RATING: T for language.
SEASON: Third season just after Common Ground.
MAJOR CHARACTERS: The boys with a little Carson and the others thrown in for good measure
CATEGORY: Angst, h/c, humor, episode tag
SUMMARY: Why confront your issues when you can get drunk and play basketball instead? Tag for Common Ground. Sheppard-McKay friendship. One-shot.
SPOILERS: Anything up to and including Common Ground is fair game.
FEEDBACK: Yes, please. I thrive on it and so do the bunnies.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own them nor have I ever been affiliated with any twelve step program…although maybe I should be.
NOTES: This falls into the realm of my POV stories. You don't have to read them before hand but a few refs might make a bit more sense if you did. The list is on my profile page.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Special thanks, as always, to Koschka for the final once over.
One on One
Sheppard ducked to the left only to dart right as Rodney moved to cover him. In a seeming blur, he was behind the scientist and dropping an easy lay-up in the basket. McKay didn't move from his spot, simply raised his hand in silent acknowledgment of 'good one' as John beamed happily, already setting up to pass the basketball off to his opponent.
"You need to bob and weave a little, McKay." He pivoted from foot to foot in example. "Bob and weave."
"I'll take that under advisement, Colonel." Rodney straggled over to the sidelines to unenthusiastically receive the ball yet again.
Bob and weave? What the hell? Right then basket weaving would be a physical challenge for the physicist much less basketball. But here he was at almost two in the morning playing a game of one on one with Sheppard. He didn't even like basketball…playing, watching, discussing…nothing about the sport appealed to him. He could barely even dribble the damn ball. Not that any of that really came into play because Sheppard was up…what? Four hundred and ninety-two to zip? Not that he was keeping score, not that Sheppard could even concentrate long enough to keep score. His mind seemed to be rushing around just as much as his body was, if not more so. At least the basketball game, no matter how one sided, seemed to keep him centered on one thing…take the ball from McKay and put it in the basket.
It was the Wraith; that was the only explanation. Rodney had felt that same rush of adrenaline, that same inability to focus on anything he was doing or saying, when he'd practically overdosed on the enzyme when he was being held by Ford's posse. And even though what that Wraith had done to Sheppard when he had restored his life early that evening hadn't been exactly the same, it was pretty damn close. Carson had checked out the Colonel thoroughly when he came back to Atlantis. Actually, he had started checking him out in the Jumper on the flight back and continued in greater detail once they were back in the infirmary. His conclusions were fuzzy at best. Sheppard had been exposed to the Wraith enzyme, no doubt about it. Anyone that had been fed upon by a Wraith would have been exposed to the enzyme, but based on his questioning of Sheppard, Carson had presumed that the Wraith had probably given him a super dose of the stuff before his final feeding to ensure he stayed alive long enough for him to reverse the process.
And then there was the reversal itself. No one had any idea what was involved in that procedure but Rodney hadn't been lying when he said Sheppard looked even younger than when they had last seen him. Those fine lines that showed up around his eyes when he scrunched his face in thought or contemplation or worry or confusion were now a little finer. That little twist he gave his back after a long mission hadn't shown itself once since their return. And the confident swagger that typically leaned back into his heels now had him springing forward from the balls of his feet. He'd gone from laid-back and leisurely to hyper-alert and hastened in less than a day…in the time it had taken the Wraith to restore him, actually…and Carson didn't have a really good explanation as to why. John's adrenaline production was up, which he had seen with those people that had been exposed to the enzyme, but the associated activity in the prefrontal cortex that he had also seen with the enzyme wasn't there.
Which had led Rodney to ask the question that was on everyone's mind. "What the hell does that mean?"
"It means that the effects seem to be physical with less of the psychological concerns that we had with Lt. Ford or you and Ronon and Teyla, for that matter."
The team members and Elizabeth had regarded each other in an almost unbelieving way. Finally, Teyla asked hesitantly, "So, Colonel Sheppard simply feels…good. And that is that?"
