"Otters, Otters Everywhere!"
by Grey Lupous
Archive: Jumper Bay, Ancient Database, FFnet, etc, etc
The silence of the infirmary was broken by a sudden fit of sneezing. The morning staff exchanged a wary look, before quickly scattering as Atlantis's CMO strode from his office, a wad of tissues in one hand, and small brown paper object in the other.
"I suppose someone finds this bloody funny!"
One of the nurses hid her head, while another busied herself refolding the clean sheets.
Carson Beckett tried to catch the eye of someone, anyone, but they all were steadfastly focused on their work. He strode over to the nurse folding the sheets.
"You see who left this?"
She glanced at him, and the object he was holding out for her to see. Trapped, she had to examine the item closer. It was small, intricately folded from brown construction paper. In fact, it almost resembled...
"Is that a cat?"
"No," Carson replied stiffly, hoping he came off sounding intimidating. However the remnants of the cold he had obtained on P3X-382 left his voice sounding stuffy, and a little more nasally than he had hoped.
"Oh," she shifted nervously, and noticed a small tag tied around the tiny animal's neck. Being a woman of medicine, she never wished pain or suffering upon anyone. However at that moment in time, she would not be completely opposed to someone staggering in on a sprained ankle, and maybe give her an excuse not to read the tag. No injuries materialized, and she grudgingly turned the tag over to read.
In bold, Times New Roman text it simply read: Enhydra lutris (Sea Otter).
"I—I'm sorry," she stuttered. "I swear I didn't see anyone in there this morning."
He closed his eyes, frustration showing on his face. "It's all right, thank you..."
The hand holding the otter dropped in defeat, and the one holding the tissues immediately came up in time for him to cover up another round of hurricane sneezes.
"I'll—be in my office," Carson said miserably, dragging his tissues and origami otter with him.
Carson sat at the lunch table in the commissary miserably, nibbling on what someone was calling a chicken sandwich. It could have tasted wonderful, but he really couldn't tell, seeing as how everything tasted like cardboard. Someone dropped into a seat across the table from him, and he looked up to see Major Lorne.
"Hey Doc, how ya holding up?"
"Swell," Carson muttered.
Lorne pursed his lips together, as if he didn't believe Beckett, but instead of arguing, took a bite out of his own sandwich. "Well that's good. You were a bit out of sorts there for a while."
"I've heard." He had, a little. Actually, everyone had been rather tight-lipped about his behavior during his recent head injury. Carson himself didn't really remember much between getting clocked over the head and waking up in the infirmary last week. Dr. Keller had grounded him from going off-world for a while, which had been fine... until a few days ago. It had started as an e-mail, which, to Carson's confusion, had simply contained a small JPEG of an otter swimming in the river.
"Really?" Lorne said, looking a little displeased at the thought.
"Not that I can get much out of anyone, except 'It was the concussion talking'. Whatever that means."
"It's not important," Lorne dismissed, a little too quickly.
Carson took another bite of his cardboard sandwich, and watched as the Major fidgeted in his chair. He may have had a head injury recently, but that didn't mean Beckett was fooled. Something was going on, and Lorne knew something about it. Before he could ask Lorne what he meant by that, they were interrupted by the loud bickering voices of the Heckling Twins, known better as John Sheppard and Rodney McKay. Carson closed his eyes as he felt the beginnings of a headache coming on. As they sat down, Carson opened his eyes and plastered on his pleasant Scottish smile. If he could just make it through the rest of the day without incident, he would be fine.
Carson was not fine.
As soon as he had returned from lunch he had found, cutely perched on his desk, a pair of stuffed otters posed in a cuddly embrace. Being a man of science and reason, he refused to curse, scream, or do anything foolish of that nature. He simply found the closest waste receptacle, disposed of the offending article, and went about his day.
That was, until he returned from a departmental meeting with Weir that afternoon, and found that his screen saver was now rotating pictures of otters in various poses. He watched in morbid fascination for a few moments before snapping the lid to his laptop shut. A similar interrogation from his staff returned him with no answers, as usual. He had suspected them initially, but from the genuine surprise and fear on their faces whenever the word "otter" was mentioned, he let them off the hook.
Leaving his laptop be for the moment, Carson started in on the large pile of paperwork on his desk, glad for the distraction it provided this once. He had sorted through about half the forms on his desk, when he pulled out a glossy sheet of paper. Curious, he held it up to the light.
On the paper was the photo of an adorable sea otter, paws on its cheek as it gasped in shock. Little red hearts were scribbled as a mock border around the picture, and it was "signed" with two small paw prints.
Outside, the nursing staff exchanged wary looks as the sounds of wanton destruction echoed from the CMO's office.
"Doc, uh, you don't look so good," Major Lorne commented at the breakfast table the next morning.
Carson flicked his bloodshot gaze at Lorne, narrowing his eyes at the officer. Lorne leant back a little at the venom in the normally jovial expression.
"No, I don't, do I?" The stuffy reply finally came.
