Fish Tale

by Domenika Marzione

"I think I want to get a pet," Nancy announced at lunch one afternoon. She'd been considering it for a while -- her desire for another sentient life form in her home, getting to care for something that wasn't ill or injured, and the soothing aspect of having a pet versus the fact that she worked occasionally bizarre hours and resented cleaning up after her shedding houseplants. She'd never even considered pets back on Earth, but there was a lot more keeping her away from home back there, too.

Lots of people in Atlantis wanted pets, but few people had them for a reason. Since the SGC wouldn't ship live animals to Pegasus for non-research purposes and was strict even on that front, it had to be local. And it had to be cleared by Life Sciences as safe for personal quarters (the Tribbles Rule). But since most civilians rarely got out of Atlantis to go hunting for pets on their own, they had to resort to putting themselves on waiting lists for the leftovers Life Sciences gave out and signing up for the pet lotteries.

"Yoni boring you already?" Lori asked, not looking up from where she was carefully rearranging her reuben so that the sauerkraut didn't ooze out the side. "I don't think you're making full use of the accessories he comes with. Maybe you should give up and read the manual on the odd chance he's not defective."

"The waiting list for fish is longer than the average tenure in Atlantis," Nancy went on, ignoring the comment. "But I might be able to convince Major Lorne that he owes me enough to use his influence with Branson."

Between the occasional Yoni-wrangling and the more-frequent carefully chosen phrases used to describe the various things his team came back home with, she could probably get something out of Lorne if she wanted it badly enough. But 'pet fish' was a really big something and there were probably more important ways she could play that card.

"Maybe something small and furry and cute," she went on, mostly to herself because Lori was constructing some kind of sauerkraut retaining wall out of pickles.

"Is this the dirty joke with G-2 and the gerbils?" Mike asked as he sat down next to them. "Carson was telling it to Reilly this morning."

That got Lori to look up.

"I heard it with Engineering from Fletcher," she said, shuddering. "Which is even more Ewww."

"How about a rabbit?" Lori asked as she came into the Endocrinology lab. "Rabbits would work."

Yoni, who'd stopped by to kibbitz as Nancy tried to massage some of his old data into her new paper, pushed off of the counter he'd been leaning against and looked at the door. He liked Lori well enough, but she freaked him out a little with her willingness to make him the focus of her bawdy talk. She knew it, too, which only meant that his 'trapped' look egged her on.

"What do you think about rabbits, Yoni?" Lori asked, probably unintentionally blocking his escape route. Probably.

"As a meal or as a pregnancy test?" He asked cautiously. "We have better options for both."

Nancy sighed and slouched on her stool. "As a pet, Yon. As a pet."

He shrugged, as if the confusion had been understandable. "I am not in favor of having to clean up anyone else's shit without better benefits than a warm lap."

"You're such a romantic," Lori said with a smirk. "I think rabbits would make very cute pets."

"Better stews," Yoni said, taking the opportunity of Lori being off-guard to slip past.

"They're not kosher," Nancy called after him as he left. Those were pretty weak last words as far as last words gotten-in went, but they were still last words. In her book, if not in his.

"What bit you, Sergeant?" Nancy asked Suarez as she eyed the marks on his hand. Yoni had treated him on-scene, but that was just the first part. The easy part. Rabies shots were such a pain in the ass, for both medical staff and patient.

"Some kind of chipmunk thing, ma'am," Suarez replied with the sort of resignation that went along with knowing just how much of a pain in the ass rabies shots were.

"He got nibbled on by Alvin," Reletti helpfully added.

"It was Theodore," Ortilla corrected. "Little dude was pretty fat."

"That's what you should get as a pet, Clayton," Yoni said, rummaging around in the cabinet for something or other that turned out to be eye drops for Lorne. "These would at least defend your domain."

"Maybe from wayward marine NCOs who get distracted by shiny objects," Lorne said ruefully as he accepted the bottle. "What were you thinking?"

"He wasn't," Ortilla replied darkly.

"Fucking thing was fast!" Suarez insisted. "And I thought I saw something Ancient-y."

"You're looking for a pet, Doctor C?" Reletti asked, starting back from wherever his mind had wandered as if the conversation had not passed him by in the interim. It was Reletti; she was used to him spacing.

"I'm considering it," she admitted, waiting for Suarez to finish rolling up his sleeve so she could draw blood. "But the list is long. Who knows what I'll get or when."

"We could keep an eye out," Reletti suggested.

The worried look on both Lorne's and Yoni's faces was almost worth saying yes on the spot.

"I'll keep the offer in mind," is what she actually said, since she still had to work with Yoni and she liked that Major Lorne owed her one.

"There's a bird lottery starting tomorrow," Mike said, pausing as he headed to his seat. The small auditorium they used for department meetings had stadium seating, but Mike was really, really tall and sat in the back anyway. Yoni sat in the back, too, but for entirely different reasons.

