Title: War of Wills
Author: OXBastetXO
Rating: PG-13
Archive: Please ask first
Status: complete
Category: McKay Ficathon challenge fic. Challenge from PyroGecko: "McKay accidentally eats something lemony and gets challenged to a duel." This got tweeked just a bit, I hope you don't mind. :-)
Summary: Rivalry on Atlantis can be a deadly thing.
Spoilers: none
Sequel/Season: Season One

Authors Note: I don't own them, Gecko and Scifi does. I'm just borrowing them for while and promise to give them back when I'm done, though I might just keep Rodney for little longer ;-) Thanks to much to B7-KerrAvon for her wonderful medical beta, Leah, Wendy, Gaffer for being my wonderful betas!!! Thank to Terri and Shroomy for their wonderful feed back keeping me on track with things! (((hugs)))

War of Wills



Doctor Richard Kavanagh looked around the lab he knew should be his, had it not been for the usual amount of pseudo-political wrangling that always accompanied these kinds of expeditions. As it was, this lab belonged to one Doctor Rodney McKay, "super genius". He smirked at the mental comparison of the physicist to the cartoon coyote. How that man ever got himself named the chief science adviser to the Atlantis Project was nothing short of political blackmail. Of course, they couldn't have an American in charge of the main expedition, the military escort, and the scientific teams. The positions as head of the science teams went to McKay and Beckett: a Canadian and a Scott, science and medical respectively. Their token "internationals chairs".

It was all a load of bull, but one had to work with what one had.

Someone cleared their throat behind him and he put down the delicate piece of Ancient technology he had been looking at, and turned to face a very irritated looking Doctor Rodney McKay.

"Is there something I can help you with, Doctor Kavanagh?" he asked, his tone barely civil.

Kavanagh pulled a small fruit from his pocket and started peeling it as he talked. "Delgado said that your team brought back a device similar to one our team has been studying and I wondered if we could borrow it for a few hours," he said, motioning to the device he had just been looking at.

Distrust crossed the Canadian's face for a moment and then he nodded curtly. "I expect to get it back in one, functioning piece if you don't mind," he said, eyeing the small fruit Kavanagh was working on. "And would you please not do that in here."

Kavanagh held up the fruit. "This? It's one of the last of the lemons from earth left. You want some?"

"Are you nuts?" McKay glared at him. "Do you have any idea what would happen? I am deathly allergic to lemon in any shape or form," the physicist said, putting a little distance between them.

Kavanagh rolled his eyes. McKay was such a hypochondriac. "Sorry, must have slipped my mind," he said, turning to leave. He scooped the device up a little more carelessly than he normally would have, but the look of panic on the other scientist's face was more than enough reward.

"Would you be careful!" McKay snapped, nearly, but not quite snatching the device back, the proximity of the lemon keeping him at bay.

Kavanagh smirked. "Of course, Doctor McKay." He took a big bit of the peeled lemon and started out of the lab.

An open MRE packet sat propped between the spectrometer and a beaker by the door. He quickly took the lemon out of his mouth and glanced back at the Canadian. McKay had his back to him, working furiously on his laptop. Kavanagh smiled and spritzed some lemon juice into the MRE container. This would shut the other man up about his "supposed" allergy.

He smiled to himself all the way back to his lab. McKay was such a hypochondriac. It would be good to shut him up about that once and for all.

Rodney took a deep breath and let it out slowly. There was something about Kavanagh that just aggravated him no end. The American scientist was one of those Americans that gave the rest of the nation a bad name. He had worked with more than enough of them when he had been at Area 51. It wasn't that the man wasn't a competent scientist, he was. He and the rest of his team owed him their lives to him for coming up with the plan that nudged the Jumper though the 'gate when the one engine had refused to retract and they had gotten stuck there after being attacked by the Wraith.

He sighed again and his stomach let out a growl, reminding him of the MRE he had brought in with him. He glanced around for it and saw it on the counter by the door. He walked over and picked it up, glancing at the printing on the side before taking an experimental sniff. "Chicken and Salsa," the label read and he smiled. One of his favorites.

He squished the bag a bit to mix things up and then put the bag to his mouth, pouring some of the contents into it. He went back to his computer, chewing as he walked. He grimaced as the salsa tasted a bit sourer than he was expecting. He shrugged and washed it down with a swallow of coffee, turning his attention to writing up the report from Gate Team One's last mission. He found a spoon in the drawer of his desk and started shoveling more the food into his mouth as he read back over what he had written. He only took a few more bites before the sour taste started overwhelming everything else and he put the container down, glaring at it. Wonderful, leave it to the military to 'improve' things to the point of inedibility. He picked up his coffee and tried to rinse the taste out of his mouth.

He sighed and started working on the report again, making a face. His mouth felt funny. He coughed at the tickling feeling in his throat and then sighed again. Great, just what he needed, some kind of alien flu. He caught himself sighing again and frowned, realizing his chest felt tight. He sat back, his frown deepening.

"Hey, McKay, I got something I need you to take a look at," Sheppard greeted coming into his office. He stopped dead in his tracks. "McKay, what's wrong?"

Rodney looked up at him, having some trouble catching his breath. "I don't...know," he said, wincing against the sudden pain in his chest.

Sheppard grabbed him by the arm, hauling him out of his chair. "You don't look so good. Let's get you down to Beckett."

Rodney nodded, finding he needed most of his concentration focused on forcing air in and out of his more and more uncooperative lungs.

Sheppard propelled him forward and toward the closest transport alcove. The door hissed open and Sheppard shoved him in and the floor came up and smacked him directly in the chest. He didn't have time to contemplate what that meant when everything just sort of faded away.

Carson Beckett sat in his office going over the last round of standard medical exams on the 'gate teams. There hadn't been any serious injures or accidents in the last three weeks. They were just about to set a record for this group.

"Doctor Beckett, we have a medical emergency coming in," Dickenson, one of the American nurses stuck her head in, speaking quickly. "It's Doctor McKay. Major Sheppard said he's having breathing problems."

Carson pushed himself back from the desk, the chair's wheels grating a bit as he did. "They weren't scheduled for a mission today."

He hurried into the main room as Sheppard staggered in, McKay slung across his shoulders in a fireman's carry. Dickenson helped him put the man down on one of the diagnostic bed.

"Doc," Sheppard looked over at him in alarm. "He just passed out on the way here. I don't think he's breathing."

Carson moved in, stethoscope already in tucked in his ears. He pressed it against Rodney's chest. He could hear a faint wheezing and the erratic thump of his heart.

Nurse Dickenson started cutting up the front of Rodney's shirt so they could get better access to his chest. "Doctor," she said, pushing back the cloth and revealing hives standing out angrily on the scientist's skin.

"Get me one milligram of epinephrine. He's having some kind of allergic reaction to something," he told her, prying Rodney's mouth open to check his airway. The man's throat and tongue were swollen and restricting his airway. He started issuing orders to his medical team and they scrambled to get the things they needed ready. Carson shot a look over his shoulder at Sheppard. "Major, what was Rodney working on?"

"I don't know," he said quickly. "He was sitting at his computer in his lab when I found him like this."

Carson sniffed. "Salsa?" he asked Nurse Dickenson.

She gave a sniff too. "That's what he smells like."

"Major, was he eating?"

Sheppard's glanced away in thought a moment. "He did have an open MRE on his desk."

"Could be a food allergy," Carson said. "Lovely."

Sheppard watched them work on McKay with a growing sense of helplessness. This was way out of his league. One the nurses, a short red head Beckett had called Dickenson, pushed him out of the way and pulled a curtain closed between him and the team working on the scientist. He sighed and then turned, heading back to McKay's office. The answer to what had caused this had to be there.

