TITLE: The Devil Finds Time
AUTHOR: Wraithfodder
CATEGORY: Gen, humor
SPOILERS: Third season, no spoilers
NOTES: Big thanks to KodiakBear for her betaing assistance.

Copyright Disclaimer: The Stargate Atlantis characters, as presented on the series, belong to MGM, Sci Fi, and other registered copyright holders. No copyright infringement is meant or intended by the writing and posting of this material. I'm just borrowing the characters and the universe for a piece of non-profit 'fan fiction' and will return in one piece (well, usually). However, all original characters and story material are copyright to author. Please do not repost this fiction, in whole or in part, anywhere, without expression written permission of the author.

SUMMARY: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Elizabeth finds this out, much to her horror. For the 'Wordless Challenge' on the SGAFlashfic Livejournal Community.

Be careful what you wish for. It was an adage as old as time itself, one that everyone had at one time in their life heard, and was scrutinized in one cautionary tale after another. Wishing that the Wraith would go away was on the top of her list, and they'd been lucky not to have lost any of their expedition members to the vampiric aliens for a while. It wasn't so much the big wishes that might leave one drowning in a sea of regret, but the tiny ones, uttered or thought in the heat of the moment, that expanded time as though trapped in the intense grip of a black hole's gravity.

It had been two days ago during a briefing that she'd just wished Rodney would let her finish a sentence. She'd had a slight headache, and inwardly, as Rodney lectured on, she'd thought, 'shut up, Rodney.' Yes, it had been two very long, exceedingly trying days since that moment┘

The trade mission to Partmow, a planet of lush rolling hills of hearty grains, incredibly blue skies, and friendly people had been both a success and unmitigated disaster. The Partmowans conducted their trade missions over a meal, which was no problem, but as she had been sick with a bug of undetermined origin, Carson had ordered her to stay put. Because of the harvest cycle, the meeting couldn't be put off for another week. Instead, she'd placed her explicit trust in Colonel Sheppard to not trade nukes, C4 or any other weapons of mass destruction for food.

The trade had gone well - no new enemies, or Sheppard coming back with a request for a crate of grenades to trade for oranges. The grain harvest they would receive in return for agricultural assistance and equipment would be instrumental to becoming self-sufficient again, as they couldn't always rely on the Daedalus to bring supplies.

The only problem was that Sheppard's entire team had fallen prey to what Carson eventually put down to a bizarre case of food poisoning. The morning after they'd returned, all four team members had awoken to the complete inability to speak, or even voice a single squeak of dismay or shout of horror. Otherwise, they felt fine. Carson had sent someone to find Ronon as the Satedan hadn't even noticed the problem, since he wasn't the most talkative individual to start with.

Major Lorne and Dr. Levine had immediately gone back to Partmow to find the source of the poison. However, they returned with a rather large and colorful bouquet of bright yellow and orange flowers (which now sat in a vase on her desk) and profuse apologies from Takmore Lit, the leader of the farming community. Apparently one batch of their festive trading drink had fermented just a bit too long with regrettable but known results. Even Lit was without voice, so his apprentice had spoken for him. This happened from time to time and the effects would wear off in about three days. Levine and Beckett had discussed it at length, after analyzing a sample of the brew, and had no problems with the diagnosis. Neither did Teyla or Ronon, who had grudgingly accepted it as one of life's little inconveniences to bear, but John and Rodney┘.

As Elizabeth grabbed the last strawberry yogurt, she spied the pair sitting at one of the far tables in the Mess. Why on Earth they were together was beyond reasoning, except that they oddly blamed each other for their current predicament. Rodney said (or rather, typed in his report, much of it in caps) that John had insisted they not insult their hosts and drink more of the brew, while John said that if Rodney hadn't made a 'tacky' remark about somebody's pet cratat - whatever that was - they wouldn't have had to have the second drink in the first place. Now, both men were perversely obsessed with annoying each other, never mind the collateral damage they were leaving all over the base.

As she approached them, she noticed that they were playing checkers. John was busy eating a sandwich that was leaking bits of something onto the table, while Rodney was making furious hand gestures at the colonel (who seemed to be ignoring them) while holding up a small round red piece.

This had to stop.

Elizabeth placed her bottled water and yogurt container to the side of the checkers board. She stood there, arms crossed against her chest, looking down at both men very much in the manner of a teacher staring down at misbehaving children.

She cleared her throat. Loudly.

