SUMMARY: McKay, Sheppard, and a bottle of whiskey. Basically an excuse for a few Shep-centric conversations that these two would never have sober. Not slash.

NOTE: This will eventually be a collection of separate stories about events in John's past-- relayed over one night. I'm sorry if this seems out of character, but I couldn't come up with a more original plot device! Definite WIP. Because it's not plot-based, I won't be updating too often. I'll be posting as random ideas come to me, but each chapter can stand alone.

TIMELINE: This is set right after McKay and Mrs. Miller. Spoilers for that episode and maybe some before.

RATING: T for alcohol use and swearing.

DISCLAIMOR: I don't own the characters or previous story plots of Stargate Atlantis. This is just for fun.


Chapter 1- The Setup

With a huff of frustration, Rodney overrode the door control to Colonel Sheppard's quarters. He'd spent hours wandering the city, searching for the spiky-headed officer. Sheppard wasn't answering his radio and thanks to his super gene, no one could find him on the sensors. There was only one place he hadn't looked, and McKay wasn't going to let a locked door stop him from getting some answers. Slamming his hand down on the panel, Rodney stormed into the dimly lit room.

Annoyance froze into shock at the scene in front of him. The military leader of Atlantis was sprawled on the floor next to his bed. His back was propped up against the wall, while he leered with one eye closed at a half-empty bottle of whiskey. He was lying shirtless against the cold tile floor and Rodney was absurdly grateful for the regulation pair of sweatpants tied firmly at his hips.

The reek of alcohol had hit him as soon as he'd stepped into the doorway. Shower-dampened hair was plastered to the man's forehead and McKay could hear the quiet grumble of Johnny Cash seeping from his headphones.

Meeting his eyes distractedly, the Colonel quietly whispered the lyrics, "Nobody seemed to know where John called home… he just drifted into town and stayed all alone."

Not knowing what to say, the cranky scientist fell back onto their familiar routine, and choked, "Damnit Sheppard, I've been looking all over for you. You just ran out after the debriefing. I told you I wanted to talk to you about the new energy project, and now you're completely useless."

The usually alert pilot looked like he was having trouble focusing on the shorter man as he paced back and forth in the room's tight confines. Lowering his eyes, the soldier eventually slurred, "…mmm sorry… u'r right…. jus' keep let'n v'ryone down…" He squeezed his eyes tight, and tugged at a fistful of his wildly tousled hair, before reaching blindly for the nearby bottle and downing several swigs.

Rodney's jaw dropped open. After a moment of silent shock he strode over to Sheppard, and grabbed the bottle from his loose grip. Slapping away the Colonel's protests, McKay hissed, "Give me that you idiot. If you're going to use contraband booze to kill whatever brain cells you have left, then you can at least spare a bit for someone who won't miss a few."

Sheppard didn't even rise to his challenge. He watched Rodney take the bottle, looking deflated and broken. McKay scowled. He hadn't really wanted the whiskey, and certainly wasn't in the mood to babysit a liquor-soaked man who knew a hundred ways to kill him with a toothpick.

As suddenly as the complaint sprang to mind, he realized that in three years he'd never seen the Colonel drunk. The man was too much of a control freak. Sure, he'd drink politely on trading missions or have a beer with his men. But, polishing off a bottle of whiskey alone in a dark room was definitely not Sheppard's style. With a cold knot in his stomach, the awkward genius suddenly understood that something bad must have happened.

The sober physicist mentally kicked himself, 'Crap, Crap, Crap… He was normal a few hours ago… typical macho tough guy… what in the hell happened? He's still not cleared for off-world missions, but that's nothing new. Anyway, he hasn't even been through the gate since… Kolya…'

Cringing, Rodney looked at the bottle with disgust. He hated whiskey, but knew the only way to keep Sheppard from finishing it all was to drink some himself. Hopefully he'd get the other man to pass out. Maybe then he could talk to Weir and Carson and find out what was going on. Admittedly, he hadn't been paying much attention at the staff meeting earlier. But he was a busy guy… especially now that Jeannie was gone and they had no ZPM. It irritated McKay that he hadn't been told about something important enough to send his teammate off the deep end.

Sitting up straight and looking much more alert, Sheppard reached for the bottle and mumbled, "I'll be okay Rodney, you'd don't have to stay."

Rodney was frozen in place. Despite what the stubborn soldier said, he was definitely not okay. With a groan, McKay began gulping down the liquor like it was water. He had no idea what to say anyway. Emotions were not his thing; and there was no way to talk Sheppard out of a mood once his guilt took over. He'd heard the man quietly blame himself for the actions of everyone from the Wraith to the Genii to the Hoffans. Still, something must have been different this time... McKay hadn't seen that dark look in his eyes for a while.

Slinging back another gulp of whisky, Rodney brooded, 'The guy was tortured by a wraith and came out joking. Just what in the hell did I miss?'

Realizing that McKay wasn't going anywhere, Sheppard sighed, "Fine, you're right, okay; I'm completely useless. Sitting here, getting wasted like a selfish ass, just because…. Just because, well, I guess talking to Rod got me thinking… and we both know how dangerous that is, right?"

Rodney ignored the other man's weak humor and pathetic attempt at a smile. He was desperately curious about what his counterpart could have said to shake the stoic military commander. But he bit his tongue, not wanting to scare him off.

The Colonel almost looked disappointed when McKay didn't respond. He hesitantly continued, "We were just joking about our differences at first, you know? He told me that in his reality, my active social life consisted of Mensa club meetings, and that my ego in the lab was even worse than his…… But laughing at the small stuff only made me wonder about the other differences. And once I started asking him questions, I couldn't stop. Since then, I've been looking back at every decision I've ever made, and wondering if I have any idea what I am doing…"

Sheppard cut off Rodney's high-pitched stuttering with an upraised hand, "Don't Rodney. I'm not looking for reassurances. I realize that the chips fall where they do, and there's only so much we can do about it. But, that doesn't mean I can't be a little pissed off at fate."

The scientist couldn't help his mixed reaction to the usually optimistic man's broken tone. Their recent visitor had forced Rodney to deal with his own baggage, and he somehow found himself resentful that Sheppard might have been even more effected.

There was a touch of the bitterness in his voice when the physicist grumbled, "It sounds like Rod knew the 'other you' pretty well, huh? 'Cause if the tables had been turned, I don't even know enough about your life to…... Well, let's just say that the ridiculously few things I do know about your life on Earth, I've found out accidentally."

Never one to stand down from a challenge, Sheppard brusquely grabbed back the whisky bottle, "So, go ahead McKay. Ask me. Ask me anything. I'm a freak'n open book. Because right now, I just don't give a damn."

Rodney was torn between fear at this uncharacteristic statement and an overwhelming curiosity to finally learn more about his (ahem) friend. Warily he hedged, "Okay, umm… since you brought it up… how in the hell did you end up taking the Mensa test anyway?"