Not mine. Don't own 'em. Didn't create 'em. Stargate Atlantis and all related characters are the property of MGM as far as I can tell.

I owe Allan Prior credit for three lines I borrowed from his script "Horizon." They were my inspiration for this story.

Eternal thanks to Beta'er nebbyjen! Her kind advice improved this story, and any future ones, beyond measure.

This story takes place shortly after our team first arrives on Atlantis.

In a Pig's Eyes

Sheppard, McKay, and Teyla lay on their stomachs, shoulder to shoulder in the tall grass. They were on a small rise, overlooking a wide expanse of grassy meadow. At their back was a dense forest. The sun shone down on them warm and friendly and the air smelled pleasantly of warm hay and pine.

"Damn, I miss earth," thought Major John Sheppard, peering carefully through the weeds and keeping his 9mm pistol aimed in the direction of their retreat. Teyla and McKay had apparently put the downtime to good use by continuing their previous argument in forceful whispers.

"I still do not understand why it was necessary for you to take one of their god stones." Her voice was barely audible.

"I told you, it was emanating a strange power signature," McKay whispered as he flicked a small bug off his hand with unnecessary force.

"Yes, but you know the stones are sacred to the Fegara. You have just destroyed our bond with a valuable trading partner."

"Tioui root." McKay's face took on a revolted expression as he remembered the slimy textured, unpleasant smelling thing that they had been served upon their arrival. "You should be thanking me, you're better off without them." It was hard to tell if he was referring to the roots or the Fegarans.

Teyla finally gave full vent to her frustration. "I spoke for you," she seethed. "I am the one who told them you could be trusted. The Fegara and the Athosians have been trading for as long as I can remember!"

"Shhhh!" Sheppard shot them an annoyed glance. He was peering towards the east, trying to decide if a gust of wind was responsible for the movement of the tall grass.

Teyla looked contrite and returned her focus to the meadow below.

"They'll get over it, I'm sure. This was too important to just ignore," continued McKay, determined to make his point. "It's not as if they would make very useful allies against the Wraith anyway too primitive."

"Will you shut up!" When McKay opened his mouth to protest, Sheppard very deliberately thumbed the safety on his gun but didn't take his eyes off the moving grass below. "I swear, McKay, I'll shoot you myself if you say one….more….freaking…word."

The scientist's mouth closed with an audible click.

The Fegaran warriors might be primitive; but in Sheppard's experience, a crude weapon could kill you just as dead as a high-tech one. They had been forced to temporarily give up their weapons before there could be any talk of trading. On the one hand being unarmed, even if the arms were in a close-by hut, was unnerving. On the other, if all you had were spears and your training partners had machine guns, Sheppard could see where you might be intimidated when it came time to barter. So with Weir's encouragement they had given up their weapons as agreed before the trading session began…well, most of the weapons. Sheppard had conveniently 'forgotten' about the backup strapped to the inside of his boot, though he was now wishing his lapse in memory had extended to include a few extra clips. He had to shoot off a few rounds as a diversion for their escape. This was the last time he was going to let anyone talk him into a mission without proper armament, diplomacy be damned. He looked towards the west and regained visual contact with his lieutenant. A series of quick hand gestures between Ford and himself revealed the estimated position, distance, and number of pursuers. "Damn persistent little buggers."

"Break's over. Let's go." He rose quietly and backed into the forest, leading them away from the Fegaran tracking party in the distance.

By now, they had been at it most of the day, interchanging walking and jogging, attempting to lose their pursuers, or at the very least, gain enough of a lead so that they could safely double-back to the Stargate. Just when they thought they might be in the clear, they would catch sight of a Fegaran warrior in the distance.

Sheppard sighed inwardly as he realized McKay was winding up for another complaint session. The man tended to do that whenever they were in 'walking' mode. He had lost track of how many this made: McKay was hungry, his feet hurt, they were going too fast, the sun was too bright, the shade was too dim. Sheppard fantasized briefly about shooting the pain-in-the-ass just to give him something legitimate to complain about. He allowed himself to savor that fantasy for a full five minutes. It cheered him considerably. The scientist paused to take a breath, giving Sheppard the opportunity to derail the current diatribe, "Yep. That was a Jim Dandy idea, McKay, stealing a stone they worshiped as belonging to their god."

"I already told you, I wasn't going to steal it."

"'Creatively acquire,' then."

"I just wanted to borrow it for a few hours for a more detailed analysis."

"Oh, then, that's different. Why don't we just go back and explain that to them?"

The sarcasm was wasted on McKay. "I tried to explain, but they threw me into that hut and threatened to permanently remove my …"

"Family Jewels?" smirked Ford.

"Wee Willy Winkie?" supplied Sheppard, shooting his lieutenant a conspiratorial grin.

McKay did his best to ignore their childish antics. "…access to the Stargate."

They marched on in silence for the next hour and Sheppard began to realize they were in deep trouble. "It's no wonder they weren't in any great hurry to catch us," he thought as he looked around. They were well and truly trapped; fish in a barrel, so to speak. "Fegarans to the west of us, Fegarans at our backs, a sheer cliff face to the East, and a raging river in front of us. Lovely." Well, at least they were in no immediate danger…they had a leisurely 10 or15 minutes to decide if they would like to remain on the planet for the rest of their short lives as prisoners or start shootin' up the locals and hope they had more bullets than there were natives. Neither idea appealed much to Sheppard as he watched Ford and Teyla fill canteens from the river and continued to consider his limited options. "Here." He reached into his vest pocket and absently tossed a powerbar to McKay.

"Food!" McKay ripped the wrapper off and ravenously bit off half the bar before he suddenly paused. "Wait eumph minute." His eyes narrowed suspiciously. He followed Sheppard's gaze. "NUMPH!" he coughed, chewed, coughed some more, swallowed, and tried again, "NO! No way am I going in that!" The 'that' had come out in a high pitched squeak and flurry of crumbs. He continued to gesture emphatically towards the river with the remainder of the powerbar. "You're nuts!"

"What's the matter, Doc, can't swim?" needled Ford, handing the now full canteen to the Major who traded him a powerbar as he took a swig.

"Swimming," McKay answered sarcastically, "involves a heated pool, copious amounts of chlorine, a lifeguard…preferably the attractive female kind…" his eyes began to glaze over a bit, "…in a black and red two-piece…and a little silver whistle on a chain that's just the right length to..."

Ford choked on his powerbar. McKay, startled out of his reverie, obligingly slapped the young lieutenant on the back a few times.

"We don't really have a choice here, folks," said Sheppard as he worriedly ran his hand through his spiky hair. "Weir has funny notions about us not killing off the local population, especially when it's our fault they're cranky in the first place." He passed Teyla a powerbar. "How about it?" he asked her, jerking his chin towards the river.

