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For sgatazmy and chootoy
(I apologize to you, Margaret, as I know it's not what you intended when you made your request.)



“I don’t know about this, Rodney,” John murmured, warily eyeing the ragged, two story Victorian-looking house in front to them.


“What?” Rodney replied distractedly, his attention focused on the tablet in his hand.  “Scans indicated the structure is sound.  “Picking up a slight energy signal, nothing that looks dangerous.”


A soft curse muttered under the breath prodded Rodney into finally looking up at Sheppard expectantly.


“Nothing that looks dangerous?” John scoffed.  “Have you looked at this place, McKay?  Not the scans, but the actual building.”


Rodney exhaled something between a huff and a sigh, and turned his gaze on the building.


“What?” He asked again, seeing nothing but a building that no one had been around to bother with in a very long time.  Sure, if he hadn’t seen the scans, he might have been nervous about its dilapidated appearance, but he had seen the scans, and it was sound.  So what was John's problem?


On either side, a few yards back, he could practically see Ronon and Teyla eyeing each other, trying to ascertain whatever threat Sheppard seemed to be perceiving, but to which the rest of the them was oblivious.


“I’m not sensing any Wraith, John,” Teyla assured.


John nodded a distracted acknowledgement, before continuing, “Come on, McKay!  It’s October 31st and look at this place!  If we were on Earth, this place would be the poster child of haunted houses…”


Rodney simply huffed.  “Well, we’re not on Earth, are we, Sheppard, and even if we were, there’s no such thing as haunted houses!”


“Uh-huh,” responded Sheppard, glancing sideways at McKay.  “And a couple years back, I bet you’d have said there was no such thing as a vampire that could suck the life out of you with its hand…”


Rodney sobered for a split-second, before regaining his bluster, and stepping up on the ragged porch.  “Let’s just check it out and get back, alright?”


John nodded, and with a sigh, reluctantly stepped forward, as well.  “You two stay here; keep an eye on the perimeter.  I don’t want any surprises creeping in once we’re inside.”


Rodney had stopped in front of the door and shrugged expectantly as John came up alongside him.

“You’ve got more spare hands than I do, McKay,” John observed, nodding toward the tablet McKay held in one hand and then glancing down at the P-90 he held in his own hands.


“Yes, Colonel, but you’re armed,” Rodney replied impatiently.  “You can’t really expect me to go in first with just a tablet and my sparkling wit for protection?”


“There no such thing as haunted houses, remember, McKay?” Sheppard fired back somewhat smugly, before acquiescing and loosing one hand from his P-90 long enough to turn the doorknob.   The free hand quickly returned to the weapon and the door creaked open, very slowly.  He almost laughed at himself when nothing jumped out or screamed or gusted past…


“There, you see, Colonel, no ghosts,” Rodney observed, returning John’s previous smugness.


“Not yet…” John whispered under his breath, earning a sideways glare from the scientist.


As if to prove the ridiculousness of the statement, Rodney huffed and stepped across the threshold, instead of waiting for the Colonel to go first as planned.  John followed quickly, intently focused on every shadowy corner and darkened doorway head of them.  It was from behind them, though, that he heard a progression of sounds that sent his stomach into his toes.


Creeeak!  Slam!  Click!


John clenched his jaw, his whole body on alert.  He didn’t bother turning to watch as Rodney spun around to try the door.  Or course, they were locked in.   They had willingly walked into the most cliché haunted house he’d ever seen outside a carnival; what else could they have expected, really.


Around them, dim, lamplight colored lighting rose.   There were no obvious sources for the light – no lamps, no fireplaces, no torches, no candles…just dim, eerie light, wavering every so often as if caught by a breeze – the nonexistent breeze that existed somewhere with the nonexistent light fixtures.   John’s head ached with the effort of not rolling his eyes at the banality of it all.


Behind him, Rodney had stopped trying the door and was now muttering under his breath.  “McKay?”


“The power source spiked,” Rodney answered.


“Well, of course it did,” John growled, finally giving in and rolling his eyes.  “Anything else?”


“Don’t…Uh...Hmm,” came the reply, as McKay studied whatever his tablet was telling him.  Sheppard bit back a sigh and redoubled his focus on the shadows.


