John Sheppard could be heard long before he even got close to the infirmary. Thump-clack, thump-clack. Carson winced at the noise and wondered for the twentieth time why he had given in and let John use a cane rather than crutches. Probably a moment of weakness combined with the desire to stop the whining.
The thump-clacking got louder, and Carson wondered what the officer was going to complain about this time. Odds were, it was either going to be about being grounded until his foot healed or the new series of vaccinations he was undergoing. It was amazing. John's recalcitrance was inversely proportional to the seriousness of his injuries. Fortunately (or unfortunately!), the toe injury wasn't serious at all…
Carson became even more curious when he heard the intermittent hissing that accompanied the other noises. Thump-clack-hiss, thump-hiss-clack, hiss, thump-clack… What the hell was the man up to?
The thumps and clacks stopped and the infirmary doors slid open. "Beckett!" John bellowed as he stepped inside.
Carson cautiously peeked around the corner. John stood just inside the doorway with a thunderous expression on his face. In one hand he held his cane, which was now being threateningly pointed in the Scot's general direction. And in the other hand he held a hissing, spitting kitten by the nape of its neck.
"Beckett!" John yelled again. "I went to my quarters to take a shower and I found this intruder drinking from my toilet!" Behind him, the infirmary doors opened again to admit Rodney, but the colonel just continued with his tirade. "It's not enough that this thing grounds me for a week? It also has to invade my space? I'd swear it was laughing at me!"
"That thing is a cat, Colonel," said Rodney. "That's not a hard word to pronounce. CAT. Come on, you can do it..."
John half-turned to make a face at the astrophysicist. "Funny, McKay. I know damn well what it is. I also know that you guys were supposed to be watching it!"
" 'It' happens to be a 'she'," Carson felt compelled to add.
"Save the anatomy lesson for later, doc." John took the opportunity to drop the kitten on one of the exam tables. She promptly tried to get into Carson's lab coat pocket again, but was too far away and began to mew piteously. The colonel looked like he wanted to smack her with his cane, so Rodney scooped her up and held her protectively against his chest.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Rodney demanded.
"Aye, lad, it's a cat, not a bloody Wraith!"
John folded his arms defensively. "I just don't like cats. I'm much more of a dog person."
Rodney shook his head in disgust. "How can you like dogs? Dogs are way too clingy and needy. Always whining, always thinking of food. And they drink from your toilet, too!"
"Whatever, Rodney. I'm done here. Just keep this thing away from me." John turned his head to glare at the physician. "Carson, you too." Without another word, he thump-clacked his way out of the infirmary.
"Jeez, someone's cranky today," Rodney sniped.
Carson agreed. Nodding at the kitten, he said, "For her own sake, though, we've got to keep a closer eye on her."
Rodney gave a little laugh. "It figures that after we spent so much time arguing over who would care for her, she'd find the quarters of the one person who didn't like her!"
Earlier that day
"No!" yelled Rodney. "Are you crazy, Carson?"
"What's wrong with it?"
"We are not calling the cat Boudicca!"
"Boudicca was a warrior queen. It's a good Scottish name! And I can't keep calling her "wee beastie" all the time, now can I?"
"Then find something else!"
"Well, one thing's for sure. The name "Carter" is out of the question!" Carson said, and took a perverse pleasure in watching his friend's face turn bright red.
"Fine!" yelled Rodney as he slammed his coffee mug on the cafeteria table, ignoring the liquid that sloshed over the edge. "We'll figure that out later. We also haven't decided yet who exactly is going to look after her. I still think it should be me – after all, she followed me home."
"Actually, I think it was the food she followed through the gate," the Scot said dryly. "I've never seen a scrawnier stray, even during my university days in Edinburgh." He grinned. After he'd made sure that the kitten was uninjured, he'd given her half a can of a high calorie shake they used on malnourished patients. (Carson himself had forced a few on John.) With an eagerness that rivaled Ronon's, she finished it in under two minutes and started looking for more. Now, after a week of regular meals, she had started to fill out.
"Yes, well, your depraved past notwithstanding, I was the one who was feeding her," said Rodney. "Therefore she was following me!"
"Yes, but it was in my pocket that she finally settled down!"
Elizabeth's amused voice interrupted their deliberations. "Problem, gentlemen?" John stood next to her, not even trying to hide his smirk.