Teyla looked dubious. "The rivers near my village were shallow and slow-moving. I have never crossed water such as this without a bridge. It looks…challenging."

"Challenging?" squawked McKay, "Try suicidal! I don't believe you're actually considering this!" As if to validate his argument, a large tree floated past them, crashed into some rocks and proceeded in pieces down the river at an alarming rate of speed. McKay turned pale. "You can't expect us to swim across that!"

"At this point, I'd settle for 'treading water with great enthusiasm'." Sheppard's keen eyes watched the remains of the tree until it disappeared around the river bend.

"It is partly because of you that we find ourselves in this position, Doctor," Teyla reminded him.

"Right, and remind me again how you telling them we woke the Wraith was a good thing?"

"They would have found out eventually, Doctor. Not telling them would have hurt our credibility when they did find out," she replied.

"Don't try to make this Teyla's fault." Ford began to get angry. "You were the one who 'borrowed' their sacred stone!"

"Well, at least I had a good reason. What could we possibly gain by telling them we woke up the Wraith? 'Oh, hey, by the way, we just jumpstarted the culling of your planet by about two decades. You're likely to be Wraith food at any moment. So sorry'. It was stupid! This is stupid! We are all going to die!"

"Stupid?" bristled Teyla.

"Well, I'm sure Atlantis can survive without you if you don't want to come with us," snapped Ford.

"I'm not expendable!"

"I am not stupid."

"I'm not going!"

"Children, children," chided Sheppard, cutting through the arguments in a cheery tone. He studied the scientist for a long moment, "Come with us or not, Rodney, it's totally your decision."

"Thank you."

"You're free to just trot on back to the Fegarans and try apologizing again. Maybe they'll accept your apology this time…" He gave a pointed look towards McKay's nether regions and shrugged, "…or not." He waded into the water with Teyla.

McKay's hands automatically dropped protectively in front of him as he swallowed hard on the last bit of powerbar in his mouth. Realizing that he had been outvoted he tentatively put one booted foot in the water before hastily pulling it back out. "Oh, come on, it's freezing!" he complained to Sheppard's back. "The water's like fifty degrees."

"Really? I hadn't noticed." He locked arms with Teyla for better balance and waded deeper.

"You did notice the incredibly large, sharp-edged boulders that exist solely to smash us into tiny bloody bits though, right?"

Sheppard waved his free hand distractedly in acknowledgement but didn't turn. Ford checked their six one last time and waded in past McKay, sloshing towards his commander.

McKay stepped back into the river and stared at the muddy water swirling around his boots. "It's probably filled with god-knows-what kind of micro-organisms," he persisted.

The rest of the team ignored him as they plunged deeper into the current.

"THERE COULD BE SNAKES!" He took another step. "OR…OR PAHRAHNA!" Another step brought the icy water to knee level. He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, "…OR FLESH EATING BACTERIA!"

Sheppard stopped and shouted back over his shoulder, "Two words, McKay… 'Lorena Bobbitt'."

Sheppard couldn't quite make out the scientist's response, which seemed to include an expressive hand gesture, but was relieved to see him commit to the water. It was really their only viable option, but as head of his team, he couldn't and wouldn't have left him behind no matter how much he may have yearned to do so. Luckily McKay hadn't called his bluff. They waited for him to catch up.

"So glad you decided join us." Sheppard reached out a hand to steady him as he stumbled on the uneven surface of the river bottom and fought to keep his feet in the strong current.

"You realize that it's a toss-up whether we die by drowning or hyperthermia or rock-induced trauma?"

"Awe, now, McKay, and here I was thinking you were a 'glass half full' kinda guy."

"Now what?" asked Teyla.

"We swim," said Sheppard, simply. He gave them some last minute advice. "Try to make sure you stay on the upriver side of any debris so you don't get caught between it and the rocks. You don't want to be the creamy center of an Oreo cookie. You're not going to be able to swim straight across, so don't even try. Swim at an angle to the current," said Sheppard, angling the edges of his hand in demonstration.

Letting go of Teyla and McKay, he plunged in, relying on the others to follow his lead. He tried to keep an eye on them but was soon too busy trying to avoid rocks and debris to maintain visual contact. The river soon banked sharply and he swam for the calmer water. Once there, he had the opportunity to scan the river and was relieved to catch sight of three other heads in the water not far behind him. He clung to a grounded tree branch and shouted encouragement to them. Eventually they all converged on his location.

"That went pretty well, all things considered," said Sheppard as he hauled himself up onto the riverbank. Ford had already crawled out of the water. Unable to get to their feet yet, they half dragged McKay and Teyla from the river onto the muddy bank beside them.

"You okay, Sir?" Ford asked.

"The little general won't be up to saluting any time soon," Sheppard replied in a fake falsetto.

"Serious shrinkage," agreed Ford, as he collapsed on his back, shivering and coughing.

"At least McKay will have no immediate worries if we're captured." That earned him a gasping chuckle from his second. More loudly he added, "What did I tell you, Rodney, 'glass half full'. No significant rock-induced trauma and we mostly didn't drown."

The doctor was currently too busy vomiting up half the river to voice his opinion.

Sheppard turned to Teyla but she was occupied adding her half of the river to McKay's.

A few more heaves and McKay collapsed into the mud. "There's still hypothermia," he persisted.

"This is the beginning of the Fegaran autumn. The nights should still be mild." Teyla volunteered. She was looking none to steady and wiping her mouth with the hand that wasn't holding her up.

Sheppard appreciated Teyla's solid support. They shared a kind of bond. Ford was there. Ford would follow orders, but he was young yet to understand the burden of command. Besides, it was his job to support Sheppard. Teyla, as leader of her people, understood what it meant to live with the responsibility, the making of life and death decisions that affected those around her. She understood his burden and chose to do whatever was necessary to support him, even if it meant plunging into a freezing, raging river. That meant a lot to Sheppard.

He allowed himself a few moments to rest before he started a new mental 'things to do' list. Safety and shelter were at the top; followed closely by their latest challenge, making their way back to the Stargate now that they were on the wrong side of the river. "Come on." He got up slowly, easing his rapidly stiffening muscles.

"Why?" asked McKay, still gasping and coughing. "It's not likely they'll be following us. They may be primitive but they're not crazy!"

"That's not what you were saying back in the hut." Sheppard reminded him.

"Well, um, yeah. Look, why don't we just rest here a little while?"

"No, I'd just as soon they not know we made it safely," he ignored McKay's snort at that word, "to this side, or where exactly we ended up. I have no idea what resources they have. There may be a bridge at some point over this river or even some sort of ferry."