He quickly retraced his steps to Rodney's lab and looked around. Rodney was meticulous with his lab. Everything had a place and was in it. It probably helped that they had limited supplies of paper and so everyone was keeping usage down to a bare minimum. The only things he could see were his laptop, an open MRE container, a spoon and a few stray thingies they had brought back from the planet they had visited on their last mission.

He picked up the half eaten MRE and sniffed. Nothing smelled out of the ordinary. He grimaced at the sloppy spoon sticking out of it and carefully set it down. He'd have to take it back down to the infirmary and let Beckett check it out. He then made a quick circuit around the lab and something, in the can that looked like it was being used as a garbage pail, caught his eye. Bright yellow, in contrast to slips of white paper and bits of burned up electronics. He picked up the can and set it on one of the counters, poking carefully into it. He pulled out something that looked a bit like a fruit peel. He sniffed it and stopped dead.

It couldn't be.

He sniffed it again. "Lemon," he said softly out loud. He pulled out one of the pieces of rumpled paper and used it to wrap up the peel and then picked up the MRE pouch and hurried back down to the infirmary.

Elizabeth Weir couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"You think this was deliberate?" she asked Sheppard again.

"Look, everyone knows Rodney's highly allergic to lemons. Heck, I doubt there's a person on Atlantis he's not told. Beckett tested that MRE, there was lemon juice it. Chicken and Salsa doesn't contain lemon juice. We opened two more packs of it from the same lot as the one McKay was eating came from," he told her. "And I found a lemon rind in the wastepaper basket in his office. Ford's conducting a search of the city for where the rest of the lemon went."

Weir sat back and sighed. "How is Rodney doing?"

Sheppard huffed and leaned, forward in his seat, resting his elbows on his knees. "Beckett said they caught the reaction in time, but he's pretty sick. They've got him pumped full of antihistamines and steroids until they get his system flushed out. I was down to see him and his face is pretty much swollen up like a balloon, but Beckett says he's going to be fine. They've got him sedated for now."

Weir covered her mouth with her hand and stared at him. "Who do you think did it?"

He looked over the desk at her. "Honestly, I don't know." He sat back. "I didn't even know we had any lemons from earth in the first place."

She frowned. "There weren't supposed to be," she said. "There was deemed too high a risk of contaminating this planet with insect or mold spores from earth. That's why we brought all rations or canned goods."

Sheppard raised an eyebrow. "So it's something someone snuck here. I thought everything was checked before we shipped out."

"It was," she said.

Abruptly, the radio crackled. "Major Sheppard, we need you in Lab 23," Ford's voice informed him.

"What've you got, Lieutenant?"

"I think it would be better if you just came down here, sir."

Sheppard frowned at Weir and then answered. "Understood. On my way." He stood. "Doctor."

She stood as well. "I'm not missing this."

He nodded and they both left her office for the nearest transporter alcove. The walk was a short one from there to the Lab and they could hear the angry voices coming from it long before they got there.

"Just what right do you have to do this!" a harsh male voice shouted. "I have rights you know! Since when did this city go under martial law?"

Sheppard stepped through the doorway and wasn't overly surprised to find himself face to face with the owner of the voice.

Doctor Kavanagh glared at him. "Finally, someone in charge," he snapped. "Major, would you call off your overly zealous lap dog here."

Ford bristled at that comment, but held his mouth and his ground with a look from Sheppard. Sheppard totally ignored the ranting scientist and focused on the young man. "What do you have to report, Lieutenant?" he asked Ford.

"Sergeant Markheim found more of those peelings in Doctor Kavanagh's wastebasket.

"Is that so," Sheppard said softly and then turned to face the glaring face of the American scientist. "You didn't happen to go see Doctor McKay earlier today, did you, Doctor Kavanagh?"

Kavanagh's eyes shifted quickly from Sheppard to Weir and back to Sheppard. "What business is that of yours?" he asked sharply.

"Answer the question," Sheppard said in a low, dangerous tone.

"What if I did? My team is working on research on the technology of the city. I needed to get some equipment from Doctor McKay."

"What time would this have been?" Sheppard asked.

Kavanagh crossed his arms tightly across his chest. "A few hours ago. I don't know. Is there a reason I need an alibi?"

"Your first name is Richard, right?" Sheppard asked him and he nodded. "You wouldn't mind if I called you Dick, would you?"

"I prefer Richard," he said testily.

Sheppard just nodded. "Fine, Dick," he replied. He glanced around the lab. "You don't happen to have any lemons, now do you, Dick?" he asked.

"Lemons?" he echoes, his voice breaking a little. He cleared his throat. "Why would I have lemons?"

Ford handed Sheppard the wastepaper basket and he pulled out a small bit of lemon peel. "That is a very good question, Dick," he said. "Why would you have them, and why would you have one in Doctor McKay's lab when Doctor McKay is deathly allergic to them."

Kavanagh frowned. "Did something happen to him?"

"He's in the infirmary right now in critical condition," Weir said, staring at the man in disgust. "What did you do?"

"What?" That fact hit him like a punch in the stomach. "You're kidding."

"She is not," Sheppard said, leveling a glare at him. "What did you do?"

"It was joke," he said quickly, backing away from them as much as he could. His back hit one of the lab benches, halting his retreat. "He's always droning on about this and that. I thought he was just exaggerating about that lemon allergy thing. I just put a couple drops of juice in his MRE. It was just a joke."

Sheppard let out a snort of disgust. "Ford, take him to the brig."

"With pleasure," the young man said tightly.

"What?" Kavanagh exclaimed. "You can't do that! Doctor Weir, they can't do that!"

"They can and will," she told him, her face a hard mask of revulsion. "You could have killed Doctor McKay with your 'joke'."

"It was an accident," he kept insisting, struggling as Ford locked his wrists behind his back with a pair of handcuffs. "You can't do this to me."

"Get him out of here," Sheppard told the young man and he and Markheim dragged the protesting scientist away.

"Unbelievable," Elizabeth said softly. "I just can't believe this."

Sheppard sighed. "Now what? He's a civilian."

She nodded. "Let me think about this. There are protocols for this kind of situation, but I need to look them up. This just isn't the kind of thing I've dealt with before."

He nodded. "Yes, ma'am," he said, falling back into the more comfortable formality of military procedure.

Elizabeth sighed. This was one part of her job she had hoped she would have never have to perform.

Carson looked over the last set of blood gasses they had done on Rodney. They were looking very encouraging. His saturation rates were much closer to normal now. He wasn't taking him off the oxygen yet, but the nonrebreather mask was doing its job. He let out a cautious sigh of relief. It seemed they were over the worst of it. He hadn't been overly surprised when Rodney had had a biphasic reaction a few hours after Sheppard had brought him in to the infirmary barely breathing. Rodney would have to be one of the quarter of people who had delayed secondary anaphylaxis reactions to allergens.

He looked over at his patient sleeping fitfully, curled into a tight ball on the medical bed. Food allergies were far from pleasant. Not only had they had the problem of keeping his airway open so he could breath, but once the stomach cramps and resulting vomiting and diarrhea had made themselves more than abundantly clear, he wasn't sure which would kill the man first, his body declaring itself in open revolt or his subsequent mortification at his total lack of ability to control what it was doing to him.

Carson walked over quietly, checking on the sleeping man. His skin was still flushed and mottled with hives, but they weren't as pronounced as they had been. His blood pressure was still a little lower than he would like, but it was slowly heading back into the normal ranges again. Carson adjusted the IV drip a bit. Rodney was still seriously dehydrated, but now that the worse of the gastrointestinal reaction seemed to be under control they'd be able to get him hydrated correctly again.

Anger flared through him. Rodney could have died all over some bloody prank Kavahaugh pulled. Petty jealousy.

