"I can't believe we have to do this!" Rodney said.
He slumped in a chair by the dressing table and drummed his fingers on it in irritation. John rolled his eyes at him for the hundredth time since they were drafted into the SGC's joke of a publicity tour.
An extraterrestrial city the size of Manhattan splashing down in the Pacific ocean wasn't as unnoticeable as they hoped. Activist groups rallied at government centers, environmentalists claimed the wave it produced was the result of massive ecological changes and conspiracy theorists, ironically, were the closest to the truth with their accusations of UFO invasion. Everyone in Homeworld Security assumed it would die down and things would go back to normal. Instead, the protests got louder and some even got violent. Then, as if fate had arranged it, during one particularly rowdy rally on the docks, a new gateroom technician was being trained and hit the wrong button. Atlantis was visible for a full 2 minutes before anyone realized anything was wrong.
After the resulting outrage and panic, the whole Stargate program was revealed to the public and all the gate teams from both Atlantis and the SGC were expected to do at least one publicity event every other week in addition to their regular duties.
"Of course SG-1 would get The Tonight Show and we get The Muppet Show! Whose idea was it to let SG-1 decide where all the teams went?" Rodney said.
John smiled at that. He'd never admit it, but the truth was he had a bet going with Cam over whether Rodney would stick it out to the end. John insisted Rodney would complain, but would make it till the end of the show, whereas Cam was convinced Rodney would go apoplectic and quit half-way through.
"What's so different about this than the other shows we've done?" Ronon said.
"What's different?" Rodney sputtered. "For starters, the hosts of the other shows weren't made of felt!"
"I think they're kind of cute." Ronon said.
"You would." Rodney said.
Ronon smirked and held up the head of an old puppet that had been shoved in the corner and shook it at Rodney who huffed and turned his head.
"Come on, Rodney," John said. "Didn't you ever watch this show when you were a kid?"
"Excuse me," said Rodney, "but I just won a Nobel prize in physics, not to mention we just saved the planet, nay, the galaxy. I think that deserves a little more dignity than talking stuffed animals can convey!" He lifted his chin. "And besides, they tried to kill me!"
John rolled his eyes. "No one tried to kill you."
"Yes, they did." said Rodney. "I specifically told the orange one, what's his name, Scooter? I specifically told him no citrus and look at that!" He pointed to a large tray sitting on the dressing table piled high with oranges, lemons and limes.
"Rodney," said John. "Those are puppets." They both looked down at the dozen or so smiling, fuzzy fruit. An orange toward the back giggled.
"It's the principle!" Rodney said.
Teyla deftly changed the subject before they were forced to listen to another 101 Reasons Everyone is Trying to Kill Rodney McKay. "I believe Torren is quite taken with the blue one. Which animal does he represent?"
They all looked off-stage to where Kanaan sat in a director's chair holding Torren. Torren held Camilla, the fluffy, white chicken, and gnawed on her head while watching the horrified expression on Gonzo's face. It had turned into a game. Every time Camilla's head went into his mouth, Torren looked at Gonzo to see his eyes widen, which made Torren burst into giggles.
"Gonzo?" said John, "I don't think anyone knows what he is. Some kind of chicken-monster-thing."
"I see." said Teyla as she raised an eyebrow. "People on Earth let their children play with monsters for entertainment?"
Ronon said, "If they're monsters, are we gonna kill them?"
"What?" said Rodney. "You can't kill Muppets, they aren't alive!"
Ronon shrugged. "They talk and move. Close enough."
John cut in to head off the impending explosion. The calmer Rodney stayed, the closer John got to winning the bet. "No one's killing anything," he said. "We're just here for our weekly publicity appearance and then we go home."
Finally, the director yelled, "ACTION!" Scooter knocked on the door and called out, "AG-1! 15 seconds to curtain, AG-1!" He entered followed by a giant, walking lemon that carried a fruit basket. Rodney shrieked and pushed John in front of him. John sighed. It was going to be a long day.
