A/N: This was written in response to the challenge on the SGAHC Group. "Weir has left Atlantis for some reason or another and has placed Sheppard at the helm. "
Usual disclaimers apply. They're not mine, they never will be. Unless they come up for sale on E-Bay. Reposted after ate my chapter breaks. If anyone could tell me how to make lines on this thing, it would be gratefully appreciated.
Alcohol is bad, mm-kay?
"So tell me again," Elizabeth said, allowing a trace of impatience to enter her voice, "how exactly did you end up in this mess?"
It had been Kate's idea. Elizabeth and Teyla were away, accompanied by Bates and Lieutenant Forsham, building diplomatic relations with a friendly, if overly touchy-feely race called the Venrada. Weir had left Sheppard in charge, with the words: "Take care of her, John."
"Aye ma'am," he had said, and thrown a prompt salute. She had smiled, then stepped through the 'gate.
It was about an hour later that the games started.
"It's simple," Heightmeyer explained, patiently. "We split people into teams of eight, and give them a number of tasks to complete. The winning team is given an award to encourage competitiveness, and in the meantime an atmosphere of trust and co-operation is fostered between all participants."
McKay snorted in contempt. "Trust and co-operation? You make it sound like we're special needs, doctor."
Kate thinned her lips. "I've seen your records, doctor. I understand team building was never your specialty."
"No," he retorted, "I chose something far more useful. Physics lends itself to greater career opportunities than the ability to build rafts using only orange crates and twine."
Ford raised his eyebrows. "We get to build rafts?"
"I was thinking of something a little more practical," Kate replied, ignoring McKay. "But yes, along those lines." She turned back to Sheppard. "The truth is that despite the number of months spent in this city there is still a division between the civilian populace and the mission's military personnel. This is particularly the case with those individuals for whom off-world team activity is not an option. Dr Kavanagh –"
"Kavanagh hates everyone," McKay interrupted. "He doesn't discriminate."
"Dr Kavanagh," she continued, as though McKay had never spoken, "has brought to my attention a number of instances in which clear hostility has been displayed from one side to the other, and vice-versa. Given the current circumstances it would be in the city's best interests to encourage a spirit of community which until now, has been sorely lacking."
Sheppard frowned. "You mentioned an award?"
Kate nodded. "The cooks have discovered an extra crate of rations previously missed on the last stock check."
"Rations?" McKay asked, ears pricked.
She glanced at him. "Cocoa, sugar, coffee –"
"Team building?" he interrupted, with a wide smile. Sheppard grimaced. "Sounds like an excellent idea."
"Dr Heightmeyer has mentioned the idea to me several times before," Elizabeth agreed, tapping her pen against the conference table. She noticed Ford, sat at the far end, flinching every time the pen hit the table's surface, and deliberately increased the force of her tap. "I don't remember alcohol being involved."
Carson cleared his throat, uncomfortably. "Aye, well, you see, the activities weren't proceeding as well as Kate might have planned..."
"You want us to do WHAT?"
Sheppard was impressed to see not a single wince from Heightmeyer as she faced the full, high-pitched wrath of an angry Kavanagh. She folded her arms and gave the scientist a deep, penetrating stare.
"It's quite simple, Dr Kavanagh."
"I am not..." he spluttered, waving his hands desperately, "I am NOT some kind of cheerleader, Doctor! I do not do gymnastics, particularly in the name of some godforsakenly stupid, half-baked idea cooked up in the name of an idiot's science degree!"
If looks could kill, Kavanagh would have been a smoking pile of ash on the floor. "You can refuse to participate," Kate said, smoothly, "but if you do, you forfeit your team's claim to the final prize."
"Coffee," Dr Steinberg said, deliberately.
"Chocolate," Markham added, resting his hands on his hips.
Kavanagh seemed beyond his teammate's subtlety. "I am not a monkey –"
"You were a cheerleader before –" Sheppard corrected, unable to keep an evil grin off his face.
"- and I will not perform like one!"