"Doctor Beckett?" a soft voice from behind him called and he quickly tamped down his emotions. He turned to find Elizabeth standing there. Major Sheppard, Ford and Teyla crowded behind her. He smiled a little. Rodney's wee family of sorts.

"How's he doing, Doc?" Sheppard asked, keeping his voice low.

"Better," he told them, ushering them back toward his office so they didn't disturb McKay's rest. "He's not quite out of the woods, so to speak, yet, but much improved. He's finally sleeping. He'll start to feel a bit more like himself once he's had time to rest and we get him rehydrated."

Elizabeth nodded. "Good." She paused. "How serious was this?"

Carson frowned. "His allergic reaction?"

She nodded, her thin face grim and lined with worry and fatigue.

He sighed. "He very well could have died if Major Sheppard hadn't found him when he did. I very much doubt Rodney could have gotten himself down here on his own or even realized what was going on until it was too late for him to call for help. From what I could find in his medical records, he's not had as severe reaction as this since he was in his teens."

Carson felt a stab of concern at the dark looks the passed between Sheppard and Ford. Elizabeth just nodded tiredly and glanced at the men. "Major, I know you're in charge of security, but I don't want either you or Lieutenant Ford alone with Kavanagh until we get this resolved. I don't want there to be any kind of accusations of reprisals."

A muscle twitched along Sheppard's jaw line, but he just nodded. "Yes, ma'am." Ford echoed his words a moment later.

"Doctor Beckett, should not one of us stay with Doctor McKay until he is 'out of the woods' as you put it?"

"Aye, lass, that would good idea," he gave her a small smile. "Rodney's not the most agreeable of people when he's not feeling too good, but I'm sure you're used to it by now."

She smiled sweetly and nodded. "Most men are worse than small children when they are ill," she said, glancing over quickly at Major Sheppard. The dark look his face lifted for a moment as he tried to give her a wounded look.

Teyla stepped around Carson and went to sit with Rodney. Carson watched her a moment and then turned back to Elizabeth and the men. "What now?" he asked.

"Peter is checking over the protocol for me of how we should go about charging Doctor Kavanagh," Elizabeth said.

"I still say we Gate him to that deserted planet we went to a couple weeks ago," Sheppard said grimly. "Gets him out of our hair and leaves him on a habitable world, more or less."

"A habitable world with an active volcano within a stone's throw of the Stargate," Elizabeth pointed out.

Carson could help but smile a bit. That would settle things.

"We need to follow this by the book, Major," Elizabeth said her 'I'm the one in charge here' voice. "This is the first time we've had to deal with this sort of disciplinary problem and I don't want to set a precedent of boot strap justice just because the victim is a close friend."

"He tried to kill Rodney," Sheppard pointed out, anger rising in his voice. He quickly lowered it after he caught Carson's sharp look. "He deliberately tried to cause him physical harm and humiliate him. I'm saying that's a pretty serious offense."

"It is, and that's why we have to do this by the book," Elizabeth said, frustration coloring her words. She turned to glare at Sheppard. "This is not open for discussion. We follow standard protocol, and you and Ford stay away from him until we figure out what to do."

Sheppard sighed and shifted uncomfortably but nodded. "Yes, Doctor Weir."

"Major, why don't we got sit with McKay and Teyla for a while," Ford suggested, nudging the man's arm.

The Major nodded and they went over, pulling up chairs to form a loose ring around the sleeping scientist.

Carson gave Elizabeth a critical look. "Why don't you go get some rest? I'll call you if anything changes, but he's doing better and he should be fine. You'll need a clear head to deal with such a load of crap."

She smiled at his choice of word. "I think I will. Keep me appraised on Rodney's condition and I'll go deal with this 'load of crap'."

Carson allowed himself a small smile as he watched her go, and then turned back to the bed at the end of the room.

Rodney shifted in his sleep, the blanket sliding down and Teyla stood, tucking the blanket back around him. Rodney mumbled something and she smiled, glancing over at Sheppard, and silent chuckle shook his shoulders. Ford shook his head in amusement.

Carson stretched. Rodney would sleep for a while longer and his team would let him know if he were needed. He might just take the same advice he gave Elizabeth. They would need him soon enough as it was.

Rodney woke slowly. His gut hurt, his head hurt, his chest hurt and the rest of his body seemed to be aching out of sympathy. He shifted on the bed and something poked him in the face and he groaned. He snaked his hand up to push it away and a hand caught his. He forced his eyes open and a brown hand held his loosely. He followed the hand up the arm to the face. Teyla smiled at him.

"You need to keep the oxygen mask on, Rodney," she said quietly.

"What?" He stared at her in confusion, his brain struggling to make sense of things. He glanced around and saw he was in the infirmary. He frowned deeply, trying to remember how he had gotten here.

"You have been ill," she told him. "You need to rest."

He had the strangest feeling this wasn't the first time they had had this conversation. He sighed and started to cough. His chest ached with the movement and his head felt disconnected from the rest of his body.

"Easy there," Carson's voice drifted in from somewhere above him. He opened his eyes again and Teyla now stood behind the Scottish doctor. Okay, enough with disjointed time crap, he was getting confused. On the upside, Carson could answer the questions swimming around in his head.

He voiced the first question. "What happened?"

The angry look on the Scot's face startled him. Carson seemed to notice his reaction and he quickly tried to hide his reaction. "You managed to eat a bit of something with lemon in it," he explained.

Rodney stared at him and things started to fall into place in his mind. "No," he said softly. "He didn't. That son—" he started to cough again and curled in on himself, his chest on fire and his stomach starting to knot up again.

He felt Carson fumbling with his arm and the distinctive pinch of an IV line and then a burning sensation up his arm. His heart took off, thudding like a trip hammer against his breast bone, but the vice-like tightness in his chest eased and he could breath again, and the cramping in his stomach eased a bit as he caught his breath.

He opened his eyes again, still panting a bit. Teyla's face wore a worried expression and her eyes were darting back and forth between him and Carson. Carson sat on the edge of his bed, still holding his wrist, his fingers over the pulse point, the doctor's eyes watching one of the monitors Rodney couldn't see.

"Carson?" he said, trying to get the physician's attention.

The Scot gave him a small smile. "How are you feeling there, Rodney? Can you breathe a little better?"

He nodded. "Chest..hurts," he managed, struggling to keep his breathing even. He recognized the unpleasant feeling of the epinephrine in his system, making him feel giddy and exhausted at the same time. He took a few more breaths before his chest loosened up enough that he could get a deep breath, and he sighed.

Carson's tone turned more serious. "Rodney, who did you mean when you said, 'He didn't'?"

Rodney closed his eyes tiredly. "Kavanagh," he said and rubbed a hand over his face, pushing aside the oxygen mask, which Carson promptly shifted back in place over his mouth and nose. He frowned, but didn't fight him. He sighed again "Either I was hallucinating or he was in my office with a lemon." He gave Carson an incredulous look. "He didn't, did he?"

Carson sighed and looked over at Teyla. She was sitting in the chair beside his bed again, her face grim.

Rodney looked between them and closed his eyes. "Crap. I knew he resented me being in charge of the science teams, but I didn't think he hated me this much."

"They're still investigating exactly what happened," Carson told him diplomatically.

Rodney opened his eyes and looked up at him. "What can they do? Send him home? I don't think so."

"Elizabeth will figure something out. House arrest or something."

A fresh wave of cramps twisted in his gut like a knife, and he couldn't fight back the moan. He felt Teyla take his hand and squeeze it gently.

Carson patted his shoulder. "Try to rest, Rodney. Elizabeth will sort this all out."

Right. Sure. She'd find some kind of punishment, but that wouldn't solve the underlying problem.

Rodney closed his eyes and tried to make himself relax, letting his mind focus on what he needed to do, and letting that distract him from just how truly lousy he felt.