Consequently, he nearly jumped when McKay abruptly announced, “Looks like the power source is emanating from the basement.  We should check it out; maybe if we shut it off…”


Moving in the direction of that basement, Rodney’s focus remained on his tablet, but he couldn’t quite keep from shuddering as he heard John murmur, “Of course we should check it out. Nothing bad ever happens in the basement.”


The basement door was unlocked.  “Of course it is,” John thought, “cause that’s just where it wants us…”


He wondered if a similar thought had occurred to Rodney when, upon catching sight of the pitch blackness that quickly swallowed up the rickety wooden steps leading downward, the scientist flipped around on his heels, eyes a little wider than usual.


“Umm…” he stammered, before regaining some semblance of composure.  “Those stairs look like a deathtrap – could fall down at any second, I’m guessing.  Probably better off just looking for another way out…”


“Uh-huh,” was all John said in reply.  He waited for Rodney to move past him once more before peeling his eyes away from the darkened stairwell.   Thus, he did not initially see what caused the gasp he heard as Rodney stumbled backward into him.  As second later, he was straining every fiber in his being to keep himself from firing into the menacing, bloody-fanged clown bearing down on them.


“Crap!”  he shouted, yanking Rodney back further as it reached an angry claw toward the scientist.    “Crap! Crap! Crap!”


“What the…!” Rodney exclaimed, his eyes flicking up to the clown, who’d stopped short of actually touching either the man, or his tablet.  “It’s not real! It can’t be.  LSD indicates no life signs…”


“No life signs?”  John parroted.


“Other than us, Sheppard,” Rodney huffed.  “No, we’re not ghosts.”


“I know we’re not ghosts, McKay.”  John rolled his eyes again, but more to cover his relief than with any real sentiment.  “Looks pretty real.”


“I think we’ve all learned by now, Colonel, that looks can be deceiving,” Rodney declared, half-hearted smugness returning to his expression as he stepped forward to prove his assertion.  “See, I’ll show you.”


“Crap!”  he and John muttered in unison, as Rodney threw a punch that was promptly caught by a strong claw.


“Duck!”  John hollered, firing directly into the clown as it started to squeeze Rodney’s fist.   He growled audibly when the apparition simply evaporated.


“Okay, so maybe a little real,” Rodney acquiesced, cradling his fist against him.


“You okay?” John asked.  It hadn’t looked like any damage was done, but…

“Yeah, yeah, fine,” Rodney murmured, his gaze once again fixed, nervously, on his tablet screen.  “The power spiked again.”


Glancing back toward the basement step, McKay shuddered.  “Maybe try the other direction?” he suggested, backing away from where the clown had been and around John into an open room.


An ominous chittering soon had him spinning around, and, once again, stumbling back into John.  Peering around the scientist, the sight of the sleek, black Iratus bodies skittering toward them was all the motivation John needed to yank the scientist down into the basement stairwell.


Rodney’s feet had barely landed on the step when the bugs vanished.  Brow furrowing with suspected comprehension, John scooted Rodney aside enough to step past him, and, tentatively, stepped back up to the floor level.


“Sheppard!”  Rodney shouted, yanking John back just as a new bug materialized and darted toward the Colonel’s foot.  “Wha…!”


John stopped him with a raised hand and a glare.  “It’s feeding off me,” he then announced.


“What?” Rodney responded with confusion, but then his eyes grew wide.  “The bug…”


“No, not the bug,” John clarified. “The house, or the energy source, or whatever this is that’s creating those things,” he added, with a nod toward the spot where the bug had appeared.


“How…” Rodney started to ask, but John hadn’t been finished.


“Before the clown appeared, I’d been thinking that was just the sort of thing that was going to pop up out of the shadows.  Then, after it vanished, I started thinking about what could be worse...and the Iratus bugs came to mind,” John explained.   Then, reluctantly, he added, and clearly, whatever it is, it wants us to investigate the power source…down there.”  Sheppard nodded down the stairs.


“So wha…” Rodney began, but again John cut him off.


“So we go, investigate the power source,” he stated unequivocally.


“It’s obviously not going to let us do anything else,” Rodney sighed in agreement.  “But do me a favor, Sheppard, and at least try to think of something a little more benign than Iratus bugs until we get out of here.”


“Like what?”  John asked, with a nervous chuckle.  “Michael, Wraith, Kolya…”  He stopped with the suggestions as Rodney turned to glare un-amusedly at him.