"I don't feel good, I feel great," Sheppard supplied with his foot tapping non-stop as it dangled off the side of the hospital bed. "Best I've felt in years, like I'm twenty years old again."
Rodney rolled his eyes and turned to Teyla, "Oh, lord. You better send all the teenage Athosian girls to the Mainland then. At least until this passes." Ignoring Sheppard's frown, he addressed the physician. "It will pass, won't it, Carson?"
"Aye, in all likelihood it will. Think of it like an accentuated runner's high. Eventually his body will regulate itself out on its own."
"So, long story short, can I get out of here?" Sheppard was literally bouncing where he sat on the bed.
"You can go. But a word to the wise, Colonel; try not to overexert yourself. As the saying goes, you'll eventually have to pay the piper if you do."
Jumping to his feet, he beamed happily. "Good, because I'm dying for some cake."
Some turned out to be pretty much an entire cake. Ronon managed to keep up with him for about five slices. Teyla demurely refused a second piece and Elizabeth didn't even finish her first.
"What's the matter, McKay?" Sheppard asked around the mouthful of chocolate frosting he had just scraped from the bottom of his plate. "Not hungry?"
Rodney realized he had stopped halfway through his third piece and was openly gaping at the way his friend was devouring the dessert. "How can you do that? And more importantly, where are you putting it?"
He shrugged and pressed his fork in the last of the crumbs to gather them off the dish. "It's just a little cake."
"Since when is eating your weight in something considered 'a little'? Christ, my cholesterol level just jumped twenty points watching you."
Leaning back in satisfaction he shrugged again. "I'll work it off." But the sated repose was short lived.
"And how do you propose to do that?"
At Elizabeth's question, he leaned forward, excited again. "I'm glad you asked. I was thinking that maybe we could fly to the Mainland, have a bonfire, maybe take Ronon on a snipe hunt."
There were shocked and confused looks around the table. "Oh, you have to be kidding, right?"
"No, Rodney, I'm not kidding."
"You're going to take Ronon snipe hunting?" Rodney shook his head in amazement. "You're going to take a man who lived in the woods for seven years and can track anything snipe hunting?"
"It's a snipe, Rodney," Sheppard grit conspiratorially.
"It's Ronon, Sheppard." The scientist's hand pointed sharply at the large warrior sitting across from him. "If anyone can track and capture an animal, real or imaginary, it's him."
Teyla, who had already experienced the joy of snipe hunting on one of the first overnight missions back when Ford was still on the team, chose that moment to speak up. "As much fun as that promises to be, Colonel, I am afraid I will have to pass." The Athosian had, in fact, returned to camp from her 'hunt' with a gloating smile on her face that had quickly silenced the snickers of her two team mates that had stayed behind. She then informed the men that it was now their turn to hunt for Lt. Ford. Sheppard and McKay had spent two hours scouring the woods before they finally found the young Marine bound and gagged halfway up a tree. "It has been a long day, and I think I shall retire to my quarters."
"Besides," Ronon offered with a smirk, "I'd hate to overshadow McKay's kill with one of my own."
At Sheppard's curiously raised eyebrow, Rodney shook his head in dismissal. "It was nothing. I just squelched a Genii plot to spread the Bubonic Plague throughout the Pegasus Galaxy. I'll tell you all about it later. Wouldn't want to take the limelight from your celebration."
"Well, that's a story I'd like to hear, as well, Rodney," Elizabeth said as she stood herself. "But I have an early morning briefing with Major Lorne's team, so I'm going to call it a night, too."
Ronon pushed the remnants of his own partially eaten dessert away. "Yeah, I'm beat. I'll catch you in the morning."
"What? Already?" Sheppard whined as the others started to leave. "But we just got started." When Rodney stood to go, too, John drooped dramatically. "You too, McKay?"