Scooter looked at Rodney, then at John and said, "He saved the planet?"
"He had a good day," said John.
The director yelled, "CUT," and the team was led to a small green room while the set crew worked on setting up their next scene. Rodney sat in the corner and glowered at Scooter, who walked past him to give messages to different people.
Seeing Rodney so angry and upset made John feel guilty for having made the bet in the first place. He'd looked at the tag on the fruit basket. It wasn't signed, but John knew it was from Cam trying to stack the odds in his favor.
John sat next to Rodney and surreptitiously placed a hand on his back. "Hey buddy, it wasn't that bad."
The look Rodney gave him could have melted steel. "Not that bad? said Rodney, "I shrieked like a girl on national television. Do you have any idea how much crap I'm going to take for that from all my so-called 'colleagues'?"
John frowned. "Maybe we can get them to edit that part out?" John said.
"Yeah," said Rodney. "Maybe."
John didn't know what to say to him. He'd tried calling Cam to call off the bet, but Cam was suspiciously not answering the phone and when John had tried calling the SGC to have him paged he was told Cam was in meetings all day. The only thing John could do was try to protect Rodney from any other pranks Cam had planned.
"Look," John said, "let's just get through today so we can all get back to Atlantis. I promise I'll make it up to you."
"Sorry, John," said Rodney, "sex won't fix this." He paused and looked like he was reconsidering, then said, "No, not even if they knew I was having sex with you. It still wouldn't win back their respect."
After the mid-morning break, they let the team hang out and watch the next few scenes which had nothing to do with them. They each had their own chair with their names emblazoned on the back in gold lettering under the word "star" in capital letters. Rodney acted indifferent about it, but John could tell he was slightly mollified. He made plans to smuggle the chairs back to Atlantis. Various Muppets were milling about and John thought he heard Gonzo mutter, "He's eating her. Why isn't anyone stopping him? Oh Camilla!" and he followed Gonzo's gaze and saw that Torren was still in possession of the chicken. John made a mental note to talk to someone about that.
On stage, Kermit stood in front of the big red curtain and said, "Thank you! Thank you! And welcome to The Muppet Show. Tonight, our very special guests come all the way from another galaxy." Kermit nodded, "That's right, tonight we have the flagship team from the city of Atlantis, AG-1! Yay!" He paused and John supposed it was so they could add canned applause in production.
"You may remember," Kermit said, "they helped save the Earth from an alien invasion a few months ago."
From above the stage, Statler called down, "I wish they hadn't stopped it."
"Why's that?" said Waldorf.
"So we wouldn't have to watch this show!" said Statler and both laughed.
Kermit ignored them and continued, "But before we meet our heroes, let's watch our own space explorers!" The curtain opened and the announcer's voiced boomed out, "Pigs in Spaaaaaace!" It was just like John remembered it, full of silliness and bad puns.
When that skit ended, an aide got Teyla and Ronon to prepare them for the skit they were doing together.
Rodney leaned over to John and said, "I figured out what's going on."
"Yeah?" said John.
"Yeah," said Rodney. "I think Radek sent the fruit. He's mad I made him finish the lower level diagnostics."
"Oh." said John.
"What?" said Rodney. "You don't think so?"
"Well," said John.
"Yeah, maybe you're right," said Rodney. "But who else would have it in for me?"
"No one has it in for you, Rodney." said John, "It was just a harmless prank."
"Threatening my life isn't a harmless prank!" said Rodney.
A few people turned around to glare at Rodney's rising volume and John mentally kicked himself. This was definitely not the way to keep him calm.
"You're right." said John, "I'll look into it and see what I can find out, okay?"
"Yes, fine." said Rodney.
John made a mental note to grab Scooter to have a word with him the next time he saw him. The least he could do was try to put a stop to the pranks from this end.
