Title: Cat's Tales
Disclaimer: These people are owned by MGM, Gekko and the US Sci-fi channel.
Setting: First season, after 'Before I Sleep'
Summary: So, what is Rodney's cat called?
8 am – Mess Hall
"So Major, just how did you find out it was my birthday?"
I look at Elizabeth over my coffee and smile in what I hope is a mysterious way.
"You can find out anything, if you know how to go about it." She narrows her eyes at me. Damn, what have I just let myself in for?
"Care to make a small wager on that, John?"
Yep; straight into that one with both feet. Oh well, "What did you have in mind?"
"I bet you a week off to go surfing on the mainland, against a week of you surveying the city without complaining..."
I am intrigued, "Go on."
"That you can't find out the name of Rodney's cat before the end of the day."
Okay, so I wasn't expecting that, but, hey, how hard can it be? I never met a pet owner that wouldn't talk about their animal if encouraged. For hours in some cases. I mean, there was an airman at McMurdo who had a pet tortoise, and he would yammer on about it all day. A tortoise – we were in Antarctica, for Chrissake. The damn thing hibernated for 11½ months a year. He could've had a pet rock and never have noticed the difference. So...
"Yeah, Okay, you're on. Cat's name, one day."
Elizabeth smiles. That oh-so-sweet, butter-wouldn't-melt, sincere smile. The one that makes you check your cards and realise that what you thought was a winning hand might not be quite good enough, and it is far too late to fold.
"Oh, and Major, don't forget that Rodney's spending today on the mainland, checking out that energy reading that you found near the Athosian village."
10.30 am – Briefing Room
Okay, imagine you're McKay. It's 2 am and you're standing by the back door wearing only your boxers... NO! Scratch that! You're standing by the back door fully clothed – better – shaking a box of kitty crunchies and shouting... what? What would an astrophysicist call their cat? – Schrödinger? No, too obvious. Something geeky and clever. How about that cat in Alien, what was that called?
I swear that Elizabeth is taking longer than usual over this briefing on purpose.
Hah, at last, she's finished.
"Peter! Wait up." Yes, Grodin's bound to know. All those late nights in the Control room with McKay, working on...stuff. Nothing to talk about but cats. Okay, maybe not, but it's still worth a shot.
"So Peter, do you know what Rodney's cat is called?" Oh, smooth John, very smooth.
"Rodney has a cat? I didn't know, he's never mentioned it. He has one here?" Grodin gives me that look of confusion that he usually reserves for Rodney when he goes off on one of his rants.
I can see that this is going to call for more desperate measures.
11.45 am – McKay's quarters
I am not breaking in. I am simply conducting a random search of the living quarters for... Genii spies. And I am starting here. The Ancients may have been pretty good at shields, but they were lousy at locks.
I open the door and slip... step purposefully into McKay's room. A quick glance around. Nope, no Genii spies, but while I'm here I might as well...
Does this guy have nothing from home? No photos, no books no... Oh, a diary. I can't believe I'm doing this. Just a quick flick through.
January – nothing.
February – nothing.
March – noth...hang on. Thursday 18th 2.30pm "Cat to Vet."
April – nothing.
May – Jeez McKay, this is getting embarrassing.
Okay, the week before we left for Pegasus; "Take cat to No. 302." This is not looking promising. As I put the diary down, a small metal disc falls out of the back onto the floor. A cat tag. Hey, I'm good at this investigating. Okay, on one side is a phone number, and on the other...nothing. A blank cat tag. Who the hell gets a blank cat tag?
12.45 am – Dr Zelenka's lab
Zelenka is working on some sort of Ancient device as I nonchalantly walk in. I think that a more subtle approach might be in order this time.
"I have no idea what Rodney's cat is called Major." Zelenka doesn't even look up from his work.
"Been speaking to Grodin?"
"Yep." Zelenka pushes his glasses up his nose and turns to face me. "But I believe that Dr Beckett has two white mice called 'Frankie' and 'Benjy', if that is help."
Is he laughing at me? It's difficult to tell with Zelenka. Like that time he got me into an argument about Budweiser. I mean, how was I to know that there was another one? 1265 - What kind of date is that to be starting a brewery?
Still - task in hand. Zelenka has given me an idea.
2.30 pm – Infirmary
"...so I was wondering if you knew." Dr Beckett looks at me as if I was something on a microscope slide.
"Let me get this straight Laddie. You want to know the name of Rodney McKay's cat, so you can go surfing?"