Another snort, "A ferry? I highly doubt that!"


"No, really, I'll just stay here. Maybe it won't be so bad, one quick slice and it's over."

Teyla accepted Sheppard's hand and rose shakily to her feet. "I have heard of Fegaran rituals that take seven days complete."

McKay looked at her through narrowed eyes. She returned his gaze innocently. Stumbling to his feet, he glanced to the others, "Like I said, what are we waiting for, let's get going."

"Seven days? Really?" whispered Ford to Teyla as he rose and slung on his dripping pack.

"I have no idea." She flashed him a guileless smile before joining Sheppard at the head of the line.

The young lieutenant shook his head in admiration. With a soundless chuckle, he followed.

They soon discovered that their side of the river was riddled with caves. Sheppard and Ford checked a few possibilities before finding one that would suit their needs.

"We were due for a little luck." Sheppard looked around pleased."All the comforts of home."

"It's a cave," said McKay flatly.

"Don't think of it as a cave, think of it as an 'aesthetically challenged vacation retreat'."

"Whatever," McKay snapped, dropping his pack and collapsing on the sandy floor. He began wringing out his clothing.

"I'll take first watch, volunteered Ford, his youthful vigor had barely dimmed with their latest adventure.

"Fine," Sheppard agreed, tossed him the pistol. "Wake me in two hours." He found a relatively soft patch of floor and using his pack as a pillow, dropped off into an immediate and soundless, if soggy, sleep.

Sheppard awoke with a start and froze, instantly on the alert. Something wasn't right. He stretched his senses and heard what had awakened him. It sounded like a wuffing snort. "Kinda like McKay's snoring, only more melodic." Careful not to move, he strained his eyes in the dark of the cave towards the noise. "It looks like a …maybe, more of a cross between...well…it has 4 legs, a snout and it drools," he finished lamely. Very, very slowly he reached for a nearby rock. The wuffing stopped and the creature turned to look at him as if he had sensed the movement. Sheppard froze, breathing shallowly. It raised its head and sniffed the air, staring in his general direction for a full minute before it continued his investigation of the cave floor.

The large protruding teeth had not gone unnoticed by Sheppard. He glanced towards Teyla but had to look hard to see her. She was unmoving, blending into the shadows of the cave, but, he was very happy to note, pointing his pistol at the creature. He met her eyes and she gave an almost imperceptible nod of her head. She understood; he would take her lead in this. Hell, Sheppard only shot at paper targets….and people…whereas Teyla's instincts were honed from years of hunting wild game. He would rely on her to decide how big a threat the creature posed.

It continued to snuff happily around, finally working its way back towards where Ford and McKay were sleeping. It seemed particularly interested in McKay's jacket and prodded him with its nose several times. Sheppard held his breath as McKay pushed it away, "Go 'way, Ma."

It snorted in surprise and McKay opened his eyes. He screamed. Screamed like a whole troupe of girl scouts at a horror flick. The creature let out a long moaning bellow in response, drowning out McKay's scream. Sheppard clapped his hands over his ears.

Ford bolted awake behind McKay. He quickly came to his senses and clapped one hand over McKay's mouth. The creature stopped bellowing as soon as McKay's screaming was cut off.

"Mutt ma muck miff mat?"

"How the hell should I know?" Ford whispered out of the side of his mouth.

"Mif Mit Mainmerous?"

"I don't know," repeated Ford.

"Mood moo Murr moo mand?"

"Oh, sure, sorry, Doc." Ford removed his hand slowly. They remained frozen in place, staring at the creature. The creature remained equally motionless, staring at back them.

Sheppard chanced, "Teyla?" in a hushed tone.

"I am unfamiliar with the creature."

"Shoot it," suggested McKay.

"I'd rather not give away our position, not to mention the echo in this place and the fact that we have limited ammunition. Besides, I think it kinda likes you," said Sheppard sweetly.

"Shoo," McKay whispered at it.

The creature just stared.

"Go on. Shoo." This time it was accompanied by a tentative wave of hands. "Scram."

The creature gave one last snort, spraying McKay with something better unknown, before turning and trotting out of the cave. Teyla followed it.

"Oh. Oh my god," said the scientist wiping the slimy substance from his face. Long trails of mucus clung to his hand and oozed dripping onto the cave floor. "Oh God, I'm going to die."

Ford broke out in laughter.

"What's so damn funny?"

"He slimed you."

"Thank you! God knows how many microorganisms live in its snot!" McKay shook his hands in disgust, trying to sling the slime off his fingers. "Oh, this is gross. This is so gross!" He rubbed his hands on the rock of the cave wall. Suddenly he sniffed the air and a revolted look crossed his face, "Great, just great, and it smells like Tioui root!"

Ford continued to chuckle. "It's gotta eat something, Doc."

Sheppard lips twitched in amusement.

Teyla returned to the cave. "It has disappeared into the forest." She handed back the pistol. He tucked it between his belt and the small of his back. It had started rubbing his ankle raw with all the hiking, plus it was quicker and easier to get to.

He looked at his watch. It was almost dawn anyway. "Let's break camp."

They packed up their gear and Sheppard passed out the remainder of the Powerbars. McKay insisted on washing his hands and face in the river, scrubbing himself with sand so thoroughly, little pinpricks of blood began to appear.

"That's enough!" Sheppard said, pulling the scientist away from his ablutions. "We need to get moving."

They hiked until midmorning when Ford and Sheppard began exchanging concerned glances and a few quick hand signals.

"What do you think?" Sheppard asked Teyla quietly as they walked along.

"I agree with Lieutenant Ford, we are definitely being followed." The first thing Sheppard had taught her…no the first thing was how to use a gun…the second thing he had taught her were their military hand signals, adapted for Stargate use of course.

Sheppard gave Ford a nod and slipped off the trail. Ford and Teyla each took one of McKay's arms, shushing him as they hustled him off behind a stand of trees.

Sheppard took cover behind a large boulder and pulled his pistol from his belt. He could hear them getting closer. Then around the bend he saw them. Open-mouthed, he watched the pig-creatures pass him on the trail. One he recognized from the night before. The other was somewhat bigger and fatter. They walked straight to the corpse of trees where McKay and the others were hiding. After a slight commotion, some exclamations, and happy grunting, McKay came bursting out of the trees followed by a laughing Ford and Teyla.

The creatures happily trotted up to McKay. "Oh, you have GOT to be kidding!" He leaned down slightly, careful to stay out of snot range, and enunciated slowly, "Go away."

The creatures ignored the command.

"Go, beat it, scram!" McKay's yell echoed through the cliffs.