"You're certainly in a crabby mood this morning," McKay pointed out, seemingly oblivious to the lingering tension, or daggers being glared in his direction. Then again, McKay had been at the top of a few "hit lists" that had been collected from some of the more... stressed members of the science staff. "Ow!"
Rodney glared at Sheppard, who tried to offer Carson a sympathetic smile. "What Rodney means to say, in his own special way, is why the long face, Doc?"
Carson looked at Sheppard, who stared back at him earnestly. "I'm—"
'Being stalked by otters' was what Carson really wanted to say, but as he repeated the phrase in his mind, he realized how utterly stupid it sounded. Besides, he didn't want to give Rodney any ammunition the next time Carson had to perform a post-mission physical. In addition to the sheep jokes, he'd probably hear something about 'love-deprived otters'.
"—I'm not sleeping well."
Which could have been attributed to the fact that after a strong suggestion from Dr. Keller that he 'take the afternoon off', came back to his quarters to find that somehow the hugging stuffed otters had found their way onto his bed. There were also several more pictures of otters that had been framed and set on his desk. After a somewhat violent housecleaning approach, which included impaling the hugging otters on one of the now-broken picture frames, his room once again was otter free.
Every time he closed his eyes though, the otters came.
That morning, he stepped out of his room to find that same set of stuffed animals, hastily stitched up, and holding a sign that read: "you hurt our feelings, Carson".
On his way to the commissary, Carson made a detour to one of the city's taller balconies, where he taught the little buggers how to fly.
"Maybe you should take a day off," Sheppard suggested casually, "Dr. Parrish has a huge selection of National Geographic specials he had brought over on the Daedalus."
"Maybe," Carson agreed. Maybe all he needed to do was spend the day watching some overly narrated documentaries about... he stopped and tried to hide the sudden dread in his voice. "What exactly are they about?"
Sheppard wrinkled his brow. "Otters?"
He looked to McKay for confirmation, who merely shrugged as if to say 'what do I care?'
Lorne looked up sharply at the word, while Carson just dramatically dropped his head onto the table, whimpering softly.
"Uh, Carson?" Rodney asked, a trifle concerned.
"Otters," the doctor moaned miserably, shaking his forehead on the table. "No more otters!"
After breakfast, Beckett delayed his return to his office as long as possible. There were only so many times that he could come to the Control Room and ask Elizabeth how well she had been sleeping, or seeing if Chuck the Technician was still suffering from his seasonal allergies. Finally though, he had to admit defeat, because otters or no, he still had work to do. Like a man walking to the gallows, he returned to the infirmary.
He nodded to Keller on his way in. She nodded in return, but he could see her sizing up his mental health in her mind. That was it; after his shift was over he was going to track down those responsible for his otter harassment. He wasn't sure what he was going to do once he tracked the responsible parties down, but somehow, he was going to stop running into the buggers every other minute.
As he approached the office, a sense of dread began to fill him. What would it be this time? An otter bursting out of a large cake? A crate full of otter coasters? Or maybe someone had decided to take this awful joke to the next level, and he would find one of the dreaded creatures lounging on his desk. He looked around the infirmary, but his staff had been making themselves scarce lately. Bloody cowards.
Summoning his courage, he opened the door to his office, and stopped. In the middle of his office, neatly stacked and arranged, was an igloo made up entirely of infirmary pillows. Beyond that, he could see a large cardboard box sitting on top of his desk. He looked back out at his empty infirmary, and back at his office.
"Oh, bloody hell."
He sidestepped the pillow-gloo, and opted for the box itself, unsure if it contained a live otter itself, or perhaps was a crate of beanie babies named Seaweed, imported from the Milky Way, for the sole intent purpose of torturing him. He steeled his resolve as he stepped up to the box, seeing a hastily written, paper-clipped note attached to the top. The writing was scrawled quickly, as if the person who left the note had to make his point quickly:
Sorry to hear about your recent 'otter' problems. I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of confiscating the suspected items, and have gathered them for you to dispose of at your own discretion. Oh, and enclosed is a picture of the perpetrators. For reasons that do not need to be explained, I cannot do more than provide you with the evidence, although I'm sure you will know what to do when the time comes.
P.S. -- In case of any more unsuspected attacks, I also took the liberty of building you an igloo. My sources tell me they keep 'those pesky sea otters' away.
Carson flipped the paper over to see a still frame printed off of someone's computer of one of the many security feeds around the city. This one in particular was located outside of his quarters, and revealed two particular individuals setting up the surprise he had encountered this morning. With a calm, yet feral smile, Carson strode out of his office and approached the head nurse.
"Luv, would you mind paging Colonel Sheppard and Doctor McKay? I just realized that their last physicals came up inconclusive. I just can't let them roam around the city with the potential to endanger the rest of the population."
The nurse eyed her boss oddly, but seeing the manic gleam in his eye, she decided not to argue. Carson casually sauntered back into his office, admiring the pillow-gloo. He knew that he should understand the gesture, but couldn't quite get a clear memory. Either way it was good to have friends. They kept the otters away.
Well, most of them anyway.
- Fin -