John licked a piece of coleslaw off his chin. Eating a Reuben sandwich while playing a board game was rather messy, and he probably knew that very well. Luckily, all games on Atlantis were of the washable variety. Rodney, on the other hand, looked up at her as if she was the solution to all of the galaxy's problems, then pointed irately at Sheppard. He made another convoluted hand gesture and held up the offensive checkers piece that glittered slightly in the light.

"Yes, Rodney, there's grease on it. Just wipe it off." She directed her gaze sharply at Sheppard. "Colonel, other people use this board as well. Use a napkin." Of course, he couldn't respond, but she could see by the slight narrowing of his eyes that he didn't particularly care for her tone of voice. Too bad.

Elizabeth very deliberately placed both palms face down on the table, leaning toward both men. "Gentlemen, it has come to my attention that your hand gestures - none of which bear any resemblance to a known sign language in this galaxy or back on Earth - are problematic. Colonel, this gesture-" She stood back, then used one hand to repeat it. Sheppard shrugged as if to say it seemed okay to him. "You asked for oral sex."

Sheppard's eyes widened in shock and his cheeks actually turned a slight shade of pink for a few seconds. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Rodney smiling perversely at his teammate's discomfort.

Sergeant Renata was not amused," continued Elizabeth in a reproachful tone. "I explained to her that you had no idea what you were doing so she won't be filing sexual harassment charges against you."

"Rodney." She cocked her head ever so slightly toward the scientist, who still looked aggravated but also seemed a bit horrified that he was next on her hit list. She demonstrated another hand gesture that took longer to replay, because Rodney could never do things simply. "Dr. Arat says he is not interested in a threesome with a goat, or maybe it was a cow. He also said to stop shouting in your emails.'"

"What?!" And Rodney would have yelled that in a mortally aggrieved tone if he'd had a voice but instead just mouthed the word. Sheppard just snickered silently.

"Enough," she said sternly. The two men almost instantly looked repentant. "Those are just two complaints of many that I have received since the two of you have resorted to hand gestures to communicate. As of this moment forward, they are now banned. You cannot use hand gestures at all with the exception to point at something you need, like food."

"Elizabeth," mouthed John, his face emoting that puppy dog look that was definitely not going to work this time.

"If you need to communicate with each other until your voices return, do it via email," she ordered. "Do I make myself clear?"

It had been a mistake: a colossal, monumental mistake that Elizabeth realized during day two of the so-called mute epidemic. While Teyla had taken to meditation and reading, Ronon decided to take Carson's order of 'no strenuous activity, just rest' order to heart. He'd taken over the movie lounge and was watching a marathon of whatever movies he wanted on the big screen. He had developed an intense liking of the epic movie 300, to the point he could watch it over and over again, much to the dismay of other personnel, whom he then drove away by throwing popcorn at anybody who talked during the brief intervals of Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons. However, both Rodney and John had responsibilities that were ongoing and did not require any physical labor. Although they were grounded and confined to the city for the duration of the affliction, they had seemed capable of sitting at their desks, so it should have been safe.

Until Elizabeth opened upon her morning's email.

Even the lovely bouquet of native Yatsah flowers, their brilliant yellow petals resembling tiny little suns in the lean glass vase, couldn't brighten her day while she scrolled through the emails that Rodney and John were shooting back and forth at each other. She gave up counting after realizing it was not just one page on the screen, but several and the activity had been going on for hours. It took a minute to find the initial post, in which Rodney had apparently (and inadvertently) responded back to John on the command list. Fortunately, that meant only the two instigators, herself and Carson were subject to the increasing folder of one-liners and┘. Elizabeth planted one palm against her forehead after opening an email. There was no text, but she'd had no idea that John was that proficient in Photoshop. Going to the last email that just popped in her box, she saw it was from Rodney. It contained an obtuse mathematical equation and a picture of a donkey that no doubt would tick off John.

She contemplated the image for a moment, then opened up a new email, addressing it to both Rodney and John. 'Regarding mission reports' went into the subject line, then she simply requested their presence in her office in 10 minutes.

She depressed the Enter key with perverse satisfaction, then leaned back in her chair, sipping at her mug of hot coffee. The elation drifted away a second later, like water trailing quickly down a drain. She'd already called them on the carpet once for their behavior, yet they insisted on acting like┘ no, she didn't want to even contemplate the word 'children.' Yet, it was far better than when the two men didn't talk for a while after the disastrous Doranda incident.

Sighing, she backtracked on the email while waiting for her two senior officers to arrive.

What in the devil had gotten into them that they were behaving so badly? It wasn't as though - no, it couldn't be as simple as that, could it?