"Perhaps," Zelenka spoke up, poking at his glasses with one finger, "I can make a suggestion."
"So it was your idea?" Elizabeth asked.
Sat so far down in his seat barely his nose could be seen over the table top, Zelenka muttered something under his breath and rubbed a hand across his scalp. "It was meant as taster, only," he protested. "Something to make the moment more relaxed, yes? Dr Heightmeyer agreed. It would make it more as a party. I did not know of its strength!"
Elizabeth sighed, deeply. "Apparently not."
"Stretch!" Grodin urged loudly, his words slurring.
"Ow!" Ford rubbed his ear aggrievedly. "Stop shouting down my ear."
"Sorry!" Peter yelled back.
Aiden glared at the two Peters, then turned back to his goal. It was a simple problem, he told himself. Just form a bridge across the mess hall from one end to the other, using your body as the building blocks, and only touching the floor with one hand and one foot. He stared with ferociousness at the figure of Dr Michaels, stood less than five feet away.
The geologist leaned forward and hiccupped. "Hurry up, Lieutenant."
"I'm trying," he retorted, through clenched teeth. Peter's grip on his upper arm had tightened, and he was beginning to lose all sensation in his fingers.
Though that could be the alcohol.
"Grab my hand," Michaels advised, hopping an inch forward with her free foot planted firmly on the wall. "Do that and then we can get the hell out of here and onto the next," hic, "test."
"That's what I'm trying to do," he snapped, irritably, wishing that the room would stop spinning. He dragged his foot a little closer to his goal, increasing the strain on his shoulder. Reached out and –
Michaels hiccupped again, wobbled, and fell over.
"So." Elizabeth rested her hands on the table top and interlaced her fingers. "Whilst the Lieutenant here was forming a human pyramid in the mess hall, where were you, Major?"
Sheppard lifted his head from where his forehead had glued itself to his folded forearms. "Art," he said, simply.
She raised an eyebrow. "I take it you're referring to the scene in the control room."
"Kate's idea." He waved a hand vaguely through the air and tipped over a glass of water. Its contents soaked through his sleeve, but Sheppard seemed oblivious. "Be creative, she said."
"So you decided to –" Elizabeth stopped, allowing the men chance to explain.
"So what is it we're doing again?" Lieutenant Willis asked, a deep frown creasing the large man's forehead.
"Building bridges," Biro replied, her tone clipped. She nodded several times for effect, then stopped when she went cross-eyed.
"Fostering an atmosphere of trust and co-operation," Sheppard said, solemnly. He lifted a roll from the crate sat by his foot, and handed it to Zelenka.
The Czech grimaced. "And I am volunteered because?"
"It's your swill," Sheppard said, poking him in the chest. "You stole my brain."
"And mine," Willis agreed, then frowned. "I think." He turned to Biro. "I had a brain, right?"
Her eyes widened. "I have absolutely no idea. Who are you?"
The Australian shook his head from side to side like a great, shaggy dog. "I don't know," he whined, then abruptly sat down on the edge of the crate and started singing 'If I Only Had a Brain' under his breath.
"Pay attention," Sheppard snapped, thrusting a second roll into Zelenka's arms. "This is teamwork, remember?"
Zelenka took a step backwards, threatening to fall over, before righting himself carefully with both feet planted against the floor. "I do not see," he declared, to a spot several inches left of Sheppard's ear, "why this is art."
Sheppard flung his arm wide, gesturing at the Stargate. He tilted his head back and took in its beauty – its ancient history, steeped in legend and myth, its intricate carvings and technological marvel. At the strips of white tissue streaming from its shape, snagged on chevrons and floating free in a breeze blown in from the ceiling. "It's a homage," he said, adding, irritably, "don't you remember?"
"Remind us," Biro said, whilst Willis finished his initial rendition and now ploughed into the chorus of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.'
"It's the universe," Sheppard declared, flinging his other arm out wide and smacking Zelenka in the nose. "With... quantum strings. And..." he floundered, "the great unknown."
