Summary: Sometimes a man has to suffer in private.
Spoilers: The Eye
Acknowledgements: eretria and quiller, for emergency beta.
To eretria, who woke the dragon. Again.
The stench came in strong the moment John stepped out of the transporter. The whole corridor was filled with an invisible haze that assaulted his sense of smell. Assaulted his intention to ever eat anything again, as a matter of fact. Suspicions growing, he walked up to the infirmary.
"You've got to be kidding me."
McKay's voice, grating at its snidely best. John slowed his steps. He was still a few strides away from his destination and could only see Teyla leaning in the doorway. She turned as he approached and the glee on her lips was impossible to miss.
"Brief me," John said, lowering his voice.
"I brought Dr. Beckett some herbs from the mainland," Teyla returned just as quietly. Her smile was widening by the second, though." McKay's been complaining of a cold and the Doctor is fixing him a tea to relieve his cough."
"Tea?" John echoed, disbelieving. Whatever caused this stomach revolting reek was no tea that he'd ever heard of. Or cared to hear of. He peered past Teyla into the infirmary. McKay was standing in the middle of the room, arms crossed in front of his chest. He seemed torn between flight and attack. Beckett meddled in the back of the room and John could not see his face. Was it his imagination, or did the doctor radiate a serious kind of tension?
"Listen." McKay again. "Don't you have anything useful to give me? Pills, aspirin, or . . . or antibiotics?"
"You don't give antibiotics for any wee cold," the doctor said, exasperated. He turned around and John spotted a huge white mug in his hand. Hazy vapour curled from its rim. "Trust me, this will help you faster than any pharmacy could."
Rodney took a step backward.
"I'm tired of arguing . . ." Beckett began.
"Well, so am I," Rodney cut in. "But you'll excuse me if I rather trust to medicine produced in a test tube than some brew handed down by the weird sisters. And should I perhaps remind you that I caught this 'wee cold' in the course of defending the base? It wasn't a wee rain, either. Perhaps you haven't noticed, but it's still pouring buckets." He sniffed soundly to reinforce his case. "I'm prone to severe colds. Pneumonia, even. This could develop into a serious condition and if that takes me out, then what? Next time you need someone to short-circuit this place out of a mess you can call for the cavalry as long as you want, but I –"
"Rodney!" McKay was not the only one to jump at Beckett's thunderous outburst. "Drink."
McKay eyed the mug with a mixture of apprehension and disgust. From his place at the door, John sympathised. If McKay thought the 'tea' a reason to fear, John was compelled to agree.
Beckett held out the mug and his stare erased any thought of further discussion. John marvelled as the Scot went from Patch Adams to Frankenstein in no time.
A cloud of stinging steam wafted from the infirmary and made John's eyes water. He watched as McKay took the mug, lifted it to his lips, and lowered it again. Dr. Beckett didn't move an inch, but he did narrow his eyes slightly. McKay wrinkled his nose in disdain and drank.
The following reaction was amazing.
"Jesus!" he cried and his complexion went rapidly from purple to pallid. He coughed and, wheezing words that were hardly recognisable. "Do you want to poison me?"
"Stop whining," Beckett said lightly. Apparently satisfied with the result, he returned to his desk. This time John saw him turn off a little stove that had heated a pot – the source of all reeking evil.
"What is this?" McKay gasped, holding the mug as far from his body as possible. Dr. Beckett walked over to him and poured another sip from the pot into the mug with a perfectly mellow expression. "A bit of sage, something like thyme and mint," he listed. "Menthol, mustard seeds, onion juice and what I trust is close to our ginger." Beckett cocked his head. "I would have added honey, but, sadly, we have none."
"Onion juice?" McKay's shout crumbled into a croak.
Dr. Beckett levelled a frown at him. "The ethereal oils will free your respiratory tracts. The onion juice is going to soothe your throat." Now why did that sound threatening in ways that John did not care to think about? McKay stared at the man in front of him, then his glance slowly travelled down to the tea.
"Drink this up, as hot as possible," Beckett ordered. "It should take care of your complaints, but if they're not gone by this evening, come back here and I'll give you some more."
"More?" McKay sputtered. "There's no chance in hell that I would drink one more drop from this impossibly disgusting . . ."
"I can add some garlic, if the mixture isn't right yet," the good doctor offered, brogue deepening to an icy chill.
Sometimes a man has to suffer in private. McKay gathered his mug close and turned wordlessly to leave. He paid no attention whatsoever to his audience. Instead he brushed passed them with a face that would have made the living dead look cheerful. It could be John imagined the faint green hue around McKay's nose. More likely he didn't.
Barely concealing her grin, Teyla pushed off the doorframe. "Until later, Major." He gave her a nod before she strolled down the corridor, shoulders quivering.
John hesitated in the doorway. He watched as Beckett put the pot on the desk. With a sigh, the doctor picked up a dustbin and began to brush the remnants of herbs from his working station.
It occurred to John that it would be a good idea to leave. There had been a reason why he came here in the first place, but all of a sudden it didn't seem important at all. Not vital in the least. He was about to back away slowly when Dr. Beckett noticed him.
"What can I do for you, Major?" His smile seemed honest. John realised with a quiet groan that the time for retreat had come and gone.
"Yes-uhm, the thing is I've been a bit out of sorts." Dr. Beckett's smile never wavered. "It's nothing serious," John hurried to say. "Just a sore throat, is all. I guess I might have gotten a little chilled on the grounding station. Actually, it's not worth mentioning. I'm kinda used to rough climate" He sneezed no sooner than the last word was out..
"Ah, the big rain," Beckett said and went for his desk. John steeled himself as the doctor reached down to open a small cupboard. A mug appeared in his hand, followed by a dubious bottle of brownish glass.
"Don't worry," Beckett continued with the merriness. He pulled out a second mug and began to unscrew the bottle. "I'll give you some sage pastilles and vitamins. But try to keep warm, especially your feet." The lid came off and suddenly a more agreeable scent filled the air. John sniffed and frowned. It couldn't be . . .
Dr. Beckett poured two shots of amber liquid from the bottle. He then took one of the mugs and handed it to John.
"Here," the doctor said. "That'll warm you up."
John tilted the mug and it gave off a smoky fragrance of sun-warmed wood, honey and so many good things. John's confusion grew considerably and he looked up into the doctor's cheerful round face. The smile was still in place, but the roguish twinkle in the blue eyes was new.
Different patients call for different remedies." That said, Beckett picked up his own mug. He swirled the whiskey and an air of profound peace passed across his features. The insights you could get in the most unexpected places. John lifted his drink in salute. Beckett mirrored the gesture.
Amen to that.