Now that I come to explain it to someone else, it does sound rather odd.
"It was Elizabeth's idea." Way to pass the buck, John.
Beckett raises a single eyebrow. Hey, I never knew he could do that. I wonder if he practices in front of a mirror. "And exactly what makes you think that I would know, Major?"
"Well, you've had him in here often enough and I thought he might talk in his sleep."
He has to practice that look in the mirror. "Would you care to rephrase that, Major?"
Oh crap. Did I just imply that I thought Carson and Rodney were having an affair? I am so dead.
I think I'd better leave.
4.15 pm – Mess Hall
Elizabeth is sitting in her usual seat with a plate of something brown in front of her. I think I'll have the salad. Hang on, that is the salad. We really do need to find the Atlantis refrigerators.
She looks up at me over a forkful of ... lettuce? "So John, how's the investigation going?"
"Not so bad." I smile enigmatically and take a sip of coffee.
Oh-oh, 'the smile' again. Someone must have been talking.
"That's good to hear Major, because I've just been talking to Dr Beckett..."
"...and he seemed to think that you were having a bit of difficulty."
"Not at all, Elizabeth." I drawl. I wonder what else he told her.
"And Carson also said something very odd about 'looking forward to your next physical check-up'. Do you know what he meant by that?"
"Sorry Elizabeth, I think I see Sgt Bates looking for me." I wave, trying to catch Bates' eye. "Just coming Sergeant." I wonder if Elizabeth bought that.
Now why didn't I think of Bates before? He knows everything about everyone.
4.30pm – Corridor leading from Mess Hall to Control Room
"With all due respect Sir..."
Why does Bates always say that? He doesn't mean it.
"...It's not my job to win your bets for you."
Is nothing secret in this place? Except the name of a certain cat of course.
Ah, there's a thought.
4.45 pm – Control Room
He stares at me like a rabbit caught in a car's headlights.
"Grodin." I put my arm around his shoulders in a friendly manner. "You know everyone's computer passwords don't you?"
He tenses up, probably wondering where this is leading.
"You would know if anyone used anything that looked like a pet's name, wouldn't you?"
He relaxes and gives me a deeply disapproving look.
"I really don't think that Dr McKay would choose a password that was quite so obvious, Major."
"Why don't you just wait until he gets back from the mainland, and then ask him?"
7.45 pm - Jumper Bay
Who the hell is flying that 'Jumper? It's coming in sideways. Ford could fly better and he doesn't have the ATA gene.
Oh, I might have known.
"Hey McKay! Good landing!"
"Why, thank you Major." A big grin splits his face as he walks down the tail ramp. Now, how do I steer the conversation effortlessly towards cat's names?
McKay continues down the tail ramp and we start walking towards the control room; the grin still plastered across his face. "Grodin tells me that you're trying to find out the name of my cat. Something about a bet with Elizabeth?"
Well, that was easy.
"That's right McKay, it's just a bit of fun; but if you could tell me, I'd owe you one."
"Of course Major, you only had to ask."
Good man McKay, I can almost smell the breakers.
"So, when are we going surfing Major?"
His radio beeps. "Excuse me a second Major." Over McKay's radio I can hear a muted voice; with an unmistakable accent.
McKay looks at me and his eyes narrow.
His voice is dangerously low as he responds to the radio. "He said what, Carson?"
I am already running.
8.30 pm - Dr Weir's Office
"Okay Elizabeth, you win." I flop down in a chair in front of Elizabeth. "No-one on Atlantis knows the name of Rodney's cat except Rodney; and he's ...um ..." How can I put this? Spitting bullets? After my blood? "...unlikely to tell me at the moment."
She looks up from her paperwork. "I know it, John."
Did you ever have one of those moments when everything just ... stops?
"You know it, Elizabeth?" I silently wonder what the punishment is for killing your boss in the Pegasus Galaxy.
"Of course; how else would I know if you got the right answer?"
"You have had me running around Atlantis all day, trying to find out something that you already knew?"
A smile plays across her lips. "I thought you might enjoy the challenge."
"So what is it called?" Despite the overwhelming urge to shoot her, I just have to know.
As she opens her mouth to answer, I hear the distinctive sound of Rodney on the rampage, coming this way. I hastily stand and activate my radio.
"Ford, Teyla, meet me in the west tower; we are going on a little survey trip."
Ford's surprised voice responds. "Yes Sir. Should we wait for Dr McKay?"
"I think not."
A week might not be long enough.