"Hush!" ordered Sheppard. "Do you want everyone within ten miles to know exactly where we are!"

"Besides," Ford was chuckling, "They think you're their God; your own opinion of yourself finally vindicated. What's the problem?"

"Very funny." McKay wiped remembered slime off his hands.

The two creatures had a little conversation of grunts and whistles. The larger one gave one last snort at McKay, rubbed noses with the other, and trotted away the way it had come.

The smaller of the two looked up at McKay adoringly.

"Well, McKay, Daddy approves. Apparently you're the only one good enough for his little girl," Sheppard quipped as he tucked the gun back into his belt.

McKay just glared back.

"Come on, let's go."

The creature trotted contentedly beside McKay like a worshipful dog as they continued along the river. Soon the banks became steeper and higher, leaving the river fifty feet or so below them.

Teyla was busily testing various fallen limbs as possible weapons. She found a couple she liked and tucked them snuggly behind her pack's straps.

How about "Snuffler?" suggested Ford as they walked.

Sheppard rejected the idea, "Too Harry Potterish,"



"Snuffy Smith."

"Now you're not even trying."

"Will you two stop it!" exclaimed McKay in frustration

Sheppard continued to goad him. "Now, now, Rodney, if you wanted to be the one to name your pet, all you had to do was say so."

"It's not my pet!"

"Your girlfriend, then."

"Damn it! Go away," McKay said to it.

"Oh now, look, you've hurt its little piggy-thingy feelings."

The scientist involuntarily looked down at the creature. It looked back with adoring eyes. "Fine." There was only one way to end the torture. "What do you suggest?"

"I'm thinking more along the lines of 'Kavanagh'."

"'Kavanagh'?" Ford asked, surprised.

"I admit, not as original as some of my other ideas, but why reinvent the wheel when the one you have already works perfectly well?"

McKay grinned thoughtfully as he considered Sheppard's suggestion, but was interrupted by Ford before he could reply.

"Sir, look."

Grim faced warriors stared at them from across the ravine. McKay waved at them cheerily. They stared back with a mess-with-my-god-and-I'll-make-you-sorry-you-were-ever-born look. Some of the warriors were yelling.

"Can you make out what they're saying, Teyla?"

"Sounds like 'moongatu'. I have no idea what it means."

Well, moongatu to you too!" McKay shouted in reply, still waving.

"Great, next you'll be mooning them," said Ford.

"And I'd be the first one to cheer if they threw a spear right up your ass, " Sheppard added angrily. "Don't antagonize them any more than you have already!"

"You think they could throw this far?" McKay stopped his antics and shifted so that Sheppard was between him and the edge of the ravine.

The warriors began jumping up and down in a frenzy and waving their spears.

Sheppard turned and looked behind him.

"What? I didn't say anything" McKay protested before realizing he wasn't the focus of the major's attention. He looked over his shoulder but didn't see anything. "What?"

"Why are they yelling at us?" asked Sheppard, almost to himself.

"A distraction?" volunteered Ford.

Little Kavanagh let out a squeal and vanished into some underbrush.

Sheppard watched it disappear. "Oh, I am so not having a good feeling about this."

The forest behind them exploded with the yells and cries of Fegaran warriors.

"Damn, I hate when I'm right." He pulled his pistol from his belt and slapped it into the McKay's hand. "Stay out of the way. You're no good at hand to hand and I really don't want to kill anyone if we don't have to."

Teyla pulled out the two stout sticks she had previously gathered and stepped forward to face her opponent.

Sheppard and Ford countered their attackers doing their best to avoid killing anyone while preserving their own life. Sheppard took a few hits from a spear tip, slicing his leg and arm before he managed to disable his opponent with a hit to the solar plexus.

Teyla's fighting sticks whirled and contacted regularly with her opponents.

Ford took a blow to the head that left him temporarily dazed.

Seeing that Ford was about to be skewered, McKay picked up a rock and bashed the attacker, who fell to the ground stunned. He grabbed the lieutenant's wrist and pulled him his feet.

Ford stood dizzily and shook his head to clear it. He grabbed the fallen warrior's spear to use against his next quickly approaching opponent. "Thanks, Doc."

"Sure thing." McKay took aim, threw the rock, and brained another Fegaran. "Primative." He was still delighting in his victory when he was suddenly smashed to the ground in a sliding tackle by a freight train in the guise of a Fegaran warrior. Pain exploded from his shoulder as he was slammed into a rock. Struggling and kicking off his attacker, he found himself slipping off the edge of the ravine and grabbed for whatever his could find; rocks, sticks, weeds, desperately trying to slow his momentum. As he went over the edge, he managed to grab a tree root and hung on for dear life with his good arm. A quick glance down confirmed his predicament as he saw the gun spin end over end before disappearing into the rapids far below. He attempted to get a foothold but the embankment crumbled under his boots. Hearing a sound above him, he looked up to see a Fegaran warrior smiling down at him. The warrior disappeared from sight and Rodney gave a small prayer of thanks. (Unfortunately he had forgotten that he had pissed off the Fegaran God.)

The warrior reappeared with a spear and tried to stab him. Luckily the embankment had a slight overhang, making it difficult to get a clear aim. Apparently frustrated, his attacker changed tactics and turned his spear into a club and managed a couple of glancing blows, one to McKay's already wounded shoulder, causing the scientist to briefly see stars and loosen his grip. His assailant suddenly disappeared and he heard several loud thuds, then silence. He was startled when a hand suddenly reached toward him over the edge.

"Come on, McKay, I haven't got all day." Sheppard said in a sing-song voice as he snapped his fingers impatiently. He was lying on his stomach, half hanging over the edge of the ravine. "Gimme your hand and I'll pull you up."

"I'd love to, Major, but at the moment, I only have the one good hand and it'soccupied in keeping me from falling to my death."

"You're just going to have to suck it up and give me your bad one then," said Sheppard.

Rodney struggled to lift his arm. "I don't think I can."

"Well, then you'd better let go and take your chance in the river."

McKay chanced a brief panic-stricken look at the raging water far below before swinging his injured arm into Sheppard's grasp. It was excruciating painful.

"Now give me your other hand."

McKay took a deep breath and grabbed for Sheppard's other hand. The minute his injured shoulder took the weight, he had the brief opportunity to reflect that 'excruciating' was a pleasant comparison to what he was feeling at that moment. His vision began to dim and he felt his hold weakening.

"Come on, Rodney!" the major urged, as he struggled to pull him up. "Help me out here, find a foothold or something, damn it."

McKay kicked out blindly and found some purchase. He gave a push with his feet with the last of his strength and Sheppard pulled him up and over the edge.

Exhausted, they lay panting for several minutes.