Rodney hesitated, looking longingly from the others that were leaving to the promise of bed and sleep back to his friend. He was exhausted…physically, emotionally, psychologically… but if he was honest with himself, he probably would rather be with Sheppard than in his own room. At least here he knew the other man was still alive. Finally he sat back down. "I guess I could stick around for a little longer."
After the others had said goodnight and expressed how happy they were that Sheppard was back and in one piece, Rodney asked, "So, what are you up for? Chess? A movie? Radek's sister just sent him a new Monopoly game. It's all in Czech but I'm sure we could muddle our way through although I have no idea what the current exchange rate is for the koruna."
"I was thinking maybe some basketball."
And that's how Rodney found himself on a makeshift court at two a.m. with a basketball bouncing off his forehead. "Son of a bitch, Sheppard!" Blinking back the stars that formed, he bent at the middle and grabbed his head with both hands.
"Christ, McKay, this isn't soccer."
"Really? Really? Well, thanks for clearing that up, Colonel. I just couldn't figure out why the goals were suspended on a pole three meters in the air. Now it makes perfect sense." Hands landed on his shoulders and he was being led to the bench along the wall. "Can you get a concussion from a basketball?"
"Well, you can get a massive goose egg, that's for sure." John winced as he looked at the growing lump. "Here, let me get something for that." Going to the supply cabinet in the corner of the room, he pulled out a chemical ice pack and activated it before handing it over. Rodney took the offered first aid then watched as Sheppard, obviously unable just to sit down, took the ball and starting taking shots from the three-point line. "You know, a standard basketball is over nine inches in diameter, McKay."
Peeking up from behind the ice pack, Rodney rolled his eyes. "And your point would be?"
The ball bounced off the backboard and he sprinted to rebound it. "Three feet away and you can't catch a nine-inch-diameter ball; even most preschoolers can manage that." He took another shot, grinning happily when it whooshed through silently. "Nothing but net."
Snorting quietly to himself, Rodney shook his head. If only life were as obstacle free as that ball moving through that hoop. No Genii, no Wraith, no two of them together on some unknown planet sucking the life out of your best friend as you watched the live feed…literally… and couldn't do a goddamn thing to stop it. But life wasn't like that, was it? Life nailed you in the face to let you know that in no uncertain terms your ass was just lucky you got to come off the bench in the first place and it was just a matter of time before you ended up back there permanently.
Rodney shook himself out of his thoughts and responded to Sheppard's assessment of his sports skills. "You know, I haven't slept in almost twenty-two hours. I've spent the entire day being shot at and running and worrying and analyzing data and searching for you and raiding warehouses and shooting mutant rats and worrying and searching some more and I am beyond exhausted. So, you'll excuse me if I'm not exactly Shaquille Barkley tonight."
"It's Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley, hotshot." He tried an alleyoop and the ball banged loudly off the board before flying off across the room. Undeterred, he pounced after it. "And if you're so damn tired, what are you doing here playing ball?"
Sighing heavily, Rodney let his hands fall limply between his knees poking out the ends of cut-off sweatpants. "Because, Sheppard, I've spent the entire day being shot at and running and worrying and analyzing data and searching for you and raiding warehouses and worrying and searching some more."
Grabbing the ball in midbounce, John held it quietly before finally saying, "Oh."
"Yes, as you so eloquently put it, oh." With a shake of his head, Rodney replaced the ice pack on his forehead. "And let me assure you, that whole feeling of I can't do jack shit to stop this from happening is one I could have happily lived my whole life without experiencing."
A few seconds passed before John admitted, "I knew you guys would find me. Never once doubted it."
Taking in the sheepish expression Sheppard was giving him between staring at the ball in his hands, all Rodney could think was, well, at least that's a vast improvement over the abandonment issues that surfaced during the time dilation experience with the junior Ancients wilderness troupe. What he said instead was, "If it hadn't been for Ladon Radim, we never would have found you. Do you have any idea how much it sucks being in debt to a Genii?"
