Disclaimer: The setting and most of these characters belong to Stargate Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions and the Sci-Fi Channel. Sadly, I'm not making a red cent off how much I love them. Bernie, however, belongs to me.
Author Notes: Written because cedara sent me a plot bunny that attached itself to my ankle.
For ordinary people, food is heaven -- Chinese proverb
Somebody should spare a thought for the little guy.
Well, I'm not so little, at 6 foot even, but you know what I mean. I'm nobody special, just the chief cook and bottlewasher on Atlantis. (The first week they ran outta flasks and tubes and stuff 'cause nobody was washing 'em, Dr. Weir and I worked out a plan where they use my dishwasher. At least I'm not scrubbing 'em by hand.)
Anyway, everybody pays attention to the hotshots like Major Sheppard (black coffee, hates peanuts and peas, loves anything with cheese) or the tough guys like Sgt. Bates (coffee with one sugar, hates canned meat, loves canned vegetables). But nobody ever spares the time to think about the support staff.
Not that there's much in the way of support staff here on the Atlantis base, but the military didn't want the team to be composed only of eggheads, jarheads, and flyboys. Somebody's gotta do the work, right?
Okay, I know, that's not fair. The scientists barely ever stop working long enough to eat and most of the military guys are in danger up to their necks all of the time. But the few of us who aren't hotshots and whatnot feel underappreciated sometimes.
Me? Oh, I'm Senior Airman Bernardo Spachtholz, but everybody calls me Bernie. Heck, I even convinced Dr. Weir to call me Bernie, even though she didn't want to.
"It feels disrespectful," she said, blinking up from behind her desk and a mile-high pile of papers. That's a classy broad, that is, worrying about respect for the cook.
"Thank you, ma'am, but I've been Bernie, just Bernie, for so long that if you called me Airman Spachtholz, I wouldn't know who you were talking to."
"If you're sure..." she said, frowning.
"Then Bernie it is."
I saluted her and she laughed.
Anyway, Dr. Weir's got class and when she's got the time, she worries about me, but she's got more important stuff to do, you know? Nobody else seemed to notice how much work it is to get food for our entire crew, plus all the strays that everybody seems to bring back to the base on a daily basis.
I finally had to get Dr. Weir's permission to hire a couple of Athosians to help out now and then with prep. It's great, they come in and chop enough fruits and vegetables for a couple of days and we pay in things like medical care and stuff. I dunno, Teyla worked out the deal and everyone seems happy with it, especially me.
I mean, there's a lot of cooking, even if some people seem to think the food makes itself. Yeah, you're right, I'm talking about Dr. McKay. Sure, he's smart, so you'd think he'd get that it takes time to cook things, wouldn't you?
But when he gets too obnoxious, the rest of his team usually reins him in and he doesn't even notice how they take care of him. Typical genius, really.
Not that all the scientists are like that. Doc Zelenka is the best. He even comes to the kitchen sometimes to help me make food he especially wants, like bramborová polévka. That's potato soup to you and me.
Then there's Kavanaugh, of course.
Dr. Weir was obviously trying not to laugh when she called me into her office, her lips twitching furiously. "I've received a complaint, I'm afraid."
"Really?" I tried looking innocent, which is tough when you're me. Something about the nose that's been repeatedly broken, maybe.
"Really." She leaned forward, hands resting on the desk, waiting, forcing herself into a stern expression.
I figured she wanted me to play along. "Who complained? If it was Dr. Miyagi, we got that all sorted out. See, she thought I--"
"It wasn't Dr. Miyagi." She cleared her throat. "It was Dr. Kavanaugh."
"It seems that for the past week, nearly everything he's eaten has been cold. Or filled with salt and pepper. Or undercooked."
"Huh. Imagine that."
"Yes. Very surprising. Dr. Kavanaugh wouldn't possibly have displayed his less-than-stellar personality in your presence recently, would he?"
I rubbed my chin. "Well, there was a small incident concerning my ability to cook and perhaps some mention of my mother." Putting my hands behind my back, I stood at partial attention and stared just over her shoulder in approved military fashion for lying through my teeth. "But it was nothing. I certainly don't hold any grudges."
"Of course you don't." Lips twitching again, Dr. Weir watched me for a moment before sighing. "I'm sure it's just some kind of misunderstanding. Perhaps you were trying out some new dishes?"
"Well, I think so long as there are no further problems, we can consider this closed. There won't be any further problems, will there?" Now she looked serious.
"I'm sure we'll be best buddies from now on, Dr. Weir."
"I'm sure you will." She rubbed her temples and waved a hand at me. "Get out of here, Bernie. Between you and Major Sheppard, I think I'm getting a headache."
"Sorry about that, ma'am."
* * * * *
Okay, so things aren't as bad as I said. People don't disrespect me, they just don't always see how much work I gotta do. I mean, the Air Force sent me with these strict orders on proper meals and balanced diets and planning, but nobody reckoned with the fact that after a few months, I'd barely have any Earth foods left to cook with.