Elizabeth Weir sat in her office, staring at the report in front of her, but her mind was not on the draft of a trading treaty with the Velagian people Sergeant Stackhouse's team had met. She put the report down and just gave up on the pretense of reading it. She got up, walking over to the window and looking out.

Kavanagh couldn't go unpunished for what he did to Rodney, but they couldn't just keep him locked up in the brig either. Ideally, they'd send him back to earth to face criminal charges, but that wasn't currently an option either. Major Sheppard's suggestion of just gating him off-world to a remote, but habitable planet was tempting, but in good conscience she couldn't do that either. Kavanagh was a scientist, not one of the military. He wasn't trained in survival techniques.

"Elizabeth?" Peter Grodin's voice cut through her thoughts and she turned toward him.

"Yes, Peter?"

"Sergeant Stackhouse's team is due back in twenty minutes. You asked me to remind you before they gated back in."

She nodded. "Thank you."

He scrutinized her for a moment. "You're still trying to decide what to with Kavanagh, aren't you?"

She nodded. "There really aren't that many options."

"Gating him to that world that Rodney and his team went to a couple weeks ago is out, I guess."

She chuckled. "Yes, Major Sheppard already suggested that one."

"You think house arrest?" he asked her.

She nodded. "Limit his access to his quarters and one of the labs, and have him under total supervision in the lab. I'm not sure how fair that is to the rest of the scientists, though. One of them is going to have to be with him all times."

"He's got a few friends among those here, but I'm not sure how many of those should be trusted with 'guarding' him," he told her. "I know several, like Zelenka and myself, for instance, would much rather—"he gave her a sheepish smile. "Let's just say we would rather not work with him again, ever."

She nodded. "I can understand that, but the problem is, we're still stuck with him here."

He nodded, looking at his watch. "Ten minutes."

She nodded. "I'll be right out."

The Englishman nodded again, heading back to the control room. The door hissed shut behind him and she turned back to the window.

Aiden Ford stood in the back of the control room watching Stackhouse's team coming back through the gate. Their team was supposed to have left for a mission that morning, but McKay was still in the infirmary. So, he had gotten stuck with gate room guard duty.

He and Sheppard had been down to see him earlier. The scientist had been sleeping and they didn't want to wake him. He still looked like crap, but better than he had the first time he had seen him.

McKay had mentioned about having an allergy to citrus, but Ford had no idea it was that bad. The Canadian tended to exaggerate about some things, but he really wasn't about how bad his allergy was. No wonder he got kind of jumpy when they teased him about it.

Ford ground his teeth in frustration. Kavanagh could have killed him. Too bad he hadn't been around when Major Sheppard found McKay. Doctor Weir might not be having the problem of trying to figure out what to do with jerk now.

He sighed and leaned back against the wall. Grodin glanced over at him and he straightened again. Guard duty was boring at the best of times and terrifying at the worse. This was just boring.

Jumper two landed and Stackhouse and his team piled out, laughing about something that had happened on the planet. Doctor Weir informed them of their debriefing at 1300, and to report to the infirmary for their post mission check-ups. Stackhouse gave Ford a questioning look, noticing he was on guard duty, and jogged up the stairs.

"What's up? I thought your team had a mission this morning," Stackhouse said, stopping beside him.

"Doctor McKay's in the infirmary."

Stackhouse snorted. "One of his gizmos bite him, or somebody slip him a lemon?" he teased. He stopped when he saw the look on Ford's face. "What?"

Ford lowered his voice. "Kavanagh nearly killed McKay. He slipped some lemon in his food and McKay had a really bad allergic reaction. He stopped breathing before Major Sheppard could get him to the infirmary. He's still in pretty bad shape, but Doctor Beckett said he's going to be okay. He's just off active duty for a week or so."

Stackhouse stared at him shock. "You're kidding."

Ford shook his head. "McKay wasn't exaggerating about that allergy of his. He would have died if the Major hadn't found him when he did."

"What the heck possessed Kavanagh to pull a stunt like that?"

"Some kind of rivalry. Rumor going around is he wanted McKay's job as top egghead," Ford told him.

"Stupid," Stackhouse commented. "Like he could get away with that here. How'd he think he could pull it off? Not like there's a lot of ways he could hide something like that. I mean, you know, not like we got a lot of lemons around here or he'd have much of a way to take off if he got found out. What did they do to him? I bet Sheppard's pissed."

"Kavanagh's in the brig right now. Weir's marked that off-limits for me and Sheppard right now."

"I bet. Geez—" Stackhouse sighed. "Nice job, try to kill the one guy who knows enough about the ZPMs and stuff to get us home. McKay's kind of annoying, but he's got enough guts to go out on missions and actually do something. A lot of those eggheads just look at you like you've lost your mind if you even mention the gate."

Ford sighed. "I don't think they're going to do much of anything to Kavanagh. What can they do? It's not like he can be sent back home. We're stuck with him."

"Yeah," Stackhouse said softly. "Or he could just have an accident."

"Don't go there," Ford said in a warning tone. "Doctor Weir doesn't need that kind of aggravation. It's tempting, but the rest of the eggheads are watching, if they think one of us did him in, they'd all just get paranoid and we'd never get home."

"This is just crazy. We're how many bazillion light years from home and Kavanagh's got his panties in wad because McKay's got a bigger head than he does. Sheesh."

"Seriously screwed up," Ford agreed.

Stackhouse glanced at his watch. "I've got to go. Debriefing in a half hour and I need a shower. The natives on M3X269 were critically lacking in hygiene and the hut they had us in for the negotiations left us smelling like a barn."

Ford smiled. "Go before you start stinking the place up."

The other Marine nodded and shouldered his kit, heading out the room.

Ford sighed and glanced around at the other Marines stationed around the room. "Seriously screwed up."

John Sheppard sat in the back of the room, watching over the civilian sentencing hearing Weir had called for Kavanagh. Weir, Grodin, Zelenka, and a few other scientists who's' names Sheppard couldn't remember sat at the table facing the 'accused.' For his part, Kavanagh sat there trying to look like a martyr.

Stackhouse and Ford stood off to the side ready to grab him if his protests went from verbal to physical, but he doubted they would. Kavanagh was all talk. When push came to shove, he'd buckle.

Kavanagh had already lodged a formal protest that the proceedings were nothing more than a 'kangaroo court' because most of the top scientists on it were friends of McKay's. The door behind him hissed open and he looked over. McKay stood there, looking like death warmed over, but back on his own two feet. He glanced around the room looking for a place to sit. Most of the personnel that weren't on duty at the moment had turned out for this. Sheppard sat up and caught McKay's eye, and nodded to the empty spot beside him.

McKay shuffled in quietly and sat down beside him, wrapping his arms tightly across his chest as he did. Sheppard gave him a critical look. The scientist was still a rather unhealthy shade of grey and breathing like he couldn't quite catch his breath. His face had lost the puffy look it had earlier, but dark circles shadowed his eyes giving his face a sallow look now. The deep frown he was currently wearing didn't help that either.

Sheppard leaned over. "Beckett know you're here?"

McKay gave him a guilty look. "Not really. I'm supposed to be resting in my quarters, but I wanted to know what was going on here."

Sheppard nodded. He could understand that. He glanced back up at the proceedings and noticed that Weir and Zelenka had see McKay's entrance. Weir gave him a brief nod. Zelenka leaned over and nudged Grodin and the Englishman looked in their direction. McKay slouched in his seat, giving them both a look that made it clear he didn't want to draw attention to himself.

Grodin caught on quicker than Zelenka did and they both turned their attention back to Weir.

Weir looked tired as she looked down at her notes and then back at Kavanagh. Kavanagh slouched in his seat, a petulant look on his face.

