"Nepenthe's Kiss"

by Grey Lupous

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

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McKay's eye twitched as once again Sheppard's laptop trilled happily, announcing that the Major had managed to catch his latest suspect. With his coffee mug dangerously low, frustrations exceedingly high, John Sheppard probably didn't realize exactly how close he was to dying at that moment.

"And Ace Time Detective Thumper does it again!" Sheppard whooped and spun around on the stool he'd confiscated to gloat his time sleuthing conquests to McKay. "What do you say McKay? Should Thumper be allowed a coffee break? Will the cup land upright, or will he be denied?"

Rodney's teeth ground together. Coffee was not the thing to mention right now. It was nearing midnight Atlantis time, and the pot in McKay's lab had long run dry, partly due to Sheppard's insistence that he should "drink when 'Thumper' drinks".

McKay was going to murder the person responsible for giving the Major a copy of Where in Time is Carmen SanDiego?. Maybe right now... that was, after he buried Sheppard's body.

"Now c'mon, why aren't you as happy as me? I just got a promotion!"

Rodney closed his eyes, taking several deep breaths. He would not kill John Sheppard. He would not kill John Sheppard. He would not—oh who was he kidding?

"That's it!" Rodney launched himself out of the stool and grabbed the officer by the arm, trying to drag him out. "Out! Out! Out!"

"But I still haven't avenged Inspector Gadget's untimely death at the hands of Gene Yuss, evil dehydrated water salesman."

"You can't die in Carmen SanDiego!" The vein bulged again.

"Yet somehow, I did. It was a sad day for all. Thankfully Gadget's loyal sidekick Thumper—"

"Why won't you leave me alone?" Rodney wailed. "I just want to work in peace. Just five minutes without announcements about evil coffee machines, exploding beakers, or one more 'interesting' fact about Peru's past! Is that too much to ask for?"

John tapped his chin. "I guess not. Although I've learned a fair bit about Japan today."

"If you don't vacate my lab in the next five seconds, I'm going to strangle you."

"You're just mad because we ran out of coffee two hours ago."

"Five. Four! THREE!"

"Y'know, McKay, I think all you need is a little sleep."

"All I need is for you to leave!" Rodney took a menacing step towards Sheppard, looking as if he should be foaming at the mouth.

"Nah, you need sleep. You've got an early day tomorrow." Now that he'd finally lured McKay away from work, he could end the Weir-induced babysitting. If he had to chase Miss SanDiego around time and space much longer...

"What the—? I do not!"

"Sure you do," Sheppard made a move to grab for McKay, but missed as the scientist headed back to his laptop.

"No. I don't." Rodney grabbed the laptop, shutting it with a little more force than necessary, and promptly striding out of the lab. It took John a moment before he grabbed his – just in case McKay was going to try and wait him out in another lab – and joined in the chase.

"So, where are we going?" He asked as he jogged up next to the scientist.

"I don't care where you're headed. I'm going to my room, since it's the only place I can get privacy from you and Ace Time Detective Bambi!"

"Thumper."

"I. Don't. Care!"

"Well just remember that meeting you've got in the morning."

As they reached the door to McKay's quarters the scientist stopped and stared suspiciously at Sheppard. "What meeting?"

"Y'know, the meeting. I'm sure you got a memo about it."

"No. I didn't." What little patience McKay possessed had been used up by the Major's incessant hovering and adventures in bad DOS gaming. "What the hell is wrong with you today?"

"Me? Nothing's wrong with me." Sheppard found the ceiling in front of McKay's room very interesting.

"What the hell are you prattling on about then?"

"Well, just you see, there might be this little meeting you have in the morning... with Dr. Heightmeyer."

"What?"

"Just a tiny one."

"Why do I have a meeting with the resident shrink? And why are you telling me this as you're walking me to my quarters?" McKay's volume rose with each question

"Now, Rodney..."

"You know what?" McKay's eyes narrowed. "I don't even want to know."

"McKay—"

Without a word the scientist savagely palmed the sensor to his door and stormed inside. A few steps in he stopped and swiveled around. "You know, Major, my admittedly limited experience in the matter has taught me that friends don't turn each other in to the resident shrink! They, I don't know, TALK to them!"

Sheppard visibly winced as the door slid shut in front of his face. He probably deserved that. He sighed and scrubbed his free hand across his face. Elizabeth had asked him to stay with McKay, and he wasn't about to assign a guard to his friend. That would've been insult on top of injury. It was bad enough he'd had to ask Weir to send Rodney to the shrink, but the craziness of the day before hadn't exactly left him with much choice. He needed to make sure McKay wasn't going to flip out on their next mission.

It was late though. If he headed off to bed now he could still get a few hours in before he made sure Rodney kept his appointment in the morning. As he trudged down the hallway, he was at least grateful that McKay was somewhat back to normal. He wasn't sure he could handle another song and dance.

*          *          *          *          *

Rodney did his utmost not to chunk the laptop on the bed as he thought the door to slam shut on the Major. To his disappointment it swished shut at the normal speed. God damn automatic door. Lack of a slam only fueled his rage further. A rage that was rather inexplicable when he thought about it. He had woken up this morning with a headache to put all headaches to shame, as if he had been sampling Zelenka's still all night.

With no doors to take his anger out on he gave out a cry of frustration, punching the air. His head still pounded mercilessly, and it didn't matter how much coffee he guzzled or how many Advil he popped, it wouldn't go away. Sheppard hadn't exactly helped by being underfoot all day.