It's all well and good for that snotty Air Force nutritionist to insist that I should serve fish at least three times a week because of "beneficial fish oils." But where in tarnation am I supposed to get the fish? The Athosians don't eat fish and it's not like I've got time to go fishing every afternoon. And even if I did, I couldn't catch nearly enough fish that are safe for us to eat.
Lt. Ford wants to have a big fishing expedition where they catch a bunch of fish and stick 'em in my freezer, but Dr. Weir's dubious about the whole thing.
But I'm digressing. I do that a lot.
Anyway, what's really frustrating about these meal plans is that they're fricking useless. I mean, chicken a la king just ain't the same when it's made with the huge birds Sgt. Bates calls turduckens, 'cause they look like chickens stuffed in ducks stuffed in turkeys. No, really, they do. See?
But no matter what anyone tells you, not everything tastes like chicken. And it's even worse with the fruits and veggies. Roasted tarka root tastes pretty good and it's got lots of vitamins and such, but does it replace the mashed potatoes or the roasted carrots? And you wouldn't believe how long it takes to figure out how to use some of this stuff.
This one thing came into the kitchen, dropped off by Dr. McKay with absolutely no instructions, no nothing. When I tried to track Major Sheppard's team down, they'd already gone off-world again.
So there I am in the kitchen staring at this pile of things. They're each around six inches long and a kind of pale purple, smooth and a little shiny. I stared at them the entire time I was making lunch (baked turducken, if you have to know) but with no better idea what they might be.
I suppose I could have waited, but my curiosity about new foods has always been too strong for that. Why do ya think I agreed to go off to the Pegasus Galaxy to cook?
I left the troops to serve themselves, telling 'em I was working on a new dish, and started in on this new vegetable. Fruit? No, it looked more vegetable-like for some reason.
Usually when I got a new vegetable, I try one in every major cooking technique and see what happens. The insides of this purple thing were grainy, with little seeds like a raspberry that scraped along the edges of my knives. It smelled...weird. Kind of flowery.
But Dr. McKay was serious about food, so if he brought it back, it must be pretty damn good in something.
So I did everything I know how to do with food: I chopped, sliced, diced, baked, broiled, roasted, and stewed.
Damn, that thing was disgusting. It kind of foamed in my mouth and left me with the nastiest taste.
Well, now I was getting annoyed. Maybe they'd left this thing as some kind of challenge. I wouldn't put it past them, ya know? I was determined to figure out what you did with it.
I tried it raw, 'cause some veggies get bitter when they're cooked. I fried it. I even tried mushing it up and making a smoothie in case it was a fruit. No. Dice. Everything I tried was more disgusting.
By dinnertime, the kitchen was littered with scraps and I still had no idea what in tarnation I was supposed to do with the thing. Although I hate to give up, this time I had to admit defeat and ask. Man, that pissed me off.
When Lt. Ford and Major Sheppard finally straggled in to grab the last two plates of spaghetti bolognese, I nearly grabbed 'em by the collars.
"Psst, c'mere," I said from the door of the kitchen.
They looked at each other and walked over, balancing their dinners. "What's up, Bernie?" Sheppard asked, eyebrows furrowed.
"What the hell didja bring me this time?"
"What do you mean?" Ford looked a confused, like maybe I'd been taking over by an alien and was speaking in gibberish.
"I mean this vegetable or fruit or whatever you left for me." I waved one of the damn purple things under their noses, making them step back. "I can't figure out what to do with it and it's driving me nuts. Put me outta my misery, will ya?"
Both guys went kinda white. "Uh," Sheppard said, "there wasn't a note telling you what to do?"
I stared at him. "No. Just a pile of the things."
"Oh sh--" Ford started.
"Why all the mystery? Just tell me!"
Sheppard swallowed. "Rodney was on his way here anyway, so he said he'd drop them off with a note."
Ford bravely backed up his CO. "You know how Dr. McKay is, he must have gotten distracted by some gadget and--"
"But what is it?!"
Sheppard and Ford looked at each other and Sheppard lost the silent battle. "The Athosians recommended it. They call it soaproot."
"They. Call. It. WHAT?" My peripheral vision showed that the few people left in the mess looked nervous.
"Soaproot." Ford didn't sound all that happy either.
"As in it's not actually a food item?" My voice got soft, but that didn't seem to make them happier.
"No, Bernie. I'm afraid not." Sheppard squared his shoulders, preparing for a blow. "We remembered that you'd been looking for more dish soap so we picked some up and...don't kill McKay. We need him."
"Oh, I'm not going to kill him. Nope, I'm not a killer."
Well, I'm not. Never have been. I solemnly swore that I wouldn't kill him and I meant it.
But if you hear about some misplaced rotten fruit and vegetable peelings appearing in his bed...I wouldn't know anything about it. Really.