"Ah." Zelenka rubbed his offended nose. "It is so clear now."
"It's not finished. There's a gap at the top." He turned and pointed at Zelenka. "You. Up. Now."
"Art," Zelenka repeated. He burped, less than discreetly, and slid off the chair.
Elizabeth gave a long, suffering sigh. "That explains how Lieutenant Michaels sprained his ankle, and how the Stargate ended up looking like a badly wrapped Christmas parcel. That still doesn't explain why in the space of twenty four hours you managed to get the entire population of Atlantis drunk!"
"I swear," Sheppard said, massaging his forehead with his fingertips, "If we'd known how powerful the stuff was, we'd never have touched it. Except maybe to clean the floors."
She glared at him, then turned to Beckett. "I can understand the Major being so idiotic as to taste test this stuff, but you, Carson? You didn't think to examine this drink before Zelenka shared it out?"
Beckett's mouth dropped open, and he struggled for words for a long moment until Sheppard decided to rescue him.
"Ah." John dropped his hand, and turned two bloodshot eyes towards her. "The doc' was a little busy."
"This is not funny."
"Depends on where you're standing."
"Lying," Lieutenant Patel corrected.
Ashcroft nodded his head, slowly. "Depends on where you're lying."
"This is not," Carson repeated, through gritted teeth, "funny. Lads, I realize this might have seemed like a laugh at first, but enough is enough –"
With his large, pink hands Dave clumsily tied off the white bandage around Beckett's arm, careful to ensure it was tightly bound to the bed rail. "No," he declared, dropping the rest of the fabric to the floor and swaying slightly. "I don't think so."
"You prod," Patel said, poking a finger into Carson's chest.
"And poke," Ashcroft added, drink exaggerating his Yorkshire burr.
"And lecture," added Cheung, a geologist whose hobbies included abseiling and caving. "God," she rolled her eyes, "the lectures. Don't climb without a safety rope, wear padding on your knees –"
"No arm wrestling with Halling –" Patel put in.
"Wrap up warm," Ashcroft finished, "and always wear clean underwear."
Beckett gaped like an unattractive fish for several seconds before protesting: "I have never –"
"Shush –" Dave told him, patting him on the chest. "You'll wake the other patients."
"For God's sake man, there are no other patients!"
"You're a patient," Patel pointed out, adroitly.
"I am bloody not! And the minute you untie me –"
"Untie you?" Cheung shook her head, her eyes wide and glassy. "No, no, no, no, Carson. No. You're sick. Remember?"
Beckett might have resisted the urge to throttle her, had his arms been left free to close round her neck. Instead he could do little more than squirm, whilst Ashcroft planted heavy hands on his left leg.
"I think," he declared, and stumbled, righting himself a moment later. "I think," he continued, as though it had never happened, "your leg might be broken."
"Ooh!" Patel grinned with macabre delight. "You know what that means?"
Carson closed his eyes, and prayed for someone – anyone – to choose that moment to come through the doors of the infirmary. "No."
"Plaster!" he finished, and sniggered. "Where do you keep it?"
"I know!" Cheung said, brightly. "I remember from when he stitched my leg up."
"Oh god," Carson moaned, watching through a crack as the woman staggered across to his supplies cabinet. "For pity's sake, I'm on your team!"
"Ah." Elizabeth raised an eyebrow, and looked appraisingly at Beckett. "That would explain the, ah –"
Carson winced, and rubbed a hand across his shoulders, setting free a flurry of white flakes. Elizabeth could see a large strand of ripped bandage clinging to the back of his jacket, but decided not to mention it.
"Now I know what you were all doing," she continued, "perhaps someone could tell me where Rodney is?"
"Miko, please come out."
There was a garbled spurt of Japanese from behind the locked door, then silence. Dewi leaned closer to the closet wall and tapped on it gently.
"Please, Miko. We just want to make sure you're okay."
"I am fine," came back the muffled response, and a voice which promptly dissolved into fresh gulping sobs.