"I'd say it comes pretty damn close to being in debt to a Wraith." He took another shot, this one not even hitting the backboard.
"Oh, crap. You're right. I'm in debt to a Genii and a Wraith. Now if I can just find some reason to owe Samantha Carter for you being alive, I'd have the ultimate nightmare trifecta of obligatory guilt."
"I thought it was worse than that. I thought I owed you for my life." With a smirk, Sheppard retrieved the ball and started dribbling in place.
Rodney shrugged and leaned back against the wall, gingerly touching at this forehead. "Eh, it was my turn… I think. I've honestly lost count. When was the last time you risked your life for me?"
"When you got shot in the ass with an arrow," Sheppard offered, attempting to pass the ball between his legs.
"No, that doesn't count," McKay dismissed with a flick of his hand. "That was all Ronon's fault. He owes all of us for that one."
"Then I'd have to go with cleaning your room. I'll take facing down a Wraith army over fighting genetically enhanced dust bunnies for your dirty socks any day."
"Okay, now you know why I used the serum on you because I am much, much too valuable to this expedition to be eaten alive by lint balls that have evolved into higher life forms."
"Well, that explanation makes the whole brainwashing ordeal and subsequent servitude perfectly acceptable," Sheppard growled. "Here's an idea, invest in a goddamn broom and use it on occasion instead of drugging your best friend to do it for you."
"I think the stash of Lucky Charms and bottle of Crown Royal you stole during the whole cleaning incident more than made up for any hardships you suffered."
Hazel eyes slid toward blue ones as the dribbling stopped abruptly with a thought. "I still have half that bottle left, you know."
Rodney considered the lump on his head, considered the man with the mischievous curve to his lips in front of him, and considered the fact that he was already going to have on hell of a headache in the morning from colliding with a basketball, so one from a hangover probably wouldn't be that much worse relatively speaking. "What about the cereal?"
"Couple of boxes."
"Well, why the hell are you still standing there? Go get the damn things."
An hour later, Rodney was playing basketball again…if you could call staggering around the court trying to catch the ball in a fit of drunken giggles playing basketball. Sheppard had given up on dribbling; instead he was holding the ball under one arm and the bottle in the other. After an elongated swig, he passed it off to McKay before hunkering down and attempting a bounce that hit his foot and went careening off toward the bench. Rodney fought to keep from spewing the whisky in his mouth across the court as Sheppard bounded off after the ball, nearly slipping on the magic marshmallows that he squashed from the box of cereal that had gone flying fifteen minutes earlier when Rodney took yet another ball to the face. That one hurt a hell of a lot less considering he could barely feel his face at the moment. Regaining control of the ball and ninety percent of his balance, Sheppard reassumed the offensive, if somewhat swaying, position. "Okay, you ready?"
"Absolutely not," Rodney assured, him but he replaced the lid on the few shots that remained and gripped the neck of the bottle a little tighter as he tried to put on a game face. All that earned him was Sheppard holding his middle as he burst into a belly laugh that had him gasping for breath.
"Christ, McKay," he forced out between guffaws. "I'm not sure whether to fake left… or offer you a laxative." Rodney wavered between offended and outraged, which evidently just made matters worse since Sheppard was now on his knees turning a deep red. "Stop it," he wheezed, "you're killing me here."
Finally, Rodney decided fuck it and joined in on the laughter. By the time they had both caught their breath enough to speak, they were lying on the floor staring at the ceiling of the gym. It was early morning Atlantean time but dawn was still a few hours off. The lights of the city, however, were enough to dimly illuminate the swirl of color of the stained glass above them. And given his current level of intoxication, the colors were swirling more than they technically should be. "God, I can't remember the last time I've laughed this hard." Taking another drink, he handed the bottle over to Sheppard.
"Vegas," John offered. "When you thought you had won forty thousand dollars on the nickel slots and it was actually forty thousand credits." He started laughing again at the memory. "You were so excited you started tipping all the change girls and security guys and cocktail waitresses a hundred bucks each so that by the time they paid you the two thousand you had actually won you had given out over twenty-five hundred to the staff."