"Doctor Kavanagh, this is a very serious charge against you. Because of your actions we nearly lost the life of an invaluable member of this expedition. Your 'prank' as you have described it, nearly killed Doctor McKay. For such an extreme case of callous disregard for a colleague's life, were we under optimal conditions, you would be shipped home to earth to face criminal proceedings, but as we are stuck here on Atlantis, it is up to us to pass judgment on you. It has been deemed by this tribunal of your peers that you shall be confined under house arrest to your quarters in your off-duty hours. You will be allowed to work, under the supervision of one of a group of scientists in your discipline to be decided at a later date. The sentence will be for a time period of no less than six months and no more than a year."

Kavanagh stared at her in disbelief. "You can't do that!"

Weir's face hardened. "I can and I will."

"That's not fair!" he shot back.

She started to reprimand the man, and Sheppard felt McKay stand beside him.

"Doctor Weir," McKay said, his voice not as steady as it usually was, but crystal clear in the meeting room. He took a deep breath and continued. "I'd like to offer another option."

McKay cleared his throat nervously and Sheppard recognized the look on his face. He had only seen that look a couple of times before, once right before McKay walked out into that Shadow thing with that personal shield on and, and once on the mission when they'd captured Steve the Wraith. Both were times when he was scared spitless, but not letting it stop him from doing something he knew he had to do.

"I'm not as oblivious as most people seem to think. I've heard the rumors that have been flying around since before we came to Atlantis, speculating that I was chosen as the head of the scientific teams, not based on my abilities or expertise, but on the fact that I'm Canadian. That the SGC couldn't choose an American to head the teams because they already had Doctor Weir named as the over all head of the expedition and Colonel Sumner had been chosen to lead the military detachment." He paused a moment to catch his breath and then continued. "I know the first choice for leading the science sections was out of the question, as Colonel Carter, the foremost authority on wormhole technology, is of better use on Earth than here." He turned his gaze on Kavanagh, but the man couldn't meet his eyes. "If Doctor Kavanagh thinks that he's better suited for this position than I am, I suggest we put that to the test, a duel, of sorts. See who is better qualified. Each of us will be allowed a three man team of our own choosing to assist us in what ever task is decided upon."

Weir and the others at the main table stared at him as if he had lost his mind, something Sheppard himself was starting to wonder. He could see McKay's point, but the man could barely stay on his feet right now.

Kavanagh smiled a little. "Deal."

"Wait a minute," Weir said, getting to her feet.

Grodin stopped her. "He's got a point."

Weir gave the Englishman a sharp look. "You've got to be kidding." He leaned forward and said something very quietly to her that she really didn't look as if she liked, but she nodded. "Very well. If this is what you want," she said and it was Sheppard's turn to stare at her in surprise.

McKay nodded and sat down.

The room had exploded into conversation and Sheppard stared at him. McKay closed his eyes, his face was covered with a fine sheen of sweat and he was trembling with exhaustion. His breath was coming in short quick gasps and he looked ready to topple over at any minute.

Beckett appeared behind them and pushed McKay's head between his knees. "Bloody fool," he growled. "Slow deep breaths or you'll faint."

"I don't—" McKay started to protest, but he having too much trouble just breathing at the moment.

"Fine, pass out, whatever," Beckett amended and then sighed, looking over at Sheppard. "I figured he'd end up here instead of his quarters. I should have walked him back personally."

"This is a crazy plan, McKay," Sheppard told the scientist.

McKay turned his head to look at him. "I can do it."

Sheppard nodded. "I believe you. That doesn't mean I don't think you're crazy."

An alarm blared from the corridor and Sheppard stood. McKay started to stand as well, but Beckett pushed him back into the chair.

"All essential personnel please report to the Control Room. Repeat, all essential personnel please report to the Control Room."

"Sergeant Bates, would you take Doctor Kavanagh back to the brig?" Weir said, heading for the door. Sheppard fell in step behind her, followed by Grodin and some of the other Control Room staff.

Sheppard nearly had to break into a jog to keep up with her. They hurried up the stairs to the Control Room into a state of organized confusion.

"What's going on?" Weir demanded.

"The life support systems just all went off-line," one of the technicians told her. "We haven't been able to figure out why."

"That can't be too bad," Sheppard said. "Just crack a few windows open for a while. Let the sea breeze in."

He heard a familiar snort from behind him and turned to find McKay standing at one of the stations trying to shoo Beckett and Zelenka away from hovering around him. "That would work on the upper levels, Major, but the lower levels of the city depend on the air scrubbers to keep the carbon dioxide and other non-toxic and noxious gases given off by cities' auxiliary systems from building up and suffocating everyone down there."

Sheppard raised his eyebrows, sticking his bottom lip out thoughtfully. "That would be...bad."

McKay opened his mouth to comment and then stopped, his mouth still hanging open a bit. Sheppard could almost see the wheels in the man's brain snapping place. Weir must have seen it too.

"Rodney, no."

"But it's perfect, Elizabeth," he said, stepping forward, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

"No. You need time to recover first," she said, pinning him with a look.

He rolled his eyes dismissively. "I can do that afterward. It isn't like I wouldn't be up here already anyways working on this. I know most of these systems better than anyone else here and I've already worked on the schematics to the life support systems with Grodin weeks ago," he said rapidly, turning slightly toward the English scientist. "Peter, I'd want you on my team anyways. You and Zelunka—"

"Zelenka," the Czech engineer corrected in exasperation.

"Whatever," McKay said, turning back to Weir. "Kavanagh could pick his team and we could both be working on it in," he glanced at his watch, "an hour?"

Weir looked back at Beckett and the physician sighed. "He'll kill himself, but there's no way I could keep him in his quarters with this going on."

McKay glared at him and sighed, the breath catching in his chest and he started to cough. Beckett braced him as the color quickly drained out of McKay's face as he struggled to catch his breath. Beckett shoved something into his hand and pushed him into a nearby chair. McKay took a puff on the inhaler Beckett had given him as the one of the techs produced a cup of coffee. McKay sipped at it, struggling to get his breathing back under control.

Weir frowned in concern. "Rodney, I'm sorry. You're not up to this."

"Elizabeth, when are we going to get an opportunity like this again?" he said, his face set in grim determination. "Most of the time when things break around here, we've got hours if not minutes to get it up and running before it kills us. We've got a little longer with this." He looked her directly in the eyes. "I have to do this."

Sheppard frowned, glad that this wasn't his call.

Weir stared at the scientist and then her shoulders slumped in defeat. "Twenty-four hours," she said, "and if Carson says you should stop, you stop. I won't have you killing yourself over some petty grudge match."

Rodney glanced over at the readings on the console behind him and then nodded. "Deal."

Zelenka stopped a moment to think as he stuffed the things he was going to need into his bag. They were setting up in McKay's lab for the time being. They could get access to most of the systems from there and it was a lot closer to the infirmary should something happen. He shook his head. McKay was not well. Beckett had dragged him off to the infirmary to give him some kind of breathing treatment while he and Grodin gathered the things they needed.

There was a quiet knock at the door and he turned. Anger surged hotly through him when he saw the man standing in the doorway.

Kavanagh faced him, his ponytail flipped over his shoulder. Zelenka had the most insane desire to—

"Doctor Zelenka, I was hoping to catch you. I was wondering—" the man started.

"No," Zelenka said, crossing his arms across his chest defiantly and leaning back against the table behind him.

"You didn't even let me—"

"No," he said again and then gave him a warning look. "Doctor McKay may have his moments in which he can be arrogant, irritating, and egotistical, but he is a friend and respected colleague and," he said looking the man directly in the eye, "are you so sure you would really want me on your team, hmm?"

Kavanagh looked away, his face hardening as a sneer twisting his features. "Forgive the intrusion," he said, turning quickly and leaving.