"I saw," Nancy replied with a frown. "That's a pretty fugly bird."

It was chartreuse with a puce crown. It was also blind, which was supposedly normal for the species. And probably evolutionarily necessary -- what other bird would want to mate with something so hideous?

"Slesak said it sounds like Rosanne Barr singing the national anthem," Mike said with a sage nod. "They'll still get thirty people putting in for it."

"Probably," Nancy agreed. "I'll hold out for the ferret I hear is coming up next week."

"A ferret?" Biro turned around from where she sat in front of Nancy. "I had a ferret back at Stanford. Three of them, actually. They were awesome."

Nancy did not get the ferret, which disappointed her maybe more than she'd have liked to admit. She'd visited it during one of the showing times and it really was pretty awesome -- a complete show-off and very friendly. She wondered if she could maybe convince the SGC that she needed a few ferrets for research purposes.

"Oh, hey, puppies."

Yoni gave her one of those looks, which would have worked a lot better if he wasn't fidgeting with the ties on his homespun shirt, pulling them closed like a deflowered bride the morning after. Nancy didn't know what he was being so prudish about; she was the one dressed like a saucy milkmaid. Alabamastan might be the fill-in for a Replicator village, but it was costumed by G-2 and Nancy had already agreed with Rosmanova that the Social Sciences types had obviously been reading way too many romance novels. It's not like the marines needed prompts to stare at her bosom. Which, courtesy of this dress, might heave a little simply by the act of regular respiration.

"They're for the children, Clayton."

Nancy rolled her eyes. "I know that."

She didn't know where the marines had gotten puppies from or why they thought they had to bribe the Athosian kids into an afternoon of running around, sweets, and hanging out with Yoni, but they had. She recognized the breed -- they were the hunting dogs the Athosians used on their new home and she knew that as cute as they were now, they'd be a lot less so once they reached their full size. But they were cute now and she was oh-for-fourteen in her attempts to win a pet in the lotteries and she was starting to feel it. Her biological clock didn't tick this loudly.

"The marines are looking for a pet for you," Yoni said as they walked; the village they were using -- entirely constructed for the exercise -- was on the other side of the hill.

"Really?" Nancy asked, surprised.

"Lorne's almost at the point of checking their pockets before we go home," he confirmed, attention still on the leather ties for his shirt.

"That's sweet," she said. Because it was.

"That's not quite the word I'd use," Yoni replied sourly.

There was a story -- at least one -- here, but she wasn't going to get it now. Captain Polito was waiting for them to go over the training scenario one last time.

Nancy's losing streak in the pet sweepstakes (twenty-six and counting) came to a sudden and rather remarkable end when she won a fish lottery. Three gorgeous fish were now hers, after putting down for a deposit on the tank and supplies, and while she was genuinely thrilled -- they were really pretty fish -- she was also a little... suspicious.

"Should I be naming them Manny, Chris, and AJ?" she asked Yoni, who was helping her set up the tank on the small table between the windows in her living room. The fish were in their baggie, which in turn was in her salad bowl on her kitchen counter.

Yoni looked up from where he was putting together the pump. She wasn't sure he'd ever had so much as a goldfish, let alone knew what to do with all of the aquarium parts she'd been given, but he'd agreed to help her transport the tank to her quarters and so she'd let him fiddle. "I don't know," he admitted, not pretending to misunderstand.

She'd heard at least part of one story of the marines' attempts to get her a pet -- there was a chinchilla named Nan who was new to Life Sciences' menagerie -- and wouldn't put it past Lorne to put an end to things once and for all.

"I shouldn't say anything, though, right?"

If Lorne had rigged the fish lottery -- or, more accurately, if anyone found out that Lorne had rigged the fish lottery -- then there'd be an uproar of the-Wraith-are-coming proportions.

"Probably not," Yoni agreed, hanging the pump on the side of the tank and giving it a critical look.

It took them an hour to get the tank put together properly and filled with water. She put the baggie in the water like they'd told her to do and looked at her watch. "Think we can bat our eyelashes at the marines and get hamburgers?"

She had food in her kitchen, but no desire to cook.

They did not have to bat their eyes at the marines; it was nice weather and they were grilling outside.

"What are you going to name them?" Yoni asked, cutting his burger and bun in bite-sized pieces. Nancy knew his marines yelled at him every time they saw him do it, but he'd been helpful to her and so she didn't reinforce their training.

"Stan, Ollie, and Jim Bob. Jim Bob's the pink one."

Yoni gave her a look that clearly communicated that he'd wished he'd never asked.

She never gave Lorne any indication that she suspected her fish were anything less than luck. If it meant that she still had her trump card with him and she had her fish from Branson, then it went down as a very nice win.

feed me on LJ?

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1 February, 2009