"Man, I could have bought a lot of breakfast cereal with those winnings," Rodney snickered wistfully.
"At least they comped us for the buffet."
"That hardly counts as breaking even, Sheppard."
"I don't know, you sure put away a lot of prime rib that night." Rodney grinned and shrugged in resigned agreement and John elbowed him as he stared up at the yellows and oranges swirling above him. "So have you decided where you want to go on our next road trip?"
Turning his head, he looked over at the boyish grin of the man on the floor next to him, a grin that was even more boyish than usual. "I'm thinking Beverly Hills."
Eyebrows rose in surprise. "Movie stars and swimming pools?"
"Plastic surgeons. I can't have you looking younger than me when you're the older one. I figure a few Botox treatments should level the playing field."
Placing the basketball under his head like an overstuffed pillow, Sheppard let out a disbelieving, "Ha! As if you would willingly let someone stick needles in your face."
"No pain, no gain as the saying goes. Not all of us are fortunate enough to be gifted renewed youth from our mortal enemies." Rodney laughed lightly only to realize that John had gone silent beside him. Looking over, he saw the man subconsciously clenching his hand into the fabric over his chest, and suddenly his flip comment didn't seem so funny. "Oh, hell, Sheppard, I didn't mean that. It was painful, wasn't it? I mean of course it was painful, we could see that on your face when…" Realizing his babbling was just making matters worse, he sat up when Sheppard did. "Look, forget I said anything. Let's just go do something else. What do you say we go raid the infirmary for rubber gloves and hit the balcony for some glow glove launching? I mean we're too drunk to be playing basketball anyway."
John stood abruptly, swaying with a frown before forcing a brittle smile. "Speak for yourself, McKay. I'm fine." Dribbling the ball to prove his point, he made a run for the net, attempting a lay up and missing, landing hard on his ass when he came down and lost what little balance he had. "In fact, I'm better than fine." Lurching back to his feet, he retrieved the ball. "I'm fucking great." Making another run for the goal, he lost control of the ball before even reaching the foul line. "Better than great even." Gathering the basketball once again he considered a third try before letting out a growl and throwing it against the wall. "Best I've been in my goddamn life!"
Rodney ducked his head as the ball ricocheted off the wall and came back toward him. When the coast was clear, he looked up to see Sheppard walking in a broad circle with his hands behind his head, eyes closed tight and breath coming in ragged drags. And suddenly Rodney was wondering if the excess energy was an effect of what the Wraith had done to him or if it was a way for Sheppard to avoid thinking about that very thing.
"John…" Rodney started quietly only to have a finger raised in warning in his direction, the hand shaking visibly even to Rodney's blurring vision.
"I told you, I'm fine, McKay." With a shake of his head he started pacing again. "I mean it's not like I haven't almost died on missions in the past. Hell, I've even intentionally done things that I never thought I'd come back from. So this is no different, right? I mean, why the fuck would this be any different?"
"Because this one would have had no meaning whatsoever." At Rodney's comment he stopped and stared with a look of horror and anger and frustration that made Rodney's stomach clench. But it was true. Kolya had used Sheppard, had used them all, in a political maneuver that involved Atlantis only on the furthest fringes. He had put John into play like a pawn that could be sacrificed regardless of the outcome of his gambit and that sacrifice would have gained Atlantis nothing in return but cost them more than Kolya could even imagine.
"That bastard," Sheppard grit venomously. "That goddamn son of a bitch. I should have killed his fucking ass when I had the chance."
"Yes, because shooting unarmed men is so very much in your character," Rodney rolled his eyes before continuing. "Look, once bitten, twice shy. Fool me twice, shame on me. Hell, I guess now we're on third times the charm. The point is, no more chances for him. If Ladon's men don't catch him and make a public example of him, then he's dead as soon as any of us get him in our sights. End of story. We all have enough scars courtesy of Acastus Kolya."