Zelenka let out a deep sigh and turn his attention back to his equipment. He swore hotly in Czech, slamming his palms against the table top with a slap.

"This is a bad time, I take it," a softly accent English voice said from behind him.

Zelenka turned to face Grodin and felt his cheeks warming. "Sorry," he said, pushing his glasses back up on the bridge of his nose. He cleared his throat. "You will not believe who was just being here."

Grodin frowned deeply. "I saw. I take it he was asking you to be on his team?"

"I did not let him get to that," he said snappishly and then stopped. "Forgive me. I am—"he searched for the word he wanted in English, "irritated."

Grodin nodded. "I would be too. That man is an ass."

Zelenka sighed. "Just so." He turned back to finish gathering his things. "Um," he thought for a moment. "This is not so good a plan of McKay's. He is not well. You saw him in the control room."

"I know," Grodin said, moving to sit on a near by stool. "But I understand why he wants to do this. Kavanagh does have those who support him. This would quiet those dissenters once and for all. Personally, I agree with Major Sheppard. It would much handier to gate him to M3X269."

Zelenka chuckled. "True. True." He sighed. "We cannot let him win."

"And we won't," McKay said from the doorway. He gave them both a forced smile. "Ready, gentlemen?"

"Question is," Grodin said, getting to his feet, "are you?"

McKay gave a dry cough of a laugh. "Not really a whole lot of choice in the matter."

"This is not something you have to do," Zelenka said. "Kavanagh has shown himself already to be untrustworthy."

McKay sighed wearily and leaned against the doorframe. "I know, but people will just always question who should be have been in charge and why I was the one asked."

Zelenka sighed. He could see the logic in what Rodney was saying, but the man looked exhausted.

McKay ran a shaky hand through his hair. "We had better be getting to the lab. Kavanagh's already having a bird that we're starting from my lab and not the Control Room, but I don't think I could make another trip up there and back down again."

"Let him have his, as you call it, 'bird'," Zelenka said hotly, stuffing the last of the equipment the though they might need into his bag. "He is the one who started this. He will have to suffer the consequences of his action."

"Well, said," Grodin said, heading for the door. McKay stepped back and swayed on his feet. Grodin grabbed him, steadying him. "Rodney, are you all right?"

"I'm fine." He nodded, waving his hand dismissively. "Just a little dizzy. Those breathing treatments do that to me."

Zelenka frowned. This was not a good idea.

Elizabeth Weir sighed and looked at the men and woman gathered in the lab. Rodney stood in the back of the lab, no jacket, his shirt untucked. Peter and Zelenka stood a bit protectively in front of him, neither wore their jackets either. Rodney looked terrible. His skin had a pasty grey cast to it and he was shaking slightly, his arms crossed tightly across his chest, trying to hide it. Carson had set himself off to the side, but was keeping a very close eye on the man.

In contrast, Kavanagh stood near the door, his clothing freshly pressed and not a hair out of place. Verochka Smirnova, one of the Russian engineers stood off to his side, trying not to make eye contact with Zelenka, and Andre Roux, a French biologist stood behind her. Each looked as prim and proper as their team leader.

Elizabeth cleared her throat to get everyone attention. "So there is no question as to the fairness of this, each team will have two neutral observers assigned to them. The observers for Doctor McKay's team will be Doctors Pablo Del Torro," the Spanish geologist nodded to McKay and his team in greeting," and Felicia Richardson," the English computer tech gave them a tight smile. Elizabeth could already see the protest forming in Kavanagh's eyes, but she continued. "The observers for Doctor Kavanagh's team will be Doctors Enrich Schroeder," the German anthropologist nodded grimly to Kavanagh, "and Betsy Martin," the American chemist looked distinctly uncomfortable, but just nodded to them as well.

"Will Doctor Beckett be remaining with Doctor McKay's team as well?" Kavanagh asked, stiffly.

"I will," Beckett answered. "I will be remaining to monitor Doctor McKay's condition. This whole duel of his and yours is completely against medical advice. Doctor McKay should be in his quarters resting, not—" he stopped himself and sighed. "I'll be staying," he said, crossing his arms and settling himself stubbornly on the stool.

Elizabeth gave him a brief smile of gratitude and then schooled her face back into a more serious expression. "Then if everyone is ready," she said. She saw the petulant look on Kavanagh's face. The man had already complained more than once about his team having to start in Rodney's lab. Tough, he would just have to deal with it.

She glanced over at Sheppard. "If you would do the honors, Major."

Sheppard gave her a startled look and then just said, "Um. Go, I guess."

Kavanagh and his team tore out of the lab and she saw some of the tension leave Rodney as he, Peter, and Zelenka went to work, smoothly falling into place beside each other talking quietly.

Elizabeth sighed, going to stand with Sheppard.

Carson came over to them. "This is bloody madness," he said in a low voice. "Rodney should be in his quarters resting, not taking part in some kind of idiotic duel. He's body's been put through the ringer in the last couple of days and his lungs are still bloody touchy. The medication I've got him on to keep them from reacting to everything's got him strung higher than a kite."

Sheppard frowned. "He's high?"

Carson sighed. "The medication dilates the bronchial tubes to keep the airways clear, but it also raises the heart rate and blood pressure pretty significantly. Not enough to cause damage if just used in the short term, but over the long term, it could cause damage."

"Not to be rude," Rodney's voice cut into their discussion. "But if you're going to talk, take it into the hall," he told them, his voice sounding rather harsh, the strain of keeping on his feet and working, clearly showing on his face.

"Sorry," Sheppard said and the paused. "Hey, McKay."

Rodney sighed and glared at him impatiently. "What?"

Sheppard smiled. "Good luck."

That seemed to startle Rodney and the carefully structured mask he was hiding behind slipped for just a moment, and they got a glimpse of the desperation, fear, and overwhelming fatigue dogging him, before he smiled. "Thank you." The mask slipped back into place and he turned, snapping at Zelenka about something he was doing with one of the laptops.

The Major nodded and ushered the three of them out into the hall.

"This nothing more than a—" Elizabeth struggled to find better way to put this.

"Pissing match?" Sheppard supplied and she grimaced.

"For lack of a better way to put it, yes."

The Major sighed. "It's more than that," he said slowly, glancing back at the lab. "McKay's leadership has been challenged. It's a case of either throw in the gauntlet or throw in the towel. Either he shows he deserves his position on his own merits, or he loses the respect of the rest of the scientists and Kavanagh wins."

She sighed. "I hope, for our sake, he can."

Rodney sat down on a stool and scrubbed both his hands over his face. He closed his eyes a moment. He was so tired his head was throbbing, making his stomach upset, and his chest was getting tight again. He either needed sleep or more coffee. Sleep wasn't an option at the moment and Zelenka was guarding the coffee carafe with his life, he had said something about drawing the limit at twelve cups. Carson had left a few minutes before in search of food for them. Their two observers were sitting against the wall, watching, but keeping out of their way.

"We have to be missing something," he grumbled.

"We've been over it a dozen times now," Peter said, leaning against the lab table facing him. "It's something tied to the desalinization units, but I don't know how."

Rodney rested the heels of his hands against his eyes, trying to apply some counter pressure to the throbbing behind his eyes. "And they are still working?"

"Yes," Peter said in annoyance. "That system seems to be functioning perfectly."

"For what we know it does," Rodney interrupted.

The Englishman sighed. "Yes."

Zelenka poked at his laptop, his elbow resting on the table, propping his chin up on his fist. "I had a fish once," he said absently. "Little goldfish a friend gave me. I cleaned the tank regularly as the instruction for the filter said, but one day-" he made a pth like noise, "fish turned belly up. Dead. I found I had not cleaned a part of the filter that was not on the instructions and bacteria had built up."