The curtains opened again to reveal Teyla and Ronon who faced each other in a fighting stance. They ran through their normal sparring routine while they simultaneously fought off attacks from what looked like 12-inch high gremlins. As the fight went on, more familiar Muppet faces joined the fray. John could have sworn he saw Animal biting Ronon's ankle before all the Muppets joined forces and overwhelmed both of them by sheer number. He wondered if it was such a good idea throwing both Teyla and Ronon into the odder parts of Earth entertainment and pop culture with no warning, but when the pile cleared Teyla was laughing and Ronon looked like he wasn't going to let go of Animal anytime soon.
"Excuse me, Colonel Sheppard?" said a high pitched voice from John's left.
He looked down to where Miss Piggy stood fanning herself and fluttering her eyelids at him.
"Umm, hi?" said John. He could practically hear Rodney rolling his eyes at this development.
"I was wondering," said Miss Piggy, "could you, pretty please, give me your autograph?"
"Uh, sure, no problem" said John, relieved an autograph was all she wanted and signed the piece of paper she was holding out.
"Thank you, I can't wait till our first dance!" she said and left before John could ask what she meant.
John looked at Rodney, who said, "Kirk!"
Teyla and Ronon joined them again and sat down. Ronon still had Animal who sat on his lap.
"This one's cool, can I keep him?" asked Ronon.
Animal bobbed his head up and down and panted, "Ah, ha, ha, ha. 'Lantis! Ah, ha, ha, ha!"
"I think they'd frown on us keeping one, buddy." said John.
"Bummer," said Ronon, "he's gonna let me play his drums."
"Drums!" cried Animal, "Ah, ha, ha, drums!"
After lunch (during which John caught Scooter and explained the situation before he gave Rodney the huge glass of lemonade he was holding) it was time for the whole team to be in a skit together.
"Dancing?" asked John.
"Yeah, the ballroom skit." said Kermit. "The Muppets will do all the jokes. You just have to spin your partners around the dance floor."
"You're with me, Colonel Sheppard!" said Miss Piggy and she grabbed John by the hand and pulled him towards the stage before he could protest. Ronon refused to dance with anyone but Animal while Teyla danced with Link Hogthrob. John couldn't see Rodney anywhere.
Miss Piggy laid head on John's stomach and said, "Oh Colonel Sheppard, we'll be so happy together. You won't regret it."
"Um," said John. Apparently, he'd missed something. "What do you mean, 'happy together?'"
At that moment Gonzo and Camilla danced by them and John heard Gonzo say, "I told you I'd save you, my love!"
"When we're married, of course!" said Miss Piggy, which brought him back to the problem at hand. "You signed the marriage certificate."
"Wait," said John. "I can't marry you, I'm taken." Not to mention, John thought, you're a pig.
"What do you mean, taken?" said Miss Piggy. Her tone was far less friendly, now. "Taken by whom, may I ask?"
And then, like a life saver, Rodney was beside them and pulled John away. "Excuse me," said Rodney, "I need to borrow him." Rodney steered them behind a curtain towards the back and glared at John. Okay, maybe not a life saver.
"Rodney?" said John.
"It was you!" said Rodney. "I just had a very enlightening talk with their gofer and imagine my surprise when he said you told him to stop the pranks!"
"Look, I can explain this." said John.
"This had better be good or you're going to be sleeping on the couch for a month!" said Rodney.
"Okay," said John and took a deep breath. "It was all a bet between me and Cam."
"A bet?" said Rodney, "What kind of bet?"
"Well," said John, "he bet me your ego wouldn't let you actually finish doing the show." John winced. That sounded just as bad out loud as it had in his head.
"What, so you told him it was fine to try sabotage me while we were here?" said Rodney.
"No," said John, "that wasn't part of the deal! I've been trying to get him to stop all day, but I couldn't reach him. That's why I went to Scooter."
"Huh." said Rodney. "And you bet I'd make it through till the end?"