"Some of us actually have the physical ones to show for it." John's hand was at his chest again and Rodney found himself swallowing down the burning bile at the thought of what was hidden beneath his t-shirt.
"Yeah," Rodney agreed blandly with fingers tracing over his own scarred forearm, "lucky us."
"Luck has nothing to do with it."
At Sheppard's observation, Rodney stood and once he regained his equilibrium he handed over the bottle of whisky. "Maybe not, but Crown Royal and Lucky Charms go a long way in helping to forget… at least for a little while."
"Then I guess that'll have to do." Taking the bottle and another sip, he admitted, "You know, as much as it hurt to be fed upon…and trust me, it hurt like motherfucking hell… I think it was worse knowing you all were watching it."
"Yeah, that was the highlight of the whole ordeal for me. I mean, after that last feeding you looked so much like Gall did after he was fed on and all I could think was even if we get him back and alive he's just going to…" When his voice went a little hoarse, Rodney shook his head and scrubbed his face. "Goddammit, this is not something I want to think about right now. Not ever, really." Looking around to reoccupy his mind with something else, anything else, he demanded, "Where the hell is that other box of cereal?"
Instead of the cereal, the bottle was back in his hand. "I wouldn't have done that, McKay."
"I'm sure Brendan would have said the same thing the morning we shipped out to the weapon's satellite, too."
"I wouldn't have done that to you, Rodney," he ascertained with inebriated sincerity.
"You wouldn't have been here for me to stop you. They would have shipped you back to Earth," Rodney finished morosely then finished off the bottle of whisky.
John slung his arm around Rodney's shoulder, sending them both staggering off to the right. "Then you never would have been in short supply of Lucky Charms."
Rodney couldn't stop the grin to match the one mirrored back at him just as drunkenly. "You'd have done that for me?"
"That may be one of the nicest gestures anyone has ever made toward me." Rodney found himself a little choked up to think that John would ship him boxes of breakfast cereal if he were sent back to Earth. Or maybe all the booze and running around was causing the Lucky Charms to come back on him. Either way, he was truly touched by the sentiment.
"That's what friends are for, right?" Sheppard's legs wobbled slightly and they both nearly went down.
"Driving your little motorized scooter down the aisles? Goosing the attractive women in the produce section?"
"Hey," John's words smeared together messily, "if I was going to be labeled a dirty old man then I planned earn that reputation fair and square."
"Backing into the displays of soda and pissing off the stock boys?"
"It's their own damn fault for putting them within my turning radius." When Rodney snorted, Sheppard patted his shoulder. "Feeling better?"
"Yeah, actually, I think I am."
"Good, 'cause I'm not." Rodney didn't even have time to react before Sheppard puked all over both their boots. Evidently chocolate cake, Lucky Charms, Crown Royal, basketball, and crashing from Wraith enzyme didn't go together as well as they had originally thought.
Fighting back the sympathetic gag reflexes, Rodney closed his eyes and crinkled his nose even as he reeled backwards several steps away from the puddle that provided testament to their evening's activities. "Well, that is just fucking impressive, Sheppard."
But the Colonel wasn't listening. His eyes were rolling back in his head and his knees were buckling as he managed to slur, "Be sure to tip the piper for me," before he crumpled to the floor in a heap, dragging Rodney most of the way with him.
Listing precariously where he rested on his knees, Rodney keyed at his radio, only to find it wasn't in his ear. But that didn't stop him from requesting, "Clean up, aisle two," before he collapsed on the floor beside Sheppard.
"I'm sorry to have to wake you, Dr. Beckett, but I thought you should see this." Curling on his side, Rodney wished whoever the person was that was talking would shut the hell up so he could sleep. He also wished whoever was beating his skull in with a sledgehammer would stop that, as well. Unfortunately, neither of those happened. "I was doing my patrol and I thought it was odd that the lights were on in here so I checked it out and that's when I found them."
