A Good Cup of Coffee (is hard to find)
by Brat Farrar
Really, no one could blame him for losing his head a little. It’d been months since they’d been cut off from Earth, and supplies were beginning to run a little low, and whoever’d been in charge of requisitions clearly hadn’t spent much time in the labs, because they’d severely underestimated how much coffee an expedition of (mostly) scientists would drink. Or overestimated the speed with which they (read: Rodney) could rig up a way to dial home. Either way, the end result was the same: a whole lot of people obsessing over their caffeine intake and how long it could be maintained.
So really, it was to be expected that Rodney’d do something (arguably) stupid when handed a cup of what smelled and tasted like the best coffee he’d ever had. All things taken into account, he deserved a pat on the back for not promising away Atlantis itself in return for a steady supply of the stuff.
Actually—not that he’d ever admit it—he’d been half-considering doing just that when Sheppard hissed “McKay” in a tone that suggested Rodney would wake up the next morning with fewer body parts if he didn’t shut up.
“But, ah, maybe we’d better let Teyla handle the details.” They were some of the hardest words Rodney’d ever forced himself to say, but at least Sheppard didn’t look like he wanted to smack Rodney in the head anymore. Well, not quite so much.
“Yes,” Teyla agreed, gracefully stepping in front of Rodney, though not without a look that said they would be having words later. “We have many other things to offer that you might be interested in. Medicines, perhaps?”
Once Teyla and the village’s leader (who was tall, missing one eye, and looked like an extra out of a low-budget pirate movie) were engrossed in the delicate art of driving a hard bargain, Sheppard hooked a finger into the collar of Rodney’s tac vest and jerked his head in the direction of the exit. “C’mon McKay. Let’s go have a chat somewhere where we won’t get in the way. Ford, you stay with Teyla. Give a shout if you need me.”
“Yes sir,” Ford said, eying Rodney dubiously.
Sheppard pulled Rodney out the door and around the corner of the building, not letting go until they were back in an alley that smelled like a garbage heap. A coffee-scented garbage heap. Rodney tried not to inhale too obviously.
“What was that all about?”
“What was what all about?” Rodney countered, although he knew the answer. If he stalled long enough, maybe Sheppard would lose his currently visible urge to resort to violence.
“You know what I mean. The whole ‘oh, yeah, sure—take my teammates, please’ thing you had going on in there.” Sheppard folded his arms and cocked his head, and any other time the pose would bring to mind a wire-haired terrier, but right then he had more the air of an irritated border collie. And Rodney should have felt guilty about almost trading away Teyla and Sheppard and Ford. He knew that, he really did, it was just—
“But they have coffee,” he said, though it was actually somewhere partway between a wail and a whine. “What if they don’t have a large enough crop? What if they don’t want to share? It won’t matter to them if Atlantis blows up because all the engineers have shaky hands from going through caffeine withdrawal.”
“I’m sure there’s plenty enough to go around,” Sheppard said, irritation subsiding into amusement. “Teyla knows how important it is to keeping you geeks going. And Ramone in there seemed pretty happy about the prospect of trading the stuff.”
“Oh.” Rodney hadn’t noticed that. Although, to be honest, he’d been so focused on the prospect of coffee that he probably wouldn’t have noticed anything else short of a ZPM being waved under his nose.
“Yes, ‘oh’.” Sheppard grinned at him. “But if it makes you feel any better, I promise to make sure you get the last cup of coffee if this doesn’t work out.” Oddly enough, it did make Rodney feel a little better.
“Thanks,” he said, and meant it. “I, ah, might have missed you if I’d traded you away. A teeny bit.” Sheppard grinned wider, skin crinkling around his eyes in the way that meant he was genuinely happy.
“C’mon. Let’s go see what they’ve got besides coffee.”