"Yes, Rodney," said John. "I know SG-1 still thinks you're full of hot air, but we all know how much you've changed. I never doubted you."
"You just decided it'd be nice to make a profit while believing in me, too?" said Rodney and John cringed at how that sounded.
"Fine," said Rodney, "just cut me in for 60%. I think I've earned it."
"Deal," said John and smiled with relief. He was feeling so good he pulled Rodney towards him for a quick kiss.
They heard a loud gasp from down around their knees.
"Him?" said Miss Piggy. "You're divorcing me for him?"
John said, "We're not married!" at the same time Rodney said, "You married a Muppet?"
Miss Piggy narrowed her eyes, cried, "HI-YAH!" and swung around to hit John in the legs. It was at just right spot to make him lose his balance and fall backwards. He hit his head on a wall sconce as he fell and had just enough time to pray the marines never found out he'd been beaten by a stuffed pig before the world went dark.
Scooter was having a bad day. Someone from the SGC had called him and made suggestions about how to take care of their guests as if Scooter had never had to deal with celebrities before. And then when he'd given in and followed through with the some of the suggestions Dr. McKay accused him of attempted murder. Then Colonel Sheppard told him it was all a prank and to stop, but when Scooter apologized to Dr. McKay for the pranks, he'd gotten yelled at again. As if that weren't bad enough, Teyla's son disappeared briefly before turning up in an unused dressing room tied up by Carl, their 15 foot boa. Thankfully, the baby had spent the whole time petting the snake and trying to bite his tail.
Scooter found Kermit reading over the day's schedule backstage.
"Hey, boss," said Scooter.
"Yeah, Scooter," said Kermit as he continued reading.
"There's something odd about our guests." Scooter said.
"You mean besides that they live in another galaxy?" said Kermit.
"Yes, besides that." said Scooter. "Dr. McKay keeps insisting I'm trying to kill him with fruit, but someone from the SGC called and said he'd be insulted if we didn't give him lots of citrus fruit."
Kermit looked up. "What? Why?"
"Well," said Scooter, "He said it was because Dr. McKay was afraid of getting scurvy."
"Hmmm, maybe you should hold off on all the fruit for the time being." said Kermit.
"Will do, Boss." said Scooter and before he had a chance to broach the other problems, Dr. McKay ran past them at full speed while being chased by a really pissed off looking Miss Piggy who had a lemon in each hand.
"You people are crazy!" yelled Rodney as he ran past.
"Uh, Scooter?" said Kermit.
"On it! Oh, and don't worry, there was no harm done to the baby when Gonzo kidnapped him!" Scooter said and ran to catch the others.
"What?" Kermit chased after him, "What do you mean kidnapped? Scooter!"
It was after midnight when the team finally made it back to Atlantis. Teyla held a cranky baby and shot angry looks at Kanaan who had lost track of the baby long enough for him to get kidnapped by a crazed Muppet. Rodney limped from when he'd gotten tackled and pummeled by the jealous Miss Piggy. John held an ice pack to the back of his head and looked over at Ronon, who smiled from ear to ear, and carried a large bag of Muppet merchandise, including a Muppet lunch box and signed posters.
Cam waited for them in the Jumper bay. "Well, Shep, looks like you all had fun."
"It was great!" said Ronon. He walked by them and slapped John on the back and said, "I invited them to come for a tour next week, that was okay, right?"
Teyla didn't say anything. She stalked off with Kanaan on her heels and John was grateful he didn't have to wake up and spar with her in the morning. He didn't think he could stand the number of bruises she'd dish out.
Rodney grumbled pointedly in John's direction, "I'm just happy to be home where I can now go sleep all alone in my nice, big bed."
When they were alone, John pointed at Cam and said, "You owe me double." Then he turned and trudged off towards his quarters.
From behind him he heard Cam call out, "Hey, we scheduled you for Sesame Street next month!"