"Aye, lad, you did the right thing," Carson sighed dramatically.
"Are they okay?" the strange voice asked in worry. "I mean, this isn't some alien virus that's going to infect us all, is it?"
"How long have you been on Atlantis, Sergeant?" Carson's voice was patient and closer than it had been before.
"I just came over on the Daedalus run last month, Sir."
"Well, then, seeing as you're new here, let me explain a few things for you. First of all, if this was something that was a threat to the entire population, the city would go into quarantine and lock down the infected areas. Secondly, this isn't the first time I've seen this condition, although the marshmallows are a new and interesting addition." A bright light was suddenly shining in Rodney's eye and he mumbled angrily at the invasion of his private space and the hammering intensified. "In fact, you can probably find similar in any Earth-based pub on a particularly rowdy Saturday night."
"So, they're just drunk?"
The empty bottle Rodney was cuddling to his chest was being pried away from his hand. "Does this answer your question?"
"What do we do with them, now?"
"We'll get them up and to the infirmary so they can sleep it off. And close off the room so they can come clean it up once they've sobered up. I've found penance to be much more effective if undertaken with a hangover." Rodney was doing his best to ignore the conversation but that became pretty much impossible when Carson started shaking him with a loud, "Rodney McKay, wake your gubbed arse this instant!"
Wincing at the sound, he tried to open his eyes only to close them again with a moan at the glare. "Carson, go the hell away."
"I'm sorry, Rodney, but I just can't do that. I leave Colonel Sheppard in your care and this is the state that I find you in. Disappointed doesn't even begin to cover my reaction to this whole situation."
"Sheppard?" Forcing himself to open his eyes again, he could just make out the hazy form of the other man lying a few feet away. A moment of alarm hit him as he realized the Colonel wasn't moving. Trying to clear the fog in this brain and remember what happened, all that came was the image of a Wraith sucking out Sheppard's life and Kolya sneering at them and suddenly the alarm turned to panic. Sitting quickly he grabbed Carson's arm. "The Wraith! It fed on him! I saw it!" The wave of nausea that accompanied his movement had him clamping a hand over his mouth with a groan.
"Sergeant, be a good lad and grab that waste basket for Dr. McKay." Rodney managed to hold it together until the garbage can was in his hands then Carson's hand was resting on his back as he retched up his share of the whisky and snacks. "There you are, now. I know it's miserable now, but you'll feel better in the morning for it."
"Sheppard?" Rodney gasped as he finished emptying his stomach but keeping a white-knuckle grip on the container just in case.
"Is just as snockered as you, it appears, but otherwise seems to be fine. Do you care to tell me what the two of you were up to this evening?"
Looking dazedly around the gym, the memories came back. "Basketball… we were playing basketball."
"Since when does basketball involve whisky and breakfast foods?" Carson plucked off a green smudge adhered to Rodney's face that had at one time been clover shaped. "And why do you look as if you've been in a fist fight?"
"I had a disagreement with the ball," Rodney told him distractedly as his eyes landed on Sheppard's still unresponsive shape.
"Evidently the ball won."
Ignoring Carson's comment as he continued to stare at the man splayed beside him on the floor, he asked, "Are you sure he's okay?"
"His heart rate and respiration are fine. And honestly, I've seen my mates worse off than this after we finished exams; although I have a feeling the crash from the Wraith influence probably hit him just as hard as the drink."
Leaning over, Rodney shook the shoulder nearest him. "Sheppard?" Grimacing at the volume of his own voice, he tried again. "Sheppard, wake up."
Bloodshot eyes flew open with an alertness that relaxed when his head turned to regard the hand on his shoulder. "McKay, you look like shit."
"You should look in the mirror."
"Why? Do I have a miniature rainbow plastered to my forehead, too?" Sitting up, John let his head sink onto his knees that he pulled slowly to his chest with a mumbled curse.