Never in his life had he wanted so much to put his fist through something. Taking several deep breaths, he tried to tell himself to calm down. There was no logical reason for him to be so damned pissed off at everything.

Other than being forced to go to a psychiatric session for no apparent reason.

No, no, McKay told himself as he sat down on the bed, he couldn't think like that. That would only lead to a rampage across the base, which wouldn't do much for his psych evaluation. Taking another deep, cleansing breath he sat down on the bed, trying to think of something to occupy his mind. Unfortunately he had too much to do. He needed to finish running over the diagnostics that Zelenka had neglected to do the other day, look into the report on the glitches in the control room, in addition to the strange power surges he had detected all day.

He let the laptop boot up, already running through various scenarios in his mind for each situation. It was so much easier now without hearing that stupid VILE henchmen music every fifteen seconds. He'd track down the power surge first and assign a team to that, then move on to the Gateroom, and finally the diagnostic.

Satisfied, he turned his attention back to the computer, which had finally caught up with him. He launched a program that brought up the current power display on Atlantis. Everything seemed normal enough... but Zelenka had complained more than once about that damned power surge... he vaguely recalled him saying something about it the day before, but the memory was a little fuzzy.

That was a little disturbing, but he decided not to pay it any mind. The less ammo for Heightmeyer, the better.

The Czech must've been imagining things. According to the logs, nothing unusual had happened in the last twenty-four hours. Rodney rolled his eyes. "Drama queen."

Right as he started to call up the diagnostics on the control room the laptop beeped softly. Rodney narrowed his eyes as he brought up a visual representation of the power levels on Atlantis. "What the hell?"

To his surprise, there had been a large spike in roughly the same area that he and Major Sheppard had explored two days ago. Chewing his lip he called up the logs again, deciding to take a closer look at them.

It didn't take him long to find a discrepancy in the logs, and the reason why made him feel more than just a little sick in his stomach. Someone had tampered with them to try and erase the evidence of the power spikes, but more disturbing than that was the culprit...

He apparently had been the one who had tampered with the logs.

It didn't make any sense. He had no reason to tamper with the logs, much less the fact that he had absolutely no memory whatsoever of doing so. Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea for him to see Kate in the morning.

"No!" He pushed himself up, licking at his dry lips. He couldn't just give up that easy, there had to be a reasonable explanation for all of this.

He almost reached for his radio, but stopped himself. Major Sheppard hadn't trusted him enough to even voice his concerns over Rodney's sanity, so why the hell did he have to bring the pilot along on his little jaunt into the Atlantian "wilderness"? The area had already been proven safe.

He grabbed his laptop before he could change his mind, and quickly stepped out in the hall. A cursory glance told him the coast was clear, before he was off again.

*          *          *          *          *

During the trip from his room to the part of Atlantis where the power spikes were occurring, Rodney came up with and discarded several theories on the power spikes, as well as his bout of amnesia. Nothing made sense, for either situation. There was nothing out in this section that would account for the spikes he was seeing

Rodney reached the door to the junk room, wishing that he had remembered to pack a water bottle or something. He had cotton-mouth like nobody's business, and his heart was pounding wildly in his chest.

Why had he come here again?

Oh yeah, he was going insane apparently. And everyone knew it but him. He shut his eyes as he muttered something that almost resembled a prayer and quickly pressed the panel on the door. It swooshed open softly, and Rodney waited for the monster-of-the-week to leap out and attack him.

It didn't.

He cracked open an eye to see the same junk-filled room he had visited not two days before. Cautiously he edged in, holding his laptop up as if it were a weapon. So far, so good. Nothing had tried to eat him without his military escort. Maybe he was overreacting just a little.

When he was sure he wasn't going to become the victim of a cheap slasher film, he opened up his laptop to the display of the city's power usage again. The spike had definitely occurred in this room. Unfortunately there was no zoom option, so he was going to have to search the room again for some sort of device that could suck up the amount of energy that would register on Atlantis's sensors.

He slowly began to pick his way through the room. The piles of junk on the floor didn't seem a likely place for anything that would use so much power. Most of the trinkets seemed to be leftover parts and pieces for a variety of the systems in the city.

Once again he found his attention being drawn to the table of junk in the corner. He circled around it, this time being careful of the withered vine wrapping around all the objects that littered the table.

He frowned. Something was odd, out of place... he couldn't exactly pinpoint it, and started to regret not bringing Sheppard. Two heads might have been better than one at this point, especially if his memory had been compromised.

Something slivered across his foot and he had to have wakened half of Atlantis with the shriek that left his throat. He shone his flashlight around his feet, but didn't see anything other than that damnable vine again. It was everywhere. He gave it a savage kick, before turning his attention back to his search for the mystery power sucking device.

He set the laptop down on the only clear spot on the table, focusing his attention to this area of Atlantis. Just looking for the thing didn't seem to be working. It was probably something within the walls of this room itself, although that didn't make much sense to Rodney. The Ancients weren't exactly ones to hide their toys in the walls, instead they just sort of left them scattered about like toddlers.

The dim lights flickered overhead and the laptop registered another power spike. Rodney focused his attention on the display, trying to pinpoint the exact location of the spike.

The lights flickered back on, and as they did a spindly shadow rose from behind him. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he slowly turned around. "Oh hell."

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Next Chapter

Nepenthe's Kiss