“You’re trying to get us killed now?”  he asked with undisguised irritation.  “How about imaging the Iratus bugs as harmless little beetles in funny wigs?”


John quirked an eyebrow at him, and then barked in laughter.  As he stepped onto the basement floor, lights flicked on – brighter than they’d been upstairs, more like fluorescent light than lamp light – and there, in the middle of the room stood the Beatles, except in funny wigs and with antennae fluttering out the top of their heads.


“Uh…” was all Rodney could manage as his gaze shifted between Sheppard and the “Beatles”.  “Not exactly what I had in mind, but I guess it works.”


I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink
I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink


The “Beatles” began singing, and John looked toward Rodney.  McKay shrugged, and started glancing around at the blinking lights of some sort of Ancient-looking computer system.  A nervous flutter twitched in his stomach as he registered how many of the lights were red.

I'm so tired I don't know what to do
I'm so tired my mind is set on you



‘That’s not how it goes,’ Rodney thought as he registered the creatures’ words.  He glanced toward John, but the Colonel just shrugged.  ‘Maybe Sheppard just doesn’t know the song…’


You know I can't sleep, I can't stop my brain
You know it's millenia, I'm going insane
You know I'd give you everything I've got
For a little peace of mind



Rodney frowned.  “Don’t know the words, Sheppard?”


“Nope,” replied John.  “Never heard it before.”


Rodney’s frown deepened.  ‘They’re getting a lot of words right for a song they shouldn’t know if it’s all coming from Sheppard’s head, and the ones they’re getting wrong…’  His thoughts wondered back to the ominous red lights.


I'm so tired


Rodney’s eyes widened slightly as comprehension dawned.  Striding forward, he ignored the vexed “McKay” shouted from behind, and focused instead on finding something that looked like a main power switch.  He could hear Sheppard inching cautiously toward him as he found the lever that seemed to glow in the hope of getting his attention.   Turning to grin at the Colonel, he wrapped his hand around the lever and yanked it downward.


Abruptly, the lights when out and the singing stopped.   Smugness returning to his voice, McKay asked, “Ready to leave?”


Flipping on his flashlight, John glowered at Rodney.  He itched to asked what Rodney had figure out but not deigned to share with the rest of the class, but now was not the time or place.  He could wait until they were outside…if they got outside.  “Just because the lights are out, doesn’t mean the door will open,” he murmured.


Rodney just tsked at him as he headed toward the stairs.  It was slow going, as the stairs hadn’t grown any less rickety, but soon enough they were back on the ground floor and headed toward the door through which they’d entered.  John held his breath as Rodney reached for the doorknob, but McKay didn’t hesitate.  He grasped it, smiled smugly, and flung the door open, revealing the astonished faces of Ronon and Teyla.


“Colonel!  Rodney! You are all right?”  Teyla queried, her eyes scanning each for any obvious sign of distress.


“Yeah, yeah,” Rodney huffed dismissively.  “Just the Colonel and his wont for attracting Ancient tech…nothing I couldn’t handle.”


Beside him, John pursed his lips as he waited for McKay to wax poetic.  But when the scientist seemed unaccustomedly reticent to continue, he growled impatiently, “Rodneeeey, explain!”


“It was tired!” McKay said simply.  “Weren’t you listening…”


John’s brow furrowed.  “You mean the song…”  He hadn’t really been paying that much attention to it.


“Yes, I mean the song,” Rodney huffed.  “Of course, I mean the song.”


John replied with an impatient glower, prompting McKay to continue, “It was telling us exactly what was going on, if you’d just listened…”  The glowered intensified, provoking an impatient huff from Rodney.  “I’m guessing some group of Ancients built this place for -- oh, who knows why, because they could, for all I know – and then abandoned the place – again, who knows why – and left the place running on autopilot, and after who knows how long… well, even machines wear out eventually.”


John’s frown deepened as comprehension sank it.  “So it just wanted someone to turn it off?”


“Yes,” Rodney replied, stepping off the porch and heading toward the gate.


“Could have found a nicer way to ask,” came a disgruntled murmur from behind as the rest of the team followed.


The end.


A/N: The lyrics are from the Beatles song, “I’m so Tired”
My thanks to padawan_aneiki for her speedy beta efforts!


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