The piercing agony in his shoulder finally faded enough for McKay to take in his surroundings. Still breathing in painful gasps he asked, "Where are Ford and Teyla?"

"Playing foxes for the hounds." At Rodney's look of confusion, he clarified, "They led them away. Luckily for us, it appeared that you went over the edge, so most of them stopped focusing on killing you and started paying more attention to us." He struggled to his feet. "Come on, we need to get going."

McKay noticed the large stain on the Major's pant leg. "You're bleeding."


The pain was making it difficult to focus his thoughts. "Don't you need to do something about that?"

"Not right now. We need to get some distance between them and us first." He grabbed McKay's arm and hauled him to his feet.

"Where are we going?"

"To the Stargate." He gave McKay an encouraging shove the right direction.

"What about Teyla and Ford?"

"I told them to meet us there. There were in better shape than we were the last time I saw them."

It felt as though they had run for miles before they finally reduced their speed to a trot. "I think we lost them," the major said. He turned as McKay collapsed to the ground. "Come on, Rodney, we can't dawdle. Who knows how long Teyla and Ford can keep them occupied."

Unable to comply with the major's demands to continue moving, the scientist laid back and closed his eyes tiredly. "I'm taking a break."

"I swear, McKay, if you don't get up right now, I'm going to carry you the rest of the way," Sheppard threatened, though he knew he didn't have the strength to do so. "And make you pay for it for the rest of your stay on Atlantis." He paused to take a breath, "I will short-sheet your bed, put depilating cream in your shampoo, crazy glue on your chair, black rings on every microscope I can find. I will pull every single trick I know, the more juvenile the better…until finally…one day…you go insane and they have to lock you away in a little rubber room and feed you dinner through a straw because they won't let you have silverware. I'll…I'll…."

"Shut up," said McKay. Reaching up, he grabbed the major's sleeve and gave it a small jerk causing Sheppard to collapse unceremoniously on the ground beside him.

"Okay, maybe just a five minute break," agreed Sheppard.

"Great idea. Glad you came up with it."

Sheppard waved his hand in dismissal at Rodney's flippant tone. "How's the shoulder?"

"Hurts like hell and my hand feels like it's asleep." He was clenching and unclenching his fist. "That can't be good, can it?" he asked worriedly.

"You can move that hand," Sheppard noticed. "Here." He took Rodney's hands in his. "It's colder than the other, but not icy." He shifted his hand to the wrist. "And you have a strong pulse in this arm, all good signs."

He looked relieved as Sheppard released him. "Thanks."

"You're welcome. We should rig a sling."

"No, thanks. I'd like to face any future Fegaran warriors with two free hands. Oh, by the way, I lost your gun when I went over the cliff."

Sheppard grunted and pulled out his pocket knife. "We can't do anything about it now."

McKay was looking at the knife with interest. "When the Fegarans specified we turn over all our weapons for the duration of the trading mission, how exactly did you interpret that to mean keep a pistol and a knife?"

"Forgot I had them." He returned Rodney's skeptical look with an innocent 'that's my story and I'm sticking to it' one of his own. He used the knife to enlarge the tear on his bloody pant leg, examining the cut on his thigh underneath.

"That looks nasty," volunteered McKay, peering at it.

"Seems fairly shallow." He slipped off his pack dug out the first aid kit.

"Here, let me." McKay offered, taking the antiseptic and roll of gauze. "It'll be easier for me to bandage if you stretch out your leg." Sheppard obediently extended his leg and leaned back, propping himself up on his elbows. Rodney carefully cleaned the wound and began bandaging it. "For something 'fairly shallow' it sure is bleeding a lot."

"Universal rule cuts bleed."

"Right, I'll file that away for future reference." Rodney tied off the gauze.

Sheppard sat up, pulled up the sleeve of his jacket and checked the cut on his arm. It was smaller and bleeding more sluggishly. He grimaced and hit it with a splash of antiseptic.

Rodney began winding gauze around the arm. As he finished, he looked Sheppard squarely in the eyes. "We're not going to make it, are we?"

"I've been in worse situations."

"Look, I'm really sorry," said McKay miserably.

"Sorry that you messed with their sacred stone or sorry that you got caught?" Sheppard began fashioning a sling out of the remaining gauze.

"I said I wanted both hands free."

He ignored him and began binding the arm to the scientist's side and rigging a loop around his neck to ease the strain on the shoulder. "Who are you kidding? You suck at hand to hand, so you might as well be as comfortable as you can."

If possible, McKay looked even more depressed.

Sheppard softened his tone and continued, "But you throw a damn fine rock."

"I didn't think you had noticed that."

"I notice lots, Rodney. For instance, I notice you didn't answer my question. Was the stone really that important?"

"I don't know. That's the problem. I don't know anything about the Pegasus Galaxy. I don't know if we're ever going to find a way back home. I don't know if we'll find a way to power the shield before the Wraith suck the life out of us." His voice rose in barely suppressed panic. "I don't know what the stone is or if it's important. I'm completely out of my depth here. I'm sorry I got us into the mess. Ford and Teyla are probably dead and it's my fault. You should go on without me and leave me here. I deserve whatever happens to me."

"Wow." Sheppard digested the outpouring of emotion. "Calm down, Rodney. You're exhausted, hurt and hungry, and not thinking straight. I know this because you've just admitted not knowing everything there was to know about…one, two, three…" he counted on his fingers, "four things in one sentence." He tried a new tactic. "Look, you're making this all much too complicated. Right now, at this moment, all we have to do is get to the gate and go through the gate." He put his arm companionably around Rodney's shoulders. "Ford and Teyla will be fine and I'm not going anywhere without you."

"Sticking together, to the bitter end?" McKay replied sarcastically but calmer.

"Who says it will be bitter? Personally, I can't wait to tell Kavanagh that we named a smelly, shaggy, ugly, piggy-thingy after him, can you?"

McKay gave him a weak grin. "I wondered what happened to him, um…her…it?"

"Probably found itself a god-awful smelly piggy boyfriend. He removed his arm from Rodney's shoulder and gave him a playful shove. "You've been jilted McKay. You're just too high maintenance."

McKay snorted.

"Come on." Sheppard rose, favoring his injured leg, and slung on the pack. He clasped Rodney's outstretched hand and hauled him to his feet.

They followed the river for several miles. The banks had become closer together but by now, the river raged far, far below them. They walked quietly, immersed in their own thoughts.

"Huh." Sheppard's surprised remark jerked Rodney from his revere.

"Oh you have got to be kidding me." McKay stood looking at the obstruction. A large tree had fallen over their path and continued on to make a death defying bridge across the river.