"Ah, Elizabeth," said Rodney smoothly. "No problem. We're just discussing feline logistics."
The expedition leader arched one eyebrow as she set her tray down next to Carson's. "Have the two of you thought about joint custody?"
Carson's eyes twinkled as he considered it. "Aye, I'm sure we could work something out."
John pretended to look thoughtful. "Joint custody. Does that imply you're a couple or something?"
"Please!" Rodney groaned. "The kiss was bad enough..."
The physician pretended to be hurt. "What, am I not good enough for you?"
"No! I mean yes! I mean..."
Carson took pity on Rodney. Slapping him on the back, he said, "Never mind, lad. I think Laura would kill both of us, anyway."
Elizabeth laughed at the expression on Rodney's face. "Perish the thought!" she exclaimed.
Rodney gave her his best "we are not amused" look. "If you clowns are done, I'm going to do some actual work." He scooped up the cat. "Carson, have fun with your primitive healing rituals, and I'll see you at dinner."
As astrophysicist and cat left the cafeteria, Elizabeth looked a question at her CMO.
"Vaccine updates," he explained.
"Ah." Elizabeth nodded sagely, and John turned slightly pale.
Muttering a few Czech curses under his breath, Radek entered the lab and looked around for Rodney. "This memo makes no sense! Are you out of your... mind?" he finished slowly, gaping at what he saw.
Rodney was sitting at his computer, pounding heavily on the keyboard and scowling at the screen. His lab coat lay in a heap on the floor next to him, and a tiny yellow and orange kitten slept on it. Without looking up, he said, "Yes, Radek, it's a cat. Now what do you want?"
With a last look at the slumbering feline, the engineer turned his attention back to the offending memo. Shaking the paper at Rodney, he angrily said, "This is terrible idea, to reroute power in this fashion. If there is overload, all the living quarters in that section will be cut off. Air circulation will not work, lights will not go on, doors will not open. And anyone caught inside will be stuck."
"There won't be an overload! I checked the conduit pathways three times. And if we do it my way, we'll boost the system's efficiency by a factor of five! Just think, Kavanaugh will stop bitching about the climate control."
"Just think. If there is overload, Kavanaugh will start bitching about everything else!"
With exaggerated patience, Rodney replied, "If by some infinitesimally small chance there's an overload -- which there won't be! -- then no one will actually be able to hear Kavanaugh bitching."
In spite of himself, Radek grinned. "Now that is a very good point." Then his smile faded. "But I still think this is a bad idea."
Radek sighed and gave up. He pointed in the direction of Rodney's lab coat. "Is this the kitten that is rumored to have vanquished Colonel Sheppard?"
Rodney nodded. "Yes, and in doing so she showed more ingenuity than the entire chemistry department put together!"
The two scientists continued their banter, and therefore did not notice when the kitten woke up, stretched, and wandered out the door.
John was glad his duty shift was finally over. He was tired and irritable, and his ass hurt from the vaccinations he'd been given. Somewhere along the way he had ditched his cane, and he was now avoiding Carson in an attempt to keep him from finding out. And just as he was about to slip out of the cafeteria after dinner, Dr. Heightmeyer cornered him to remind him of his mandatory monthly session. The perfect end to a perfect day.
With a sigh, John opened the door to his quarters with a mental command. They closed behind him as he began undressing in preparation for a hot shower. (Due to the kitten's surprise appearance, he hadn't been able to shower earlier in the day.) Anyone disturbing him tonight for anything other than an emergency would find themselves on sanitation duty for the next month.
Unfortunately, though, his relaxation was short-lived. John made it into the shower stall and had one hand on the water controls when the lights went out. "What the hell?" he said. Groping his way back into his bedroom, he reached blindly until his hand connected with his earpiece. "Control, this is Sheppard."
There was no reply. He half-heartedly tried to think his door open, and wasn't surprised when it didn't respond, either.
"Control, this is Sheppard," John repeated. "Elizabeth, are you there? Rodney? Damn." He really really hoped this wasn't a sign of a Genii invasion or impending Wraith attack. Because, at the moment, there didn't seem to be anything he could do about it. Hopefully Rodney and Dr. Z., the "Wonder Twins", were already on the case.