"You don't sound fine," Dewi said, cautiously.
"Oh," McKay said, nervously, stood behind her, "she sounds perfectly alright. Best to leave her alone."
Dewi glared at him, a look which had made better men quiver in their boots. "This is your fault. You should go in there."
"My fault!" he spluttered. "I'm not the one who created that god awful swill of Zelenka's!"
"I'm not the one who spiked Kusanagi's drink! I didn't pour her cocktails! I don't even know how to make a cocktail! And I certainly had nothing to do with the strip tease that followed!"
"And yet," she said, slowly and deliberately, "you are still here."
"Well," McKay huffed, "She's a member of my team. She's my responsibility."
This response was heard by the closet's inmate, who let loose a broken howl before dissolving into more sobs. McKay sighed, leant forward, and repeatedly knocked his forehead against the wall.
"Miko?" Dewi tried, ignoring McKay's theatrics. "Would it help if you talked to Rodney? You could explain what -"
A flurry of panicked Japanese cut her off. "No, no, no, no. I cannot. It is wrong, it is bad, it is shameful..."
"Oh god," McKay muttered, still pressing his forehead against the wall, "She's going to commit hari-kari in there."
Dewi struggled to resist the urge to smack him. "You should go in there."
"Me?" He turned wide, terrified eyes on the chemist. "No! No, no no, bad idea! I can't count the ways in which that's a stupendously, hideously, unbelievably bad idea!"
"I'm not asking you to," Dewi retorted, her voice low and hard, "but if you don't do something, the only way Miko will come out of that closet is if we've all returned to Earth or the Wraith have eaten everybody!" She folded her arms purposefully. "Unless you'd like to explain to Dr Weir why this city's brightest programmer is currently hiding in a cupboard?"
McKay clamped down on his desire for sarcasm, and retorted, "Fine." He took a step towards the door. "Ah, Dr Kusanagi? Miko? Can you hear me? I'd like to talk to you, if that's okay."
The wailing stopped for a second. "You wish – to me?"
"Yes." He took a deep breath. "If you'd like to come out –"
"Then, ah, maybe I can come in?" He hesitated for the briefest of seconds, then ploughed ahead: "No? Well, okay then, I guess I should be going – ow!"
Dewi removed her elbow from McKay's ribcage and gave him a glare. "Try harder," she hissed.
He rolled his eyes, and snapped: "Fine. Do you mind giving us some space?"
She gave him a hard stare, but nodded, calling out to the closet: "Miko? I'm going to leave you alone with Dr McKay to give you two time to talk, but if you need me, I'll be right outside. Just yell if he tried anything."
"What!" McKay spluttered. "Me, try anything? I wasn't the one waggling my –"
"Shush," she hissed at him, giving him a hard shove towards the door. "She'll hear you." Then, louder and back towards the closet: "I'm going now, Miko. Dr McKay is right here." She crossed over to the corridor door, then ducked outside with a final sharp glare at McKay.
Rodney considered the closet for a moment. Said, hesitantly: "Miko?"
The door opened a fraction. "Dr M-McKay?"
He winced. "Yes, ah, it's me. Can I come in?"
There was a sniff, which he took to mean yes. Slowly he pulled open the door. Miko sat on an upturned crate, her face puffy and her eyes red from crying. She looked up at Rodney from behind her oversized glasses, flushed an even deeper shade of scarlet, and buried her head into her arms.
"I am not coming out. Never, never. They will laugh. People will laugh. It is too shameful, too bad. I am bad. I am –"
"Oh, shut up," he said, rather more irritably than he meant. She flinched, but for the moment stayed quiet, the only sound an irregular, muffled gulp as she choked back further sobs.
He took a breath, closed the closet door behind him, then moved through the small space to sit down on the corner of the crate. "Look. You are not," he gestured vaguely with his hands, mostly pointless given the darkness of the room, "bad, okay? You are a very good, ah, computer programmer and I'm sure a very nice person –"
Her head shot up. "You think so?"