Rodney looked up at him and then at Peter. "Where are the schematics?"

Grodin pulled them up on his computer and the Zelenka pulled his laptop over, and they started comparing the city's sensor readings to the physical schematics.

"There!" Peter crowed. "That system there," he said, pointing to the schematic. "It's tied to both the environmental controls and the desalinization systems."

Rodney studied the systems and then typed in a few commands, watching as the readings changed, grinding his teeth together a bit as he thought. Then he saw it, looking sharply at Zelenka. "It's a filter. It uses the desalination systems to filter the air. It was working in an auxiliary mode before the desalination systems were powered up, but once they were activated, it reverted to the mode we're seeing now. It just needs to be backwashed to clean it," he said in incredulity. "I can't believe it didn't send up some kind of warning unless—" He frowned deeply again, his fingers flying across the keyboard, accessing subsystems. "The whole system isn't working right," he said in irritation. He gave the keyboard a slap. "Half the system was never activated correctly. It's a wonder the whole thing didn't just lock up and tear itself to pieces." He growled in frustration and slumped back down on the stool. "It'll be a miracle if the whole system hasn't just chewed itself up."

Grodin sighed and turned the laptop Rodney has been working on back toward himself. "The Ancients would have worked in safety subroutines to prevent that. They weren't anything if not cautious. Most of the systems we have figured out have layers of safety protocols." He smiled. "Here," he said, turning the laptop back toward Rodney and Zelenka. "They did. That's what caused the shut down. We just need to reboot the system and reinitialize it properly."

Rodney slid the laptop towards him, tapping a few commands. "That has to be done from the environmental control system down in a control room by the desalinization tanks, and the main control room simultaneously." He looked first from Peter to Zelenka and then back again. "By two people with the ATA gene."

Zelenka started to smile. "Oh," he said softly and began to chuckle.

Peter looked at them. "What?"

Rodney sat back, a smug smile on his face. "What do we have that Kavanagh and his team doesn't?"

Understanding dawned on the Englishman's face. "Two people with the ATA gene."

Rodney rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "Shall we, gentleman?" he said, hopping to his feet. Darkness closed in abruptly on his vision, and he felt Peter grab him as his knees buckled.

"Rodney? Come on, Rodney?" a hand slapped his cheek gently and he struggled to get his eyes back open.

He was lying on the broad of his back, blinking up at the ceiling. "Oh, this sucks," he said softly.

Carson moved into his range of vision again. He could see Zelenka and Peter just behind him, concern etched on their faces.

He sighed. "What happened?" he asked, as Carson helped him sit up.

"You fain—passed out," Carson told him. "I told you that you needed to rest."

Rodney swallowed hard, grabbing Carson's arm try to pull himself up. "As soon as we get done."

"Rodney," Carson said in a warning tone, pushing back down.

"Um, excuse me, Doctor Grodin," Richardson, the English observer said softly. She blushed as they all looked at her. Grodin looked at her expectantly. "I'm not really supposed to tell you." She glanced at Del Torro.

He sighed. "If you will not tell them, I will," he said impatiently.

She nodded in relief. "Doctor Kavanagh's team has just figured out that the environmental systems are connected to the desalinization units."

Zelenka cursed softly in Czech and shook his head.

Rodney grabbed a handful of Carson's sleeve. "Let me finish this."

"We only need Rodney to initialize the sequence from the main control room," Zelenka said quickly. "Peter will be at the substation. I can finish the sequence after it's activated."

The physician looked at Rodney, and then the others, and then sighed deeply. "I don't know who is the bigger fool here; you for doing this or me for letting you talk me into helping you."

Rodney gave him a grateful smile as Grodin stepped in and helped hoist him to his feet. He swallowed hard against the dizziness and nausea that accompanied the motion. Zelenka stepped in quickly and took Rodney's arm from Grodin and pulled it over his shoulders. Rodney gave the shorter man a tight smile. Carson slipped Rodney's other arm over his shoulders. It felt rather awkward being held up by the two shorter men, but 'any port in a storm' as the saying goes.

Things blurred a bit for him after that. He was dimly aware of Grodin leaving with Del Torro in tow down the one corridor, as they went the other direction toward the control room. He gave up on trying to keep track of where they were and just concentrated on one foot in front of the other. He felt himself starting to drift off on them again when they got to the transporter alcove. Carson slapped his cheek, hard, and things pulled back into better focus until they reached the stairs up to the main control room. Stairs. He forgot about the stairs. He stared at them, trying to gather the strength to get up them when suddenly Carson and Zelenka both shifted themselves, each grabbing a handful of his belt and before he could protest, they had heaved up the stairs and someone had gotten a chair under him. He blinked stupidly at the two of them smiling broadly at him.

Zelenka pushed up over to the environmental control panel and placed his hands on it. "I will tell you when," he said, fixing an earpiece in place over his ear.

Rodney took a deep breath and looked over the controls. His head was starting to clear a little from the trip and mapped out what he needed to do in his mind.

"Are you sure you can do this?" the Czech engineer asked him, breaking into his concentration.

He nodded. "I need to activate the main power grid and then the subsystems one through four than then redirect power back through the grid and out to the subsystems," he said, picturing what he needed to do.

Zelenka nodded. "Peter is in place."

He sighed again and poised his hands. "I'm ready."

"In three...two....Now!" Zelenka told him.

Rodney let his hands move automatically over the system controls, reaching out with his mind, picturing what they should be doing step by step.

"Main power," Zelenka told him. "Subsystem one...then two...then three...then four."

Rodney followed the instructions, activating the system piece by piece, and in sync with Grodin down at the main substation. He could feel more than actually see the systems come to life one by one. He felt a tremendous sense of relief wash over him as the last system came back to life. A moment later, the environmental controls reinitialized themselves. He felt Zelenka push him out of the way and take over bringing other systems back online, and starting them through their operations.

Carson was back by his side, talking to him, but nothing he was saying was making sense. He let his eyes close. He was so tired. He just needed to rest his eyes for a moment. Just a moment.

Major John Sheppard could hear the arguing even before he reached the Infirmary. He smiled at Ford and then young man struggled to keep from laughing. Teyla shook her head at the both of them.

"Carson, this is imprisonment," Rodney protested as they came in. "I'm fine. You said so yourself. You can't keep me here."

Sheppard stood back and watched. McKay sat with his back to them, his legs tucked up under him as he sat Indian style on the bed. The Doctor for his part glared at the man, his arms crossed tightly across his chest and mischief dancing in his blue eyes. "Oh, but I can, Rodney, part of being the medical doctor here. I can and will hold you if I deem it medically necessary."

"Doc, is there a problem?" Sheppard asked, smirking.

"Oh, no, Major Sheppard," the Scot said with a beatific smile. "I was just telling Rodney here, that I wasn't going to release him from the Infirmary here, until I was sure he was going to actually rest back in his own quarters."

"I've been sleeping for most of two days," McKay protested. "I'm rested."

"I wouldn't argue with the Doctor, Rodney," Sheppard said and then looked at Beckett. "Can we take him now? I promise to get him back to his quarters and tucked in before he turns into a pumpkin."

McKay did an impressive eye roll from his perch on his bed.

Beckett shot him a look. "Rest, fluids and your medication this time, McKay."

McKay whined, "Antihistamines make me groggy."

"Aye, but they keep you from ending up back down here with your lungs closing down again," Beckett shot back, earning a chagrined look from McKay.

He held up his hands in defeat. "Okay. Okay. I'll take them."

Beckett quickly went over the medications McKay would have to take for another week or so to prevent another flare of his allergies. Sheppard frowned at the amount of stuff McKay was going to have to take. McKay was only half listening to Beckett, it was obvious this was a drill he had been through before.