After several new bruises sustained while finding his way around his quarters, John managed to dress and track down a flashlight he kept for emergencies. He wished he had his P90, which also had a light source, but this would have to do. He turned it on, squinted until his eyes adapted, then swept the beam across the room. Everything seemed to be in place. Bed, chairs, guitar, surfboard, glowing eyes...
Glowing eyes? "Holy shit!" John yelped as he realized he wasn't the only living thing in his quarters. He pointed his flashlight at the eyes, only to find that they belonged to his least favorite trespasser. "You're a persistent little bugger, I'll give you that," he muttered under his breath.
John turned the flashlight away from the cat and tried to figure out how he could get out of his quarters. He knew from watching Rodney that each of the doors in the city had access panels. Maybe he could fish around in there and manually open the door. After a few minutes, though, John realized that it wouldn't work. He couldn't manipulate the control crystals while simultaneously holding the flashlight, and the crystals themselves were arranged in patterns he couldn't decipher. Never mind the fact that he would be fried if the power came on while he was still playing with the mechanism.
"Rodney!" he hissed into his earpiece again as he sat on the floor. "If you can hear this, get me the fuck out of here!"
Nothing. John suddenly became aware of something butting against his leg. He looked down and saw the kitten trying to get his attention. She squeaked at him, and when he didn't respond she head-butted him again.
"Don't look at me!" he said. "If you hadn't come sneaking in here again, you wouldn't be stuck now. You brought this on yourself!" Unrepentant, she looked at him with mournful eyes and tried to climb into his lap.
"Oh, all right," John said. He took pity on the kitten and picked her up. "You're just a little kid, aren't you? Probably the first time you've been away from your mother." She snuggled into his lap and began to purr. John stroked her fur. "Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm a sucker for damsels in distress. Even if they are evil, intrusive cats."
Suddenly he heard a scraping noise. A piece of paper had been shoved under the door. Trying not to disturb the kitten, John reached over and grabbed it. It read: "Sorry about this. An unexpected overload disrupted power to the whole section. We'll try to get you out as soon as we can. Rodney."
"Lovely. And you probably caused the overload too, you loser," John muttered. But he was relieved that there was a relatively simple explanation for the blackout. All he had to do now was stay here and wait.
John wasn't sure how much time passed while he sat there and petted the cat. "Rodney and Carson will never let me live this down if they find out," he told her. She didn't seem to care. "Have they even named you yet?" Despite their newfound truce, he was still tempted to call her "Demonspawn."
Whatever. He gently de-felined himself, stood up, and moved towards his bed. Rodney and Zelenka were obviously having some difficulty reversing whatever they'd done, so John figured he might as well go to sleep. He wasn't going anywhere else anytime soon.
Predictably, as soon as he lay down the kitten began to cry. "Don't tell me a ferocious predator like you is afraid of the dark?" he asked sarcastically. When the pitiful noise didn't stop, John sighed and lifted her onto the bed with him. "It's just for tonight, understand? And if you tell anyone about this I really will go get Jinto's dog." In response, the kitten snuggled up against his feet.
John appreciated the warmth, and he fell asleep within minutes.
"I haven't heard from John yet. Are you sure he's all right?" Rodney asked anxiously.
"How can I possibly know that? I don't have a crystal ball!" came Carson's cross reply. Rodney had finally managed to restore the power, and the two of them were walking briskly towards John's quarters. The city's sensors registered a life sign in there, but John was not responding to his radio.
When they arrived, Rodney mentally triggered the doorbell equivalent. There was no answer, so he knocked loudly. After that, he just turned to his friend and shrugged helplessly.
Carson sighed, closed his eyes, and firmly thought "Medical override" at the door. It opened instantly, and what the physician saw inside made his face relax into a grin. "Rodney, you have to see this," he whispered.
"Oh my God, is he dead? It's all my fault!"
"Hush! He's not dead." Carson rolled his eyes and pulled Rodney forward by his collar. Rodney peered inside and promptly started to snicker. John was lying peacefully on his bed with the cat draped over his stomach. The cat was purring lazily and John had a slight smile on his face. "Can you believe this?" the Scot whispered. "They're actually coexisting peacefully. I never thought I'd see it."
Before Rodney could reply, John stirred and slowly opened one eye. He glared fuzzily at the two men at his door. "Not. One. Word." he said firmly, and then went back to sleep.