"Get to the gate. Go through the gate," Sheppard reminded him. "We have to cross this log to get to the gate, Rodney."

"I don't think I can. I really, really don't."

"It's not that bad." Sheppard stood on the part of the tree that was still on land and jerked up and down experimentally. It only moved slightly. He jumped down, cursing briefly as he jarred his injuries, sending a shooting pain through his leg. After looking around, he began to gather a few largish rocks and packed them around the base of the tree to keep it from rolling. "Just take it slow and don't look down."

"Why do people always say that?"

He kicked the last of the rocks firmly in place, then climbed back on the truck and shifted back a forth a few times, satisfied. "I'll go first and you can just focus on following me. Come on, Rodney." He held out his hand in invitation.

McKay allowed himself to be helped onto the trunk.

Sheppard gave him an encouraging pat on the arm. "Come on, it's as easy as falling off a log."

McKay gave a short bark of near hysterical laughter and followed Sheppard a few steps but stopped before stepping out over the ravine.

"Come on, Rodney." He encouraged, looking back over his shoulder at the now frozen scientist.

"I can't."


"My feet just won't move."

"Shut your eyes," Sheppard suggested, "and put your hand on my shoulder."

He obeyed. "They still don't want to move."

"Now imagine you're someplace else."

"Like where?"

"A park. Anywhere. We're just going to take a nice little stroll. You can do it. I know you've got a good imagination or you wouldn't be so damn clever when it comes to figuring out ancient technology." He knew how terrified McKay was when the man didn't even inflate a little at the compliment.

"A park. There's one down the street from my apartment."

"Good. Picture it clearly in your mind." He waited a few moments for Rodney to set the image. "Now open your eyes and focus on my back. We're just going on a little walk in the park."

They started across the bridge. Being a pilot, he wasn't particularly afraid of heights, but this was different than being in control of a plane or chopper. He found it somewhat unnerving and tried hard to keep his focus narrowed to directly in front of him. Behind him, he could hear Rodney murmuring something about the gate. They were about two-thirds of the way across when Sheppard's heel caught a piece of bark. It wasn't enough to affect his balance, but the falling bark drew his eye and he watched it float lazily down to the river below. He stopped.

"What's wrong?" Rodney asked.

"Nothing, keep looking at my back and concentrate on the park."

Sheppard forced himself to pull his eyes away from the river below and focused on the bridge ahead. "You're on grandpa's farm, and this is just a fence rail." He pictured the farm in his mind's eye: the white farmhouse with its tin roof, the barn where he had jump out of the hayloft on a dare and broken his arm, the old wooden fence where he and his cousins had spent long hours walking along the top rail on lazy summer days. He concentrated on the fence until he could see it clearly the rough-hewn, weathered, silvery wood of the split rail fence; the top rail worn smooth by years of use. Fresh chips here and there letting the previously unexposed wood show through fresh and yellow. He took a step forward, then another. Rodney followed obediently. Once on the other side, Sheppard allowed them a short breather before picking up the pace again.

McKay plowed on in gritted determination. His vision had dimmed long ago and the only sound he could hear was his own harsh breathing. His shoulder was blindingly painful and every bump or misstep sent an even more intense pain shooting through it and down his back. He had chanted his little mantra, which he had been repeating under his breath since Sheppard had mentioned it, "Get to the gate. Go through the gate. Stay the hell on the other side of the gate." He had added that last part while crossing the tree trunk bridge.

He didn't even notice that Sheppard had grabbed his arm until he was pulled to a stop. "It's okay, McKay, you can rest now."

"No, really, I can keep going," he wheezed.


"No, no, I'm fine," he gasped cheerfully, "I'm good for a few more miles."

"We're at the gate."

"Oh thank God!" he exclaimed and immediately collapsed into a gasping heap.

Sheppard patted him encouragingly on the good shoulder. "Stay here while I check it out." He slunk around the boulder and trees that were their cover and disappeared, leaving McKay alone, only to reappear a few minutes later. "The good news is that Ford and Teyla are here, on the other side of the gate."

Rodney let out a sigh of relief. "What's the bad news?"

"Our friends have anticipated us. We're not making it though the gate without a fight."

"Look, maybe there's another way…." He trailed off when he realized Sheppard was looking at his watch. "You already set something up with Ford and Teyla didn't you?"

"Yep. Take out your invisible crayon and color us gone. I'm sick and tired of this planet. We're leaving now." He grabbed the scientist by his good arm and hauled him to his feet. "Be ready to move when I tell you." He sensed McKay's fear and nervousness and gave him a little shake of encouragement. "We made it to the gate, now all we have to do is go through the gate."

"And stay the hell on the other side," completed Rodney automatically to himself.

Sheppard steered the scientist quietly towards the gate.

"What's the plan?" whispered Rodney.

"You dial the gate, while we'll hold them off."

"Um, that doesn't seem like much of a plan," McKay said as he wiped his sweating hands on his thighs. "Don't you think..."

"Go!" urged Sheppard, responding to some unseen signal.

They broke cover and Rodney made straight for the DHD and began dialing frantically. Behind him, he could hear yells and fighting. He ignored it and concentrated on putting the address in correctly. The wormhole had just established itself with a whoosh when someone grabbed him from behind and threw him to the ground. Stunned and in renewed pain as his shoulder made contact with the hard earth, he looked up to see a handheld spear headed straight for his heart. He closed his eyes. "This is it." But the blow never came; instead he heard an agonized scream. Opening his eyes, he saw the warrior writhing on the ground, blood flowing from the back of his leg, soaking the ground beneath him.

"Alright, piggy-Kavanagh!" Ford exclaimed before delivering an uppercut to his opponent. Assorted Fegaran warriors now lay on the ground in various stages of unconsciousness.

Rodney realized the pig-creature was standing nearby. He sat up, feeling vaguely disconcerted as it trotted up to him, blood dripping from its mouth; but it only sat down with a soft 'whomp' beside him and gazed at him with adoring eyes. Swallowing hard to overcome his fastidiousness, he tentatively petted the creature on tip of its head. It drooled happily all over his arm. He managed a slightly disgusted smile.

Grabbing McKay's arm, Sheppard urged him to his feet and toward the wormhole. "Come on, Rodney, I hear reinforcements."

McKay resisted his grasp. "We can't just leave it here."

"Weir would have my hide if I brought it with us, not to mention the biologists would probably want to dissect it. This is its home, remember? It'll be fine." Sheppard tugged him more firmly towards the gate and waved at Ford and Teyla to go through.

McKay looked back and watched the creature disappear into the surrounding forest. He also caught a glimpse of more warriors emerging nearby before Sheppard shoved him forcefully through the gate.