Elizabeth perked up measurably when she spied one particular email. She tapped on her earpiece. "Carson, could you please come to my office?"

"I hadn't realized the colonel was so artistic." Carson took a bite out of the lemon curd danish while he stood beside Elizabeth. She wasn't so sure 'artistic' was how she would have described John's graphic creation. She continued to scroll through the collection of escalating emails between John and Rodney that Carson hadn't had the opportunity to see yet, as he'd been grabbing breakfast. "I don't have to erase these off my computer, do I?" he asked hopefully "That graphic of Rodney's head on a groundhog's body with a screw stuck in it is too good to lose."

"For what purpose?" Elizabeth asked as she moved her mouse, arranging items on her screen. She'd thought Rodney's photo-manipulation of a donkey with wings on it, complete with Sheppard's chaotic hairstyle atop the head, showed a streak of imagination she hadn't realized Rodney possessed as well, but she also wasn't about to encourage it, at least not in this manner.

"For when he's giving me grief about his routine shots, I can wave this little gem in front of him and threaten to post it in the Mess," replied the physician with a rather disturbing smile.

"We'll see," said Elizabeth, although she'd already backed up all the e-mails before Rodney thought to purge them himself.

John and Rodney entered her office within seconds of each other, each man taking a seat in the two chairs she'd purposely positioned directly in front of her desk. It was hard to tell if they realized the true purpose of the meeting. Neither could talk so all they could really do was stare at each other with odd expressions or scowls or look away, which was their current tactic to annoy each other.

"Gentlemen," Elizabeth began, folding her hands very methodically in front of herself on the desktop, while smiling very benevolently. It had the desired effect. Both men looked like they were afraid she'd turn into a Wraith and attack them.

"I've been going over your reports of the mission. It seems you are both caught up on your paperwork." John frowned at this while Rodney just looked exasperated. "Of course, Rodney, I know your lab has ongoing projects, but," she paused, "apparently you both have copious amounts of time to spare." With that, Elizabeth turned her laptop around for both men to see. She'd made sure the most expressive examples of their Photoshop efforts were displayed in glorious color on the screen.

Both men gawked at the incriminating evidence for a few seconds, then stared accusingly at each other.

"Next time you should check the 'send to' line." Elizabeth just cocked an eyebrow meaningfully, enjoying the expression of discomfort that seemed frozen in both men's faces as they realized their glaring error. "Since your team is grounded until this ailment passes, and the two of you are obviously bored enough to spend so much time crafting artwork, I have found a project to occupy the rest of your time until you recover."

She waved a hand expansively at Carson, who, realizing it was his turn to talk, quickly polished off his danish, then grinned happily. "As you'll recall, the Daedalus offloaded a lot of supplies before they left several days ago."

One of Rodney's eyes twitched in dawning horror.

"It would help immensely if I had more manpower to stock and catalog the items," continued Carson.

John snatched a notepad off her desk, rapidly writing something on it as if his life depended upon getting out the message in record time. The large block letters of "Chief Military Officer!" stood out as he faced the pad toward her, then he gestured a thumb determinedly at himself. Rodney grabbed the pad away, crossed out a word and wrote, and now Militaryyhad been changed to Science. He tossed the pad on the desk, leaned back in the chair, crossed his arms and scowled at her. John mimicked the behavior, although with just a little less scowling. Elizabeth was surprised both men weren't holding their breath as well and threatening to stamp their feet.

"Gentlemen, you can either aid Carson in his little project, or┘" and she tapped a pencil on the laptop's screen, "I can forward your emails to Kate. I'm sure she'd love to discuss in depth the hidden meanings of your artwork."

John winced, then slumped ever so slightly in his chair at the threat of their emails being given to the base's resident psychologist, who would no doubt have a field day with them. Rodney, however, seemed more confident that he wasn't going to be counting bandaids judging by his unchanged expression. "Oh and Rodney, you may and actually should purge all these emails, but I do have a backup copy already, just in case Kate would like to see them at a later date." Rodney's jaw dropped open, then clamped shut immediately when John smacked him on the arm. The scientist's confidence plunged like a balloon stuck with a pin after that.

Beckett crossed his arms, looking inordinately gleeful. "With the three of us all working together, this shouldn't take more than a day!"

"Shoot me," mouthed Sheppard.

Rodney oddly sounded like he was hyperventilating.