Rubbing delicately at his pounding skull, several other small bits and pieces fell from Rodney's hair and face. "At least the ones on me aren't partially digested."
"I smell really, really bad," Sheppard observed from behind his legs.
"Aye, you both do," Carson concurred. "Let's get you two to the infirmary where you can clean up, get some fluids in you and then a bit more rest."
Taking the assistance offered by the young marine, Rodney made it to his feet with a dangerous roll of his stomach that he managed to hold at bay. Sheppard didn't make it that far. His legs turned to rubber as soon as Carson had him halfway to his feet. Lying flat on his back again, he covered his eyes with his arm. "I feel really, really, bad, too."
"Just be still for a moment, lad. We'll give your stomach a chance to rest before we try that again." Retrieving another ice pack from the supply cabinet, Carson told the marine, "Go ahead and take Dr. McKay to the infirmary. We'll be along in a minute."
"No," Rodney insisted, "we'll wait."
Placing the ice under Sheppard's neck he shook his head. "There's no reason for you to be standing around waiting for the Colonel to walk down the hall. He'll be fine."
"I said we'll wait."
At Rodney's unrelenting tone, Sheppard spoke up. "Rodney, just go to the infirmary. Christ, I'll be right behind you."
"Yeah, I've heard that before," the scientist scoffed. "Twice actually, and both times you stayed on one side of the gate while I came through to this one. So, you'll have to forgive me if I'm developing a complex."
Raising his head slightly, John regarded his teammate before replacing him arm to block out the light. "At least sit down before you end up back down on the floor with me."
"That, I can do." Sitting heavily on the bench, Rodney leaned his head back with a pained and exhausted sigh. And evidently he drifted off again because it seemed that in no time a hand was on his shoulder shaking him awake again.
"Sir," the marine informed him, "Dr. Beckett and Colonel Sheppard are ready to go."
The halls were still thankfully empty, and except for an occasional early-riser jogging or late-nighter making his way back to his quarters, no one was around. When they reached the infirmary, they changed groggily into scrubs, the nurse taking their clothes and bagging them for the laundry while they splashed a little water on their faces and stumbled back into their respective beds. Carson then forced a bottle of Gatorade into one hand and basin into the other.
"Drink what you can without making the nausea worse," he directed before turning down the lights and leaving them to sleep.
Rodney forced down a sip of the salty-sweet liquid before observing, "Okay, as many drunken rampages as I've been on in my life, I've never once been so bad off that I ended up in the infirmary as a result… until now."
"You're a bad influence on me, McKay. I may have to join a twelve step program." Sheppard evidently took a sip of his own drink because Rodney could hear the small revolted noise he made in the bed beside his.
"Twelve steps, Colonel? How terribly inefficient of you. You should be able to do it in four, six tops."
"What? Admit I have a problem then get the hell over it?"
Swallowing down another gulp of his drink, Rodney smirked even though Sheppard couldn't see him in the dark. "Don't forget the restitution; I like the concept of restitution."
"Fine. I'm sorry I didn't follow you through the gate those two times when you thought I would."
"And here I was hoping for chocolate." His attempt at humor falling flat even to his ears, Rodney exhaled exhaustedly and placed the bottle on the bedside table, all appetite suddenly gone. "I really thought you were dead this time, Sheppard."
"Honestly, Rodney, so did I."
"And just so you know, that would have really sucked out loud."
"It's good to know you think so."
"Don't do it again."
"I promise I'll do my best not to."
Satisfied, Rodney smiled to himself as he recommended, "Maybe you should bob and weave a little more when we're being pursued."
"I'll take that under advisement, McKay." The grin was apparent in the voice that floated over to his bed in the dark. "Is that enough restitution for one night? Because I could definitely use some more sleep."
Yawning broadly, he settled in against his pillow and decided the hospital bed was much more comfortable than the gym floor. "Just still be here in the morning and we'll call it good."
"I'll be here," he guaranteed.
And when Rodney woke again several hours later, he was.