Beckett finally gave up and turned to Sheppard. "Get him out of here. He's driving the other patients crazy."

McKay looked down at the scrubs he was wearing and then at Beckett. "My clothes? I don't particularly want to be wandering around the halls of Atlantis wearing this."

"We have brought you fresh clothing," Teyla told him, holding up the smallish bag she had brought with her. "Major Sheppard and Lieutenant Ford packed these for you." She handed it to him and he got a suspicious look his face.

"Oh, really now." He glanced back and forth between Sheppard and Ford and then opened the bag as if expecting something to jump out at him. He relaxed as he found just his clothes. His expression softened for a moment. "Thank you." He quickly ducked back behind the mask he kept up between himself and others and he looked at them all sharply. "Okay, are you going to let me get dressed...hm?"

Sheppard chuckled and shooed Teyla from behind the curtain, but he and Ford sat themselves down on the two chairs still there. McKay sighed and then stripped off the thin scrub top and dug in the bag for a moment for his t-shirt. Sheppard noticed how much weight the scientist had lost since they had come to the Pegasus galaxy. Fieldwork was a lot different from the cushy research he had been doing before.

McKay caught them looking at him and flushed. "Would you two like some music or something to accompany this?"

Sheppard chuckled, but glanced away to give the man a little privacy. McKay finished dressing and then sat back down on the edge of the bed to pull his shoes on.

"Show's over," he announced, sitting back up, a bit paler than when they had come in, but still much better than he had looked in days.

Sheppard and Ford got up, Ford snagging the bag to carry it.

"Got your medication, McKay?" Sheppard asked.

"Medication," McKay said, turning to dig through the covers on the bed and producing the bottles. "Got it."

Ford held open the bag for them and McKay dropped them in. Sheppard caught the nervous twitch in McKay's movements. Apparently he wasn't used to people actually caring about his well being beyond how he preformed his job.

Sheppard herded McKay out of the Infirmary and into the corridor beyond. Teyla and Ford fell in step behind them. He snagged McKay's arm as he started to turn in the direction that lead to his quarters, and guided him toward the transport alcove.

"Where are we going?" McKay frowned at him.

"Doctor Weir wanted to see you before you head back to your quarters to rest," Sheppard told him.

He just nodded and crossed his arms tightly across his chest. When he finally spoke again he asked. "What's happened to Kavanagh?"

Sheppard glanced at Ford. "He's under house arrest and in his quarters," the young Marine answered. "Doctor Grodin is working on a way to keep track of him with the city's sensors so we don't have to keep a guard on the door twenty-four/seven."

McKay nodded. "Good," he said and then lapsed into silence again.

The transporter whisked them off to their destination and McKay didn't even look up as they stepped out.

"Surprise!" the shout snapped the bewildered man's head up, and he stared around gate room at the assembled group of scientists and military personnel in bafflement.

A banner hung from one of the balconies reading "Congratulations Dr. McKay".

Zelenka and Grodin quickly pulled him away from the group and with McKay disappeared into a knot of scientists congratulating them on a job well done.

Sheppard jogged up the stairs to where Elizabeth was looking down on the scene with a smile. He stood at the rail beside her.

"Rodney did a good job," she commented. "I don't agree with why this was done, but it was what was needed."

Sheppard turned to her. "It was needed. Rules are little different out here than back home. Survival of the fittest and all that."

"But that still leave us with the problem of what to do with Kavanagh," Weir said. "He's not going to just accept this as the last word. He's just going to create another situation in six months when we have to let him go."

Sheppard watched McKay, Zelenka, and Grodin giving the group a play by play of what they done to get the systems back up and running.

"Maybe we'll have a way to gate him back home by then," Sheppard said then looked over at Weir. "Whatever happens, we'll take care of it," he told her and she nodded.

"We will."

Someone started chanting, "Speech. Speech, Speech," below them and Zelenka and Grodin pushed McKay up a few steps so he was above most of the crowd.

He cleared his throat. "I'm not sure what to say," McKay started and a voice from the back piped up,

"McKay speechless, that's a first!" Everyone laughed as McKay attempted to glare at the speaker.

"As I was saying," he continued, smiling. "I just want to thank everyone. This is a bit overwhelming," he said, his voice catching and he quickly cleared his throat again. "I just want to thank Doctor Zelenka and Grodin, without their assistance, this would have never worked."

Cheers erupted from the group and he had to wait a minute before proceeding. When he could he said, "I'd also like to thank Doctor Weir for believing in us enough to allow us to do it." Cheers greeted this and Sheppard looked over at Elizabeth, and she was blushing slightly.

McKay continued. "I'd also like to thank our observers who...observed us." Del Torro, Richardson, Schroeder, and Martin waved hands in greeting to the exuberant crowd.

McKay tried to duck back down the stairs, but Grodin caught him and pulled him back into the limelight. Sheppard watched as McKay's ease quickly gave into nervousness as the Englishman dragged him from group to group. Zelenka managed to disengage himself and wandered over to a group of the Russian engineers.

Sheppard sighed. "I better go rescue him," he said under his breath and then caught a look from Elizabeth, realizing she heard him. He shrugged. "I promised Beckett that we'd get him back to his quarters before he turned into a pumpkin."

She chuckled. "Go. You wouldn't want to break your promise to Carson and I don't think Rodney would mind either. He gets a bit flustered in social gatherings."

Sheppard skipped down the steps and headed over to the knot of people piled up around McKay. "Break it up people," he said in a teasing tone, as he made his way in beside McKay. The scientist looked ashen and a bit relieved to see him. Sheppard gave the group an apologetic look and draped an arm around McKay's shoulder. "Sorry, but I've got to steal your guest of honor. I promised Doctor Beckett we'd get him back to his quarters and resting. Can't have our resident genius passing out on us again."

McKay's pale face flushed. "Major—"

"No, he right," Grodin said quickly. "I'm sorry. I should have realized Rodney needed to rest."

"I'm fine," McKay said, sounding flustered. He sighed and rubbed his forehead. "I am a bit tired, though."

"Enough said." Grodin looked around, trying to get people's attention.

McKay grabbed his arm. "Peter, you don't need to break up the party. Let them enjoy themselves. I'm just going to head back to quarters and sleep."

The Englishman nodded and smiled. "You did well, Rodney. You do deserve to be the head of the science teams and I am proud to work with you."

McKay looked a bit embarrassed. "I couldn't have done this without you and Zelenka."

"Enough with the mutual admiration society. You two can do that later," Sheppard interrupted. "I promised to get McKay back to his quarters and if Beckett finds out I didn't take him straight to bed, he's not going to be a pleased man."

"And he isn't," a voice with a very distinct Scottish accent drawled from behind them.

Sheppard winced. "Doctor Beckett," he said turning slowly.

The physician stood behind them, his arms crossed tightly across his chest. He sighed and just shook his head. He looked at McKay and the physicist just shrugged. "I'm going. I'm going."

Sheppard chuckled and fell in step behind him. "And I'm taking him," he told Beckett.

They headed out into the corridor and Rodney smiled, well, smirked was a better word for the expression his face.

"Don't get cocky, McKay," Sheppard teased, shaking his head. The man's ego was seriously going to be something to live with for the next few weeks.

"Whatever you say, Major."

Doctor Richard Kavanagh sat in his quarters staring at his laptop. He had managed to hack into the cities' sensors and had found a live feed from the party in the gate room. He sat back, steepling his fingers, watching. He saw McKay and Sheppard leave and he glared at the figures until they disappeared from view.

It was just blind luck that McKay had fixed the environmental systems before his team had. Dumb luck in having two members with the ATA gene.

Dumb luck seemed to be McKay's ticket right now, but luck had a way of running out, and he planned to be there when it did.