It was a crack of lightning, the accompanying thunder like a whip struck viciously across canvas, which woke Elizabeth from her morning slumber. She didn't have to check her computer for the weather report, which did come on a daily basis, along with long-term forecasts. After the 20-year-old storm had ravaged much of the planet, the idea of long-range forecasts had been instituted. Unfortunately, thunderstorms and torrential rains were in the forecast, along with cooling temperatures, for the next couple days.

After she showered and dressed, she stood at the expansive window, watching the fat pellets of water sluice down the large pane. A series of lightning bolts in the distance traversed two clouds, the reddish-white trails leaving a ghostly imprint on her retinas. The ocean beyond churned in the throes of the storm, a weather system that was tiny in comparison to that massive storm of nearly two years ago. She turned, shoving aside those memories, then grabbed a black sweater and pulled it over her shoulders. Today was definitely a hot chocolate day.

And if today was as bad as yesterday, maybe some whiskey dumped into the hot chocolate would be in order. Carson had given her status reports as the day had worn on. Apparently neither John nor Rodney were keen on being 'wage slaves,' as Rodney had so eloquently scribbled on a complaint to Carson, but the physician's authority overrode everybody else's on Atlantis if those individuals were under his care. And until the two men recovered their voices, they were still patients. John had tried to beg off to go watch 300 with Ronon ("He should have someone explain Earth history," the colonel had lamely written) but that wasn't going to happen.

Elizabeth truly had the feeling Carson was enjoying this a bit too much, even after Rodney had accidentally pricked himself with a syringe ("It's new, there's no disease threat, and at least he didn't whine," Carson had e-mailed her with an emoticon smiley face after that last observation). The problem was Carson felt the odd need to keep her informed, either via e-mail or radio, all day long, of how his charges were doing.

Maybe she should call in sick. Just this one day. No, that wouldn't set a good example nor would it avoid the problem.

She sighed, acknowledged the painful burden of command, and headed for the Mess to grab a quick breakfast. As she came to a three-way juncture, she nearly ran smack into the colonel.

A twinkle of mirth was evident in John's hazel eyes, and that, along with the fact he had one hand behind his back, instantly set Elizabeth's radar on alert. "Morning, Elizabeth."

Elizabeth blinked, partially in astonishment, but mostly in relief "You can talk?"

"Since I was a kid," he said with a grin. "Woke up this morning, perfectly fine. Saw Carson. He's given me the A-okay for missions." He pulled his hand out from behind his back and held up a large coffee mug with a lid on it. "Thought you might like a little something hot on this dreary morning. Mocha caramel latte."

She took the proffered cup more quickly than she should have, then popped the lid, inhaling the delightful aroma. "I didn't know we served that in the Mess." John quirked an eyebrow. "If you know the right people┘"

"Ah yes." She took a sip. "Thank you." So much better than just plain coffee or even hot chocolate. "I'm going to grab some breakfast. Have you--"


Rodney rapidly approached from the other corridor, and not far behind him, she could see Ronon and Teyla trailing after him. He had a bag in one hand. He quickly stopped, turned on his heel and made a remark, which she was sure was "You two are worse than my cat when I had tuna!", along with a 'shushing' sweep with his other hand, and made his way to her. He shot a deep accusingly scowl past her, obviously directed at John, then smiled far too broadly as he offered up the bag to her. "Fresh baked lionberry muffins."

And they were still delightfully warm. Lionberries, named so because the dark purple berries actually did resemble the big feline, were only available on plants with scalpel-sharp thorns, so harvesting them was painful, if not downright dangerous. The Athosians would bring them to Atlantis from time to time and the baked muffins would vanish faster than ice in a microwave. They'd even done a lottery the last time a batch was baked in order to avoid lines. "Why, thank you, Rodney."

Ronon came up behind Rodney. "So, is that it?"

"I believe it is the beginning." Teyla seemed hard pressed not to smirk as she said that, but her velvety smooth way of saying it spoke volumes.

"What?" John sounded confused.

"Not now." Rodney sounded irate and looked a tad bit nervous.

"Ronon and I were having breakfast when Rodney came in and discovered that John had already procured a┘"

"Latt-eh?" muttered Ronon.

"Mocha caramel latte," Elizabeth confirmed, taking another sip. She could easily see where this was heading, but wasn't about to put a stopper on it.

"He seemed upset at this revelation, then begged the cook for the first batch of lionberry muffins," continued Teyla.

"I did not," countered Rodney.

Ronon ignored the scientist's whine. "Heard him mutter on the way out that if Sheppard was going to kiss ass, so was he."

