"Nepenthe's Kiss"

by Grey Lupous

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

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John raised his hand to buzz the comm on McKay's door, but before he could, it swooshed open, revealing a smiling astrophysicist fussing with what looked like a small potted cactusy-vine. He hummed something suspiciously perky as he eyed the cactus critically. Apparently satisfied, he set it onto a table and turned to address Sheppard.

"Morning, Major!"

John frowned. "McKay?"

"That's my name! Don't wear it out!" Rodney was, dear god, all grins and giggles. "Oh dear, it looks like I've slept in late."

"Rodney..." John tried to form more words than just his friend's name. "Um... you seem to be in a good mood."

"Hakuna Matata I say."

Sheppard blinked. "Come again?"

"It means no worries you know."

"I had an idea..."

"For the rest of your days."

"Um, yeah..."

Without warning, McKay seized Sheppard's hands and started jigging. "It's our problem free—"

"What the hell are you doing!" John tried to break free, but for a wimpy scientist, Rodney had a surprisingly strong grip.

"Philosophyyyyyyy—"

"Let. GO!" Sheppard finally managed to pry himself loose. "What's the matter with you!"

Still grinning, McKay started moonwalking away from Sheppard, waving cheerily. "Hakun... mata... hakun... mata..."

"What, what—?"

"Nice talking to you, but I believe I have an appointment with the lovely Dr. Heightmeyer. It's rather rude to keep a lady waiting. Besides, you suck as a dancing partner."

"I suck as a—you're flipping insane!"

"Must go, Major, late late late!" If Rodney had clicked his heels together, John probably wouldn't have been surprised. As it was, he finished his moonwalk with a spin and ambled down the hall, still singing softly to himself.

Sheppard just stared at the retreating form, flabbergasted. What the hell had happened between dropping McKay off and picking him up?

He couldn't explain why, but for the exact same reasons he knew that something had been wrong with his friend the other day, he had the strongest feeling that this wasn't something Heightmeyer could fix.

*          *          *          *          *

"Rodney," Kate greeted her patient as he took a seat across from her, "how are you doing today?"

"Kate, do you mind if I call you Kate?"

"Whatever makes you feel comfortable," she smiled, hoping to put him at ease. The few times she had talked with Dr. McKay he had seemed distant, prickly, and a very private person.

"Well, Kate, I have something I need to get off my chest."

That was... surprising. "All right, Rodney... is it okay if I call you by your first name?"

"Sure! We're friends!"

She jotted down a note, schooling her expression. She had not expected McKay to be so forthcoming... or happy. "Yes, yes we are. What was it you wanted to say?"

"I'm sorry."

"You're sorry?" Heightmeyer frowned. "For what?"

"I was late this morning, and that's unforgivable."

Kate resisted chewing on her lip and instead glanced at the request Dr. Weir had sent her regarding Dr. McKay. Her mind refreshed on what she was trying to do, she answered him. "It's quite all right Doctor—Rodney. You have a lot of responsibilities here. I can understand you getting sidetracked."

"But it caused inconvenience to you—"

This could not be the same Rodney McKay she'd been hearing other expedition members, inside of sessions and out, complaining about. To hear Kavanagh speak, he would be the devil himself, but Kate really didn't put that much stock into Kavanagh's opinion anyway.

"Rodney, would you feel better if I forgave you?" She interrupted, wanting to address the real problem here.

"Yes."

"I forgive your tardiness."

"You are an angel."

"I think we're getting sidetracked from the real reason you're here. Do you know what that is?"

Rodney flashed her with a brilliant smile that could have blinded the visually impaired. "My coworkers think I'm insane."

"That's, uh, putting it very bluntly," Kate admitted. "I don't think that's entirely true though. They are very concerned for your welfare though. They think the stress of being department head on top of all the missions you go on might be taking a severe toll."

"Oh, how sweet!"

She smiled past her annoyance. "We are very much a community here, and whatever affects one of us affects all of us."

"Oh I agree," Rodney crossed his legs, uncrossed them, and then leaned forward. "And let me tell you, I'm ready to do whatever necessary to make sure my effect is only positive."

"That's very good Rodney. I think it's best if we talk through some of the events that might have made your coworkers uncomfortable."

"Sure!"

"Right," she muttered to herself, as she turned to a fresh page in her notebook before facing the smiling at the scientist again. "Would you mind discussing what happened in your lab the other night?"

"There's a lot that happens there, Kate. Is there anything I did that might've made someone uncomfortable?"

"There was... an incident concerning," she glanced back down at her notes, "a disagreement between you and Dr. Zelenka regarding how to go about a diagnostic."

"Oh yes," McKay smiled. "Poor Radek was having trouble with these energy signals."