They arrived on Atlantis in the company of several flying spears, which bounced harmlessly off the steps.

"Shield!" Weir ordered Grodin. His hand was already on the control. A few more thumps were heard as spears hit the shield before the gate finally shut down. She heard Peter calling the infirmary for a medical team as she looked over the balcony at the bedraggled team.

"Hi, honey. We're home," her senior quipped tiredly.

"You're late," she answered. "We were worried."

"Yeah, well, stopped off with the boys for a drink and completely lost track of time." Seeing McKay chose that moment to sit abruptly on the floor, he waved his towards the exhausted scientist. "Rodney, can't hold his liquor, though."

McKay tiredly held up his middle three fingers at Sheppard. "Read between the lines, Major." That earned him a tired but genuine grin.

The medical team promptly arrived and ushered them to the infirmary. Ford and Teyla, relatively unscathed, were released on the condition that they stop by the cafeteria for a hot meal before retiring to their quarters for some much needed rest.

McKay was being helped onto a bed when Sheppard wavered, the world becoming a little black around the edges. Reaching out a hand to steady himself, he felt a firm grip on his arm guiding him to a chair.

"Here, Major, sit down before you fall down," said Beckett. A strong but gentle hand on the back of his neck encouraged him to put his head between his knees.

"Now, sit there quietly while I check Rodney's shoulder." He motioned for a nurse to take the tired man's vitals.

Sheppard shifted his forearms to his thighs and rested his forehead on clasped hands watching while Beckett began unwinding the yards of gauze binding McKay's arm and did his best to ignore the nurse's fussing.

"Ow, ow, OW! Careful, I need that arm." McKay gasped as Beckett gently probed the shoulder.

"Bloody mess you've made of your shoulder, Rodney," he said. He filled a syringe with Morphine and injected it into the scientist's arm, "And what's this slimy stuff all over ya?" For the moment, he accepted McKay's murmured 'nothing' as a reply. "We'll give the morphine a few minutes tae take effect." He adjusted the bed so that Rodney could lie back, making sure he was settled comfortably.

"Your turn, Major," he said, turning his attention back to Sheppard. He lightly clasped a hand around his wrist to take a pulse while looking over the chart notations made by the nurse.

"I'm just tired."

"Fine then, you can rest in your quarters."

"What?" McKay exclaimed muzzily from his bed, "No fair!"

Sheppard rose hastily to leave before Beckett could change his mind. Once on his feet, the darkness returned with a vengeance. For a moment he couldn't see, all sound was drowned out a loud ringing in his ears and he had the feeling that he was falling. Within a few minutes his vision began to clear again. He realized he was laying flat on his back in the bed next to McKay's, a pillow under his knees and the nurse wrestling with his boots. He looked at Beckett who was examining McKay's now anesthetized shoulder, "That was a dirty trick, Doc!"

"Aye, but quite the time-saver."

The nurse stepped back suddenly as his right boot came free.

"Oh, God, that feels good!"

She started on the left one.

"Why don't you take a wee nap, Major?" Beckett suggested as he fussed with McKay's shoulder.

The left boot slid off and Sheppard closed his eyes and wiggled his toes in sheer ecstasy. He awoke to the smell of coffee and the distinctive sound of silverware on a government issued tray. "What time is it," he asked, disoriented.

"Um, around 9:30 or so in the morning, I think," Rodney replied from the bed next door.

He started to sit up but stopped when little explosions of pain erupted all over his body. After a few deep breaths, they resolved themselves to several distinct areas. One was his left forearm. He could see a bright white bandage had been applied to it sometime during the night.

"Eight stitches," volunteered McKay, sporting a sling and munching happily on breakfast.

Sheppard also realized that he was now dressed in a pair of clean scrubs and had an I.V. in his arm. Mesmerized, he followed the slightly spiraled tubing upward to several mostly empty I.V. bags. He stared at them for a moment without comprehension.

"Nineteen stitches in your leg, too," McKay continued with a mouthful of eggs. "You must have really been tired. You didn't even move when they stitched you up."

"Tired, right, sure," he answered, looking up at the I.V. bags suspiciously. "More likely that haggis-eating bastard drugged me into oblivion."

"Aaah, Haggis," said Beckett fondly, as he bustled in, an ear to ear grin on his face. "You're making me homesick, son."

"Cheery haggis-eating bastard," Sheppard amended silently.

"Well, then, Major, how are we feeling this morning? Think you could tackle a bit of breakfast?" asked Beckett, rubbing his hands together in encouragement.

Before he could reply his stomach betrayed him with a loud grumble. He saw the doctor suppress a smile and motion to the nurse who brought over a tray and adjusted his bed so that he could eat more comfortably.

Beckett turned his attention to McKay who was busily trying to eat and type on a laptop at the same time, one-handed.

Sheppard thought he was doing a fairly credible job at it.

"Once you've eaten, you're released tae rest in your quarters, Rodney."

McKay stuffed one last bite into his mouth, whipped off the blanket, and rose with indecent haste. He shot Sheppard an apologetic it's-every-man-for-himself look before bolting out the infirmary door.

So much for sticking together to the bitter end.

Beckett let Sheppard finish his meal in peace before subjecting him to the usual poking and prodding. He checked the results of the ear thermometer. "No fever and no sign of infection," he said, examining the stitches. "That's a minor miracle. And your blood pressure has improved dramatically from last night." He removed the I.V. "How do you feel?"

"Stiff and sore, but otherwise pretty good, Doc." Sheppard looked at him hopefully, exuding all the charm he thought he possibly could without seeming insincere.

The physician snorted at Sheppard's obvious ploy. "Very well then, you're released as well. Bed rest in your quarters today and tonight, and I want to see you tomorrow directly after breakfast for a wound check."

"Thanks, Doc." Sheppard swung his legs off the side of the bed with almost as much haste as McKay.

Beckett's hand on his knee made him pause. "Take these before you go." He handed him some medicine and a cup of water.

Sheppard looked at the colorful pills, "What are they?"

"An antibiotic, muscle relaxant, and Tylenol. You're going tae be pretty sore for a few days."

Sheppard obediently swallowed the pills and handed the cup back to Beckett who put it on the bedside table. The doctor maintained a supportive hand on his arm as he slid off of bed making sure he had his feet firmly under him before walking him to the infirmary door. By this time, Sheppard had decided he would slip away to command and check in with Stackhouse and maybe do a little paperwork before going back to his quarters. What Beckett didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

The infirmary door opened to reveal Elizabeth Weir. "Oh good, you're up," she said, brightly.

"Yes, I've just released the Major tae bed rest in his quarters."

"What luck I caught you. I need to clarify a few things in Ford and Teyla's reports. We can talk on the way to your room."