"I so did not say that!" came Rodney's indignant sputter.

"Idiot," she heard Sheppard whisper at the scientist.

"So, the latte and the muffins are┘" and Elizabeth paused for dramatic effect. "Bribes?"

"Of course not," John got in first. "It's just my way of um, thanking you for putting up with us during, well, you know. As for Rodney┘"

"Oh, pot - kettle," hissed back Rodney, arms crossed against his chest in a defiant manner. "You pulled rank on Sergeant Burk to get that latte. Talk about low."

"Just because I'm the commander doesn't mean I pulled rank," countered John in a controlled drawl. "If that's the case everybody on the base is beneath me, Elizabeth excluded, of course."

"Of course," Elizabeth agreed readily, smiling. That made Rodney nervous. "My chief officers would never resort to bribery. By the way, Teyla, are you interested in art?"

"What?" John and Rodney's voices squeaked the word - in a very horrified tone - at the exact same moment.

"I am fascinated by different cultures," replied Teyla.

Elizabeth began walking and Teyla joined her, leaving the temporarily stunned men - with the exception of Ronon, whom she heard mutter under his breath "You two have no idea how to bribe someone" - behind her.

"Muffin?" she offered. "Why thank you," said Teyla, plucking one out of the bag. "So," continued Elizabeth. "Have you ever heard of Photoshop?"

John and Rodney were instantly at her side, nearly crowding out Teyla, who had no problem in bumping Rodney away as she continued to eat her muffin.

"Elizabeth," began John beseechingly, and then Rodney cut in desperately, "Art is so subjective."

"You know, it's supposed to rain like this for the next two days," Elizabeth announced, grinning evilly. "It was very nice to wake up and have this latte waiting for me."

There was a long, meaningful pause, followed by a sighed "No problem" from John. Elizabeth realized that one special request from one of the military contingent was pushing it, but two more days would be very tough. "Teyla, would you like one as well?"

"I am rather partial to chocolate," the petite woman smiled.

"Hey, I like the raspberry ones," came Ronon's voice from behind.

"Eight o'clock in the Mess sound fine?" Both Teyla and Ronon happily agreed, while all a defeated John Sheppard could utter was "Oh crap."

"How about muffins?" said Ronon.

"Just wait a damned second--" began Rodney but his ire quickly withered as Elizabeth smiled unerringly at him. "What kind?" he moaned.

"An assortment," said Elizabeth, who then looked briefly at Ronon, realizing that he tended to eat a lot. "Better make that a baker's dozen, and warm."

"I like the corn muffins hot."

Rodney shot a lethal but ineffective glare at the Satedan, who then grinned maliciously. "With cream cheese on the side."

Elizabeth decided at that point the lesson had been learned and strolled off toward her office. Teyla accompanied her as they wanted to discuss the status of some Athosians who were working on Atlantis and training in the science department. The pair walked deliberately slow so that they could hear the tense conversation behind them.


"Ow! What was that for?" hissed Rodney.

"You had to say 'kiss ass' in front of him and since when is getting a latte for a friend a bribe?" shot back Sheppard.

"Since you know we have to, you know," replied Rodney miserably. "And I did not say it in front of him. Mister-ears-of-an-owl overheard me as I left and of all the times for him to actually speak, that was the worst possible moment."

"You two are useless. If you want to get something out of someone, just ask," Ronon suggested.

"Ah, big guy, we don't want to slit someone's throat in the process," said Rodney.

"And who said we wanted to get something out of Elizabeth?" retorted Sheppard.

Ronon actually chortled. "I'm not blind."

"Damn, now I'm gonna have to do the flight lessons," muttered Sheppard. "Hope Burk doesn't fly us into a tower."

"This is gonna cost me probably half a dozen games," Rodney added

"With Burk?" Sheppard's incredulous tone echoed. "A couple more days of baking made-to-order muffins and she'll have you reconfiguring her laptop and installing even the non-regulation suck-up-too-much bandwidth games."

"Ah, geez, just shoot me," moaned Rodney.

"For a dozen blueberry muffins, I'll do it," said Ronon.

Elizabeth just grinned, Teyla laughed, as they left the men to their own self-imposed misery. She knew Sergeant Burk had wanted to train on the jumpers. Perhaps this would be the impetus to jump from cook to pilot, at least for a day. In the meantime, even if she did acquiesce and let Rodney destroy the backup disk with the regrettable emails, he had no way of knowing she'd already printed out the two embarrassing pieces of artwork and posted them on a wall in her quarters.


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