"He said that you began singing—"

"Oh yeahhh," a grin spread across McKay's face, "we sang our troubles away!"

"According to what I've been told, you were the only one singing."

"Minor details. I'd like to think that all of Atlantis was singing with me in spirit."

"He also described some rather troubling dance moves."

"You want to see?" McKay jumped up.

"Perhaps later," Kate insisted quickly, and couldn't keep herself from checking her watch.

"Kate," Rodney interrupted her thought processes, and when she looked up he was staring her deeply in the eyes. "Has anyone ever told you have the most amazing eyes?"

She sucked in a quick breath. This was going to take a while.

*          *          *          *          *

John found himself half-pacing in Weir's office as he waited on word from Dr. Heightmeyer that the session had finished. He was able to lean against one corner for a few minutes, before it suddenly became too crowding and he had to wedge himself against another wall. This continued on until Elizabeth pinned him with a stern look.

"Major, please. These floors have lasted ten thousand years, but let's not try to wear a trench into them."

Her voice broke him from his circling thoughts. "Huh?"

"You can't stay still for more than a minute."

"Sorry."

"I'm sure that whatever the news is, we'll be able to handle it."

"He tried to do the jitter bug with me!"

"The jitter bug?"

"And he sang Lion King!"

"What?" Elizabeth's brow furrowed.

"Disney Elizabeth, he's singing Disney! That's not Rodney McKay down there! It's some weird kiddy show-tune singing clone or imposter, or some kind of hologram or—"

A knock at the door interrupted his rant, and both occupants of the room looked up to see a hesitant Zelenka, laptop in hand, hanging right outside the door. "Dr. Weir, I hope I am not interrupting."

"Not all Radek, please come in," Elizabeth smiled; glad he had cut John off before she had to. Sheppard was becoming rather obsessed about this thing with McKay. "What can I do for you?"

Zelenka eyed Sheppard nervously, but shuffled forward. "Normally, I would not do something like this, but Dr. McKay has not been himself lately and, well..."

"Go on," she prodded.

Zelenka nervously adjusted his glasses. "This is just something within the science department. I'm sure Major Sheppard would not like to hear such things."

John crossed his arms. "I think I'll manage. What's up?"

Zelenka sighed. "I have informed him of energy spikes I have been picking up in abandoned section of city. Each time, he promises me he will send someone to fix it. But this is third day in a row, and still nothing has been done."

"Energy spikes?" Elizabeth frowned. "What kind?"

"I do not know," Zelenka opened up his laptop to display a map of Atlantis and pointed out the section that had been getting the readings. "All I know is that they have been originating out of here."

Sheppard's brow furrowed and he leaned in closer. "That's the section of the city McKay and I were exploring the other day..." he paused as comprehension dawned on him, "the day before he started acting weird."

His voice dropped off as he exchanged glances with both Weir and Zelenka.

"I started getting readings that night, it was first time I told him about it," Zelenka adjusted his glasses. "He was acting strange then too."

"Strange how?" John leant forward.

"He was singing Tarzan to experiment."

"Hah! See! The Disney connection!"

"What?" The Czech gave Sheppard a confused look.

"It was Lion King this morning."

"It's escalating." Radek nodded succinctly.

"As much as I don't picture Dr. McKay as the next great Disney hero, can we please focus a little bit here gentlemen?"

"Right," Sheppard straightened up. "Seems to me we should check around that room again. There's got to be something there to explain this."

"I agree," Zelenka chimed in.

"It's worth checking into," Elizabeth admitted, staring at the laptop screen.

"Well since we're all agreed, why don't Dr. Z and I head down there and see what we can dig up while McKay sees the shrink?"

"What? Me?" Zelenka waved his hands quickly. "No no, I'm sure someone else would be better suited..."

"Nah, you'll be great. C'mon!" John grabbed the engineer's sleeve and started to drag him out of Weir's office.

"I really think this is bad idea, I need to run diagnostics on—"

With his free hand he waved to Elizabeth. "We'll check in with you as soon as we get there, let you know what we find."

"Major—" she said firmly, and both men stopped and looked at her. She rose, laptop in hand, "—I think that it would be best if Dr. Zelenka had this to help him."

"Good idea!"

"Dr. Weir, I really do not think—"

"Radek, please. Aside from Rodney, you're the most qualified person to check this out."

He wilted under her expressive gaze, and accepted the laptop meekly. "I shall do my best."

"Thank you, Doctor."

As Zelenka slinked out, Sheppard flashed her a grin and a thumbs up. "Nice."

"Just go check it out, and please, be careful."

"Will do!" Sheppard waved as he headed after Zelenka, finally confident in something positive he could do to help McKay.

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Next Chapter

Nepenthe's Kiss