most of the night."

"I thought I fixed that," McKay muttered darkly. "All right, fine. Obviously if anything's going to be done right here I'll have to do it myself."

Zelenka blinked. "You must be feeling better."

"I've never felt worse, except maybe when I took a Wraith stunner to the face. Now why don't you just scurry along and leave me to my misery?"

"Skutečný podivný muž," Radek said to himself as he slinked out of the scientist's lab. It seemed that whatever ailment that had caused him to act like a loon had been exorcised out of his system.

As much as he tried to push the events of the night before out of his mind, he couldn't. Nor could he banish thoughts of Rodney McKay's current mental health. That might have been because not thirty seconds later he quite literally ran into Major Sheppard.

"Whoa, Doc!" Sheppard grabbed a hold of Zelenka before he crashed to the ground. "What's the hurry?"

"They are serving kolaches today. I want to get there before they run out and resort to MREs again."

"Really?"

"Yes," Radek fixed his glasses. "Really."

"Oh, cool," Sheppard rocked back on his heels. After an awkward moment, he went forward. "Hey, how you holding up?"

"I am fine. Just hungry."

"Oh right," John grinned sheepishly. "Listen, you haven't happened to see McKay today, have you?"

"In his lab."

"I should've guessed that. How's he doing?"

"Fine."

"Fine? No, uh," Sheppard mimed one of McKay's dance moves with his hips.

"Never do that again," Zelenka's voice dropped to a dangerous mutter.

"Um, sorry," Sheppard immediately stopped. "Guess once was enough, huh?"

"Once was one time too many." Radek glanced back at Rodney's lab. 

"Lab?" Sheppard confirmed.

"Lab."

"Great... good luck on those kolaches."

"One can only hope."

"Yeah..." John chose that strategic moment to retreat to McKay's lab and check up on his resident geek while Zelenka continued on his way. As he got closer to the lab he tried to stretch his hearing, just in case Rodney decided he needed to start up his own version of Aretha Franklin. However all he heard was the soft hum and whisper of Ancient equipment and Earth-based laptops.

Cautiously Sheppard poked his head around the corner. "Hey..."

McKay's eyes focused from the computer screen to him, and John had to resist taking a step back from the pure annoyance reflected in them.

"What could you possibly want at this hour?"

"Just checking up on you."

"Checking up on me?" McKay echoed peevishly. "Why on Earth, or in this case Atlantis, would you want to do that?"

"Well you know that you haven't been exactly acting like yourself lately."

"Please, Major. I've been fine."

"Um, you don't remember...?"

"Remember what?" He resisted snapping the lid to his laptop closed, and instead focused his glare on Sheppard.

"Yesterday? Anything from yesterday?"

"Let's see, breakfast, impossibly long and boring staff meeting, working in the lab, you dragging me off to the infirmary. Did I miss anything?"

Sheppard blinked. "Nothing really. But uh, don't you remember anything odd from yesterday?"

"Other than you hovering incessantly? No."

"Nothing?"

"NOTHING!" McKay roared, nostrils flaring.

Involuntarily Sheppard found himself taking a step back. "O-kay. Everything is fine here then..."

"Yes! Yes! Everything is sunshine and flowers here! Now will you please leave so I can get some actual work done here?"

"Yeah, sure," Sheppard muttered as he beat a hasty retreat from the lab. As soon as he was in the hallway he tapped his radio. "Beckett?"

"Yes, Major?"

"Just to check, some very strange things happened yesterday, right?"

There was a long pregnant moment of silent. "Yes, there was. Haven't you talked to Dr. Heightmeyer?"

"Not yet, was just checking."

"Well I didn't think you needed to check!"

"Neither did I." Sheppard glanced back at the lab, very confused by the abrupt return to normalcy. "I'm going to talk to her now."

"And Elizabeth?"

"...right. I'll talk to her too."

A long-suffering sigh sounded over the airwaves. "Yes, I think that would be wise."

"Sheppard out."

*          *          *          *          *

"You want to what?"

"Schedule a meeting for Rodney with Dr. Heightmeyer." Sheppard nodded succinctly.

"Yes, I heard," Elizabeth studied, "but... why?"

"There's something... not right with him."

"Because he dumped Sweet N' Low on you during yesterday's meeting?"

"It's more than that!"

"Touching Teyla's hair?" Elizabeth raised an eyebrow.

"That," Sheppard crossed his arms, "and there was the incident in his lab last night."

"What incident?" She wrinkled her brow, wondering why she was hearing about this just now.

"He was," John's face screwed up into a pained expression, "pole dancing."

Elizabeth blinked, that was all she could do. The mental picture that drew up wouldn't allow her to do anything else.

"He and Dr. Z were arguing last night, and apparently McKay broke out into song and dance like he was part of some Broadway show."

She shook her head. "That can't be right."

"I saw it. Zelenka saw it."

"And then?"

"And then he wanted to sing Johnny Cash."

Weir pinned him with a look.

"I took him to see Beckett," John sighed. "And as far as the doc can tell, there's nothing 'medically' wrong with Rodney."

 "Well I can't exactly think of any medical condition that would make him burst out into a Broadway number."

"It was actually Rolling Stones."

"Focus, John."

"Sorry. But you know the really crazy thing?"

"I'm afraid to ask."

"He was completely normal Dr. Crankypants this morning."

Elizabeth frowned. "What?"

 

"Yeah, yelling, glaring, the whole sour-puss nine yards."

"Then he's not acting strange?"

"Nope. Doesn't even remember doing any of that."

Elizabeth pursed her lips. It could be that Rodney had finally cracked under the all the pressures of Atlantis, even as unlikely as that seemed to her. If what Sheppard was saying was true then it sounded like something definitely up Dr. Heightmeyer's alley.

"All right," she said finally, looking up at Sheppard again. "I'll make the appointment for tomorrow morning. Just keep an eye on him today to see if any of the strange behaviors manifest themselves."

"You got it."

After Sheppard left she allowed herself a moment to rest her head in her hands. She really hoped that Rodney was going to be okay. She wasn't sure Atlantis could afford to lose its brightest mind.

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* Skutečný podivný muž – my very rough guess at "Very strange man" in Czech.

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