"I," he flustered, "Ah, yes. Yes. Of course. You, ah, you're always on time, and, um, you're tidy, and you make a wonderful cup of coffee."
She rubbed a hand across her nose. "You say my coffee is like horse dung."
"Ah." McKay winced, and hoped she couldn't see him. "Yes, well, that's because I don't want the other scientists to get jealous. I can't show favoritism, can I?"
He heard her shift a little closer to him on the crate. "I am your favorite?"
"Ah, well..." He floundered, then decided to change the subject. "Look, Dr Kusanagi –"
"Miko, I wouldn't worry about, you know, before. About what you did." She gulped, and for a moment he feared another bout of hysterics. Continued in a rush: "Everybody does stupid things when they're drunk. You won't be the only one, and with the memory this city has, people will have forgotten it by morning."
Along with a fair chunk of the evening, he thought, ruefully, thinking of his own overturned cup of home-brew, and his forced sobriety. Shame, because he really didn't want to have to remember Miko, and the table, and the dancing, and the scent of her shirt as it was flung into his face, or the sight of her –
"It is not me," she whispered, sniffing. "If I was in normal mind, I would never – you understand, Dr McKay, I would never do anything like that."
"I know." And he reached out and patted her knee, feeling awkward. "And it's Rodney."
"Rodney," she repeated, shyly.
"Best thing to do is just to forget all about it." Like I intend to, he thought.
"Will Dr Kavanagh?" she asked, softly.
"Ah." He grimaced. "Him."
"He was not happy."
"He didn't deserve to be."
He felt her shudder. "His hands, his eyes – it was not, I could not – but you, you –"
"Yes, well," he interrupted, quickly, before she could begin a bout of hero worshipping. Not that he didn't deserve it, but from Miko it had the potential to get quite tiresome. "Let's forget about him, too."
"You were most kind," Miko continued, wiping at her eyes. "I have never had a man behave in such a way over me."
He coughed. "Yes, well, like I said, you're a good person. But I wouldn't go on about it to the others."
She nodded. "I understand. To keep things professional?"
He was rewarded with a warm, if watery smile. "Thank you, Doctor – Rodney." Then she frowned, her fingers twisting over and under each other in the dark. "Do you think you will be in trouble for what happened with Dr Kavanagh?"
"Ah." He frowned. "I hadn't thought about that."
The conference room was empty. Sheppard had scooped Zelenka off the floor, looped an awkward arm around the wobbly Ford, and had pulled both men out of the room, promising to 'get right on that,' and clean up the control room. Carson had sworn he would never drink again, and was intending to ban Zelenka's creation from the local market. He might, however, look into its potential as a cleaning solution.
Elizabeth pushed her chair back, massaged a knot in the back of her neck, and sighed deeply.
Twenty four hours. That was all.
She walked out through the doors, ignoring Peter, asleep at his station, and casting a quick glance over the paper strewn Stargate.
She made a note to have words with Kate, later – if she could find her. According to Sheppard, after a number of helpful, generous souls had piled her with drink after drink, Kate had last been seen throwing up into one of the dead plants, and then been dragged off to her bedroom by one of the slightly more sober nurses – sober, in that they could still walk in a reasonable line.
With another sigh, she reached the door to her office and hit the mechanism to open it.
It took every skill she possessed as both a diplomat and as a leader, not to laugh out loud.
He was sat on a chair, which was perched on her desk, his arms tied around its back and his ankles roped around its base. He was naked, save for a pair of grubby y-fronts she tried to avoid staring at. Someone had thoughtfully used a pink scrunchie to tie up his ponytail at the very top of his head. One eye was purple and swollen shut, whilst the other glared at her, furious.
Around his neck hung a cardboard sign on which a familiar hand had written the words: "Please do not feed the animals."
Elizabeth gave him a bright smile. "Dr Kavanagh. I'm sorry," she said, cheerfully, before backing out of the door, "I must have the wrong office."