"Yeah right, I bet you both have some nice swampland in Florida you'd like to sell me."

Beckett smiled at him innocently. "Off you go then, Major."

Sheppard plastered a saccharin smile on his face in reply.

She walked him all the way to his quarters, leaving him no opportunity for his planned detour. On the way they crossed paths with McKay and Zelenka. Obviously Rodney had been taking a little detour of his own.

"I'm sure it's just a minor malfunction, Rodney." Zelenka was tugging on the laptop in McKay's good hand. "Why don't you let me have one of the programmers check it for you."

Didn't Weir and Zelenka have anything better to do than babysit?

Weir continued her questions all the way into his room. The woman was freaking Velcro. "I could use a nap." He feigned a yawn, reclined on his bed and closed his eyes. It worked. She apologized for keeping him from his rest and beat a hasty retreat. He kept his eyes closed a few minutes longer just in case she ducked back in to check. In ten minutes, when the coast was clear, he'd get up and slip out to see Stackhouse.

"Damn you, Beckett," he said after opening his eyes and looking at the alarm clock. It was 7:00 am. That meant he had slept an entire day and night. " 'Tylenol', my ass." His stomach growled. Two meals in two days and one of them only powerbars, he didn't blame it. He'd see Stackhouse then grab a bite of breakfast. He looked dubiously at a bottle and a cup of water someone had placed by the clock while he slept. The bottle said Tylenol. It looked like Tylenol. A suspicious sniff confirmed that it smelled like Tylenol. Taking a risk, he downed a couple then let a very long, hot shower pound his complaining muscles into submission. Feeling almost human, he dressed and left for the control room.

Turning the corner quickly, he almost ran over Teyla.

"Good morning, John. I was just on my way to breakfast, will you join me?"

"What is this, a fucking conspiracy?"

"I'd love to, Teyla, but I really need to check in with Stackhouse first."

"I'm sure I saw Sergeant Stackhouse headed in that direction," she volunteered indicating the direction of the mess hall with a tilt of her head. She linked arms with him companionably and steered him in that direction. "How are you feeling today?"

He sighed, accepting the inevitable, "Fine, thanks and you?" He forced himself to chat amiably with her all the way to the mess hall…And what a surprise, turned out Teyla was wrong about seeing Stackhouse…. Once there, he ate as quickly as he could, returned the tray, and bolted for the door. He almost made it. He actually had one foot outside the mess hall threshold …

"Ah, Major, I see you're finished. I'm just on my way tae the infirmary. We can walk back together and I can check your stitches."

"Oh for love of God Almighty!"

"Yes, fine. That would be great," he said through gritted teeth. He knew when he was beat. His jaw began to actually creak from the strain.

Beckett was looking around. "Do you hear that noise?"

Sheppard deliberately unclenched his jaw and the creaking stopped. "I don't hear anything, Doc."

He followed Beckett to the infirmary like the dutiful dog he had become. Thankfully, the exam itself was relatively quick.

Beckett was currently peering at the stitches. "These look fine." He made a notation on Sheppard's chart. "I'll let Dr. Weir know you're approved for light duty. Come back in seven days and we'll take out the stitches or sooner if you feel at all unwell."

"No more babysitters?" It came out sharper than he had intended.

The doctor crossed his arms calmly and gave him a thoughtful look. "You and Rodney have taken it as your responsibility tae save us…no, the galaxy…from the wraith. You spend every waking moment, one way or the other, working towards that goal. The least the rest of us can do is save you from yourselves."

Sheppard digested that.

"So tell me," Beckett asked, leaning in conspiratorially, "Didcha really name a smelly pig-thing 'Kavanagh'?"

Sheppard loosed a bark of laughter, taken off guard by the sudden change of subject. "Ford or Teyla been telling tales out of school?"

"Well now, they showed up for their medical check this morning, as requested and without argument." With that last admonishment, he waved Sheppard off the bed.

"Thanks, Doc." He suppressed the desire to vault off and slid gently to the floor instead and was rewarded by a nod of approval from Beckett at his restraint. He left the infirmary determined that no one else was going to stop him from getting to the control room.

"Major," yelled McKay from behind him.

Sheppard loosed a string of obscenities under his breath. He paused, allowing McKay to catch up to him.

"Headed for control?" Rodney asked. "Me too."

"Yes, I might actually get there this time." They continued up the hall together.

As they approached the control room, they could hear Kavanagh arguing vehemently with Grodin and Zelenka.

"The other Kavanagh was quieter," Sheppard suggested.

"Prettier," proposed McKay.

As the arguing escalated in volume, they stopped in the hallway, neither making any move to cross the threshold into the control room.

"Smelled better," said Sheppard as he caught a whiff of Kavanagh's favorite cologne. He leaned comfortably back against the wall, casually lapping one ankle over the other and crossing his arms as they continued to eavesdrop.

"Just as slimy though," McKay remarked as Kavanagh made a particularly nasty comment to Zelenka.

"Mmm," agreed Sheppard, nodding his head.

"Doctor McKay said what!"

"You know, I think I could use a snack. It's been an entire," Rodney consulted his watch, "85 minutes since breakfast."

"I'm amazed by your restraint," Sheppard replied dryly.

McKay beat a hasty retreat as Kavanagh's voice continued to filter into the hallway. "When Major Sheppard and Dr. McKay get here we'll get to the bottom of this, I don't care if it takes all day!"

Sheppard pushed off the wall and jogged up the hallway. "Now that you mention it, I'm feeling a bit peckish myself," he said by way of explanation when he caught up to McKay. When they arrived, he realized he really was hungry. He and Rodney filled their trays and found an empty table. They ate in companionable silence for several minutes.

McKay finally broke the stillness and asked, "So, um, in my report for Weir, should I mention the pistol?"

The door burst open, causing both men to jump.

Zelenka's head appeared in the doorway. He looked around and stopped when he saw them. "No Dr. Kavanagh, they're not in here either," he yelled back out into the hallway before giving them an exaggerated wink and ducking back out. The door closed quietly behind him.

"I'm really beginning to like that little Czech," said Sheppard.

"Yeah, he grows on you," McKay agreed.

"So, were you able to analyze the readings you took of the Sankara stone?" he asked, shoving a forkful of mashed potatoes in his mouth.

"The what? No, never mind." The scientist waved off an explanation. "Unfortunately, the readings were inconclusive. All that for nothing."

"Don't worry, Rodney. You'll figure something out. You always do." Rodney would know that he was talking about home and the shield and the wraith.

"Yes, I do, don't I?"

"You're bonafide hero," he agreed amiably, then gave McKay an evil smile. "At least in a pig's eyes."